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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.

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