Revisiting: Skagit Valley Wedding

large barn with old car in front
Tulip Valley Winery, just outside of Mount Vernon, Washington

Have you considered a Skagit Valley wedding? Located about halfway between Vancouver BC and Seattle, the lowlands of the Skagit River Valley feature acres upon acres of farmlands. Many things are grown here, though the valley is mostly known for tulips, culminating in an annual festival held every April. Besides bulbs, the Skagit Valley has abundant water. The Skagit River runs right through it, and Puget Sound is nearby. And don’t forget about picture perfect views of the nearby mountains. A beautiful backdrop no matter which way you look! Plus, the valley is on the way to the San Juan Islands, a destination for fun and weddings.

While primarily rural, urban services can be found in Mount Vernon (the largest town), Burlington, and Sedro-Wooley. Plus, there’s charming small towns like Bow, Edison, Conway, and La Conner. Good food can be found in the towns, and there are several breweries like La Conner Brewing, Bastion Brewing, Skagit River Brewing, North Sound Brewing, and 192 Brewing.

gazebo in garden under large willow tree
The gazebo at Grand Willow Inn, Mount Vernon

Therefore it’s no surprise that the Skagit Valley is a good destination for a wedding. There are ample opportunities for weddings on farms.

Here are some ideas for a wedding location:

If you live in the Northwest, getting to the Skagit Valley is easy. It’s about a hour drive via I-5 from Seattle, two (depending on border crossing) from Vancouver, BC, and four from Portland. Better yet, leave the driving to Amtrak! The Cascades service stops in downtown Mt. Vernon. It offers two daily round trips from Seattle and Vancouver BC and one daily round trip from Portland. (You can also use Amtrak to connect to SeaTac International Airport via Link Light Rail. This will bring you from the airport terminal to King Street Station in Seattle.)

barn with chairs in front, set up for a wedding
Saltbox Barn on Fir Island, from their website.

So if you are thinking of a nice unique wedding that features lovely farms and stunning backdrops, consider a Skagit Valley wedding!

Destination: Astoria, Oregon.

Astoria, Oregon is about a two hour drive from Portland. Located near the mouth of the Columbia River just a few miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, Astoria has a lot of charm and history as it is the first American settlement on the West Coast. Portland folks love going out to Astoria for a day or three, so it’s not hard to convince folks to come out here for an event.

One good event spot is the Hotel Elliott, located downtown. Besides being a great place to stay, the hotel has a 950 square foot conference room. This room is great for small weddings, birthdays, family reunions and other celebrations. It can accommodate up to 75 guests in a theater setting, 75 for receptions, 42 in a banquet set-up and 40 in classroom style.

interior of conference room, Hotel Elliott, Astoria Oregon
Hotel Elliott’s Conference Room, from their website.
Interior of the Commodore Hotel, from their website.

Another good place to stay in Astoria is the lovely Commodore Hotel, an old hostelry that has been converted in the last decade to a boutique hotel. The prices are reasonable, and most importantly, it’s in the heart of downtown. While Astoria is no big city (population 10,000), it does stretch for a few miles west-east along the river. So getting something central would mean being able to just walk to the various attractions quickly and easily. (This is a good thing to think about if you are planning an event here.)

Astoria has a number of good breweries. Buoy Brewing is right on the river. Buoy is also a great spot to have an event. The Taproom can accommodate up to 50 for seated dining, and up to 80 reception style. Plus, you’ll have some great food and beer on hand! (Please note that they do not rent out the space in the summer months.)

{ Photo of Buoy’s event space }

There is also Fort George Brewing, known for their delicious pizza and tasty beer. Fort George consists of three spaces: the main tap room, the pizza restaurant upstairs, and the Lovell Showroom next door. The Lovell hosts private parties and the like, so it’s a good space for your meeting or other event!

The Ruins at the Astor is located in the former Astor Hotel, a former hotel built in 1922. The nine story tower is still the most prominent building in downtown, so you can’t miss it! he Ruins can accommodate up to 200 guests seated, and 400 standing.

The Ruins at the Astor, from their website.

The Loft at the Red Building is perched on the Columbia River just west of the Astoria Bridge, affording great views. This former cannery offers a large space for weddings and events.

Interior of The Loft at the Red Building, from their website.

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There’s some other nifty non-event places to check out if you are in town, like the excellent Columbia River Maritime Museum and along the waterfront. And a good spot for breakfast is Street 14 Cafe (located adjacent to the lobby at the Commodore).

If you are looking for a venue for a destination wedding or small meeting, consider Astoria.

Destination: Bend, Oregon for Events and Weddings

Smith Rock - Central Oregon Events
Smith Rock

We recently took a trip to Bend, the outdoors-loving metropolis of Central Oregon. Bend is part of a class of Western Mountain Towns like Park City or Telluride, where urbanites go to get away or move permanently so they can mountain bike, ski, or just be “away” all the time. In Central Oregon, it’s drier, sunnier, and colder than Portland in the winter, so many people come to enjoy the sun and/or winter activities.

Over the few days we were in Bend, we came across several spots that would be good for hosting an event. If you’re having a smaller event, Bend is chock-a-block with brewpubs. Cascade Lakes features a second floor that’s good for parties. Deschutes Brewery has spaces at both their locations: The Mountain Room at their larger brewing facility and the upstairs Tap Room at their classic downtown pub. Worthy Brewing’s eastside location features several room options, plus an actual observatory with 16 inch reflecting telescope for stargazing!

The Tap Room at Deschutes’ Bond Street location

The Tap Room at Deschutes’ Bond Street location

As for weddings, there are many good outdoor event venues in Bend and the surrounding area. Black Butte Ranch offers stunning surroundings, full services, and discounts for winter weddings. Elk Lake Resort offers glamping and deluxe cabins as lodging options. Faith, Hope, and Charity Vineyards offers an event center with a mountainscape backdrop of Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top, and The Three Sisters.

Outdoor wedding space at Faith, Hope, and Charity Vineyards

This is just a small selection of options. Hopefully this information gives you some inspiration when it comes to having an event in Central Oregon!

Destination: Tacoma

Tacoma skyline, Tacoma Dome in background. Photo: Shawn Granton

Recently we found ourselves in Tacoma, Washington, a city about 2 1/2 hours north of Portland and just south of Seattle. Tacoma has had a reputation in the past of being a place that you skip over on your way to Seattle or Portland. But that perception has been changing over the last decade or so. We spent a day here to check out what’s going on, thoroughly enjoying ourselves while keeping an eye out for meeting spaces.

We decided to spend the night at Hotel Murano, conveniently located in the heart of downtown and adjacent to the Tacoma Link Light Rail which connects downtown to the Tacoma Dome. (Alas, we didn’t have a chance to ride the streetcar on this trip. Next time!) The Murano is a boutique hotel with an impressive view of the city. It’s named after Murano Island off the coast from Venice, Italy, an island considered to be the center of Old World glass art. That name is significant, as Tacoma is now a New World center of glass art, with the nearby Museum of Glass just a few blocks from the hotel. The Hotel Murano features glass art throughout, with a different featured artist on each of its floors.

tacoma-museum-of-glass-events
photo via https://www.museumofglass.org/private-events

Hotel Murano is not just a great place to stay, but it’s a great space to have an event! Their 30,000 square foot flexible use space can host corporate events, executive retreats, association meetings and leadership seminars.

Continue reading “Destination: Tacoma”

{ Portland Wedding Venues } Planner’s Roundup – Five sites that allow outside catering

For many couples, the food is THE most important part of the wedding celebration. I often hear from them: “The food HAS to be good”…”We like the Portland food scene and want to integrate it into our wedding”…”We want to give our guests a taste of Portland and the Pacific Northwest”. Often, they already have a caterer in mind when they start their venue search, and are challenged when they keep running into venues that have strict exclusive lists.

That got me to thinking. What Portland wedding and event venues allow unrestricted outside catering? Here are just a few as of September 2018. Keep in mind that policies do change, so check with the venue first before making any plans or appointments. Know any others? Let us know via sharing in the comments below!

Horning’s Hideout is a great outdoor venue in North Plains, Oregon, only about 45 minutes from downtown Portland. The venue features covered pavilions, a relaxed vibe, and the ability to use any caterer you like.

Photos courtesy Anthony Gauna Photography

 

Continue reading “{ Portland Wedding Venues } Planner’s Roundup – Five sites that allow outside catering”

Portland area camping (and glamping!) wedding destinations

Matt and Diana’s wedding at Horning’s Hideout, 2016.

The Pacific Northwest is the home to boatloads of natural beauty. Its residents love the outdoors with a fervor not seen in other areas of the country. It’s natural for folks to incorporate their love of nature with weddings. A camping or outdoor themed wedding is a natural occurrence around these parts.

At the most basic of levels, all one needs is an outdoor space that can hold the wedding party, preferably in a scenic location. But a successful outdoor wedding needs a little more than that. How easy it for folks to get to? What are the amenities like? If people are camping, will there be a place for them to clean up before the ceremony?

Here are some camping destinations close to Portland (within a one to two hour car ride) that regularly see weddings. A few of them offer “glamping” amenities, next level camping with a luxury touch! Some places also offer lodging facilities like yurts and cabins where beds are provided, but bedding is not.

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Camping weddings with tent camping (no indoor lodging)

Horning’s Hideout is located about 45 minutes northwest of Portland, outside the town of North Plains in Washington County. We can attest to its popularity as an outdoor/camping wedding destination. This is due to proximity to Portland, on-site amenities, and beautiful location. The campground is located right on-site, making it easy to party late into the night and retire into a waiting tent! And showers are available so one can freshen up before the ceremony.

 

Camping weddings with tents, yurts and indoor lodging

Silver Falls State Park is about an hour south of Portland, due east of Salem and outside of Silverton. Sliver Falls big feature is, of course, the falls: ten different waterfalls connected by a seven mile trail! The Silver Falls Lodge and Conference Center features a catered event center with furnished cabins nearby. There are also rustic (you bring bedding) cabins, a regular campground, and a group campground. Full bathrooms with free showers are located in the campground.

Camp Wilkerson is about 45 minutes north of Portland, near Scappoose. This Columbia County Park is located in dense forests on a spur of the Oregon Coast Range. The Day Lodge features cooking facilities and space for 250. There are also a few rustic lodges, 24 Adirondacks (three-sided camping shelters), and space for tent camping.

Camp Nanamu is a youth camp about 30 minutes east of Portland, on the banks of the Sandy River outside of the city of Sandy. The camp has many different facilities, the largest event centers can hold up to 300 people! There’s also numerous cabins and lodges for sleeping, including (and my favorite) treehouses!

Vernonia Springs is a newer facility about an hour northwest from Portland, outside of Vernonia. A former trout-fishing camp, Vernonia Springs features yurts, round-sided permanent tents based off the design used by peoples from the steppes of Central Asia. They also feature traditional (and large) canvas-sided wall tents made by local company Beckel Canvas. The location is right off the Banks-Vernonia Rail Trail, which means one can easily bike to a wedding! (A bonus: they rent bicycles!)

Last but not least, the Sou’wester Lodge is in Seaview, Washington, on the Long Beach Peninsula about two hours from Portland (and about 20 minutes from Astoria, Oregon.) The Sou’wester features space for tent camping and RV’s, but they have cabins, yurts, and for the ultimate in glamping, vintage travel trailers (think Airstreams and the like!) All guests have access to an outdoor kitchen, spa and sauna, and showers.

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This list is by no means exhaustive, but it hopefully gives you some inspiration when it comes to a camping/glamping themed wedding!

San Juan Island Weddings

San Juan Island Weddings
Agate Beach, Lopez Island

We recently spent some time traveling through Friday Harbor, WA on San Juan Island scouting some ideas for a San Juan Islands wedding. The San Juan Islands are an archipelago in the Puget Sound north of Seattle and south of Vancouver, consisting of over 400 islands and rocks. The four largest islands, San Juan, Orcas, Lopez, and Shaw, are accessible to the mainland via the Washington State Ferry System.

The islands offer a rich tapestry of forests, farmlands, and beaches, plus spectacular views of the water and mountains. You’ll find several wineries and organic farms dotting the islands. The islands are overall rural, but you’ll find urban services in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, Lopez Village on Lopez Island, and Eastsound on Orcas Island. This area is a popular tourist destination in the summer (many people have summer homes here), so it can feel a bit crowded on a nice July weekend. But the overall climate of the islands is more moderate and drier than the mainland, meaning winter explorations are a great way to beat the crowds.

Here are some ideas for your San Juan Islands wedding weekend!

San Juan Island:

Lopez Island:

Orcas Island:

A Washington State Ferry heads towards the San Juan Islands

A note about transportation: The Washington State Ferry Service (WSF) is the primary transportation to the islands, connecting the San Juans to Anacortes on the mainland. During the summer, there is one WSF trip to Sidney, British Columbia, just north of Victoria on Vancouver Island. The Victoria Clipper runs a passenger-only ferry from downtown Seattle to Friday Harbor. Privately chartered boat and plane transportation to the San Juan Islands is also available. If you plan on bringing your car on the Washington State Ferries on weekends or during the summer months, advance reservations are strongly recommended! However, you’ll always get on the next ferry if you are on foot or bicycle, no reservation needed, no matter what. Long term paid parking is available at the Anacortes terminal.

Enjoyed this post? You might be interested in the following:

Destination: Tacoma
Portland-Area Camping and Glamping Destinations
Destination Weddings 101: Traveling with a Wedding Gown

Skagit Valley Weddings

The Skagit Valley in March, when the daffodils are blooming

I was lucky to recently spend some time in the Skagit Valley and San Juan Islands. There are so many lovely locations in this area for a Pacific Northwest destination wedding, especially for those thinking about spring and summer events.

Whether you’re coming from the East Coast, or just from Portland where we’re based, the area is easy to get to from either Sea-Tac or Bellingham airports; or just off I-5.

Amtrak Cascades serves the town of Mt. Vernon so, you could even throw your bikes on the train and have a car-free wedding or elopement.

Skagit Valley is known for its flower farms, farmers’ markets, and local art. Anacortes, WA is your jumping-off point to catch ferries for the San Juan Islands; or you may want to spend time in the charming towns of Mt. Vernon, or La Conner (where we hung out the most), or Bow. Here are just a few ideas for your Skagit Valley wedding weekend.

{ Portland Wedding Venues } Planner’s Roundup – 5 sites that allow outside catering

For so many couples, the food is THE most important part of the wedding celebration. I often hear from them: “The food HAS to be good”…”We like the Portland food scene and want to integrate it into our wedding”…”We want to give our guests a taste of Portland and the Pacific Northwest”. Often, they already have a caterer in mind when they start their venue search, and are challenged when they keep running into venues that have strict exclusive lists.

That got me to thinking. What Portland wedding and event venues allow unrestricted outside catering? Here are just a few as of December 2017. Policies do change, so check with the venue first before making any plans or appointments. Know any others? Please share in the comments below!

Horning’s Hideout

Hornings-hideout-portland-wedding-venue

Horning’s Hideout is a great outdoor venue in North Plains, Oregon, only about 45 minutes from downtown Portland. The venue has covered pavilions, a relaxed vibe, and the ability to use any caterer you like.

Continue reading “{ Portland Wedding Venues } Planner’s Roundup – 5 sites that allow outside catering”

{ Photo of the Day } Blank slate wedding venue Union Pine

Going through old photos of site walks and I came upon this great one I took while venue sourcing for our dear client Kat. Even though she wound up choosing Castaway as her wedding venue, I still love Union Pine and can’t wait to do another wedding here.

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There’s just something about this space that I really love! Below, a photo of the venue all set up with our client Rachel and Justin’s wedding (Photo by Bryan Aulick Photography):

Union-pine-wedding-Bryan-Aulick-541

Isn’t it gorgeous and also so simple? What wedding venues in Portland are you loving right now? Happy hunting this engagement/holiday season, to all who are looking for a site! (Maybe we can help?)

Continue reading “{ Photo of the Day } Blank slate wedding venue Union Pine”