***I just realized — it’s January of 2012. You won’t need to participate in a lottery! They already held it. It’s now first come, first served. If you don’t have your permit yet you can just walk right in and get it (assuming the date/spot/time are still open). I’ll keep going with the lottery info, though, in case others might find it helpful.
Here’s the deal. Permits for park sites are issued up to a year in advance, and the issuing period kicks off with a “lottery” on the first day. I have an October 2012 date. So on the morning of the first working Monday of October 2011, I went to the administration building with this form in hand. And so did everyone else who wanted to have the best shot at getting their date in October 2012. In my case, just one other person was there and she wanted a different day and a different location in the park. So there was no picking names out of a hat — but for Saturdays during big wedding months, you can bet there’s more competition. If any two people want the same spot on the same day at the same time, they’ll randomly draw to see who gets it.
After the lottery, which take place just on that one day, permits for “X” month are issued on a first come, first served basis.
Looking back, for us the lottery wasn’t really necessary. We’re getting married on a Sunday in October. And it looks like you’re renewal will be on a Sunday during the holidays, which may be even more wide open. What are the chances, in such a big park, that you’ll really be competing for space? Probably not high, so don’t stress about the lottery. I’d go just be on the safe side, but not be worried.
A few other things —
the cost (right now) for San Diego City residents is $273. It’s $500 for anyone who doesn’t give an address within the city limits. No discount for be a county resident. So if you have a friend in San Diego proper, consider borrowing their mailbox.
there are no permits issued for times before 10 a.m. People have certainly just had morning ceremonies before then. For free.
a permit comes with tons of restrictions and basically no rights. If another group wants to come in with their own wedding or event, the permit holder can contact someone at the park (I have no idea who, or how) to get their permit enforced, but you legally can’t keep any one out of the site you’re reserved. For us, we paid the money anyway we love the park and see it as a way of supporting it.