Part Two: Private Museums and Gradens
The third, and least expensive way to host a wedding at Balboa Park is by assembling in one of the parks many public spaces. To do this, you would need to hold a permit from the San Diego Parks and Recreation office.
click image for source and larger image.
The map (above) lists the following public locations that allow weddings with permits:
 Administration Courtyard Lawn
 Alcazar Garden
 Balboa Park Club
 Casa del Prado
 Casa del Prado patio A
 Casa del Prado patio B
 Golden Hill Community Park
 Marston House and Garden
 Marston Point
 Palisades Building Recital Hall
 Park Blvd. and Presidents Way Lawn
 Pepper Grove
 Pine Grove
 Redwood Circle
 Rose Garden
 Spreckels Organ Pavilion
 War Memorial Building
 Zoro Garden
As the map shows, these locations span areas all over the park and represent very different ares and looks to wed.
It includes indoor locations like the Casa Del Prado and the Balboa Park Club.
There are also many outdoor locations - varying from gardens like the Rose Garden and the Alcazar Garden to outdoor locations featuring the park's grand architecture like the Sprekels Organ Pavilion and the Casa Del Prado Patios.
When I was looking into a Balboa Park wedding in a public space, I was particularly attracted to hosting a picnic or garden themed wedding at the Redwood Circle (below).
Assembling in these public spaces comes with its own set of rules. Each location has specific hours (most locations kick you out at dusk while some stay available until 10 pm) and capacity limits (anywhere from 50 to 2,400 people depending on the location). They also have specific restrictions on what can be brought in (no glass) and explanations on how to dispose of all the trash yourselves. There are also varying fees, and you can contact the permit office for more info.
This beautiful wedding took place at the Sprekels Organ Pavilion. The bride had the following advice to give:
"We couldn't have had a better wedding day, and location was everything. Everyone commented on how beautiul the Park was... Just be sure to triple check ALL contracts with SD Park & Rec, ESP when using the Spreckels Organ. We learned 3 days before that there was a conflict with our start time and a Prado wedding...and it was not pretty. I'd recommend contacting the Prado separately before confirming your time with SD Park & Rec, bc their calendars are not as in sync as they claim." quote source.
Ultimately, the public space option had too many loops to jump through and too many restrictions for my liking. While it was certainly a much cheaper option than other Balboa Park wedding routes, there were a lot more logistics to work thorough.
For one, most of the locations available did not have chairs, tables, etc. there already. Renting these things is not a problem, but it adds an extra vendor and more complications.
Secondly, in order to make our outdoor "picnic" wedding more elegant, I was hoping to have it at night - with twinkle lights and candles setting the mood. Since the latest these permits could possibly last was 10 pm, and we would have been expected to finish clean-up and everything by this time, I decided it was not ideal.
Lastly (and most importantly), these spaces are public. Getting a permit from parks and rec. would simply make assembling with a large group legal - it would not make the location private to our wedding. While I had plans in my mind of how to have friends act as "bouncers" of sorts to try to keep the public from getting too close, I decided that renting out a private venue certainly had its perks.
There are so many beautiful locations where groups big and small can assemble for a small fee in Balboa Park. I'm sure if I had decided to go this route, we would have worked out the logistics and come up with a fabulous event. I highly suggest contacting the Parks and Rec office if you're even considering this route - especially if you're planning a small but beautiful "no nonsense" wedding.