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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.

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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

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!

*****

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.

Venues and meeting spaces in Berkeley, California

Sather Tower, University of California Berkeley

This past January I was invited by Visit Berkeley to check out various venues in town. The city of Berkeley is on the east side of the San Francisco Bay, across from San Francisco and just north of Oakland. Located in the heart of a region of almost eight million people, with numerous transportation connections to the rest of the US and the world, having a meeting or an event in the Bay Area is never a bad idea. Berkeley has numerous spaces for events small and large. There’s plenty to do in town, and if that isn’t enough, it’s just an easy BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit, their subway/commuter rail system) ride to Oakland and San Francisco.

Here are the places I checked out while in town:

Shattuck Hotel Opened in 1910, this classic hostelry done in the classic Mission Revival Style is located in the heart of the city. They have about 200 sleeping rooms, plus 7,500 square feet of event space, including a ballroom, courtyard, and boardroom.

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Berkeley Marina Located a few miles west of downtown, this facility gives a great view of San Francisco Bay. They have many different meeting spaces that can be combined into different configurations, the largest room is about 5,100 sqare feet.

UC Theatre and Taube Family Music Hall. This historic former cinema was built in 1917 and is located on University Avenue. The 17,500 sq foot theater can host banquet, reception, and theater style events for anywhere from 225 to 1350 people.

Berkeley City Club  Built by famed architect Julia Morgan (Hearst Castle), this establishment initially opened in 1927 as the Berkeley Women’s City Club. This means it’s one of the few (maybe only?) civic club that has always allowed women. This famed institution built in the Moorish and Gothic style has one grand ballroom, the Venetian, which can hold up to 350 people. It also has more meeting rooms, sleeping rooms, and a beautiful indoor pool.

University of California Memorial Stadium. This historic stadium located above the city gives a great view of Berkeley and the campus. The stadium offers numerous different event spaces, such as the Chancellor’s Box, University Club, Stadium Club, and Field Club.

David Brower Center. Honoring former Sierra Club Executive Director, this three-floor building in downtown Berkeley. Besides office and gallery space, the center features conference facilities and a 178-seat theater. The Brower Center’s focus is on hosting low-impact, environmentally conscious events.

Graduate Hotel. Formerly known as the Hotel Durant, this classic hotel off the UC Berkeley Campus offers an impressive view of the city. The six floors of this Spanish Colonial styled building features 144 sleeping rooms. Their California Room can hold up to 70 people. The hotel does weddings as well.

A meeting near a National Park

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.

It’s almost a default to have a business meeting in an urban area–there are transportation connections, a great deal of venues, and plenty of amenities. But what if you are looking for something a little different? Something that features a backdrop of scenic splendor and natural wonders? How about a meeting near a national park?

Here in the West you’ll find a great selection of National Parks. Here’s a few options for holding a meeting near one of them!

Glacier National Park

The crown jewel of the northern Rockies, Montana’s Glacier lies on the Canadian border. Daily service on Amtrak’s Empire Builder makes getting there easier than you think. Just on the south edge of the park, the Izaak Walton Inn features rustic charm and plenty of space for a meeting. Cell reception is non-existent and WiFi is only available in select locations. This makes this 1930’s era hotel is a great place to have a meeting without distractions. (Though you may be distracted by that scenery!)

Lake Quinault Lodge. Photo by flickr user Maurice King.

Olympic National Park

A land of craggy mountains, lush rainforests, and primordial beaches, Olympic is only a couple hours from Seattle. Located just southwest of the park in the adjoining Olympic National Forest, Lake Quinault Lodge has rustic charm galore. This lodge was built in 1926 on the shores of the lake. You’ll find many a hiking trail nearby, a short one will lead you to the world’s largest Sitka Spruce. There are 91 guest rooms and the Quillayute Ballroom holds 80.

Banff National Park

Canada’s most popular national park is located in the Rocky Mountains at the Alberta/British Columbia border. The mountains themselves are awe-inspiring and the wildlife is plentiful (you may lose count of the amount of elk, mountain goats, and bears that you’ll see). The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is within the park itself. Located about 90 minutes west of Calgary, Banff Springs is a grand resort built in the early 20th century by Canadian Pacific Railway. With over 700 guestrooms and more than 76,000 square feet of meeting space, this old-world inspired hotel would be a great spot for a unique event!

Grand Teton National Park

This mountainous park in northwest Wyoming is just ten miles south of Yellowstone. Hotel Terra Jackson Hole is just a mile outside of Grand Teton itself. This resort features 5,000 square feet of meeting space plus an onsite spa and private luxury residences.

 

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.

 

Use a train for an event

Looking for a unique spin on an event? Why not use a train for your event!

Amtrak, America’s national rail provider, travels to over 500 destinations around the country. It may not be the fastest way to get to where you need. But it’s a trip lacking  the hassles of airport security and driving stress. And it’s not always about speed. A train trip on Amtrak’s Cascades from Portland to Seattle takes about 3 1/2 hours. While it’s possible to drive there in slightly less time, taking the train avoids the nightmare that can be Seattle rush hour traffic. (Not to mention parking!) Plus, there’s the romance of arriving at your destination in a historic station in the heart of the city.

Going further? A long-distance train journey is a great way to relax and unwind. You can get mesmerized by the scenery going by, even in so-called “boring” places. You’ll be able to accomplish a good deal of reading, writing, or drawing. Think of those things you probably don’t have the time to do in your day-to-day life. You’ll now have the time! Want a comfortable night’s sleep? Book a room in a sleeping car, where attendants will make your bed every night.

Trains for a long-distance event

There are many options for one to incorporate rail travel into an event or wedding. Here’s a few ideas:

Trains for a local event

Maybe you’re not going to travel a long distance but still want to use a train for an event? There are many tourist trains and historic museums scattered throughout the US. While most of these trains are short distance day trip affairs, but some offer longer journeys. Here are some options for the Portland area:

  • Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation. Located here in Portland, this museum can host parties. The Foundation features historic trains like the Southern Pacific 4449, the Freedom Train!
  • Mount Hood Railroad Located in Hood River, this railroad offers group reservations and scenic rail charters. Their Club Car has space for live bands and dancing and can be connected to a lounge car with a complete bar.
  • Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad. This tourist railroad runs along the coast from Garibaldi to Wheeler in Tillamook County. They offer a group discount for parties of 13 and more. Plus, they have a dinner train where you can treat yourself to a four-course meal!

    The Southern Pacific 4449 Engine, seen at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center.

As you can see, there are many ways to use a train for your event. Using rail will make your event stand out!

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 

Should I save my wedding cake?

It’s been a long-held wedding tradition: Save the top tier of your wedding cake, wrap it up, stow it in the freezer, and eat it on your first wedding anniversary. This tradition goes back through the years, growing out of a time when wedding cakes and baby christening cakes were basically the same thing, and couples usually had a baby within a year of their marriage. It made sense to save part of the wedding cake for the latter event. It also helped that these wedding cakes back then were primarily fruitcakes, which did not require refrigeration to prevent spoilage.

Like many “traditions”, saving part of the wedding cake is one that we think is going away. You do not have to do this. A lot of bakers nowadays are providing a free anniversary cake one year later — ask your baker if they will do this. No matter how well you try to preserve the cake, it’s not going to taste as good as it did on your wedding night. Or, just go out for a nice dinner and dessert on your anniversary. It’s up to you!

If you really want to hew to tradition, wrap it really well in plastic wrap and then in an airtight container. You should put it in the freezer that night. And then yes, on your anniversary (or the day before) you would thaw the cake and have it for dessert.

But again — we feel that this is a super optional tradition and most people these days do not do it.