Blog

5 important factors to consider when planning a destination wedding in Mexico

Planning a destination wedding is at the top of many of our clients’ to-do lists, so we make sure to attend many conferences and trainings on the subject. One of them we remember fondly is Love Mexico, which was held in Playa del Carmen some years back. Weddings are cautiously returning to travel for 2022 and 2023. Here are five important factors we took away from this experience:

Mexico destinations aren’t just for casual weddings

A beach wedding doesn’t have to be a casual, barefoot affair if you don’t want it to be. The availability of vendors in Mexico beach destinations is such that you can create the wedding vision, theme and color story of your wishes, including ones with high style and custom designs.

Planning a destination wedding in Mexico? Check out this image of an altar and ceremony chairs lined up on the beachfront in Cancun, Mexico.
Photo courtesy Westin Resort and Spa, Cancun

Not just the beach

Mexico isn’t just about beach weddings, either! The strong Spanish and European influence during colonial times means that old-world palaces and piazzas are just as available as palm trees and sand for a wedding backdrop — and without the 16-hour flights or Euro exchange rate.

Image of a white limestone mansion in Mérida, Yucatan, Mexico
By Matthew T Rader, CC BY-SA 4.0

Research the volume of weddings at your chosen destination wedding venue

Check to see how many weddings may be held at the resort of your choice. We talked to some in-house resort wedding planners who handle anywhere from 5 to 20 weddings per day. If you have chosen a larger resort, consider bringing your own personal wedding coordinator along with you so that you can get personal service on this most important of days. Or, consider working with a personal wedding coordinator who is familiar with the area during site selection, who can direct you to smaller, more exclusive properties and venues that might be off the beaten path.

A wedding banquet table covered in colorful flowers; with lanterns hanging above. A great idea for planning a destination wedding.
Photo courtesy Rosewood Mayakoba

Is it private?

Find out if the site or beach you have selected is a private location. If you picture exchanging vows in a secluded setting, you don’t want any surprises. Visit the location beforehand, or make sure you’re working with your personal wedding planner who has been there.

Wedding chairs set up in front of a white pavilion overlooking the ocean at Barcelo Maya Palace Hotel. One of the locations we've traveled to for planning a destination wedding.
Photo courtesy Barcelo Maya Palace Weddings

Destination wedding budgets can be competitive with local weddings

Planning a destination wedding can be just as affordable as a wedding you might plan in your home location. We’ve seen all-inclusive affairs in Mexico at excellent resorts for the same budget as a 100-person wedding locally. Many resorts offer perks based on your guest count. If you’re having a hard time finding a location you love at home, and most people are flying in anyway, consider a Mexico destination wedding for something wonderful and affordable.

The Portland Wedding Coordinator Blog is supported by affiliate links such as this one from Palace Resorts, or this one from Experiencias Xcaret. EJP Events may receive a payment, should you choose to purchase anything after visiting a link. Thank you for supporting our blog!

Planning events in Seaside: From Family Reunions to Conventions

Image via flickr user Robert Rynerson. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

If you’ve been following this blog for a bit, you’ll know that we love both visiting and facilitating events on the Oregon and Washington Coasts. We’ve talked about the Long Beach Peninsula in Washington and Astoria, Oregon. Now it’s time to give attention to Seaside, Oregon. Seaside is the closest beach city to Portland, which means it’s a very popular destination. It’s got a wealth of venues for hosting small gatherings, business meetings, and weddings. It also hosts the only true convention center on the North Oregon Coast! So let’s take a visit and see what this bustling town can offer.

Let’s start the tour with the Seaside Civic and Convention Center. This newly renovated convention center overlooking the Necanicum River has 24,600 square feet of usable meeting and event space, with an additional 8,900 square feet in the Prefunction and Mezzanine areas. Catering is exclusively provided by Oregon Fine Foods.

Seaside Civic and Convention Center

Planning on staying near the Convention Center? There are several hotels nearby. The Holiday Inn Express & Suites Seaside-Convention Center is just on the other side of the Necanicum River from the Convention Center, just requiring a short walk across a bridge. The Inn at Seaside is just across the street. Another block away is The SaltLine, a freshly built hotel with a saltwater pool and 600 feet of meeting space for small events.

Mural on the side of SaltLine Hotel, Seaside OR

Looking for something smaller than a convention center? The Beacon on Broadway events venue is in a hundred year old building a half block west of US 101 and just four blocks from the beach. The Beacon can hold up to 150 people. This makes it a great spot for a retreat, meeting, or small wedding.

Beacon on Broadway (from their website)

Renting a house in or near Seaside is a great idea if you want a whole place to yourself for a family reunion or special occasion. You can find many choices through Airbnb and Vacasa. You can also check out listings from some rental agencies specific to the North Oregon Coast like Beachhouse Vacation Rentals, Seaside Vacation Homes, and Oregon Beach Vacations.

Do you need help with feeding your guests? Niblack Events catering can help. They can do both buffet and plated style meals. And they don’t even need a venue! They can drop off prepared food where you need to be, even if it’s a picnic!

We hope this gives you a snapshot of what’s available for events in Seaside, Oregon. If you’re interested in setting up an event here, want to plan a wedding on the coast, or need help with a gathering, please contact us.

Unique Event Venues in Los Angeles

Los Angeles City Hall

As event planners, we’re always looking for unique and interesting venue options for our clients. Our recent trip to Southern California gave us the opportunity to explore what Los Angeles has in store. L.A. is a humongous city, with just about four million people within its city limits and a further ten million people in the surrounding metro area, so we barely scratched the surface of what is available. Hopefully these four options will give you something to start your search with!

We love train stations! They make great event venues. And LA is is the home of what is considered to be the “Last of the Great Railway Stations” built in the United States! Opened in 1939, Los Angeles Union Station is a mix of Art Deco, Mission Revival, and Streamline Moderne architectural styles. You can rent out the gorgeous Ticket Concourse for an indoor event, or either the South or North Patios for outdoor events. The various event spaces in the station can accommodate anywhere from 100 to 1,000 people. Pricing can range from $6,000 – $20,000 depending on the size and scope of the event. The best part? Union Station is still an active train station and transportation hub, serving over 110,000 passengers a day! Metro Rail, L.A.s local rail-transit system and Metrolink, the region’s commuter rail service serve Union Station. And several Amtrak lines, both California regional (Pacific Surfliner), and long-distance (Coast Starlight, Southwest Chief, Texas Eagle, Sunset Limited) call on the depot. And you know we are definitely fans of Amtrak. So your guests can get there without driving!

Los Angeles Union Station

How about an event in a former Catholic cathedral? Built in 1876, The Cathedral of Saint Vibiana served as Los Angeles’s main Roman Catholic Church until the 1994 Northridge Earthquake severely damaged the structure. After a battle with preservationists, the Church built a new cathedral, leaving St. Vibiana to the city. It eventually got sold and transformed into the event space now known as Vibiana. In 2012 Chef Neal Fraser and Amy Knoll Fraser, who own the adjacent Redbird Restaurant, took over operations. They can accommodate corporate gatherings in the 18,000 square foot Main Hall, and/or the 15,000 square feet outdoor courtyard. Food and beverage service is provided in-house. And Vibiana also offers full-service weddings!

Vibiana (from their website)

Getting out of downtown, LA River Studios is located in the growing LA River Arts Corridor. This building was a former toy truck factory built in 1931 that was abandoned for decades until it was restored as a premier event space. LA River Studios has 15,000 feet of flexible space (including outdoor space) and can fit up to 400 people. The space is supported by on-site VOX Productions.

LA River Studios (from their website)

Looking for a spot for a corporate party or even a wedding? Candela La Brea is located in a historic 1920’s building in the Miracle Mile neighborhood. They feature a Mexican restaurant, bar, and a flexible16,000 foot space that could be great for your next event!

Candela La Brea. (from their website)

And finally we’ll end with a grand and historic event venue that is also a place you can stay! When opened in 1923, the Millennium Biltmore Hotel was the largest hotel west of Chicago. This storied hostelry, located downtown across from Pershing Square, had hosted the annual Academy Awards eight times in the early part of the twentieth century. (It is rumored that the design of the “Oscar” statue was sketched on a napkin during the founding ceremony in 1927!) Now the Biltmore has 70,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space and 683 guest rooms. You can have an event in the main Crystal Ballroom (6,300 sq. ft., up to 800 people), the same room where those early Academy Awards were hosted, or in one of the other four ballrooms. The charm of the Golden Age of Cinema can still be found at the Biltmore, yet with modern amenities.

Millennium Biltmore’s Crystal Ballroom (from their website)

We hope this gives you a snapshot of what’s available for events in Los Angeles. If you’re interested in setting up an event in LA, please contact us.

Ten don’t-miss moments on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight

Northbound Coast Starlight crossing Stenner Creek Trestle, just north of San Luis Obispo CA. Photo: Loco Steve

As event planners, we’re always looking for more-sustainable options for our clients. Did you know that trains produce less than 15% of the CO2 per passenger kilometer as planes? With COP26 highlighting the need to decrease our CO2 burdens both individually and as a society, we recommend train travel anytime it’s feasible.

Practicing what we preach, we recently flew to Southern California to facilitate 7CTOs retreat in San Diego, with our Brompton folding bikes in tow. But for the return trip we decided to do something a bit different: Take the train home. We love using Amtrak for both short and long distance trips. Amtrak’s Coast Starlight is their premier West Coast long-distance train, running from Seattle to Los Angeles. We booked a “sleeper”, our own compartment that features actual beds, and spent a day and a half looking out the window. Train travel can be both climate-friendly and better than the plane in several respects – one of them being all of the sights you’ll see!

Here are ten different points of interest seen from the windows of the Coast Starlight as it plies the West Coast, from south to north:

Los Angeles Union Station, the departure point for northbound Coast Starlight trains.

Southern and Central California beaches. If you’ve looked at Amtrak’s promotional imagery, you may have seen an image of a train hugging a coastline with cerulean-blue ocean beneath. That’s where the Coast Starlight cruises along the edge of the Pacific from around Ventura to south of San Luis Obispo. Pro tip: Make sure you get a seat on the left side of the train to get the best views!

Point Conception. North of Santa Barbara the Coast Starlight travels through the private Hollister Ranch, an area of chapparal-covered hills with little development. The Starlight actually heads west through this area until it reaches Point Conception, a small cape with lighthouse. The train then turns northwards to pass through…

Vandenberg Air Space Force Base, the home of America’s West-Coast space launches. Keep your eye out for Space Launch Complex 6, which was modified for Space Shuttle launches. Alas, Vandenberg never saw the Shuttle launch (or land) here, but the base hosts regular NASA and SpaceX flights.

Horseshoe Curve. Just minutes from departing San Luis Obispo station, the Coast Starlight heads into a big horseshoe curve. It’s possible to see both the front and end of the train at the same time!

The Central California landscape, seen just north of San Luis Obispo

Jack London Square. The Coast Starlight’s Oakland depot is located in an entertainment district next to San Francisco Bay. For several blocks the tracks run right down the middle of a city street, The Embarcadero.

Mothball Fleet. About ten minutes outside of the Martinez station, the Coast Starlight crosses Carquinez Strait and hugs Suisun Bay on its way to Sacramento. On the right side of the train in the bay is Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet. where outdated Naval ships go to await their final fate. Note: This site is best observed southbound, it may be dark by the time the northbound train passes through here.

Odell Lake at Willamette Pass. The Coast Starlight has been cruising along a high plateau to the east of the Cascade Range since it climbed up the Sacramento River Canyon. After leaving Chemult station, the Starlight heads to the Cascades where it will cross it at Willamette Pass and then follow the Willamette to Portland. Before the summit is postcard-perfect Odell Lake, seen on the right side of the train.

Westfir (Office) Covered Bridge. The Coast Starlight spends a good hour or more descending from Willamette Pass to the mountain-bike crazy town of Springfield. After a short tunnel the train passes through tiny Westfir. To the left, over the North Fork of the Middle Fork of the Willamette River is the Office or Westir Covered Bridge. At 180 feet in length, it’s the longest covered bridge in Oregon!

Willamette Falls. On the Coast Starlight’s left side as it enters Oregon City is one of the mightiest waterfalls of the west! The Willamette descends 40 feet down to tidal level. The Falls have historically been a barrier for shipping traffic. Yet it was also major spot for fishing and trading for the tribes here before European settlement. The old Blue Heron Paper Mill is now owned by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and is being redeveloped for public use.

Tacoma Narrows Bridge(s)

Tacoma Narrows/Point Defiance. Now we are near the end of the journey. Closing in on Seattle, the sea comes into view again a short time after leaving the Olympia/Lacey (Washington) station. For several miles the tracks hug the shore of the Puget Sound, passing under the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The Coast Starlight then passes through the Point Defiance tunnel. And the last few miles before entering downtown Tacoma cruise along the shore of Commencement Bay. (Please note: The other Amtrak route through this area, the Cascades, now uses the Point Defiance Bypass that cuts off this scenic section of track. The Coast Starlight route will remain along the waterfront for the time being.)

King Street Station in Seattle, the final station on the northbound Coast Starlight.

We hope this gives you a snapshot of the pleasures of traveling by train, and of the climate benefits. If you’re interested in setting up a group travel excursion for your next meeting or gathering, or in using a train for an event, please contact us.

Boise Event Venues

We recently traveled to Boise, Idaho for a couple days of work and fun. The capital of Idaho, Boise is located in a broad dry valley about 40 miles east of the Oregon border. Boise was established as a city in 1863, but spent the next century as a small outpost in a sparsely-settled region. Since the 1960’s Boise has rapidly expanded to become a mid-sized American city of 240,000 with a full selection of amenities and things to do.

Entrance to Boise Centre
Boise Centre’s Main Ballroom (from their website)

Boise Centre. Boise’s convention center is located in the heart of downtown and right next to the Grove Hotel. With 80,000 feet of space, Boise Centre bills itself as a space for “conventions, corporate meetings and trade shows to banquets and video conferencing”.  Their Grand Ballroom is 24,426 square feet and can be divided into three sections, and there are 31 individual meeting rooms. Boise Centre can accommodate groups from 10 to 2,000. Catering is exclusively provided by Front & Centre.

Boise Depot, set up for an outdoor event. (from their website)
Boise Depot’s Great Hall, set up with rounds (from their website)

Boise Depot: Just across the Boise River from downtown, Union Pacific built this grand train station in 1925. It last saw train service in 1997, since then it has been used as an event venue. The station’s Great Hall, where one could once wait for trains like the Pioneer and City of Portland, now can be used to host your next event. This 77 foot by 46 foot, 3,542-square-foot multi-story atrium can hold 300 people in standing configuration or 165 seated. You can also rent the exterior for weddings and informal meetings.

Capital City Event Center is located in the historic Adelmann Building
Interior of Capital City Event Center (from their website)

Capital City Event Center: If you are looking for a smaller, more intimate venue, the Capital City Event Center may be suited for you. Located in the historic Adelmann Building just two blocks from the State Capitol, Capital City has two ballrooms (each with a capacity of 110) that can be rented separately or together. Bonus: Capital City has a full service, classic mahogany and brass bar that can serve up a variety of drinks!

Egyptian Theatre
Interior of Egyptian Theatre (from their website)

Egyptian Theatre. Finally, if you are looking for a historic theater as a venue, the Egyptian Theatre could fit your bill. Originally opened in 1927, the Egyptian is Boise’s remaining classic cinema palace. The ornate theater with state-of-the-art sound can hold 740.

The view of downtown Boise from Camel’s Back Preserve

Staying there: There are a number of centrally located hotels. The Grove Hotel is in the Boise Centre superblock and right next to the convention center. The views from the building (fifth-tallest in the city) are grand. Across from Boise Centre is Hotel 43, named such due to its location in the 43rd state on the 43rd parallel. The Modern Hotel is located in a renovated motel about a ten minute walk from the Boise Centre. All three hotels provide rental bicycles.

Getting there: Boise is about 425 miles east (by car) from Portland, making for a doable but long one-day drive. It’s a quick one-hour flight from PDX to Boise, and Boise has direct flights to most West Coast cities. From the airport it’s a ten minute drive to downtown. Amtrak no longer serves Boise, as the Seattle-Portland-Salt Lake City-Chicago Pioneer was discontinued in 1997. We hope that taking the train to Boise will become an option again.

Getting around: Boise lacks any rail transit, though a streetcar has been proposed. Valley Transit, the regional bus operator, provides service to most major destinations. (A bus trip from the airport takes about a half hour.) Boise suspended its bike share service in 2020 with no definite plans for reinstatement, but many hotels provide free loaner bikes and bikes can be rented at Idaho Mountain Touring and George’s Cycles.

Louisville Kentucky Event Locations

Louisville, Kentucky is located on the Ohio River across from Indiana. It is well known for being the home of Muhammad Ali, the Kentucky Derby, Louisville Slugger bats, and of course, Kentucky Bourbon. It’s location in the heart of the US, the meeting place between the South and the Midwest, means it’s a good place to have an event.

We were in Louisville, Kentucky in August of 2019 for the annual Connect event, so we got to see some things around town. We also checked out various spaces for meetings and events. There are a good deal of interesting Louisville Kentucky event locations.

loudtn-omni-louisville-exterior-twilight

We stayed at the Omni Louisville, right in the heart of town. This modern hotel offers 612 guest rooms and suites. They also are a good place to have an event, as they have 33 meeting rooms with a total of 70,000 sq ft of space. (Their largest room is 20,361 sq ft.) We loved the on-site amenities, including Falls City Market. This marketplace was a good place to pick up sundries and food. (We loved the pizza at Iron Quarter!)

louisvillemarriottNext door to the Omni is the Louisville Marriott Downtown.This hotel features xx rooms and is also a great place for a meeting. They have 37 event rooms with 45,025 square feet of total space. The largest room is 20,000 square feet and can hold up to 2,400 people. The Marriott features a multitude of on-site amenities, including a bourbon tasting room and Porch Restaurant, which features Southern cooking.

Exterior Night ShotBoth hotels are close to the Kentucky International Convention Center. This freshly-renovated, LEED Certified facility features 300,000 square feet of total space and 52 rooms.

48629468788_fa7ede1ba7_bWe can’t forget to mention Louisville’s most unique event venue: Churchill Downs. While this horse racetrack is world-renowned for the annual Kentucky Derby, the Downs provide a multitude of venues for all sorts of meetings, from 15 to 1500 people! And yes, a wedding can be held under the iconic Twin Spires.

48642083603_ff246313c0_b
Big Four Bridge over the Ohio River. Note Emee on the Louvelo Bike!

And we would be remiss if we didn’t mention some of the fun activities we had in Louisville, like sampling all the fine bourbons produced locally, going on a bike ride with the local Louvelo bikeshare, and checking out the Big Four Bridge! This old railroad bridge spanning the Ohio River into Indiana has been transformed into a magical place for pedestrians and cyclists. And for a fee, the lighting on the bridge can be customized for your charitable cause or special event.

Hope this gives you some ideas of Louisville Kentucky event locations for your next meeting!