26 March 2009

The Best Places to Kiss in the NW - Part 2

After being smitten with Westwind, we still had 2 weeks of vacation venue hunting left! Originally, we thought for sure we'd want to book Strathcona Park Lodge. To gauge our sanity levels, we decided to skip on up to Vancouver Island before heading to Orcas.

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 Rye, 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!!

Still, we checked the place out. The dorks in us thought it would be cool to be married on our "familial lake" ifyouknowwhatimean ;).

If you're interested in SPL for your wedding, all I can tell you is that this place is fantastic! The cabins are rustic, but very comfortable! Access to the lodge is very easy, once you drive the 5 hrs from Nanaimo. There's a whole slew of activities, as well! Mr. Rye and I went kayaking on Campbell Lake (above), and we had a great time!

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. Rye 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 we like the wine they had available? (we're picky like that) 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 at SPL 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!

Canada, you're really good at making liberals pine for you ;)

Isn't Mr. Rye 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 cabin we rented looked just like this one! 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. That sounded a little iffy, so we nixed Beach Haven, but enjoyed our stay there! 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 the whole place to be booked (for two nights) two times 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. Dope Bay has serious potential. I first heard of the place via Offbeat Bride and some cute original invites. They market themselves as a hippie-like 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 (at ~$50 a head), but you have to rent more chairs and linens and tables. You can rent plates and silverware from them, too, but it'll cost you more. 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 our wedding coordinator at doe bay fully sported the 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.

Buck Bay Farm -
We visited Buck Bay as an afterthought, really (and that's why I don't have a picture). It's a lavender (!!) farm with a bed and breakfast. While this location could be awesome, we decided it was too small. They have lodging for around 20 people, and we wanted for everyone (80 people) to be able to stay in the same place! If you have a small wedding, though, I recommend this place! The owner, Miri, is super nice, and in her early 20s! They'll let you rent out the entire house (including gourmet kitchen) if you want.

Inn at Ships Bay -
By this point we were getting desperate for inspiration on Orcas. I had found Inn at Ships Bay while looking for pictures of "wedding orcas island" on flickr!

Even if you don't have your wedding here, you should definitely stop in for dinner one evening! The inn is on a PEAR ORCHARD. When I told this to Mr. Rye, he got all giddy! We both LOVE pears! love love love!! Like, we're going to shape tiny marzipan pears for the wedding cake we love them so much!

You might be wondering what that means to have a B&B on a pear orchard. That means your 4-course meal can actually be a PEAR-course meal ;) har-har! The food was phenomenal! Delish! We ate pears in the salad, in the main, in the soup, and in the dessert! In all honesty, we were thinking of ways to re-create some of those meals for our own wedding dinner ;)

The Inn is a little steeply priced for our wallet books, but we knew this before we looked at the place. Really, we just wanted an excuse to fantasize about pears.

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. Rye'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 of September 19, 20, and 21 - our "equinox" wedding weekend! 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?

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