Microweddings, Petite Parties, and the Next Normal for Events (for now)

On May 8, the “Reopening Oregon” Framework, and similar guidelines throughout the Western States Pact were released, outlining a phased timeline for when the public could return to holding events and mass gatherings.
Based on this framework, event professionals and event clients all over the Pacific Northwest now understand that large gatherings are forbidden through the end of September 2020, and only microweddings and small parties within one’s own household will be permitted. This came as a surprise to many, since when the outbreak in the US became known at the end of February 2020, the prevailing belief was that the epidemic would subside within six months, allowing events to begin again at the end of the summer.
A microwedding, or a small wedding with only a few guests.
photo: Altura Studio

This is not the case, and many weddings, festivals, events, and conferences have been postponed and are following protocols similar to the one I outlined in this blog post “What to do if your event is affected by COVID-19 regulations“.

Because of this, you’d think that all events and weddings have come to an absolute stop. But is this true? Not if you consider the many folks who are re-tooling their 2020 celebrations to comply with a 10-25 (depending on the area) person guest count and physical distancing guidelines. Add careful hygiene and sanitation measures, and we are starting to see what the next normal of events will look like for the next 6-12 months; at least until more testing, contact tracing, and treatments/vaccines are expected.

What are some things that will look different in this new world of microweddings and petite parties?

1. Physical distancing will change the way we set up rooms. Much larger venues for weddings of 10-50 guests will need to be booked than previously thought. A venue once thought to be “too big” for 50 guests will now be the norm. Room setups will incorporate physical distancing guidelines.

 

2. Food service will be different. Buffets and family style will not return until new cases are on the decline and a vaccine is available. Group meals will be plated, or be a creative twist on “boxed”: think beautiful packaging, linen napkins, and gorgeous flatware in a customized bag for each guest.

3. As travel is reduced, local and regional celebrations, meetings, and events will move to the forefront. Unfortunately, car driving will increase until mass transit becomes safe again; we hope this isn’t a permanent trend since the climate effects are sure to be negative.

Will bento become the newest catering trend due to COVID-19? Photo by Kouji Tsuru on Unsplash

What things will stay the same? The elements that are not as affected by physical distancing or sanitation are getting as much attention as they would at pre-COVID-19 elopements or microweddings:

1. Wedding clothing – whether it’s just the two of you, or a few combined households of 10-25, everyone still wants to look their best. Formalwear services like Generation Tux are offering increased sanitation practices and home try-on.

2. Photography and videography have become even more important, as many guests may not be able to travel. Sharing the day through photos and video, and also livestreaming, is more important than ever before.

3. Flowers – nature does not stop for a pandemic, and flower farmers are still hard at work. Buying local is a must; people are not flying in bouquets from other countries.

4. Cake and a celebratory toast: Involving dozens of vendors in customizing a celebration isn’t currently feasible, so we see microweddings returning to archetypes like these.

5. Elopement and small-event packages that include planning and services offered in an easy-to-book bundle will be more important as ever, as busy families won’t have time to sort out all the details of what’s allowed, where they can go, and what activities are permitted and how to do them. Expert planners who stay up-to-date on changing regulations and availabilities will be highly sought after.

This is Part 1 in a 2-part post about the Next Normal of Events. Stay tuned for our post about new developments in meeting, convention, and trade show setups; and trends to watch for in food service and even coffee bars.

Note: This article contains information about holding microweddings or small parties during COVID-19, the novel coronavirus pandemic during spring of 2020. Guidance is changing quickly, and you should check with local and state health authorities, local governments’ Executive Orders, and your own contracted wedding professionals, before making any important decisions about your wedding. We’ll try to keep this post updated with items marked “UPDATE:” when possible.

What to do if your event is affected by COVID-19 regulations

what to do if covid-19 affects your event

What to do if your event is affected by COVID-19 is on all our minds. This is a rapidly developing situation. For the most up-to-date information, check resources like the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) regularly. This post will be updated as new information becomes available.

It has never been easy to plan an event, but to do so during the pandemic era of COVID-19 comes with unprecedented difficulty. As of today, April 14th 2020, all 50 states of the U.S. and many parts of the world are under some form of Stay at Home order. Here in EJP Events’s home base of Portland, Oregon, we’re beginning Week 5 of social distancing and “Stay Home/Save Lives“. Travel, both locally and internationally, is severely curtailed if not outright banned. Our hearts go out to the many people affected: whether due to COVID-19-related illness, or to business and financial effects.

Most events for April, May, and June have already been rescheduled or cancelled. Event planners are taking cues from major world and regional gatherings and festivals such as the Olympics, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Coachella, etc. which have all cancelled or postponed.

What does this mean for a couple planning a wedding, or an association planning a conference in late summer through end of 2020? First things first: please take care of yourself and your family, friends and coworkers. Do what is safe and healthy. The science tells us: COVID-19 is extremely contagious, can possibly be carried while asymptomatic for up to 14 days, and is potentially life-threatening for many. So follow your local health authority guidelines and right now: stay home and stay safe. Take care of your mental health too. The emotions around planning an event can be overwhelming enough without a global pandemic. It’s important to acknowledge the many feelings that can arise and be kind to yourself and others involved in this situation. Check out these resources from the CDC on coping.

OK, so thankfully you’re safe and healthy at home, but you have an event on the future horizon. Now what? While no one has a crystal ball, here are some thought processes we recommend as you plan what to do if your event is affected by COVID-19 and your event date approaches:

We agree with, and really love this chart made by the folks over at Filosophi Events in Vancouver BC. In general, you should have a Plan B for any event occurring in 2020; and you should set a “go/no-go” date on which you decide whether or not to invoke your Plan B. For most people, this “go/no-go” date will be about 60 days or 2 months before the event.

In order to create your Plan B, you’ll need to communicate with your venue and vendors about what options you have, find alternate dates, and find out if everyone is available on the possible alternate date. This is also a good time to review your contracts, especially any clauses about Impossibility or Force Majeure. Ideally, your contract should cover you in the event it becomes “illegal or impossible” to hold your event. There should be a way to seek relief from this impossibility (such as a reschedule) through this clause in your contract. Please contact your legal advisor or attorney for further advice on this.

Canceling outright (termination of contract) should be a last resort, as typically it will incur the most financial loss. A recent survey showed that 96% of couples are not canceling their weddings. It’s better to postpone than cancel. Should any of your event partners, whether vendor or venue, not be available for your Plan B, you’ll need to work out how to release them from their contract with you, and what, if any, financial repercussions there will be.

If your event is not a wedding, but a corporate event or conference, however, you may need to set your go/no-go date earlier than 60 days, since it’s not just the actual event itself that is affected, but your business partners’ ability to plan for and market the event as well. For example, if you aren’t able to sell trade show booths or registrations because your business partners aren’t sure if your event will even be allowed, it becomes impossible and commercially impracticable to hold your event, which may trigger a need to postpone.

Ultimately, the most important things are for you and your attendees to be safe; and for the purpose and spirit of your event to be upheld. Love is not canceled. Education is not canceled. With these things in mind, and with the positivity and teamwork of your vendor team, a solution will be found.

If you are looking for assistance with this process of what to do if your event is affected by COVID-19, please contact us. We’re currently offering complimentary phone and online consultations to assist any new and existing clients with COVID-19 questions. We are here to help. 

Groomsmen Gift Ideas

A sample of items from Groovy Groomsmen.

It may be hard to believe right now, but wedding season, and all the planning that goes with it, will be back before you know it. As wedding planners, we know there are lots of details to be taken into consideration all the way up to the big day. While location venues, catering, florists, DJs, and the like are going to take up most of the planning energy, don’t forget about the details, such as groomsmen gift ideas.

Thankfully there are several shops that make this easy. They offer a unique take on what could be a traditional, “stuffy” gift. Let’s take a look at a few of these groomsmen gift ideas.

Groovy Groomsmen features a number of manly items. But what makes these items stands out is personalization. You can get items like flasks, knifes, multi-tools and the like, and every item will have the groomsmen’s name on it! They can also add the wedding info, too. (For brides, check out their “sister” company Bridesmaid Gifts Boutique, where the cosmetic bag above came from.)

Many groomsmen will probably need to comb their hair (and maybe their beard) at some point. What about a personalized comb in a classy leather sheath? Chicago Comb Company has got your back! They have both stainless steel and titanium combs that come protected in Horween leather.

Chicago Comb Co.

Finally we have offerings from Bespoke Post. While they specialize in a monthly “box service”, where unique and manly gifts are sent to one’s door, you can also just order specific “boxes”, filled with a theme. We particularly like the “Frontier” box, which includes our favorite pocket knife, the Opinel, plus a Kaweco fountain pen and a hard-bound journal!

The “Frontier Box” from Bespoke Post.

We hope this post gives you some good groomsmen gift ideas.

Feeding Vegetarians at Events

feeding vegetarians at events: platter of fresh tomatoes, goat cheeses, herbs, and crackers
Catering: Your Kitchen Chef. Photo: Vera Gazayov Photography

EJP Events’ staff are invited to lots of open houses, and other networking events. We love being able to check out new venues, caterers, and vendors. Most of these events have some form of refreshments and snacks. While none of us expect a full meal from this type of event, snacks are definitely helpful, since most of these events happen late on a weekday afternoon or early weeknight–right around the time most of us would be eating dinner.

I’m sharing my thoughts as a vegetarian about feeding vegetarians at events, from a few of these recent catering open houses; this also applies to caterers setting up any menu for a number of people.

The default for event catering is “omnivore”. This being Portland, the event catering company will typically provide some concessions to those of us who have a restricted diet, whether it be vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc. As someone who has been vegetarian for over 20 years, I’m thankful that someone has put some thought into feeding vegetarians at events.

But a lot of times it still feels like tokenism, something to check off the “to do” list. Vegetarian foods are often not given the same degree of detail and attention than their glutenous, dairy-and-meat filled counterparts. Flavor isn’t considered. It becomes frustrating when there’s only one thing I can theoretically eat, and that one thing isn’t actually appetizing.

Why should this matter to you, the food provider?

In the short term, someone like me is going to be cranky and not think so fondly of the event or the food. In the long term, when the particular caterer comes up as an option for a future event, I’m going to cross them off the list. If a caterer can’t be bothered to feed vegetarians at events when they’re supposed to be putting their best foot forward for an event planner audience, I don’t have confidence that they would be able to do it on a day-to-day basis like for a wedding or event.

It isn’t difficult to offer decent, plentiful, and tasty food options for vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free folks, those that have allergies, and the like. It just takes a bit more thought. Here are some ideas to consider when feeding vegetarians for events:

  • Have MULTIPLE options. Having only one thing to eat for a vegetarian or gluten free person comes across as doing the bare minimum. Consider having two, three, maybe even more things to eat for us.
  • “One size fits all” actually fits few. Making one hors d’oeuvre option both vegan and gluten-free kills two birds with one stone, sure. But these two dietary restrictions are not similar and have little overlap. As a non g-f vegetarian, I can eat bread and cheese. Someone who is gluten-free may still eat meat. A gluten-free vegan item might be good if  the chef can suss out the common ground of tastiness shared by the two disparate diets. That’s tricky and takes thought. Most of the time the “one size fits all” option appears like you, the food provider, cannot be bothered. Are you only providing it so someone can’t complain about the lack of vegan and/or gluten-free food? Take a look at the item that you are providing: is that edible-flower-on-a-beet-cracker substantial
  • Ensure that the vegetarian / alternative dining option is appropriate to the formality level of the menu. I once went to a fine-dining restaurant where the vegetarian option was a Beyond Burger – the same thing that I can pick up at my local Target. Meanwhile, my dining mates feasted on Beef Wellington and plats de mer.
  • Vegetarians and vegans want protein and calories, too. There’s a popular misconception that we vegetarians are just rabbits: We eat nothing but vegetables in their raw form. I do like my vegetables, but I don’t make meals out of salads unless there’s no other option. (And I’ll probably go get a burrito afterwards.) Most vegetables have little in the way of protein and calories, which vegetarians need to sustain ourselves. Plus, fat adds flavor. Consider adding beans, lentils, tofu, and yes, even hummus into the mix.
  • Refrain from putting meat on everything. Often I’ll find foods that look mostly tantalizing, filled with delicious sauces, cheeses, and veggies. But, meat is also on this item, so it’s a no-go for me. Some folks feel that meat needs to be on everything for it to “taste good.” That is simply untrue!
  • And especially hold back on the bacon. The whole bacon-on-everything trend shows no signs of dying. I’ll sometimes go to an event where every food item has some form of bacon on it! (Contrary to popular belief, bacon isn’t “the meat I miss” since becoming a vegetarian.) It’s not just vegetarians to worry about: pork is forbidden to those with Kosher and Halal diets. So consider that, especially if you promote yourself as an inclusive event company. Turkey bacon is still meat.
  • Consider “build your own” food stations. It’s not going to be as pretty as your meticulously conceived and executed bread/cracker with stuff on it. But it will make it easier for everyone to eat food they’d like. Consider something like a fajita bar. No, they are not as Instagrammable as those delicate crostinis, but it makes it easier to satisfy all sorts of dietary restrictions. Just make sure that meat is not touching the veggies!
  • Ask, “Would this stand alone by itself?” That pretty looking small flower on a beet cracker is fine if you put it on a plate loaded with other foods that will fill you up. But what if it’s the only thing you could eat? Consider what satisfaction those restricted to the flower-cracker are going to get out of it. If it’s something that’s going to make them crave for something else while stuffing themselves on dessert until they leave, you’re not doing your job in feeding vegetarians at your events.
  • Find out what vegetarians, et al would like to eat by asking them. What you think a vegetarian would eat may be different than what they actually do eat. Consult your vegetarian friend and ask what they’d like to see in your menus. Don’t know one? Go online. Find vegetarian themed websites and online communities, there’s plenty out there. Same goes for other dietary restrictions. Here are some places to start: One Green Planet, Vegetarian Times, and Vegetable Love on Pinterest.
  • And most importantly, be open and willing to accommodate. I noticed that at the event where the flower-covered beet cracker was the only vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free option, chefs were making those hors d’oeuvres right behind the table. It would have been so easy for them to build hors d’oeuvre to order, to satisfy folks with dietary restrictions.

If you liked this content, check out these other posts:

 

Events Industry Council – Resources for the events industry related to COVID-19

UPDATED 3/23: We’ve added more resources for small business and the latest info on Executive Orders from Governor Kate Brown and guidance from the CDC. Information changes on an hourly and daily basis, so please pay attention to source information from official government websites.

Governor Brown has issued a “Stay At Home” executive order effective 3/23/2020 immediately until terminated (no known end date at this time).

The CDC and Whitehouse.gov recommends that all event activities with 10 or more people be cancelled for the next 15 days.

Get Your Mass Gatherings and or Large Community Events Ready (Guidance from the CDC)

A resource guide for small business, from Portland Business Journal

Join the Portland Event Industry COVID-19 discussion group on Facebook

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As a Certified Meeting Professional designated by the Events Industry Council, I’d like to provide you with access to these resources about the ongoing issues related to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. Please follow all WHO and CDC-advised measures for hand washing and sanitation, and stay home if you’re not feeling well. EJP Events staff will be following these guidelines as well. Please keep checking the above links, as information is updated on a regular basis. We hope you find this information helpful and wish you a safe and healthy event.

For Love and Llamas: Stephanie and Nyles’s joyous Lewis and Clark Estate Gardens wedding

We were overjoyed to see our client, Stephanie, post recently to her blog about their amazing wedding (with llamas!) at Lewis and Clark Estate Gardens, one of our preferred venues.

A wedding with llamas. Photo: Sweetlife Photography

At this time of year, we see a lot of photographers posting about work we’ve collaborated on, but it’s not often that a client blogs their perspective in so much detail, so we had to share!

long tables underneath a wedding tent wedding marquee
Photo: Sweetlife Photography

Head on over to Stephanie’s blog to read about the wedding ceremony and reception. You can even view the wedding video by GoodCo Studios, here.

Some of our favorite quotes? “When we originally started planning the only things I knew I wanted was for it to be outdoors, have long barn tables, ice cream for dessert and llamas! In the end, it turned out so beautiful and perfect. I wouldn’t have changed a thing.”

happy dancing bride wearing a lei of flowers
The happy feeling when everything is perfectly planned at your wedding. Photo: Sweetlife Photography.

And, “Our DJ Bryce had nothing but bangerz on the dance floor. There was seriously so much love and laughter. I would do anything to relive this day all over again. It was perfect!”

Thank you, Stephanie and Nyles, for letting us be part of your special day, and for sharing your story.

Vendor thank yous:

If you enjoyed this post you might also like:

Lewis and Clark College Estate Garden Wedding

Flanagan Memorial Chapel Wedding and Smith Hall Reception at Lewis and Clark College

 

Revisiting: Tacoma event venues

Stadium High School, Tacoma

We visited Tacoma, Washington in fall of 2018 and afterwards reported on various event venues in the City of Destiny. We passed through the city again earlier this fall and checked out some more unique event spaces. Here are three more Tacoma event venues to check out!

Courthouse Square.

This former federal courthouse in the heart of downtown has a lot going on. There are local businesses, a couple restaurants, office space (both standard and co-working), and a United States Post Office located in this historic structure. There are also three different event spaces: A 2,000 square foot Ballroom (formerly a courtroom), the Gallery, a former post office warehouse room that can accommodate 90-120 attendees, and Suite 430, the former judge’s chambers that can accommodate 20-50 attendees.

Historic 1625 Tacoma Place.

Formerly a truck and car dealership showroom built in the 1940’s, this Tacoma event venue features a total of 6,000 square feet of space. They offer catering via five preferred caterers.

Tacoma Union Station.

Built in 1911, Tacoma Union Station served the city as a train station until 1984. (The current rail stations are about a mile east of here.) Since 1992, this Beaux-Arts beauty has served as a United States Courthouse. Now, the Grand Rotunda is currently available for rental as a Tacoma event venue. This three-floor cavernous space can hold up to 800 in a seated reception, and you can use the caterer of your choice. Plus, the Rotunda is decorated with glass art by famed local artist Dale Chihuly.

Tacoma Union Station

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Many of these Tacoma event venues are easily accessible via Tacoma Link! This is a light rail train that currently runs 1.6 miles from Tacoma Dome Station (Sounder commuter rail and soon Amtrak) to the Theater District on the north side of downtown. The trains run about every 12-24 minutes, and are free. In 2022, the line will be extended an additional 2.4 miles to the Stadium District and Hilltop neighborhood.

Hope this gives you some ideas for a unique event venue in Tacoma!

Outdoor patio venues for rehearsal dinners and special events

Xport Bar and Lounge, from their website.

It’s winter here in Portland: short, damp days are the norm. But before we know it, summer will be here in full force. There’s nothing more glorious than a nice summer day in the Northwest. Everyone wants to spend time outside, so they head to one of our fine restaurants that have outdoor patio venues.

Are you thinking about having a special event or perhaps a rehearsal dinner using an outdoor patio venue? The time to plan that event is now. Once folks start shedding layers and ditching umbrellas, you can be sure that these special outdoor patio event spaces are already booked up.

Here’s a selection of outdoor patio venues for rehearsal dinners and special events in Portland, Oregon. All of them are unique; many feature great views of the city.

Departure

The view from the west patio of Departure Lounge is dramatic! ©Evrim Icoz Photography

This restaurant sits atop the historic Meier and Frank building next to the Pioneer Courthouse. Meier and Frank was THE Portland downtown department store, but is no longer with us. Much of the old building is taken up by The Nines Hotel. Departure features pan-Asian food and its outdoor patio features one of the most impressive views of the city!

Xport Bar and Lounge

The Xport is another downtown rooftop venue. Located above The Porter Hotel, XPort offers eclectic New American cuisine. The patio features sweeping views of the West Hills and the Cascade Mountains.

The Hairy Lobster

Located in the Pearl District, this seafood restaurant has a patio that is directly across from Jamison Square Park. This shaded outdoor patio can accommodate parties from 70-110 people.

Revolution Hall

Revolution Hall.

This Southeast venue consists of the former Washington High School, a public school that served Portland from 1924 to 1981 and counted Linus Pauling as a student. It now hosts Revolution Hall, one of the city’s premier music venues, plus restaurants (including Martha’s), bars, and private event spaces. The Roof Deck Bar is an outdoor patio venue available for private events from mid-June to mid-September.

Shine Distillery

Shine Distillery’s Patio.

This new distillery is located on vibrant North Williams Avenue. Besides spirits, you’ll find a restaurant and a small patio overlooking the neighborhood. Williams Avenue really comes to life during the summer months, manifested in the scores of cyclists you’ll see bounding up the bike lane!

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Hope this list gives you some ideas for outdoor patio venues for rehearsal dinners and special events in Portland, Oregon. And again, we urge you to make your reservations early, and to call us if you need some help planning your event.

Tips and Tricks to Attending Portland Wedding Shows (or any wedding show!)

It’s Portland wedding show season, and I thought I’d share a few tips on how to get the most of your wedding show experience, and how to avoid “wedding show overload.”

Portland Wedding Show and Bridal Show Attendees and Bridal Show Shoppers
Photo: Fritz Liedtke

What’s Happening?

We put together a list of the upcoming Portland wedding shows, just for you! If you’re planning a Tacoma, Seattle, or Skagit Valley wedding; or in any other location, email us for specific information for your area or destination wedding.

Portland Bridal Show | Oregon Convention Center | January 18-19, 2020

Portland Venue Crawl | starts at Rossi Farms and visits 8 total venues | February 1, 2020

Marry Me! Wedding Night Market | Redd East | April 1, 2020

Portland Bridal & Wedding Convention | Portland Expo Center | May 17, 2020

Portland Wedding Showcase | Oregon Convention Center | November 14, 2020

Gear Up!

First things first, make sure to have a good breakfast or lunch before attending the show if it doesn’t have a food function offered. Many times samples of cake or champagne are offered, and all that sugar and alcohol can wreak havoc on an empty stomach.

Bring a water bottle so you stay hydrated while you’re walking around. Air-conditioned, recycled convention center air can dry you out and leave you feeling fatigued.

Finally, make sure to wear comfortable shoes since you might be doing lots of walking or standing.

Be Prepared:

Use your show time efficiently! Make a few sheets of labels with your name, address, email, and wedding date if you want to avoid standing in lines to enter drawings or raffles. At the same time, remember that if you provide personal information, you’ll probably receive mail and email from those vendors. If you provide a wedding date , most vendors will stop contacting you once your date has passed. Or, you can also create a separate email just for wedding-related business, so your personal email doesn’t get clogged up with vendor requests.

Understand the show timeline. Is there a seated food function, or seminars to sign up for? What time should you arrive in order to get a seat for the fashion show? Make sure you take a look at the program offerings; that way you get the most out of your admission fee. Some Portland wedding shows, such as The Portland Venue Crawl,  have scheduled bus or shuttle tours of venues, so you’ll want to make sure you understand what time you should be at the pick-up point so you don’t miss out on a tour.

Make a list of items you still need from your wedding checklist, and target those booths first. Otherwise you could spend precious time wandering the aisles and getting distracted! Also, bring notes or pictures to help your planning along — for example, if you’re looking for jewelry and accessories, bring a picture or swatch of your attire.

If you plan on hitting the gown or attire sales at a Portland wedding show, avoid wearing makeup, as products are bound to smear. You can always stop by one of the beauty vendors for a touch-up once you’re done shopping!

Finally, Enjoy Yourself!

You’ll probably receive lots of brochures and business cards. Try to sort through them as you go through the show, otherwise you could wind up with a heavy bag that just gets recycled.

In the end, be sure to have fun and enjoy yourself! Don’t be overwhelmed by the choices; in the end you’ll be sure to find some great ideas and with the help of your family, friends, and planning team, put together a winning team for your wedding day.

A version of this blog post originally appeared on November 13, 2013.

Venues that Allow Outside Catering { Roundup Update }

couple marrying at an outdoor pavilion Portland Wedding Planning
Matt and Diana wedding at Horning’s Hideout, 2018. Photo courtesy Anthony Gauna Photography

For many couples, the food is THE most important part of the wedding celebration, so they will only consider venues that allow outside catering. 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 January 2020. 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 by 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.

Read more…

Continue reading “Venues that Allow Outside Catering { Roundup Update }”

Unique event destinations in Seattle

We recently visited our sister city to the north, Seattle. The Emerald City is brimming with standard venues for meetings and weddings. But what if you want something a bit more creative, a bit more unique? Here are a few ideas for unique event destinations in Seattle!

The Steamer Virginia V. 

This steamship is the last operational example of a Puget Sound Mosquito Fleet steamer. The Virginia V once plied the waters between Seattle and Tacoma. Now it is docked on the shore of Lake Union, where it acts as a living museum. Not just a curiosity, The Virginia V is an active venue, available for weddings, holiday parties, office events, birthdays, anniversaries, and more! Imagine, having a meeting or a wedding while on the water.

Fremont Foundry.

This location in Seattle’s original “funky” neighborhood was once an artist space. (The famous Jimi Hendrix and infamous Lenin statues were sculpted or constructed here!) The Fremont Foundry features 11,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space across two floors, plus a sky-lit atrium with a 20-ft ceiling! Weddings, private parties, corporate events…the Foundry does a bit of everything.

Fremont Foundry, from their website.

Smith Tower.

Seattle’s first skyscraper, and holder of the Tallest Building West of the Mississippi from its opening in 1914 until 1931, this 38 story, 484 ft neoclassical tower rises above Pioneer Square. This historic building hosts two event spaces: The Observatory, a speakeasy style lounge at the 35th floor that can hold up to 80. (This bar is usually open to the general public, and features an outdoor viewing deck.) Located on the 21st floor, the Lookout features indoor and outdoor space that can also hold up to 80. Smith Tower provides catering service for both venues.

Hopefully this gives you some good ideas for unique event destinations in Seattle. This post is just the tip of the iceberg! And if you are looking for some off season wedding locations in the Seattle area, be sure to check out our blog post here.

Revisiting: San Juan Islands (and Fidalgo Island) weddings

A Washington State Ferry passes between Lopez and Shaw Islands.

Thinking about a wedding location that is the perfect balance between sea and forest? Consider a wedding on the San Juan Islands!

The San Juan Islands are an archipelago in the Puget Sound of Washington State, north of Seattle and south of Vancouver. They are just west of the Skagit Valley. There are over 400 islands and rocks in the archipelago. 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 there are spectacular views of the water and mountains. You’ll find several wineries and organic farms dotting the islands. The islands are rural and pastoral in flavor. But you’ll find urban services in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, Lopez Village on Lopez Island, and Eastsound on Orcas Island.

Roche Harbor Resort on San Juan Island. From their website.

Here are some ideas for wedding venues in the San Juan Islands.

San Juan Island

Lopez Island

Orcas Island

Majestic Inn and Spa, Anacortes.

Fidalgo Island/Anacortes

Anacortes lies on Fidalgo Island, the gateway to the San Juan Islands. The area gives a similar vibe to the San Juans without the ferry logistics.

A note about transportation

Since we’re talking about islands, transportation logistics is a very important thing to consider!

The Washington State Ferry Service (WSF) is the primary transportation to the islands, connecting the San Juans to Anacortes and then the mainland*. 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. Long term paid parking is available at the Anacortes terminal.

Not driving? You can take Amtrak to Mount Vernon Station, then Skagit Transit buses will bring you all the way to the Anacortes Ferry Terminal. You can find taxi service on San Juan, Orcas, and Shaw Islands. There is also bike rental available on the islands, including dockside rental at the Lopez terminal.

The Victoria Clipper runs a passenger-only ferry from downtown Seattle to Friday Harbor. There is also privately chartered boat and plane transportation available.

*****

The San Juan Islands are a beautiful place that feel removed from the rest of the world. Yet, they are close enough to major destinations like Seattle and Vancouver BC. So consider having a wedding in the San Juan Islands!

 

*Anacortes is on Fidalgo Island, which is connected to the mainland via two bridges.

 

5 Things You’re Forgetting To Include On Your Wedding Venue Website {Vendors!}

Here at EJP Events we’re constantly searching for interesting and unique wedding venues. This means loads of google searches and digging around websites. It’s an ongoing concern, something we’ve been doing for 20 years. We’re on the lookout for information on the newest, coolest wedding venues.

We love it when venue websites make it easy for us to figure things out. We can easily figure out what the venue can provide, when all the nuts and bolts are displayed properly. Photos of the space set up for an event is a definite plus, so we can get an idea what a ceremony will be like. Take a look at this photo below of The Saltbox Barn in the Skagit Valley.

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

It’s pretty helpful, isn’t it? (Emee says “LOOOOOOVE!!!!”)

But there’s a trend with some venues to lean towards the artistic. We can understand that bent in today’s Instagram-saturated world. Plus, there’s a line of thought that the best way to sell an experience is to be vague. So what can we gather about a wedding venue is full of only well-staged pictures of a bride’s hand clutching a bouquet, polished shoes, and Mason jars and Edison bulbs?

edison bulbs in mason jars, hanging from ceiling
Edison Bulbs in Mason Jars, so very now. Photo by Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash

Well, we can probably guess that this looks good on Instagram. But we’re still wondering:

  1. How many people can the venue hold?
  2. Do we need to work with a preferred caterer vs. one we choose ourselves?
  3. What’s the parking situation like?
  4. How the heck do we contact you? (Hint: DON’T use a contact form, or if you do, please also include address, phone, and email.)
  5. What about alcohol? Can we bring our own, is there in-house bartending? Corkage?

And so on. So then we have to contact the venue for more information. Depending on how busy the venue is, it can take a while for a response. Even if there is a prompt reply, it still adds another step into the whole process, and causes delays for the couple eager to close out their venue search and start the real planning! (Design! Pinterest! Tastings!)

So venues, include as much info about your venue as possible on your website. Please make it easy on us event planners to find information on your wedding venue! And make it easy for couples to book you.

And please don’t interpret this as an either/or: You CAN have lovely Instagram-bait pictures AND plenty of info on a wedding venue website! Take a look at The Saltbox Farm’s website for a good example of beautiful images plus all the pertinent info we wedding planners need. But it’s a good idea to have the pertinent info prominent and by itself, not buried deep beneath a bunch of photos.

 

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!

A Fall or Winter Wedding in the Seattle, Washington area

The Fields at Willie Greens, from their website.

Today’s guest post was contributed by Andee Schmidt. It may seem hard to think about winter weddings in July but now’s the time to plan a last-minute winter 2019 affair, or start dreaming of 2020! – EJP

From sandy beaches to stunning mountainsides and intimate forests, the Pacific Northwest is home to beauty all year ’round. With over 50% of couples preferring an outdoor wedding in the old PNW, it might seem like spring and summer are the only options for wedding planning. But here at EJP Events, we know better: fall and winter provide some of the best opportunities to showcase the vistas and traditions of the Northwest United States. Read on for insider info on why you and your guests will love a fall or winter wedding in the Seattle, Washington metro area.

chairs in a large brick ballroom
Ballroom at Within Sodo, from their website.

Bring on the Scenic Photo Ops

Summer foliage sure makes for lovely photographs. But don’t discount the beauty and the stunning scenery of fall and winter weddings. Fall in the Pacific Northwest is arguably the most gorgeous of seasons. It features a fiery display of colorful trees at local parks. Imagine your first dance beneath golden leaves and fairy lights at the 350 acre Magnuson Park in Seattle; just make sure to book a tent in case of rain.

If you’re looking for a sleek modern style, winter weddings are the perfect fit, and trendy spots like Within Sodo or Metropolist might be highlighted by a sprinkling of snow outside the grand, floor-to-ceiling windows. Just be sure to have your photographer plan ahead to grab those key shots of you basking in the beauty of your venue during golden hour. But remember that it will run earlier than in spring or summer.

two people walking on a path through the woods in fall

University of Washington Botanic Gardens, from their website.

Dialed-in Decor

Planning a wedding during the off-season is the best way to make it easy to decorate. The natural beauty of the scenery during fall and winter cuts your need to provide floral décor.

For instance, the University of Washington Botanic Gardens features the private Goodfellow Grove, where your party can dine beneath a canopy of orange and red trees.

For a sparkling winter wedding venue, consider a rustic indoor spot like Westland Distillery, where you can warm up with locally made malt whiskey and entertain a smaller guest list.

Celebrate with Festive Seasonal Décor

Autumn conjures images of pumpkins, hay rides, and candles. Winter whips up scenes of snowflakes, white sparkling pines, and red roses. Having a fall or winter wedding in the Seattle area comes with inherent opportunities for unique décor.

Cozy up inside a barn at Holly Farm, complete with chickens and bales of hay in the yard, for a rustic fall wedding. Enjoy dinner by candlelight with burgundy and orange centerpieces at the Fields at Willie Green’s for a traditional-yet-country soiree. Switch it up for an indoor barn wedding in the winter; the grand heights of a wood ceiling, strung with string lights and tables covered with frosted pine branch centerpieces will make for a magical and memorable wedding.

If rustic weddings aren’t your taste, fear not! Winter weddings pair well with more modern décor like feathers and colors such as black, white, and gold. Check out Black Diamond Gardens for a venue with the perfect mix of any style. Feature festive signage with phrases like “Baby It’s Cold Outside” or “Joy to the World” for that extra winter homage.

Wow Guests with Unique Holiday Traditions

Summer and spring might make for good outdoor celebrations. But fall and winter offer the chance to combine holiday traditions into your wedding. A barn wedding at Pine River Ranch would be the perfect spot to spoil guests with an apple cider or hot cocoa bar, and you can even offer soft blankets to guests and light an outdoor firepit for evening s’mores.

Alternatively, host your event at 10 Degrees Seattle and feature a specialty hot cocktail made by the in-house artisan bartenders. If you like to party, choose The 101 for a 24-hour celebration to shield your guests inside from the cold weather all night long.

barn house in winter, trees and snow
Winter at Pine River Ranch, from their website.

So… What Are You Waiting For?

Wedding planning is a monumental undertaking. With the help of a strategically chosen season and venue, many of your scenery, décor, and activity elements will fall into place with ease. Choosing a fall or winter wedding might not seem as common. Therefore it’s a more creative and festive option for unique couples, one that will make your celebration of love stand out from all the rest. So consider a fall or winter wedding in the Seattle, Washington metro area!

Andee Schmidt is a recent college graduate from Arizona State University with a love of writing, the outdoors, and funky cafes. You can usually find her hiking or planning her next trip. She is passionate about traveling, weddings, her family, and the perfect cup of coffee. Find her on Instagram as @andee_schmidt or Twitter @andeeschmidt 

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.

*****

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.