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.

 

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!

Portland area camping (and glamping!) wedding destinations

Matt and Diana’s wedding at Horning’s Hideout, 2016.

The Pacific Northwest is the home to boatloads of natural beauty. Its residents love the outdoors with a fervor not seen in other areas of the country. It’s natural for folks to incorporate their love of nature with weddings. A camping or outdoor themed wedding is a natural occurrence around these parts.

At the most basic of levels, all one needs is an outdoor space that can hold the wedding party, preferably in a scenic location. But a successful outdoor wedding needs a little more than that. How easy it for folks to get to? What are the amenities like? If people are camping, will there be a place for them to clean up before the ceremony?

Here are some camping destinations close to Portland (within a one to two hour car ride) that regularly see weddings. A few of them offer “glamping” amenities, next level camping with a luxury touch! Some places also offer lodging facilities like yurts and cabins where beds are provided, but bedding is not.

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Camping weddings with tent camping (no indoor lodging)

Horning’s Hideout is located about 45 minutes northwest of Portland, outside the town of North Plains in Washington County. We can attest to its popularity as an outdoor/camping wedding destination. This is due to proximity to Portland, on-site amenities, and beautiful location. The campground is located right on-site, making it easy to party late into the night and retire into a waiting tent! And showers are available so one can freshen up before the ceremony.

 

Camping weddings with tents, yurts and indoor lodging

Silver Falls State Park is about an hour south of Portland, due east of Salem and outside of Silverton. Sliver Falls big feature is, of course, the falls: ten different waterfalls connected by a seven mile trail! The Silver Falls Lodge and Conference Center features a catered event center with furnished cabins nearby. There are also rustic (you bring bedding) cabins, a regular campground, and a group campground. Full bathrooms with free showers are located in the campground.

Camp Wilkerson is about 45 minutes north of Portland, near Scappoose. This Columbia County Park is located in dense forests on a spur of the Oregon Coast Range. The Day Lodge features cooking facilities and space for 250. There are also a few rustic lodges, 24 Adirondacks (three-sided camping shelters), and space for tent camping.

Camp Nanamu is a youth camp about 30 minutes east of Portland, on the banks of the Sandy River outside of the city of Sandy. The camp has many different facilities, the largest event centers can hold up to 300 people! There’s also numerous cabins and lodges for sleeping, including (and my favorite) treehouses!

Vernonia Springs is a newer facility about an hour northwest from Portland, outside of Vernonia. A former trout-fishing camp, Vernonia Springs features yurts, round-sided permanent tents based off the design used by peoples from the steppes of Central Asia. They also feature traditional (and large) canvas-sided wall tents made by local company Beckel Canvas. The location is right off the Banks-Vernonia Rail Trail, which means one can easily bike to a wedding! (A bonus: they rent bicycles!)

Last but not least, the Sou’wester Lodge is in Seaview, Washington, on the Long Beach Peninsula about two hours from Portland (and about 20 minutes from Astoria, Oregon.) The Sou’wester features space for tent camping and RV’s, but they have cabins, yurts, and for the ultimate in glamping, vintage travel trailers (think Airstreams and the like!) All guests have access to an outdoor kitchen, spa and sauna, and showers.

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This list is by no means exhaustive, but it hopefully gives you some inspiration when it comes to a camping/glamping themed wedding!

San Juan Island Weddings

San Juan Island Weddings
Agate Beach, Lopez Island

We recently spent some time traveling through Friday Harbor, WA on San Juan Island scouting some ideas for a San Juan Islands wedding. The San Juan Islands are an archipelago in the Puget Sound north of Seattle and south of Vancouver, consisting of over 400 islands and rocks. The four largest islands, San Juan, Orcas, Lopez, and Shaw, are accessible to the mainland via the Washington State Ferry System.

The islands offer a rich tapestry of forests, farmlands, and beaches, plus spectacular views of the water and mountains. You’ll find several wineries and organic farms dotting the islands. The islands are overall rural, but you’ll find urban services in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, Lopez Village on Lopez Island, and Eastsound on Orcas Island. This area is a popular tourist destination in the summer (many people have summer homes here), so it can feel a bit crowded on a nice July weekend. But the overall climate of the islands is more moderate and drier than the mainland, meaning winter explorations are a great way to beat the crowds.

Here are some ideas for your San Juan Islands wedding weekend!

San Juan Island:

Lopez Island:

Orcas Island:

A Washington State Ferry heads towards the San Juan Islands

A note about transportation: The Washington State Ferry Service (WSF) is the primary transportation to the islands, connecting the San Juans to Anacortes on the mainland. During the summer, there is one WSF trip to Sidney, British Columbia, just north of Victoria on Vancouver Island. The Victoria Clipper runs a passenger-only ferry from downtown Seattle to Friday Harbor. Privately chartered boat and plane transportation to the San Juan Islands is also available. If you plan on bringing your car on the Washington State Ferries on weekends or during the summer months, advance reservations are strongly recommended! However, you’ll always get on the next ferry if you are on foot or bicycle, no reservation needed, no matter what. Long term paid parking is available at the Anacortes terminal.

Enjoyed this post? You might be interested in the following:

Destination: Tacoma
Portland-Area Camping and Glamping Destinations
Destination Weddings 101: Traveling with a Wedding Gown

Skagit Valley Weddings

The Skagit Valley in March, when the daffodils are blooming

I was lucky to recently spend some time in the Skagit Valley and San Juan Islands. There are so many lovely locations in this area for a Pacific Northwest destination wedding, especially for those thinking about spring and summer events.

Whether you’re coming from the East Coast, or just from Portland where we’re based, the area is easy to get to from either Sea-Tac or Bellingham airports; or just off I-5.

Amtrak Cascades serves the town of Mt. Vernon so, you could even throw your bikes on the train and have a car-free wedding or elopement.

Skagit Valley is known for its flower farms, farmers’ markets, and local art. Anacortes, WA is your jumping-off point to catch ferries for the San Juan Islands; or you may want to spend time in the charming towns of Mt. Vernon, or La Conner (where we hung out the most), or Bow. Here are just a few ideas for your Skagit Valley wedding weekend.

{ Real Weddings } Bright colors and vintage details: Beth and Sachin

 

Evrim Icoz Photography
Evrim Icoz Photography

How time flies! Beth and Sachin were married last summer in the Columbia River Gorge. Many thanks to Evrim Icoz for capturing the day through these photographs.

The wedding weekend kicked off with a Friday evening rehearsal dinner at Multnomah Falls Lodge, followed by a welcome event at the hotel featuring local Oregon and Washington bourbon, beer, and wine tastings; mehndi hand painting by Amrapali Boutique, and lots of treats including s’mores around the fire and cuisine provided by Skamania Lodge catering. Northwest Navigator was on hand to make it easy for guests to get around the Gorge.

Saturday, everyone was up early for beauty and preparations. Family and friends shared in both traditional Hindu wedding rites and a non-denominational Christian ceremony.  The cocktail hour was held in a quiet garden patio area, and followed by the wedding dinner reception and dancing a meadow lit with twinkling lights and adorned with bright flowers and vintage details.

Continue reading “{ Real Weddings } Bright colors and vintage details: Beth and Sachin”

The New Elopement: Planning a Small, Mini-, or Micro- wedding

Elopements don’t have the same social connotations as in days of yore: a rushed wedding, kept under wraps for various reasons; family drama. Nowadays, elopements are becoming a popular choice for couples who don’t feel a big, traditional wedding suits them. Modern elopements, rather than being just the couple running off together, now often include a small number of close family and friends.

destination wedding planning
photo: Altura Studio

What makes it a modern elopement?

  1. The couple is often going to a destination wedding location rather than marrying in one or the other’s hometown, or their current place of residence
  2. There are less than six months of planning involved
  3. Some traditional wedding customs may be left out such as a lavish wedding cake, printed invitations, or an elaborate dress.

What items are we still seeing being “left in” the elopement that are like a planned wedding?

  1. A lot of thought is still going into the wedding clothing and for the couple to look their best
  2. The location is very important, since without a lot of wedding traditions, the location is the centerpiece and more important than decor. The location IS the decor.
  3. Wedding photography is not getting skimped on! In fact, many elopement weddings we’re seeing are able to afford a skilled professional photographer, because they aren’t spending so much on having hundreds of guests in attendance.

What are the pros?

  1. Can save a lot of money. Reducing guest count is the number one way to reduce the cost of a wedding.
  2. Simplifies arrangements. By not using many wedding traditions, the overall planning becomes simpler. Elopement planners can be used to help find the location and negotiate contracts, and may set everything up; but once you walk down the aisle, you may not need the full services of a wedding planner. Asking a wedding planner about their elopement package for a group of 20 guests or fewer may result in surprising savings.
  3. Could reduce stress. If you are introverted, or just don’t like the fuss surrounding a traditional wedding with a large dance party and hundreds of guests, a small wedding or modern elopement can feel perfect.

What are the cons?

  1. Some people could feel left out. If it’s common in your family culture to have large weddings, those not invited could feel snubbed. Check with the elders of your family if you think this could be the case! Be diplomatic and use the 25-year-rule.
  2. Does not always mean a great reduction in cost. We have seen modern elopements where wedding guests are included, quickly turn into destination weddings. These type of events can quickly grow to a $5,000-$10,000 price tag for 20-50 guests. As long as you have set your budget and planned carefully in advance, you should be able to get the type of wedding you want. A wedding planner can be helpful in this respect, especially those who do a “Kick-Off Consultation”.
  3. It can be hard to find just the right location for a modern elopement. A couple searching on the internet for a place to get married can often easily find the flagship or traditional wedding venues in a destination, while the quirky, unusual, or unique locations are harder to find. For this reason it can be helpful to work with a wedding planner who is familiar with your destination, has traveled there before, and can possibly offer a different angle from what you would see on traditional wedding websites like TheKnot and WeddingWire.

Whichever direction you take your wedding planning in, there are a lot of great elements that we can take from smaller, intimate weddings and elopements.

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