In the picturesque landscape east of the Cascades, amidst the breathtaking beauty of towering mountains and high desert greenery, a vibrant tapestry of colors and traditions unfolds as an enchanting Indian wedding in Central Oregon took place last fall. The air is filled with anticipation and joy, as family and friends gather from far and wide to celebrate the union of Luke and Rekhna.
Elaborate floral decorations adorn the venue, while the aromatic scent of Indian delicacies mingles with the crisp mountain air. Against the backdrop of nature’s splendor, the bride and groom, draped in resplendent attire, embark on a lifelong journey together, surrounded by the warmth and love of their loved ones.
We look forward to another Indian wedding in Central Oregon.
Hello folks! We’ve got some exciting news to share with y’all: We currently manage rentals at Risley Landing Gardens! This historic garden is located on a rise above the Willamette River off of River Road, roughly half-way between Milwaukie and Oregon City. Historically this site was a dock (hence the “landing” name), used when the river was the primary form of transportation. This 1.12 acre (0.45 hectare) site was owned by the Risley family for over 100 years. In 1983 the family donated it to the Oak Grove Garden Club, who have owned and managed the property ever since.
Nestled under a canopy of Douglas-fir and Oregon White Oak (the “oak” in Oak Grove), this scenic conservatory is a great spot for an intimate wedding, get together, or photo shoot. Garden weddings have taken place here for decades. The garden can accommodate events up to 100 people. The parts of thee property that can be used for events is a terrace with a view of the Willamette, a grassy area above the terrace, and a gazebo that seat 35. There is a small parking lot that can be used for food trucks–a wedding last fall was catered by KOi Fusion!
Who gets tipped at a wedding is a common question in wedding planning. It used to be you could just say, “Tip anyone you would tip normally,” and everyone knew what to do. However, this gets complicated when you factor in vendors such as DJs, photographers, and florists that not all of us use in our everyday lives. (Well, maybe if you are a celebrity…) Using a little knowledge of history, common sense, and principles of fairness and equity, we’ll try to tackle this question.
A little tipping history
While tipping predates the Civil War in the U.S., it became more prevalent in post-Reconstruction America. When it became no longer legal to enslave humans and pay them nothing to work, companies such as Pullman hired Black workers and paid them low wages, expecting them to work for tips to make up the bulk of their income (via USA Today).
CBS News continues, “Surprisingly, in those early years, many considered tipping undemocratic and therefore un-American because of its roots in the aristocracy. ‘Tipping, and the aristocratic idea it exemplifies, is what we left Europe to escape. It is a cancer in the breast of democracy,’ wrote William Scott in 1916. But the railway and restaurant industries fought for using tipping as their employees’ full wages, to exploit their African American labor force, and they won.”
Today, we have what are called “Tip Credit” exemptions in US laws such as the FLSA, that allow certain classes of workers to be paid a minimum wage as low as $2.13 (!!!), and to earn the rest of their wage through tips. Thankfully, some areas have adopted minimum wage laws that start minimum wage at $14.75 or better (hi, Portland). However, even a higher minimum wage doesn’t quite cut it when you look at this table from MIT showing what a living wage should be for a household with 2 children — for example, that’s between $27 and $48 in Multnomah County, depending on how many adults are working in the household. Simply put, tips really help if your hourly wage doesn’t cut it.
OK, so knowing the above, we’ve accepted that the history of tipping is pretty awful. Also knowing that while we continue to live in and agitate against this inequitable system, it’s up to us to take direct action and figure out who gets tipped at a wedding, to make it a better situation. So we should absolutely tip folks who work at a wedding, because not only are they working hard, they’re under so much more pressure since they are not just making dinner or creating space, they are doing so for such a timeless and special occasion. By tipping, we’re also directly helping people, and making up for some of the inequities in a system that we have the privilege to affect. That being said, if you absolutely do not have the ability to tip*, you shouldn’t feel bad, and nothing bad is going to happen to you. There are alternatives to cash tips that we’ll go over later in this article.
Yes, you should still tip anyone you would tip in your daily non-wedding life
So who gets tipped at a wedding? Let’s start with the easy answers: Anyone who you would tip in normal, non-wedding life. Do you go out to eat? You tip the waiter, and maybe even in your food delivery app, leave something for the kitchen staff. Do you drink in bars? You tip the bartender. Do you stay in hotels? You tip the people who carry your stuff or bring things to your room, and those who clean up after you. None of this changes just because you’re having a wedding. Do you tip your hairstylist? Of course you do. Do you tip when you go to the department store, and a makeup artist helps you choose makeup and sometimes, even applies it on your face? Yes, all of these tips that happen in normal life, should also happen at your wedding.
And anyone who offers an above-and-beyond customized service
In addition, let’s think about people who offer specialized labor or a customized service. When you go to a karaoke bar, you might tip the KJ for finding you that special song you wanted to sing, and moving you up in the queue because she knows it’s your birthday. Similarly, a wedding DJ who goes out of their way to customize your wedding playlist, gets to know your likes and dislikes, and watches the crowd to tailor the music in order to get the most people dancing — this person is deserving of a gratuity. The words gratuity and gratitude are related – use tips to show how grateful you are.
Exceptions to who gets tipped at a wedding: Bad service, business owners, and when it’s already in the contract
Let’s be real, tips add up. When you are already spending so much money on the wedding, it’s always good to look for safe places where you can skip the tip. One is if the vendor provider is a business owner. Although they will definitely appreciate, and certainly not turn away, a tip if you give them one, they normally are not thinking of themselves as who gets tipped at a wedding. This is because, as an owner-worker they are presumably (hopefully) paying themselves a living wage or better. (If you are a business owner and you are NOT paying yourself a living wage, there’s a book for you!)
The other situation is where gratuity is already included in the contract. But be careful! “Service charge” and “Gratuity” are not always interchangeable. It’s up to you (or your wedding planner) to ask vendors who add service charge (most likely a caterer or a hotel), whether or not that service charge goes to the staff. If it doesn’t, then it would be customary to give tips to hotel or catering staff at the end of the night.
One last situation is if you’ve received overall bad service. I’m not talking about if one guest’s impossible request wasn’t met (I’m thinking of that one wedding guest who asked me to chill and serve her own wine that she brought from outside the venue. Uh, no.), but overall bad service where it seems like everything went wrong — late or missing staff, important instructions such as dietary needs not followed, diagrams or timelines given well in advance not followed, etc. In this case you should feel fine about reducing or eliminating gratuity for the affected services. But please do give tips for those who did show up and give their all.
Ways to show appreciation without tipping
For those vendors who aren’t being tipped, there are still lots of ways to show appreciation. Offer a sandwich tray with ice-cold sodas during setup, for the floral and rental setup crew. In my experience, those folks do a lot, but rarely get tipped. After the wedding, you can write your vendor a thank-you note and include a coffee gift card, or send a bottle of wine (unopened, please) that is left over from your reception.
And if they did a good job, you should write that vendor a nice review on a site like Yelp, Google Maps, or TheKnot. (Pro tip: Copy and paste your review on as many sites as you can. More ideas include WeddingWire, LinkedIn, and Facebook.) Your vendor will love you forever, and a good review that could lead to future business is worth far more than a $50 handshake.
Finally, don’t forget to write your vendors a thank-you note if they did a good job. It’s a little thing that does mean something, especially if you cannot tip someone.
Your wedding planner is your intermediary
This seems like a lot of work, doesn’t it? But this is a perfect example of a service a wedding planner provides for you, in order to remove stress and fuss from the events leading up to the wedding. Your planner can look at your vendor list and help you figure out who gets tipped at the wedding and exactly how much. Once you and your planner determine what tips will be arranged, you can place these amounts (usually cash) in sealed envelopes with the name of the vendor for your planner to hand out (or not hand out, based on service) at the end of the night. You and your sweetie and all your friends and family won’t have to deal with all of that.
*As most wedding expenses are non-mandatory, my stance is that few people planning weddings fall into this category. Just as if you can afford to go out for dinner, you can afford to tip; so if you can afford to host, for example, a wedding with a budget of $30,000 or more, you can afford to tip your wedding vendors. To host a wedding at this budget level or higher in the US and think you can’t afford to tip, in my opinion, means you didn’t plan correctly. Smaller weddings on shoestring budgets are exempt from my blanket judgement.
It’s no secret that one of our favorite wedding locations is the Columbia Gorge just east of Portland. Here is where the Columbia, the mightiest river in the west, literally cut through a mountain range on its way to the Pacific. The steep mountains that form the “walls” of the Gorge are supremely photogenic. And the staggering number of waterfalls add to the natural beauty. We were so excited that Shannon and Ryan asked us to assist with their Thunder Island wedding planning.
Shannon and Ryan met during a camping trip in college. They love the outdoors, so much that their engagement session involved rock climbing at Smith Rock in Central Oregon. So an outdoor wedding was definitely in the picture for them. The weather on their wedding day was almost perfect: ample amounts of sun and warmth, though a wee bit breezy. But it’s the Gorge, wind is to be expected!
The reception was held indoors at the Pavilion at Thunder Island. An example of the couple’s unique touch was an audio guest book that guests would record their greeting via a vintage rotary phone.
It was a lovely wedding and we were happy to help.
We recently attended Connect Pacific Northwest in Boise, Idaho and heard from Justin Skeesuck who taught about the Multiplier Effect and how it relates to accessibility in your events. My takeaway from this important talk was: If you exclude one person, you are also losing 4-5 additional attendees who might be connected with that person. Photo from official website of the speaker.
Everyone says, “I want to throw the best event ever!” and that means making events more inclusive. If your attendees feel unwelcome or left out, your event is falling short. Here are 6 ways you might be making attendees feel unwelcome, and how you can fix that. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive or definitive list. We welcome your input and additions in the comments if you have the time.
The menu. (Including alcohol)
Gone are the days of the rubber-chicken conference dinner or surf-and-turf-for-all. Today’s event attendees are health-minded, from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and care about the environment, animal welfare, and where their food comes from. Food is the centerpiece of any gathering, and if the foods you offer at your event do not serve all of your attendees, they’ll feel left out and unwelcome. Check out this blog post, written by EJP Events’s resident vegetarian and Marketing Events Assistant, Shawn Granton, for some examples.
Are you preparing for attendees who avoid animal products; follow diets based on their faith, such as Kosher or Halal; or have sensitivities to any of the nine major food allergens? If not, you should! And to do so, you’ll want to ask, in your registration form, whether or not your attendee has any dietary preferences (I prefer the word “preferences” rather than “restrictions,” which can sound negative). You also want to make sure you’re working closely with your caterer and venue — even before signing the contract — to make sure they can prepare the foods your attendees want within your budget.
Don’t forget alcohol! As we talk more and more about mental health and overall wellness, we need to bring this into our events too. Not every attendee is excited about an open bar. Indeed, being around a lot of alcohol can present problems both for individuals on a recovery path as well as for organizations who want to promote healthy choices and professionalism. Make sure you are designing your event not just for different dietary needs, but also including those who make the choice to avoid or reduce alcohol consumption. Here’s a recent blog post we wrote about Dry January and how that thinking is coming into how events are planned.
There’s nothing worse than getting to an exciting event you’ve been looking forward to, and finding out it’s a literal pain to get there. Think about the last time you had to walk what felt like miles inside a giant venue to find the restroom, or when you finally got there, only to find it was cramped or poorly appointed. Now imagine being a wheelchair user, someone on crutches, or a person with any other kind of mobility challenge, and you can see how the problem gets much worse. All of us are one accident away from disability, and if we’re lucky enough to grow old, we’ll all need accessibility accommodations at some point in our lives. Again, ask your attendees when they register what their needs and preferences are. “What accommodations, if any, would make it easy for you to attend this event?” is one example of how you can ask. And again, start asking your planning and logistics questions BEFORE you book your venue. One important one is “Are there ramps for a wheelchair-using speaker to get to the stage?” You can find a good resource of additional questions to ask starting here.
Finally, just because there are no curbs, or because the venue is legally ADA accessible, doesn’t mean your event is safe for a wheelchair user. We recently attended a presentation on Accessibility in Travel, where a wheelchair user described being assigned to stay in a hotel where she couldn’t open her room door by herself, from the inside. When asked, the front desk said she could call them whenever she wanted to leave her room. But what if there was a fire? Clearly, “just following ADA” is not enough. We all need to do more, such as spending more time evaluating the actual attendee journey through the space, not just checking off boxes.
Outdated concepts and wording
Sadly, this example of making guests feel excluded is still common. When attendees eagerly click on your event website, or registration form, is there anything there that would make them feel like this conference isn’t for them? One example I see often is titles on a registration form such as Mr. and Mrs. If all I see is Mr. and Mrs. as the choices, I feel left out because neither one describes me.
While many people use these titles, it’s true that “Mrs.” in our current society refers to marital status, and in a business setting, there’s no reason to ask women to declare their marital status. while leaving Mr. as the default for men, without any kind of denotation. Probably a whole dissertation could be written about why there is no version of “Mrs.” to denote a married man, in our society. What to do? A couple of ideas: Avoid titles altogether and instead, ask for first and last name, and pronouns. Or do all of the former and allow multiple choices and fill-in options for the title, such as Dr., Mr., Ms. or Mx.
Just like physical accessibility, online accessibility involves allowing everyone, not just sighted or hearing folks, the ability to enjoy your content and use your registration form. If someone with low vision, or a Blind or Deaf person can’t get to your registration form, then how will they attend? It’s a real problem and if your goal is to be inclusive and attract a diverse audience, you must consider disability. Thankfully there are lots of tools to make your visual content readable by a screen reader, so a person with vision disability can have it read to them. And vice versa – there are lots of tools to create captioned content for photos and videos, so hearing-impaired people can access your event sound content. One of the resources for finding these that we like is at MabelyQ – they’re a resource helping organizations improve access for people with disabilities. We recently took their course “Accessibility Made Easy“, and we realize we have a lot of work to do. Even looking at my own web theme at ejpevents.com, there is a lot that needs fixing, starting with text color contrast in my own, low-vision opinion. From adding alt text to photos, to using #CamelCase for hashtags, the resources out there have been useful and important to learn.
Online accessibility is also related to other ways of including everyone. By offering an online component of your event, whether it’s a selected number of livestreams or a full hybrid version, you’re making events more inclusive and accessible to attendees with a caregiving responsibility, such as mothers; the immunocompromised or at-risk populations who are still told to avoid large groups due to COVID; and those for whom traveling to an event would pose a barrier. Consider virtual or hybrid options to increase your attendee reach and inclusivity.
Excluding introverts and the neurodiverse.
This is something, as an event planner, I have struggled with for many years. As someone who gets energy from one-on-one contacts, and can feel depleted having to connect with many people all at the same time, I’ve realized over time that I identify as introverted. It’s common for me to need extra time to process information, to desire to skip small talk, and jump right into deep discussion of a topic. These might sound like liabilities in the workplace. On the other hand, what clients and colleagues stand to gain from these traits, is they receive more authenticity, well-thought-out opinions and guidance, and meaningful interaction. Glen Cathey, SVP of Digital Strategy and Innovation at the staffing agency Randstad, has a wonderful presentation about introversion at work called Introversion: The Largest Neurodiversity Category In Sourcing, Recruiting, Diversity and Inclusion. Unfortunately, because introverts are in the minority, our society and events tend to be built for assertive, “sociable”, and talkative people who have the tendency to seek stimulation in the company of others, leaving introverts (1 in 3 people) feeling left out and excluded. While introversion is not officially yet considered a category of neurodiversity, both Cathey and others, such as Sam Sheppard, advocate for including introversion as a part of any organization’s strategy to include the neurodiverse, and I agree.
And let’s talk about the more well-known neurodiversity identities, which are just as, if not more important, to accommodate at events if you truly want to work towards making events more inclusive. How do we serve those who are on the autism spectrum? How do we design for those with sensory issues or other neurodivergent traits?
What can you do? Learn, learn, learn, and then take action. We love the resource from GoogleXi called The Neu Project, which explores the topic of neurodiversity and helping create events that embrace all neurotypes. We recently heard Naomi Clare, one of the leaders on this project, speak at CMP Advance in New York, and she provided us with a Guide to Neuroinclusion which contains a wonderful A-Z toolkit of what you can actually do, starting now, on your path to making events more inclusive.
Affordability of events, in my experience, has only recently become part of the conversation of inclusivity. However, as a child of immigrants, and someone who identifies as “1st Gen” (being the first generation in your family to meet a major life milestone, such as going to college in the US), I’ve witnessed firsthand how affordability can be a real issue in attending events. While there has been some consideration of affordability at events, most often in community and nonprofit events, the affordability question is now being addressed by more corporate and business events as well. This is important when we think about the history of racial inequity in this country, and how financial and monetary resources, and paths to generational wealth, have been inequitably distributed or just outright stolen, removed, or legislated out of the hands of marginalized groups. This Twitter thread from Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, an associate professor at University of Michigan, clearly outlines many of the major issues of affordability and events.
What can you do? Here are a few ideas and you’ll need to consider your event’s business model.
Offer a sliding scale or path to reduced or free participation.
Get sponsors to host scholarships or awards that come with a comped registration.
Pay speakers the cost of their travel plus an honorarium, so you’ll have access to all kinds of talent no matter their financial situation.
Sometimes, stakeholders will say, “There isn’t a budget for this.” However, my experience is that where there’s a will, there’s a way. Consider how you’re apportioning your entire budget. Do you have budget for conference swag, luscious decor, or other items, but not a few scholarship or student/low-income registrations? Did you pick a venue that leaves you no margin? Why is that? Can you sharpen your event planner pencil and find a place for your priorities? Your budget will show what the goals and priorities of your event are. If inclusivity is one of those goals, you and your budget will find a way.
I hope you find this blog post helpful! EJP Events works to include many of these methods of thinking when we are working with our clients. If you find these methods would be helpful for your event, I hope you’ll reach out.
Hello folks! Today we are going to talk about event venues in the Columbia Gorge. The Columbia River Gorge is a canyon in the Cascade Mountains, running nearly eighty miles in length just east of Portland. It’s an area of unparalleled beauty, filled with epic vistas, tantalizing waterfalls, deep forests, vineyards and orchards, and lots of rock. It’s a playground to the Portland metro area and features numerous unique venues for weddings, meetings, family events, and more.
The Columbia River Gorge is a big place with lots to do and see, so we’ve divided up our round-up into two parts. This first part covers the western reach, from the end of the Portland metro area (Washougal, WA and Troutdale, OR) in the west to Hood River, OR and Bingen-White Salmon, WA in the east. This part of the Gorge features most of its famous attractions: Vista House/Crown Point, Cape Horn, Beacon Rock, Multnomah Falls. Part Two will feature the eastern reaches of the Gorge, from Hood River/Bingen-White Salmon eastward through The Dalles, OR to Maryhill, WA.
Cape Horn EstateRight off WA 14, behind Skamania Store and a couple miles west of Beacon Rock, this venue is located in an old Grange hall. The interior of the hall can accommodate 150, the smaller Pour House can hold 70, and the beautifully groomed grounds can hold 300. And the Getting Ready Suite in the hall is something to behold! The best part? This property is owned and catered by the same people behind Hoda’s Lebanese Restaurant in SE Portland. You can have delicious Mediterranean food at your wedding!
Columbia Gorge HotelUp next on our list of event venues in the Columbia Gorge is this historic Mission style resort. Located just on the west side of Hood River, the hotel was built in 1921 to accommodate travelers on the then new (now Historic) Columbia River Highway. There are three outdoor lawns available for weddings, the largest can accommodate 250. The indoor Benson Ballroom can hold 150. There are 40 guest rooms located at the hotel, and catering, staffing, setup and breakdown that is all handled by their staff. While the building itself is impressive enough, the most impressive feature to me is the waterfall right on the property! Wah Gwin Gwin Falls drops 207 feet (63 m) from the back of the hotel to the Columbia River below. The area is renowned for its waterfalls, but this is the only one I know that’s adjacent to a hotel. If you have a wedding here, you don’t need to travel to another waterfall.
Thunder Island How about a venue where the splendor of the Gorge serves as the backdrop? Just off the shore of Cascade Locks, Oregon, Thunder Island came into being in 1890 with the creation of the Cascade Lock and Canal. This lock/canal combo was built to get around the notorious Cascade Rapids, the last rapids of the Columbia River before the ocean. Bonneville Dam’s pool flooded the rapids, but the island remains. Now the island can be rented out for special events, including weddings. Island rental includes a wedding platform and 200 chairs. And destinations in Cascade Locks, like Thunder Island Brewing, are just a short walk away.
Skamania Lodge Want a spot where you can have a wedding or event and never need to leave the grounds? Across the river from Cascade Locks, this resort located outside of Stevenson, Washington features a hotel (including luxury treehouses), restaurants, a spa, and an adventure park complete with zip-lines. Weddings can be done in their amphitheater, and receptions can be held either in their Ballroom or the outdoor, covered Riverview Pavilion.
Places to Stay
There are many lodging options in the Gorge. We’ve highlighted a few below:
Most people arrive to the Gorge via car. Nevertheless, there are other options:
Train: Amtrak’s Empire Builder stops in Bingen, Washington (across the river from Hood River) twice daily. The eastbound train (from Portland to Spokane, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Chicago) calls on Bingen around 6:21 PM. The westbound train (from Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Spokane to Portland) calls on Bingen around 8:04 AM. (Times are subject to change)
Bus: There are multiple options that connect the Portland metro area to the Gorge, all of them have bike racks on the front and/or rear of the bus.
Oregon side: The Columbia Gorge Express travels from Gateway Transit Center in Portland to Hood River several times a day, making stops in Troutdale, Multnomah Falls, and Cascade Locks.
Bike: Undeniably the Gorge is a great place to ride a bike, at least on the Oregon side. (Washington Route 14 has lots of traffic and often lacks a shoulder.) The Historic Columbia River Highway is the way to go. It’s a scenic route that winds its way from Troutdale, OR to Cascade Locks. You’ll share the western route (Troutdale east to Yeon State Park) with cars, east of there it’s a car-free path! (Note: There is one long staircase you will have to negotiate.) Bike maps for the route can be found here and here. East of Cascade Locks is tough, though, as parts of the old road are gone. Oregon Department of Transportation has been building back much of the disappeared route, including the legendary Mitchell Point Tunnel. However, this will take years to complete. Meanwhile, it is perfectly legal to ride the shoulder of I-84 here, but if you do not want to do this, you can take the Columbia Gorge Express bus (see above) for this segment.
One important note about driving through the Oregon side of the Gorge: Between May 24 and Sept. 5, 2022, a Timed Use Permit will be required for each personal vehicle accessing federal lands adjacent to the Waterfall Corridor between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. just east of the Bridal Veil off-ramp (Exit 28) to Ainsworth State Park (Exit 35).
Waterfall Corridor permits will be available online for a $2 transaction fee and in person for a limited amount of same-day permits (no fee) at the Gateway to the Gorge Visitor Center in Troutdale and Cascade Locks Historical Museum. If you want to drive, Recreation.gov will release online permits approximately 2 weeks prior to the visit date. For more info, please see the website.
Hope this helps you find event venues in the Columbia Gorge!