Picking a Venue

Since Michael and I had talked about marriage for a long time, I had started making a list of venues over the years. If I went to a wedding and liked it, I wrote it down. If I saw something online, I made a note. I figured that when the time actually came, I’d a) want to get started planning right away and b) would possibly feel overwhelmed about the whole thing. Having that list to start with made a big difference. Once we announced our engagement, we went over the list I had and even discovered a few new ones to investigate together.

Some of the issues we had with a venue were budgetary, preference and logistics. I have a big family (my family count was over 50 and Michael’s was 10 to give you an idea) and knew that a small location would not work. I also knew wherever we picked, they had to allow us to bring our own alcohol. Michael has several connections in his family and they could get us the booze a deal, so hell ya we were gonna take that deal! We also knew it would not be a religious wedding as Michael is an atheist and I’m a heathen (and would happily get married in the woods, barefoot with flowers in my hair). So churches and halls were off the list.

I have to admit, the planning stages were really fun with my fiance (how weird is that word, by the way?). It was really cool that Michael was so into the details and wanted to plan it with me! It was fun going to all the venues and getting a tour, too.

The places that were on my list that we disregarded were:

P:ear (too small)

Bridal Veil Lakes (too expensive)

Bella Via (too small)

Abernathy Center  (too expensive)

The Village Ballroom (not great reviews, one bathroom)

After narrowing down the list to just a few, I made a bunch of appointments at different venues we wanted to look at:

The Highcliffe Ballroom

Yale Union

The West End Ballroom

The World Forestry Center

North Star Ballroom

We both agreed on what our #1 and #2 picks were before we even saw the venues, but seeing them in person helped make the decision easy. So last Saturday we went out to lunch before going to see the first place. I had a Groupon deal for The Cheese Plate on NE Alberta. We both got the spicy spinach grilled cheese sandwiches, Michael’s on GF bread, and a side of pickled cauliflower.


Lunch was delicious and just enough enough food. They had vegan and gluten free options, too, which is quickly becoming the new norm in Portland. I also decided I need to learn to pickle my own vegetables. 🙂 We headed over to the first venue.


The first place we saw was the North Star Ballroom. It was a VERY cute place. The building was an old brick Portland building that felt very unique and OLD inside. Not that that is a bad thing, it was just the feeling…old. Both Michael and I ruled out the venue when we first pulled up. I know this sounds bad, but the neighborhood was just too scuzzy and rundown looking. There also weren’t any nice places nearby to take pictures outdoors.


We went ahead with the tour anyways and the North Star Ballroom wasn’t bad at all.I told Michael that if everything else fell through for some reason and budget was a major concern, I’d consider the North Star, but it wasn’t my preference. He felt the same way.


It was fairly small inside for what I needed, but it was DOABLE. I left the tour feeling rather deflated because I’d anticipated liking the ballroom a lot and even thought it might be in the top 3 that we’d have to make a decision about. Sadly, it was not. But if you’re in Portland and looking for a more affordable venue that allows you a lot of freedoms, definitely try it out. It was a cute place inside.

Saturday night we met some friends at Cartlandia for dinner (I, of course, got the buffalo chicken bowl from the Good and Evil Wrap Cart–I mean really, why do I need to branch out to any other carts? I’m obsessed with theirs!) and then went to their house for game night (FUN!). Sunday came around and we had two more venues to look at.

The first was at the World Forestry Center, next to the Zoo and Children’s Museum. We met with the coordinator who was super nice and helpful and she went over everything before giving us the tour. At first we were thinking we’d be interested in Cheatham Hall. It was the right size for us and available for our dates.


It was a cool space, round with several sliding accordian-style doors that opened it up further. It was definitely not big enough for both the reception and ceremony in the same place. But we could also rent the outdoor plaza that is covered by a tent to accommodate.


It was a cool idea. I could do the ceremony or reception under the tent, and still use the ballroom. It was a pretty good option. Then she asked if we wanted to see Miller Hall since we were there. It was the larger space and the date we wanted wasn’t available, but we said sure, let’s look. And of COURSE that’s the one I wanted. 🙂


The space was beyond cool. I loved the dark woods and beautiful tile work. The space was  much bigger and would accommodate both ceremony and reception. There was a huge lobby for people to check in, sign guest book, do a photo booth…anything. PLUS it included the outdoor grassy area! That means we do have an option for an outdoor wedding if we decide to.


Michael and I left the venue and both felt like that was the one. We still had about 4 or 5 more venues to look at, one more right after that one in fact–and I cancelled all the other tours. The decision was made. 🙂

Author: Lisa Eirene

About Lisa Eirene Lisa lost 110 pounds through calorie counting and exercise. She swims, bikes, runs, hikes and is enjoying life in Portland, Oregon. Her weight loss story has been featured in First Magazine, Yahoo Health, Woman's Day and Glamour.com.

15 thoughts on “Picking a Venue”

  1. Brian and I had both been married before so we asked for no gifts but made a list on an evite of all the things we needed for a full bar. We asked our friends to sign up and bring one item. Then we rented bar and hired a bartender. Our wedding was outdoors. We had a full bar and a bartender there ready to make mix drinks. It was open bar and wonderful. Our wedding was an outdoor potluck sounds tacky but you can see our pictures, it was actually very nice. My favorite touch were the cello players I hired to play 80’s music. It will be fun seeing you plan and bring your special day together.

  2. There is a ballroom right at the 10th and Morrison stop on the Max. I think it is called the Adriana Ballroom or something like that. Anyway, I had a friend get married there and it was nice. It was quite big and they had the wedding and the reception right in the same place (they had everyone the main ballroom right after the wedding so they could prep it for the reception, which was really my only issue with the place). I think it was relatively reasonably priced, although I never came right out and asked.
    Melinda recently posted..There is nothing to it….

    1. Adriana was on our list! It looks beautiful! Unfortunately I think either the cost was over our budget or they didn’t allow us to bring our own alcohol. Those were usually the only factors for eliminating venues from the list.

  3. I’m getting married on Sept 28th and I had a terrible time finding a venue that was within our price range. I ended up asking some friends that have a big house/backyard and they said YES. That will save us lots of $$$$.

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