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There’s something magical about the landscapes of our Redwood Coast. It’s no wonder when many couples begin planning one of the most memorable celebrations of their lives, they’re drawn to host their nuptials among the breathtaking landscapes behind the Redwood Curtain. We are incredibly fortunate that, according to the county's website, in Humboldt some “80 percent of our land is forested, protected, or deemed recreation area.”


Access to these wondrous natural venues for our ceremonies and celebrations, however, is not necessarily always a walk in the park. Most are privately owned or managed by government entities that may require permits and/or fees for hosting events. Obtaining the proper permissions can be a confusing process; many couples and vendors don’t quite know where to begin. Last spring, a state parks ranger admitted to me that the process can even be a moving target for park administrators, as management strategies shift with changes in funding and policy.

In the early days of my event planning business, my learning curve in navigating land use was not without a run-in with a ranger. I set out on a scouting mission with another vendor in search of the perfect ceremony location for an upcoming elopement. My colleague and I drove to one of our majestic parks, visiting grove after grove until we had drawn suspicion from a ranger we’d passed several times in our quest. At our next stop, the ranger raced in behind us to ask about our intent. When we candidly explained our scouting mission, he enlightened us about required permits and fees for events, photography and any commercial business conducted within the parks, warning us of consequences and fines in cases where permits are not secured.

I considered this encounter fortunate since it happened only on a scouting mission and not on a client’s wedding day. I’ve since then been committed to working cooperatively and closely with our parks.

The consequences of not following proper land-use protocol extends far beyond a hitch in the proceedings and fines. Ultimately, the regulations protect and preserve our revered natural surroundings and our ability to enjoy them with our guests.

Be it redwoods, beaches, prairies, riverbanks, canyons or otherwise, we are drawn to hosting our celebrations in these locations because of their awe-inspiring natural beauty, but we, as humans, impact our surroundings simply by being in them. Over the last eight years, I’ve seen park accessibility change considerably for some of my favorite wedding and elopement locations. Some of these cherished spots now require a hired park ranger chaperone for the duration of the celebration. A number of iconic regional locations have been closed indefinitely to weddings and fewer locations are available to host larger celebrations.

In terms of the experience of your guests, foregoing proper permissions can also have negative impacts. Imagine showing up to a secluded redwood grove for a permitted elopement you’ve been planning from out of state for months, only to have another un-permitted couple arrive in wedding attire. Awkward. Or how about arriving to a pristine precipice overlooking our rugged Pacific coastline to stumble upon the scatterings of non-native flower petals from someone else’s ceremony — not such an untouched landscape after all.

All this to say, it should be top priority for everyone to support our parks in protecting our natural wonders when accessing them for once-in-a-lifetime occasions. Below are some helpful suggestions for planning a wedding or event in Humboldt County’s parks.

If you’re planning your wedding on our Redwood Coast, doing your homework thoroughly to make sure you have the proper permits ensures your event — or the one you’re planning for someone else — not only creates lifetime memories among the majestic beauty that inspires you, but also preserves that beauty and its accessibility for others to enjoy for their celebrations, too.

Tips:


  • Research your desired location and find out who manages it. (See our list of websites.) Learn as much about the location’s wedding guidelines as possible (including specific areas and dates that are not permitted) and remember that rangers are busy managing our parks and are not meant to serve as wedding planners.
  • Select a specific location for your event and be mindful of prohibited or restricted areas. It doesn’t hurt to email the listed supervising ranger or another contact to double check the availability of the site and any associated fees.
  • Complete the application in its entirety. In my experience, it’s best to answer all questions on the application. In cases where a question does not apply to your event, simply write “N/A.” Again, specificity is highly encouraged. Make sure you’re submitting the application within the correct window of time. In some instances, applications submitted more than six months in advance are not reviewed.
  • Submit the correct fee amount with your application. Again, an email into the designated contact may be a good idea here to see if there may be additional fees for, say, ranger chaperones.
  • Follow all rules and guidelines of your permit on the event day and make sure you have a copy of your permit with you.
  • The following are websites for some of the region’s popular local parks. While we have many more state parks, they fall under the jurisdiction of those listed below:
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Alegria Sita

Alegria Sita

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