Beach wedding permits bring needed controls to industry
The state will begin in August to enforce a requirement for vendors of beach weddings to obtain permits for each ceremony.
Hawaii's wedding industry has boomed in recent years, but operators are concerned that enforcement of the state's permit for vows to be taken at beaches will undermine it. The state should be prepared to make changes to maintain the industry's strength while recognizing residents' concerns.
Beginning Aug. 1, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources will begin enforcement of beach wedding permits, charging 10 cents per square foot and a minimum of $20 per beach wedding. State officials say processing such a permit should take about a week, and they plan to process those with upcoming dates first.
Wedding vendors understandably are concerned that bureaucracy could get in the way of a couple's urgency. It also could result in vendors ignoring the requirement in such cases, which ordinarily would arise from lesser- noticed weddings attended by only a few friends.
The state might need to create a rigid system for dealing with such circumstances, if it hasn't already done so. The first few weeks of enforcement should indicate whether such an aggressive system is necessary.
The fee does not seem excessive, despite concerns by the Rev. Toni Baran that $20 on top of the vendor's fee of $100 or less for simple ceremonies is "a lot of money to a private in the military who's got a girlfriend that may or may not be pregnant." We hope those occurrences are isolated.
Morris Atta, DLNR's land division administrator, told the Star-Bulletin's Nina Wu that his office will be collecting data to help determine appropriate sites for beach weddings and what their capacities should be. Popular beach wedding sites on Oahu are Waialae Beach Park, Makapuu Point, Magic Island, Kailua and Lanikai.
Lanikai Beach has been ranked in recent years among the world's 10 most beautiful beaches, so its draw as a wedding site is not surprising. Photographs of the beach are shown prominently among Web sites of beach-wedding vendors.
Lanikai residents complain that beach marriages cause traffic jams through the narrow, one-way loop and are inappropriate for their neighborhood's beach. "Those are legitimate concerns and we are discouraging (wedding) people from using it," Atta said. "But because we don't have hard numbers and statistics to back it up, we aren't outright saying no."
Atta faces a challenge in responding to concerns of local residents without causing damage to what has become an integral part of Hawaii's tourism industry. Marriages licenses are issued to about 18,000 nonresident couples a year, and many more ceremonies are conducted for visitors whose knots were tied officially in Japan or who renew their nuptials in celebrating their anniversaries.