Planning a destination wedding is at the top of many of our clients’ to-do lists, so we make sure to attend many conferences and trainings on the subject. One of them we remember fondly is Love Mexico, which was held in Playa del Carmen some years back. Weddings are cautiously returning to travel for 2022 and 2023. Here are five important factors we took away from this experience:
Mexico destinations aren’t just for casual weddings
A beach wedding doesn’t have to be a casual, barefoot affair if you don’t want it to be. The availability of vendors in Mexico beach destinations is such that you can create the wedding vision, theme and color story of your wishes, including ones with high style and custom designs.
Not just the beach
Mexico isn’t just about beach weddings, either! The strong Spanish and European influence during colonial times means that old-world palaces and piazzas are just as available as palm trees and sand for a wedding backdrop — and without the 16-hour flights or Euro exchange rate.
Research the volume of weddings at your chosen destination wedding venue
Check to see how many weddings may be held at the resort of your choice. We talked to some in-house resort wedding planners who handle anywhere from 5 to 20 weddings per day. If you have chosen a larger resort, consider bringing your own personal wedding coordinator along with you so that you can get personal service on this most important of days. Or, consider working with a personal wedding coordinator who is familiar with the area during site selection, who can direct you to smaller, more exclusive properties and venues that might be off the beaten path.
Is it private?
Find out if the site or beach you have selected is a private location. If you picture exchanging vows in a secluded setting, you don’t want any surprises. Visit the location beforehand, or make sure you’re working with your personal wedding planner who has been there.
Destination wedding budgets can be competitive with local weddings
Planning a destination wedding can be just as affordable as a wedding you might plan in your home location. We’ve seen all-inclusive affairs in Mexico at excellent resorts for the same budget as a 100-person wedding locally. Many resorts offer perks based on your guest count. If you’re having a hard time finding a location you love at home, and most people are flying in anyway, consider a Mexico destination wedding for something wonderful and affordable.
Practicing what we preach, we recently flew to Southern California to facilitate 7CTOs retreat in San Diego, with our Brompton folding bikes in tow. But for the return trip we decided to do something a bit different: Take the train home. We love using Amtrak for both short and long distance trips. Amtrak’s Coast Starlightis their premier West Coast long-distance train, running from Seattle to Los Angeles. We booked a “sleeper”, our own compartment that features actual beds, and spent a day and a half looking out the window. Train travel can be both climate-friendly and better than the plane in several respects – one of them being all of the sights you’ll see!
Here are ten different points of interest seen from the windows of the Coast Starlight as it plies the West Coast, from south to north:
Southern and Central California beaches. If you’ve looked at Amtrak’s promotional imagery, you may have seen an image of a train hugging a coastline with cerulean-blue ocean beneath. That’s where the Coast Starlight cruises along the edge of the Pacific from around Ventura to south of San Luis Obispo. Pro tip: Make sure you get a seat on the left side of the train to get the best views!
Point Conception. North of Santa Barbara the Coast Starlight travels through the private Hollister Ranch, an area of chapparal-covered hills with little development. The Starlight actually heads west through this area until it reaches Point Conception, a small cape with lighthouse. The train then turns northwards to pass through…
Vandenberg Air Space Force Base, the home of America’s West-Coast space launches. Keep your eye out for Space Launch Complex 6, which was modified for Space Shuttle launches. Alas, Vandenberg never saw the Shuttle launch (or land) here, but the base hosts regular NASA and SpaceX flights.
Horseshoe Curve. Just minutes from departing San Luis Obispo station, the Coast Starlight heads into a big horseshoe curve. It’s possible to see both the front and end of the train at the same time!
Jack London Square. The Coast Starlight’s Oakland depot is located in an entertainment district next to San Francisco Bay. For several blocks the tracks run right down the middle of a city street, The Embarcadero.
Mothball Fleet. About ten minutes outside of the Martinez station, the Coast Starlight crosses Carquinez Strait and hugs Suisun Bay on its way to Sacramento. On the right side of the train in the bay is Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet. where outdated Naval ships go to await their final fate. Note: This site is best observed southbound, it may be dark by the time the northbound train passes through here.
Odell Lake at Willamette Pass. The Coast Starlight has been cruising along a high plateau to the east of the Cascade Range since it climbed up the Sacramento River Canyon. After leaving Chemult station, the Starlight heads to the Cascades where it will cross it at Willamette Pass and then follow the Willamette to Portland. Before the summit is postcard-perfect Odell Lake, seen on the right side of the train.
Westfir (Office) Covered Bridge. The Coast Starlight spends a good hour or more descending from Willamette Pass to the mountain-bike crazy town of Springfield. After a short tunnel the train passes through tiny Westfir. To the left, over the North Fork of the Middle Fork of the Willamette River is the Office or Westir Covered Bridge. At 180 feet in length, it’s the longest covered bridge in Oregon!
Willamette Falls. On the Coast Starlight’s left side as it enters Oregon City is one of the mightiest waterfalls of the west! The Willamette descends 40 feet down to tidal level. The Falls have historically been a barrier for shipping traffic. Yet it was also major spot for fishing and trading for the tribes here before European settlement. The old Blue Heron Paper Mill is now owned by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and is being redeveloped for public use.
Tacoma Narrows/Point Defiance. Now we are near the end of the journey. Closing in on Seattle, the sea comes into view again a short time after leaving the Olympia/Lacey (Washington) station. For several miles the tracks hug the shore of the Puget Sound, passing under the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The Coast Starlight then passes through the Point Defiance tunnel. And the last few miles before entering downtown Tacoma cruise along the shore of Commencement Bay. (Please note: The other Amtrak route through this area, the Cascades, now uses the Point Defiance Bypass that cuts off this scenic section of track. The Coast Starlight route will remain along the waterfront for the time being.)
We hope this gives you a snapshot of the pleasures of traveling by train, and of the climate benefits. If you’re interested in setting up a group travel excursion for your next meeting or gathering, or in using a train for an event, please contact us.
Thinking about a wedding by the sea? Consider a Long Beach Peninsula Wedding in Washington State! Located in the far southwestern corner of the state, the peninsula is across the Columbia River from Astoria. It’s about a 2 1/2 hour drive from Portland. Close enough that a weekend can be made out of it, far enough to feel like a getaway.
Adrift and Shelburne Hotels
The Adrift Hotel in the town of Long Beach is a good landing spot. Many rooms have a view of the ocean. And the view and proximity to beach are not the only selling factors here. A guest can borrow a free balloon-tire bike to cruise the beach and the Discovery Trail path that runs parallel to it. The Adrift also contains a modest spa facility as well as the Pickled Fish Restaurant. The dining room sits on the top floor of their west building, with an expansive view of the beach and the ocean. Pickled Fish offers a variety of locally-sourced Pacific Northwest starters and entrées. But our favorite are their New Haven-style pizzas –thin crusts with just the right amount of char.
Because they have both an indoor and outdoor gathering space that can fit about 100 people, The Adrift Hotel would be a great spot for a small beach wedding! Pickled Fish would cater, a delicious choice. And best of all, it’s less than five minutes to walk to the beach. The “sister” hotel to Adrift, the Shelburne Hotel, can also host weddings. The late-Victorian era Shelburne was built in 1896, making it the longest continually operating hotel in Washington State.
The Sou’wester Lodge is a lodging facility featuring a mix of cabins, vintage travel trailers (like Airstream) and campsites. They are located in Seaview, a community between Long Beach and Ilwaco. The Sou’wester can lodge 70 to 100 people, and accommodate 250 guests for a ceremony. It’s a good spot for a unique wedding! Plus, They offer extras, like a wellness package and a beach bonfire package.
Cape Disappointment State Park
Cape Disappointment State Park, a state park located south of Long Beach, is a great destination in itself. Located on a peninsula where the Columbia River meets the Pacific, the park features beaches, hiking trails through coastal rainforests, and a wide variety of camping options, including yurts and cabins. The North Head Lighthouse* and surrounding grounds are available for wedding ceremonies only. You must hold receptions elsewhere. The North Head Lighthouse Keepers’ Residence is available nearby for honeymoon or other overnight rental.
Oysterville on the Peninsula’s North End
We also want to give a quick mention to the picture-perfect village of Oysterville, located on the north end of the peninsula. Founded in the nineteenth century when this area was dominated by (what else!) oyster fishing, Oysterville consists of a couple dozen Victorian houses on the edge of Willapa Bay. There is one cute (but small) venue available if you want something different for a wedding: The Oysterville Church. This historic church, can hold around 100 people. The nearby Oysterville School can be used for the reception. There are no lodging options in Oysterville itself, however there are in the community of Ocean Shores, just a ten-minute drive away. (The city of Long Beach is about a half-hour drive from Oysterville.)
The Long Beach Peninsula is filled with nice vistas, abundant nature, good food, and a great beach. Maybe you’ll consider a Long Beach Peninsula Wedding or holding your small meeting or conference there?
*The other lighthouse at the park, simply named “Cape Disappointment Lighthouse”, does not allow weddings.