23 March 2009

The Best Places to Kiss in the North West

I could spout off about how we were “pressed for time” to find a venue, but in all honesty, venue hunting was more of a whirl-wind vacation than anything else. Our time together in New Mexico was drawing to a close – Mr. Bear Cub defended his thesis on August 29, and we were to start work in Chile on October 1! We had a month to tie up loose ends at home in Oregon and find our venue!

Mr. Cubbie and I consider ourselves pretty flexible, but there were a couple of things we were definitely looking for:
  1. Lodging for ~80 people in one place – We live in Chile now! We never get to see our friends or loved ones anymore! When we get married, we want it to be WAY more about the reunion of family and friends than the union of marriage. I miss my friends, and Mr. Cubbie does, too! Hotels and motels are a bit stuffy, so we tried to lean towards summer camps, B&Bs, and house-rentals.
  2. Relatively easy access – Most of our guests have to fly to the NW; there’s no point in making them drive for hours after that!
  3. No lameness – We know everyone upcharges just for the word “wedding”. That’s lame. We’re not going to stand for it. If someplace wants to charge us several thousand dollars to stand on their grass, they’ve obviously been smoking too much of said grass.
  4. We can bring our own booze – again with the upcharging! Who needs it, when we can BYOB?
  5. Killer food – duh!
  6. A full-size kitchen we can use (to bake the cake!)
  7. Must have an AWESOME view. The only things I’d ever envisioned about my “wedding day” were my dress (that it be stunning), and the location (on a meadow on a cliff overlooking the coast).
The general locations we were looking at were Orcas Island (Mr. Cubbie was a camp counselor at Camp Orkila!), Vancouver Island, and the Oregon coast. Originally “Oregon Coast” meant a big house we could rent in Cannon Beach, à la this wedding (isn’t it so sweet? Bummer the audio is gone :( ), but on looking into it further, we realized that one house wouldn't be big enough to sleep all our guests, and the most important thing was for everyone to be together. Looking back at this video though, this was really my primary inspiration for our wedding day. This video is what I want!

After reading through The Best Places to Kiss in the Northwest and searching the net, we made our list. We would start in Oregon with Camp Westwind, then head north to Canada to check out Strathcona Park Lodge. We planned a short camping trip on Vancouver Island (what hippy-come-scientist doesn't fit camping into her wedding-venue search? ;) ), and rounded out our trip with Beach Haven, Camp Orkila, and Doe Bay on Orcas Island.

Camp Westwind and the Oregon coastline were just dreamy.
What's that? Is that a meadow on a cliff overlooking the ocean? WHY YES IT IS! BINGO! I really can't imagine a more beautiful place to be married! Said grassy meadow is only accessible by a 1km foot path:
... that ain't too shabby either! I love Oregon! When we were visiting the site, we were passed by a couple of wedding-day joggers. Yes - Weddingers! Weddingers? What do you call people that attend a wedding? Guests? uhh.. kinda lame. I'm going with weddingers from now on!
There was a wedding in prep for that afternoon, so Mr. Cubbie, MIL Bear Cub, and I got to see the place is full-on weddinging (heehee!) action!
Look! A sweet cobble-stone fireplace! RAD!! Look! A shaggy Mr. Cubbie! WAY rad! ;)
Aren't these cabins darling? Our rental would be the entire campsite! It's like a little village of darling cabins and the sweet-ass lodge with the rad fireplace!

Ok, one more pic of Westwind, because I loved it so much:
That's our site-coordinator with Mr. Cubbie, pointing to Cascade Head!

I was a little nervous my wedding-excitedness was clouding my judgement. How practical! Sheesh! Still, both Mr. Cubbie and I knew we loved the place, so instead of "proposing" to Westwind, we decided to "lease", as in, write-in our dates in their calender, but no down-payment (sweet deal, no?).

Originally, we thought for sure we'd want to book Strathcona Park Lodge (this wedding there remains a major source of inspiration). I'd never been to Canada before! Crazy, huh? Boy, had I been missing out!

Strathcona Park Lodge -
SPL was absolutely breathtaking! It's situated at the end of Campbell River about halfway up Vancouver Island. FYI, this isn't Vancouver (as in the city) - it's Vancouver Island. Vancouver Island is pretty big.
You might be asking right now - Hey Miss Cubbie, how do you get to SPL?
Well, dear reader, you fly. And then you drive. And then you ferry. And then you drive a lot more.

Unfortunately, while en route to SPL, it began to sink in how difficult it could be to get our weddingers from point A to point Wedding Site. From the ferry drop-off at Nanaimo (and after getting some Nanaimo bars!!), the drive to SPL was just over 5 hours. I'm a sucker for pretty places, but we felt this would be asking too much of our friends and family. AND the environment - all those rental cars!!
The picture on the left (above) is the lodge's "ceremony site". Yes, it is beautiful. I couldn't help longing for the cliff meadow at Westwind, though! While I looove the ocean and water and whatnot, a beach ceremony isn't really me. I think they can be very lovely, but I'll let you in on a secret: THIS HIPPIE DOESN'T LIKE GETTING HER FEET DIRTY!
blasphemy, I know.

The wedding facilities at SPL are really quite phenomenal! On the left (above) is their "wedding barn" - although I'd say it's much fancier than a "barn". Look! It comes pre-stocked with the ever-popular light-up wedding balls! Everyone needs wedding balls at their reception! The price for having your wedding at SPL is completely reasonable, too. A little less than $1k will get you the barn set up and take down (which include chairs, linens, plates, silverware, lights! balls!), dinner is around $40 a head, and wine is ~$25 a bottle. Each family makes their own reservations at the lodge for a cabin, and you've got yourself a family reunion wedding! (these figures are from fall 2008, btw!)

On the right (above) is the view from the wedding barn. Again, fantastic. Mr. Cubbie and I gazed at the breathtaking view, and sighed deeply. This place was awesome, but we knew it just wouldn't work out for us. How could we convince everyone to drive up the coast of Vancouver Island? Could we be sure we could get our marriage licenses in Canada? Could Margarine marry us in Canada? If not, would we have to do the courthouse thing beforehand? Would I be able to bake the wedding cake at their facilities? Add to that, many of my family members were worried about getting a passport (don't ask me).

With a heavy heart (we really really liked SPL!!), we thanked the wedding coordinator for her time, and went camping.

We didn't go too far from Campbell Lake, just up the road really. Let it sink in just how beautiful Vancouver Island is.
The campsites in Canada are among the best I've seen in my life! In the middle of nowhere, they have platforms for you to pitch your tent on! And bathrooms! With toilet paper! And bear bins! (Luckily we were the only Bear Cubs we saw!)

Canada, you're really good at making liberals pine for you ;)
Isn't Mr. Bear Cub a sweetie? He cleared our campsite while I took pictures :)

Back in amURikuh, we still had plenty of possible locations to check out on Orcas Island. We made reservations to stay at Beach Haven, and I recommend you do, too.

Beach Haven -
Located on the northwest shore of Orcas, Beach Haven is an ideal location for a tranquil family reunion.
The view was beautiful, the cabins cosy, the ferry accessible (if not a little pricey), and the "venue fee" the same as Westwind's - ZIP. Did I forget to tell you that? The "venue fee" for westwind (and Beach Haven) is $0 - all you pay for is the lodging!

The unfortunate thing about Beach Haven is that they didn't really have any sort of "meadow" area... or open area for a ceremony at all. The staff told us that if the tide was down, we could hold the ceremony on the pebble beach. (How's that for chancing things?) If you're thinking about Beach Haven, think early! Most of their occupants book a year in advance! And if you want to rent the entire place (which can room around 70 people), they only allow bookings (for two nights) twice a year - one weekend in May, and another in September.

Doe Bay -
Next on the docket was Doe Bay - or "dope bay" as my friend likes to call it. I first heard of the place via Offbeat Bride and some cute original invites. They market themselves as a hippie retreat, complete with yoga classes, organic food, live music, and deer roaming free. Unfortunately, in my opinion they market themselves a bit too much. In addition to paying for your lodging, they have a fee of $2.5k for the privilege of using their grass lawn. They claimed this fee was normal in the wedding industry - so I'm guessing that means they roll themselves up into the WIC. This fee was no where to be seen at SPL and Westwind - maybe my intuition is good?
This "grass" fee gets you everything you see in the above picture. But you have to rent the chairs. And then later for dinner, they cater, but you have to rent chairs and linens and tables. If you want to eat there, you need to rent plates and silverware from them, too. It may be normal for some caterers to charge you to use their own plates, but I think it's just silly. It's about $2k if you want to pay dope bay to let you get outside catering. Even though the new-agey wedding coordinator was fully sporting her dreads, this place read yuppie to us way more than hippie. It is a lovely venue, though. FYI - when the tide's out, it looks more like red tide. Even though one of my wedding colors is technically red, I don't think the ceremony would be so pretty with dead red jellyfish in the background. Sorry, dope bay, you're nixed.

Camp Orkila -
Finally, we visited Camp Orkila.
Camp Orkila is a YMCA camp on the east shore of Orcas. They don't normally host weddings, but the director told us it had been done once before. Can you imagine a beautiful rustic barn wedding in the picture above? I can! How about a sweet game of ultimate frisbee? yes! Ultimate Wedding? YES YES!!
Being a summer camp, we would have the option of a March or September/October wedding. Being a YMCA camp, we couldn't bring any booze onto the campsite. Westwind is a summer camp also, but it was a YWCA camp that was bought a few years ago by a conservation group - they allow booze.

I know it's a little lame to say that prohibition tipped the scales here, but it's a little true. The foodies in us love to pear pair a good wine with our dinner. ;)

While we decided Camp Orkila probably wouldn't work out, it was nice to visit Mr. Cubbie's old camp stomping grounds. He has a lot of memories of this place, and I could see how it was so special to him!

If you want to plan your [dry] wedding at Camp Orkila, contact Beth at the Seattle YMCA.

Our time to look for a venue was up! We scooted on home to Portland, and discovered from Anne (the site coordinator at Westwind) that there was interest in our wedding weekend from other couples. We didn't need any more hints. We promptly mailed in our deposit checks for the weekend closest to the equinox in September! (Don't worry, I'll explain more about the importance of our "equinox wedding" in a later post!) We just had one small issue - how do you explain to your guests it's a destination wedding weekend (the ceremony would be on a Monday!) when it's in the states?

When did you know your venue was "the one"? ;) Did you have fun venue-hunting, or was it at times stressful? Did you chose the first place you looked at?

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