Event venues in the Columbia Gorge, Part 1: West Gorge

The Columbia Gorge Hotel ballroom set with tables of white linen and golden plates and chairs.
The Columbia Gorge Hotel’s Benson Ballroom (from their website)

Hello folks! Today we are going to talk about event venues in the Columbia Gorge. The Columbia River Gorge is a canyon in the Cascade Mountains, running nearly eighty miles in length just east of Portland. It’s an area of unparalleled beauty, filled with epic vistas, tantalizing waterfalls, deep forests, vineyards and orchards, and lots of rock. It’s a playground to the Portland metro area and features numerous unique venues for weddings, meetings, family events, and more.

A view of the Columbia River with the forested cliffs in the foreground and the distance, and with a view of the historic Vista House.
Vista House at Crown Point, as seen from Women’s Forum

The Columbia River Gorge is a big place with lots to do and see, so we’ve divided up our round-up into two parts. This first part covers the western reach, from the end of the Portland metro area (Washougal, WA and Troutdale, OR) in the west to Hood River, OR and Bingen-White Salmon, WA in the east. This part of the Gorge features most of its famous attractions: Vista House/Crown Point, Cape Horn, Beacon Rock, Multnomah Falls. Part Two will feature the eastern reaches of the Gorge, from Hood River/Bingen-White Salmon eastward through The Dalles, OR to Maryhill, WA.

Venue Options

The Main Lodge building - a gray wooden building - at the Cape Horn Estate in Cape Horn, Washington State.
Cape Horn Estate (Main lodge building, or Greenhouse)
A view of a wedding dressing room featuring large mirrors with Hollywood-style makeup lights above, tufted furniture, and a sitting / dining area. At Cape Horn Estate.
Getting-Ready Suite
A view of a wooden building with cafe seating outside and decorated with cafe market lights above a concrete dance floor.
The Pour House at Cape Horn Estate
A view of an expansive lawn with a stone arch to mark a ceremony site, decorated with cafe lights above. Two wedding planners talk to each other in the background. An aisle path leads to the arch.
The grounds of Cape Horn Estate

Cape Horn Estate Right off WA 14, behind Skamania Store and a couple miles west of Beacon Rock, this venue is located in an old Grange hall. The interior of the hall can accommodate 150, the smaller Pour House can hold 70, and the beautifully groomed grounds can hold 300. And the Getting Ready Suite in the hall is something to behold! The best part? This property is owned and catered by the same people behind Hoda’s Lebanese Restaurant in SE Portland. You can have delicious Mediterranean food at your wedding!

Columbia Gorge Hotel (from their website)
Wah Gwin Gwin Falls

Columbia Gorge Hotel Up next on our list of event venues in the Columbia Gorge is this historic Mission style resort. Located just on the west side of Hood River, the hotel was built in 1921 to accommodate travelers on the then new (now Historic) Columbia River Highway. There are three outdoor lawns available for weddings, the largest can accommodate 250. The indoor Benson Ballroom can hold 150. There are 40 guest rooms located at the hotel, and catering, staffing, setup and breakdown that is all handled by their staff. While the building itself is impressive enough, the most impressive feature to me is the waterfall right on the property! Wah Gwin Gwin Falls drops 207 feet (63 m) from the back of the hotel to the Columbia River below. The area is renowned for its waterfalls, but this is the only one I know that’s adjacent to a hotel. If you have a wedding here, you don’t need to travel to another waterfall.

From Will and Erik’s wedding on Thunder Island.

Thunder Island How about a venue where the splendor of the Gorge serves as the backdrop? Just off the shore of Cascade Locks, Oregon, Thunder Island came into being in 1890 with the creation of the Cascade Lock and Canal. This lock/canal combo was built to get around the notorious Cascade Rapids, the last rapids of the Columbia River before the ocean. Bonneville Dam’s pool flooded the rapids, but the island remains. Now the island can be rented out for special events, including weddings. Island rental includes a wedding platform and 200 chairs. And destinations in Cascade Locks, like Thunder Island Brewing, are just a short walk away.

Skamania Lodge wedding planned by EJP Events. Photo credit: ©Evrim Icoz Photography

Skamania Lodge Want a spot where you can have a wedding or event and never need to leave the grounds? Across the river from Cascade Locks, this resort located outside of Stevenson, Washington features a hotel (including luxury treehouses), restaurants, a spa, and an adventure park complete with zip-lines. Weddings can be done in their amphitheater, and receptions can be held either in their Ballroom or the outdoor, covered Riverview Pavilion.

Places to Stay

There are many lodging options in the Gorge. We’ve highlighted a few below:

Transportation to the Columbia Gorge

Most people arrive to the Gorge via car. Nevertheless, there are other options:

  • Train: Amtrak’s Empire Builder stops in Bingen, Washington (across the river from Hood River) twice daily. The eastbound train (from Portland to Spokane, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Chicago) calls on Bingen around 6:21 PM. The westbound train (from Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Spokane to Portland) calls on Bingen around 8:04 AM. (Times are subject to change)
  • Bus: There are multiple options that connect the Portland metro area to the Gorge, all of them have bike racks on the front and/or rear of the bus.
    • Oregon side: The Columbia Gorge Express travels from Gateway Transit Center in Portland to Hood River several times a day, making stops in Troutdale, Multnomah Falls, and Cascade Locks.
    • Washington side: Skamania County Transit travels from Fishers Landing Transit Center in Vancouver to Bingen several times a day (weekdays only), making stops in Washougal, Skamania (store), North Bonneville, Stevenson, and Carson.
  • Bike: Undeniably the Gorge is a great place to ride a bike, at least on the Oregon side. (Washington Route 14 has lots of traffic and often lacks a shoulder.) The Historic Columbia River Highway is the way to go. It’s a scenic route that winds its way from Troutdale, OR to Cascade Locks. You’ll share the western route (Troutdale east to Yeon State Park) with cars, east of there it’s a car-free path! (Note: There is one long staircase you will have to negotiate.) Bike maps for the route can be found here and here. East of Cascade Locks is tough, though, as parts of the old road are gone. Oregon Department of Transportation has been building back much of the disappeared route, including the legendary Mitchell Point Tunnel. However, this will take years to complete. Meanwhile, it is perfectly legal to ride the shoulder of I-84 here, but if you do not want to do this, you can take the Columbia Gorge Express bus (see above) for this segment.

One important note about driving through the Oregon side of the Gorge: Between May 24 and Sept. 5, 2022, a Timed Use Permit will be required for each personal vehicle accessing federal lands adjacent to the Waterfall Corridor between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. just east of the Bridal Veil off-ramp (Exit 28) to Ainsworth State Park (Exit 35). 

Waterfall Corridor permits will be available online for a $2 transaction fee and in person for a limited amount of same-day permits (no fee) at the Gateway to the Gorge Visitor Center in Troutdale and Cascade Locks Historical Museum. If you want to drive, Recreation.gov will release online permits approximately 2 weeks prior to the visit date. For more info, please see the website.

Hope this helps you find event venues in the Columbia Gorge!

How to get your wedding invitations hand-cancelled at Bridal Veil Post Office

Front view of Bridal Veil Post Office, a small wooden house of about 10 feet by 10 feet, with front porch.
Photo: Shawn Granton

How do you get your wedding invitations hand-cancelled at Bridal Veil Post Office? And where is this post office, anyway?

To call this post office inconspicuous is an understatement. Maybe you’re zooming east put of Portland on Interstate 84. You spy what looks like a shack on the right, just before the off-ramp for Exit 28. What could that shack be? Maybe you followed Google directions and wondered aloud to yourself as you make the turnoff for the post office: “There surely can’t be a post office down this back road, right?” Welcome to the Bridal Veil Post Office!

This post office sits in a small wooden building, no bigger than 10′ x 10′, making it one of the smallest post offices in the country. It technically serves a “town” that no longer exists, what remains of this former mill town is a cemetery and small collection of houses along the Historic Columbia River Highway (Old Route 30). Besides 40 post office boxes contained in the postage-stamp sized lobby, there seems to be no reason for a post office like this to exist.

What keeps this post office afloat is the thousands upon thousands of wedding invitations sent from here. Sending your announcement from a place named Bridal Veil is romantic enough, but what puts it over the top is hand-cancelling. Rather than a postmark generated via automatic sorting machine (what you’ll see on 99% of letters sent via United States Postal Service), the staff at Bridal Veil Post Office will cancel your stamped letter with a hand-stamp. Many people will go there in person to get their invitations hand-cancelled, while some will mail them in.

The three hand-cancel stamps of Bridal Veil Post Office. From top to bottom: Two linked hearts, a view of the Columbia Gorge and Bridge of the Gods, two birds.
Photo from Bridal Veil Post Office Facebook page

The post office has a few different options (usually three) for the hand-cancel, they can be seen above. A popular favorite for wedding invitations is one with two interlocking hearts, another features doves. The Bridal Veil Post Office turned 135 on July 7th of this year. In honor of this, the post office is offering a special hand-stamp.

How do you get your wedding invitations hand-cancelled at Bridal Veil Post Office? You can check their Facebook “Friends” page for details, but it comes down to this:

  • Make sure you don’t use wax seals or anything that will stick out too much from the envelope
  • You can’t use regular first-class/forever stamps (current value 60 cents). You’ll need at least 99 cents of postage on each envelope to get the “non-machine” rate. You can buy special non-machinable stamps at your local post office or order online.
    • Or better yet, buy the stamps from the Bridal Veil Post Office! Stamp sales help keep this unique post office afloat.
  • For less than 50 invitations there is no charge to hand-cancel your invitation. For 50 or over, there is a 10 cent fee per envelope.

Please note that this above information was verified on July 27, 2022. Policies and prices can change.

The Bridal Veil Post Office is located at 47100 W Mill Rd, Bridal Veil OR 97010-7010. They are currently open from 10 AM to 2 PM Monday through Friday, and 8 AM to 2 PM on Saturdays. Operating hours and days can change, check the USPS web site before you head out. And if you have questions, you can call the post office directly at (503) 695-2380.

Best Portland Wedding Planners – Featured on Katy Weaver Photography

We were recently featured on the popular Portland wedding photography blog by Katy Weaver in an article entitled “Best Portland Wedding Planners”. We were really flattered to be included; thanks so much, Katy! I’m reprinting my portion of the interview below, because it was so fun to answer these questions. I hope you find this background about our wedding planning services useful! And, included here are a few photos of some the fun weddings we’ve had the pleasure of working on with Katy.

Photo: Katy Weaver Photography

What makes EJP Events unique?

Our team approach with 3 planners on staff (employees not contractors); over 45 years of combined event and hospitality experience in the business; and a “heart and head” approach that speaks to both the data side and the emotional side of weddings helps everyone in your weddings mix feel included, comfortable, and secure that you’re making educated decisions.

Why should couples hire a wedding planner?

Simply because: it’s a lot of legwork that you do not have time to do. Of course you could create your own wedding design brief; write a wedding budget; and research the best vendor choices to fit that design and criteria. (This is just the first part of planning!) However. If you’ve never done this before, it’s a huge learning curve to figure out all the industry terms, conventions, and insider knowledge to get all your planning systems up and running. Why not work with a planner who has already created and tested and used successful systems over and over and over; that way you can focus on the fun things like picking colors, decor, and clothing — rather on trying to figure out in what order you should do your huge wedding planning to-do list.

What advice do you have for couples choosing a wedding planner?

Check out their websites and social media! Do you see your wedding or the possibility of your wedding style, in what they offer? Do you see people like you having weddings like yours in their portfolio? Is there a variety of work and clientele, or do they pretty much do just one type of design and look? The latter is not necessarily a bad thing, but if you have non-traditional ideas, or want to work with someone who is flexible with a wide experience of various cultures, traditions, and styles — make sure to look for that int the planner’s work. If so, it’s a good sign that you might want to meet with them and do that interview next step!

Photo: Katy Weaver Photography

What type of weddings and couples are the best fit for you and your business?

We love to work with people who are willing to invest time and thoughtfulness into the process. Most of our wedding clients are working with us starting 6-18 months before the wedding, envisioning everything from the best location to the emotions they want themselves and their guests to feel at different timepoints of the wedding experience.

What do you love most about your job as a coordinator/planner?

I love standing in the back of the room when the party is in full swing, knowing that the crowd is joyfully celebrating, and that they are completely unaware of what went into producing the day. They are only present in the moment.

What’s the best way to contact you?

We have a contact page on our website: https://ejpevents.com/contact-a-portland-event-planner/ or of course you can always call us at (503) 284-6756 or email emee@ejpevents.com

Anything else you’d like to add?

Remember WHY you’re having your wedding and the love will guide you. Also – we travel!

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.

Will and Erik’s Columbia River Gorge Wedding at Thunder Island, Cascade Locks

Two grooms ceremony walk - Columbia River Gorge Wedding
Will and Erik’s Columbia River Gorge Wedding at Thunder Island, Cascade Locks
The “Lookback” Series of blog posts features weddings that happened more than a year ago. Some are repeats, some totally new to this blog! We hope you enjoy looking back with us on these wonderful weddings.

Will and Erik’s Columbia River Gorge Wedding at Thunder Island, Cascade Locks was a wonderful celebration in the midst of the Columbia River Gorge Natural Area. The couple met in Portland, Oregon and chose to celebrate their love in breathtaking beauty surrounded by nature, the river and the foothills.

Bridge of the Gods

I loved so many details of their wedding and their planning journey. Their excellent taste in invitations and their choice of brewpub to hold our planning meetings in, just for starters! Look closely, their invitation from LetterpressPDX incorporated a blind-embossed topographic imprint of Thunder Island. 

Interesting challenges from a wedding planner perspective were:
1. The very large outdoor location. Thunder Island is a private island, about 3/4 of a mile long, attached to a public park. We made sure to provide plenty of staff and signage so it was very clear where to park, where the ceremony was, and where the reception was, as the two locations were about 3/5 of a mile apart. At the end of the event I looked at my Apple Watch and noticed that I had walked ten miles!

2. The quirkiness of being located near rail lines. Because a railroad trestle crosses the entrance to the park, vehicle clearance is only twelve (12′) feet. This is pretty low, and I wanted to make sure transport and vendors were aware so they could plan which vehicles to use. I noted this at the walkthrough and made sure to put it in huge red letters at the top of the event plan I sent to each vendor and staff member.

3. There was a definite division of warm-weather loving Californians and hardy Oregonians in attendance. We optimized for both groups by providing both indoor tables and outdoor tented seating, as well as open-air areas for celebration.

All in all, the careful planning process that included detailing out the couple’s needs, family requests, vendor logistics, and public facility regulations came together into an unforgettable day.

Finally, what you’ve been waiting for – photos and vendor list, right?

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