The need for strong, independent local journalism
is more urgent than ever. Please support the city we
love by joining Friends of Willamette Week.

Oregon State Parks Will Not Issue Beach Wedding Permits Until July 1

If you’re dead set on exchanging vows on the sand before then, keep your ceremony small (and probably short).

Couples hoping to get married on the beach this year may have to postpone those plans or find an alternative venue to exchange vows.

Oregon State Parks is not issuing permits for weddings on our ocean shores until July 1, 2021, because of safety concerns during the ongoing pandemic. Additionally, the agency is still swamped due to limited staffing. There's currently only one individual responsible for approving special use and event permits along the state's 362-mile coastline.

A permit is required for any event at a state park, including weddings, that the agency describes as a "nontraditional park use" or is normally prohibited under its rules. That would include gatherings of 50 or more people in a portion of a venue that is not designated for group use. Permission is also needed to set up any structures, including chairs, tables, tents and arches.

So what does that mean for a couple dead set on saying their nuptials on the sand or in view of one of Oregon's dramatic sea stacks? Keep your ceremony small, and probably short.

A wedding can go forward without a permit as long as there are fewer than 50 in attendance, guests are standing or sitting on the beach (not in chairs), and the public is not excluded from the area.

Small-scale celebrations are actually a trend that Christina Irvine has already noticed this past year. The Manzanita nondenominational minister who runs My Coastal Wedding says guest lists have been slimmed down since many people have been avoiding travel, and most of the couples whose weddings she officiates on the beach are from out of state.

"Many couples I speak with are respecting COVID-19 protocol and are planning a large gathering to celebrate their wedding several months after their actual ceremony when the spread of COVID-19 has lessened and travel is safer," Irvine tells WW. "I don't see a big impact from the delay of issuing permits for outdoor weddings until July 1. Smaller weddings are still able to happen on the beach or at their lodging venue without a permit as long as the guidelines of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department are met."

Oregon State Parks has already begun issuing permits for wedding parties to use the beach after July 1. If COVID-19 cases increase in any coastal counties around that time, forcing a return to a higher risk level that bans such events, the agency would cancel and issue a refund.

"We watch county-level health restrictions carefully and do everything we can to support them," says Chris Havel, Oregon parks spokesperson. "We're betting that come July, these kinds of events won't be a problem."

For couples looking further out on the 2021-22 calendar, it’s recommended they contact park staff as early as possible to ensure the date of their wedding is available and feasible in the proposed location. Those applications are then considered in the order that they are received.

"We still remind people, even for events that don't need a permit, to tell their guests to wear masks and keep their distance from people who aren't part of their household," Havel adds. "We all want to get to the point where restrictions are no longer necessary. Staying healthy until you're eligible for a vaccine, then getting vaccinated when you are, is how we do that."