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The music begins, the guests rise, turning as tradition dictates, to watch the bride’s entrance…

…in flip-flop sandals, as she takes measured steps across a beach.

…in stiletto heels, as she follows a petal-strewn carpet through a resort’s rose garden.

…in cowboy boots, as she slides out of stirrups and off a saddle.

Meanwhile, her beloved waits before a backdrop of mountains, marina or meadows.

When it comes to weddings in the Pacific Northwest, it’s not the journey, but the destination that counts.

Vows are exchanged on mountainsides and beaches, overlooking yacht basins, in meadows, vineyards and parks, at plush resorts and hotels. Couples are tying the knot in destinations that accommodate the wedding, reception and honeymoon. These nontraditional settings are proving to be a boon for couples juggling the event’s responsibilities with the romance surrounding it.

Skagit Valley newlyweds Dan and Alana Waggoner chose Cama Beach State Park because, they say, it fit their budget and was the “perfect setting” for their September vintage-themed wedding.

The centerpiece of this 433-acre park on Camano Island’s southwest shore is its restored 1930s fishing resort. Renovation and refurbishing have brought 33 waterfront cabins and outer buildings of this vintage “auto court resort” back to life with modern convenience wrapped in history. Couples from as far away as Japan and France have married here.

The Waggoners took advantage of the resort’s waterfront location, staging their ceremony in an area overlooking Saratoga Passage. Their catered buffet reception was held on a bluff in the Cama Center Great Hall. Their guests stayed in the cabins.

“On the day of the wedding we had as a backdrop Saratoga, sailboats, and the Olympics and then you turned around to a forested hillside,” Dan recalls. “It was quiet, no loud noises, no cars — just an occasional airplane overhead.”

Cama Beach is one of several Washington state parks that accommodate weddings. Information (site descriptions, rates, parking and use permit requirements) can be found at

“Brief and simple” is the recommendation for outdoor weddings in Mount Rainier National Park, southeast of Seattle. Its historic lodges, Paradise Inn and National Park Inn, offer overnight accommodations but don’t host weddings or receptions.

A Special Use Permit is required for weddings. The application form, use guidelines, restrictions, conditions and information on required fees are found online at Applications must be received two weeks before the requested date. For some of the more popular spots in the park, such as Edith Creek Basin, with its waterfall and view, the earlier the application is submitted, the better, says Debbie Hannevig, Special Use Permit Coordinator. Even with summer weddings, there may be snow on the higher elevations in July.

Ceremonies at Oregon’s Timberline Lodge, on the south slope of 11,239-foot Mount Hood, take place in a number of indoor venues, including at the lobby’s 96-foot-tall stone fireplace. Weather permitting, outdoor patios and a free-standing outdoor amphitheater are also wedding sites at this 1930s icon.

There are plenty of storybook settings at British Columbia’s Whistler Village, beneath Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. High-end resorts offer a wide range of ceremony and location options. For example, the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, at the base of Blackcomb Mountain, has venues ranging from its small Rooftop Chapel to a ballroom that accommodates 1,000.

Whistler Blackcomb rents several one-of-a-kind places, including the Roundhouse Lodge, 6,069 feet above sea level on Whistler Mountain, accessed by a 25-minute gondola ride. A large room known as the Garibaldi Lift Company (GLC), at the base of Whistler Mountain and above the Whistler Village Gondola, has a roaring fireplace, 180-degree views and three spacious patios.

Weddings at the Mazama Country Inn are framed by Central Washington’s mountains and meadows. Its Methow Valley location is footsteps from cross-country ski trails that loop the valley and has easy access to both North Cascades National Park and the Pasayten Wilderness. The 18-room resort at the base of the North Cascades has an on-site restaurant, outdoor pool, hot tub, sauna and tennis courts.

Lakeside and wine country

Guests attending Kristen and Marc DeMontigny’s evening wedding and reception, footsteps from Lake Washington in the west-facing garden at Kirkland’s Woodmark Hotel, were treated to a spectacular sunset that illuminated the Seattle skyline.

The couple chose the location for their September wedding because of its setting, its all-inclusive packages and the hotel’s willingness to work within their budget.

“We told them what we wanted and they just did it. We didn’t have to work with a lot of vendors,” Kristen says. Like most facilities offering all-inclusive packages, the hotel handled the wedding details from setup to cleanup.

Resort and hotel wedding packages range from large affairs to tiny, no fuss events such as the “I Do for Two” package at Woodinville’s Willows Lodge, which includes accommodations and treats (a bottle of Champagne and breakfast in bed, among them) for the bride and groom, as well as two witnesses for the ceremony and a list of officiates to perform it.

San Juan Islands

The sunken garden between the historic Hotel de Haro and the expansive marina at Roche Harbor Resort is where Ian Wehmeyer and Meredith Preston, who met in Seattle, will marry next July.

Wehmeyer’s family has been coming for years to the 175-acre resort on the northwest corner of San Juan Island.

“This location just fit. Our families have come here to spend time together; the Fourth of July is just amazing here. We imagine someday bringing our kids here,” says Meredith.

The resort and marina, once the site of the largest lime-manufacturing plant west of the Mississippi, was named Seattle Bride Magazine’s Best of 2012 Northwest Destination Wedding Site, outside the Seattle area. In addition to the sunken garden, the resort’s expansive Seaside Lawn and Our Lady of Good Voyage Chapel are popular wedding venues. Accommodations range from its 1886 hotel to modern suites in Quarryman Hall.

On Orcas Island, at the 38-acre waterfront Doe Bay Resort and Retreat, weddings set at water’s edge provide panoramic views of Rosario Strait. The resort’s mix of “rustic but charming” guest accommodations, include its large Retreat House, cabins, yurts and campsites. There’s also an on-site cafe, massage services, a sauna and soaking tubs as well as a variety of outdoor activities.


Because the beach is the most popular wedding location at Wickaninnish Inn on Vancouver Island’s west coast, the bride’s preferred wedding attire is often a flowing gown and rubber boots. The second most popular ceremony venue at this AAA Four Diamond Resort is The Point Restaurant, extending over wave-washed rocks and offering a 240-degree view.

Located at the westernmost point of Chesterman Beach and the tip of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, the British Columbia venue offers outdoor activities including cold-water surfing, beach walking, kayaking, hiking and bird watching.

These are but a few of the dozens of diverse destination wedding venues found in the Pacific Northwest. With so many from which to choose, the second most important question after, “Will you…?” might well be, “Where?”

Jackie Smith is a Kirkland-based freelance writer. See her travel blog: