Portland wedding venues

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!Β 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 CenterΒ Β (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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚


The space was beyond cool. I loved the dark woods and beautiful tile work. The space was Β 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. πŸ™‚


First, thank you ALL for the congratulations and well wishes! I couldn’t respond to every message as they flooded in on text, Facebook, Twitter, blog, Instagram, email….but I tried my best. I’m still in foggy haze of bliss and glow from the engagement and haven’t given much else any thought!

Second, I have the best friends! Monday night after work and the gym Michael and I sat down and looked at some wedding venues online to make a list.Β Michael suggested a Star Wars themed wedding, which I veto-ed immediately and then went to Facebook to share with my friends this:

Screen shot 2013-07-22 at 10.07.35 PM
What followed was probably the most epic, awesome, gut-splitting hilarious thread I’ve ever had on Facebook. Everyone chimed in. Of course, a bunch of my friends and family are nerds and were totally on board with this idea, fully supporting Michael. It went downhill fast. There were suggestions of The Dark Crystal theme, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings and The Mists of Avalon (which I can actually get behind) and then went into deep discussion about our reception being the scene inΒ Tatooine (whatever that means), with me in a gold bikini, my dad dressed at Darth Vader with me on a leash (what?!) and a friend asked if he could dress as a Sand Person.

What is going on?

Is this what wedding planning is like?!!? I guess everyone wants to give their input…The Facebook thread went on for hours with so many people giving their hilarious two cents. But rest assured, we won’t be having a themed wedding. Sorry!

Seriously, though, Michael and I spent a good two hours looking at websites and narrowed our venue list down to 6 places to check out. The awesome thing is that we both agreed what our #1 place is! We’re going to look at that place last.

One of the first questions we both get from people who hear the news is “have you set a date”? In all honesty we haven’t set a date but we narrowed it down to a season. We didn’t really agree at first. I wanted a winter wedding (off season, cheaper, not as far away) and Michael wanted a summer wedding (nice weather, possibly outside). The more we talked about it, the more we both kind of compromised with September 2014. But that’s still up for debate!

So far everyone has been really awesome about our news and offering to help plan. I appreciate the enthusiasm and support! I signed up for The Knot website but immediately regretted it. The website was really overwhelming and felt like it was a vortex that creates bridezilla tendencies–something I am going to try my hardest to avoid! I think I’m skipping The Knot and going with an iPhone app and making my own lists. The problem is, where do you start? While Michael and I have talked about weddings for years and have planned little bits and pieces of the whole thing, knowing where to start is really overwhelming.

I got home from work yesterday to a mysterious package! Inside was a massive wedding planning book courtesy of my friend Rachel. It was awesome and such a sweet, thoughtful gift! I hadn’t even had time to think about that kind of stuff.


Lastly, I had a bunch of requests for better pictures of the ring. I know, Instagram doesn’t quite cut it. I used my nice camera and finally got to test out my micro lens. Here it is:


I’ve never seen a ring like this before and I love how unique it is. It’s white gold and it’s a tension setting, which means there aren’t any prongs (which is nice). It’s smooth and the diamond is flush with the band so it doesn’t get caught on anything.

This will probably be the last wedding post for awhile. The next step is setting a budget, finding a venue, picking an actual date and we’re going to take our time doing that. We also have some family trips and a vacation coming up so that will take up all of our weekends for awhile. I think I’ll do a post in about a month or so when we start looking at venues. If you’re in Portland and have a recommendation for a venue, please tell me!