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.

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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.

 

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.

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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!

Lewis and Clark College Garden Wedding

portland wedding planner

Photos by Rachel Veltri PhotographyThis time of year when everyone is taking stock of the past and looking forward, I often go through the more recent photos and relive some of the best moments. Shiloh and David’s wedding was a high point of a wonderful summer season.

lewis and clark college garden wedding

I was thrilled that both Rachel Veltri Photography and Outlive Creative were kind enough to share with me the still and motion images from Shiloh and David’s elegant garden wedding at the Lewis and Clark College Historic Estate. Shiloh and David initially contacted me when they were living in another state but moved to Oregon prior to the wedding. Many of their guests traveled in, and we had several hotel blocks as well as shuttles. In many ways it was an Oregon destination wedding.

lewis and clark college garden wedding

I won’t try to describe what pictures can tell in much more detail. Suffice it to say it was a beautiful day full of love and celebration. I was so glad to be a part of it.

lewis and clark college garden wedding
Video still capture by Outlive Creative

Venue: Lewis and Clark College
Photographer: Rachel Veltri Photography
Videographer: Outlive Creative
Catering: Devil’s Food Catering
Cake: The Hungry Hero
Flowers: The Blossoming Bride
Music: John Ross Music
Rentals: The Party Place
Signage: Hey Halle Design
Beauty: Chachi Hair, French Cut Hair, and Glam by Samiha
Transport: Northwest Limousine
Hotels: Heathman Hotel, Hilton Garden Inn Lake Oswego

EJP Events is a Preferred Coordinator of Lewis and Clark College Conferences and Events. EJP Events would recommend a Lewis and Clark College event to any of our clients or readers looking for an elegant garden wedding on a historic estate.
If you would like to view more photos and see what an effortlessly elegant Lewis and Clark College wedding looks like, please visit the gallery at https://rachelveltriphotography.pixieset.com/g/shilohdavid/
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

 

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.

*****

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