by Michelle Winner | Photo © Larry Stanley Photography
No doubt it began on bended knee, and as the word “yes” left your lips you set in motion an avalanche of questions: date, photographer, flowers, food. But you can relax. It all begins with your vision of the perfect wedding venue. One out of four couples chooses a special destination where wedding festivities can last three or more days. From unusual to familiar, mid-priced to luxurious, here is our list of 9 special wedding destinations.
Chico Hot Springs Resort, Paradise Valley, Montana
Chico Hot Springs Resort is a winner for its attention to detail and superb value. Understand that Chico is a familyowned, family-oriented place, not “Chico chi-chi.” Among the ceremony venue choices, the hilltop called “The Field of Dreams”—carpeted by golden grasses, tucked under an umbrella of blue sky and surrounded by a bowl of mountains—is the most stunning.
>> Plan at least a year out or more, if possible, to get your room block on the dates you want.
>> Have your custom cake created at the resort.
TIP: For a memorable rehearsal dinner, reserve the intimate stone-walled wine cellar building.
Desert Wind Winery, Prosser, Washington
Inside Desert Wind Winery, a distinctive Southwesternstyle building, are three secrets: a terrific restaurant called Mojave, the Desert Wind Inn with four large and lovely sleeping room suites above the winery, and a wedding venue. Weddings here are incredible values for the quality and attention you receive. Dine and dance under the stars on the massive patio or party in the indoor event space with up to 150 of your dearest. Desert Wind’s solid team of Mojave Executive Chef Kristin Johnson and event coordinator Amber Thomas work together to make your day perfect.
>> Driving time from Portland or Seattle is about 3 hours.
>> Additional accommodations are at Best Western Plus Inn at Horse Heaven Hills in Prosser (bestwesternwashington.com/prosserhotels) and Red Lion Hotel Richland Hanford House in nearby Richland (redlion.com/our-hotels/washington/ richland)
>> A dozen wineries have tasting rooms at Vintner’s Village in Prosser (prosservintnersvillage.com), a winecountry activity your guests will enjoy.
TIP: Chukar Cherries in Prosser has a complete line of local cherry wedding favors and candies. Chukar.com
Willows Lodge, Woodinville, Washington
Look no more… a wine country wedding can be yours not far from the Seattle metropolis. Across the road from Chateau Ste. Michelle winery and steps away from the wine tasting rooms in Woodinville, Willows Lodge is a respite for the rosy-cheeked oenophile or the smart bride who wants to keep family and friends near. You will love the lodge’s Northwest architecture, en-suite tub-for-two, focus on great wine and local food, indoor and outdoor venue options, and the luxurious spa. The on-site Barking Frog Restaurant is perfect for a rehearsal dinner, or Barking Frog’s new food truck can cater your winery rehearsal dinner or wedding.
>> Easy access to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
>> Dozens of wineries are nearby, perfect for a wedding party chartered wine tour; book through Seattle Wine Tours (seattlewinetours.com).
TIP: Ask for the lodge’s charming pedicab to take you to your walk down the aisle or to use as your postreception get-away chariot.
The Benson Hotel, Portland, Oregon
At The Benson Hotel, many a young Portland girl has walked down the graceful grand stairway in her wedding dress, reflected in the gilded mirror as she makes her way to her groom. Various banquet rooms and an elegant ballroom are available for intimate or larger wedding celebrations for up to 350 guests—all gorgeous. Executive Chef Gavin Russell and his staff will customize a wedding menu to suit the bride’s tastes.
>> Easy Access to Portland International Airport.
>> The Benson offers The Palm Court, El Gaucho and the The London Grille (a private catering venue) for your wedding cocktail gatherings and dinners.
TIP: Book your event at The Benson and a Junior Suite is yours for your wedding night.
Pronghorn, An Auberge Resort, Bend, Oregon
Pronghorn, An Auberge Resort, is a five-star luxury resort. Weddinghere are bespoke for your style, your taste, your vision. In addition to several ceremony venues, a “wedding island” will soon grace the golf course water feature. For wedding pictures, you can’t top the striking vistas of nine peaks along the Cascade Mountain Range, including Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top, Three Sisters and Mt. Washington. Chanterelle is Executive Chef Kevin Linde’s signature restaurant, but there are more casual offerings and a lively bar called Cascada.
>> The Redmond, Oregon airport has daily flights to major hub cities.
>> Residence Club junior suites and vacation homes provide 110 beds.
TIP: The “Green” wedding package supports local purveyors and donates 2% of your food and beverage revenue to a charity of your choice.
Shore Lodge, McCall, Idaho
Generations have a special place in their hearts for Payette Lake in McCall, and intimate weddings frequently happen on the beach or dock. Couples can motor in via the lodge’s restored wooden Chris-Craft to make a grand entrance. Cuisine for your event will be in the capable hands of award-winning Executive Chef Steve Topple.
A sommelier is on staff to pair the perfect wines (Idaho perhaps?) with your meal. Treat yourself to a relaxing pre-ceremony massage in the resort’s spa.
>> McCall is about 2 hours from Boise.
>> Stacey’s Cakes in McCall creates ultra-fabulous wedding cakes (firstname.lastname@example.org).
TIP: A “secret” inexpensive option is close by. Ponderosa State Park has well-appointed cabins, camping and RV parking. Ask about simple weddings there in the lakefront lodges. Then blow it out with catering by rising star Chef Gary Kucy of Rupert’s at Hotel McCall. parksandrecreation.idaho.gov, rupertsathotelmccall.com
Big Sky Resort-Moonlight Basin, Bozeman, Montana
Big Sky Resort’s recent merger with Moonlight Basin has created the largest ski resort in the United States. Guests can choose from an entire portfolio of value to luxury lodging, and the range of lodging prices makes this destination a top choice. A favorite venue is Moonlight Lodge, with windows facing Lone Mountain, which rises 11,166 feet. The space is large with a massive fireplace and two climbing sheep posed on the rough rock ledges. A seasonally inspired menu for up to 200 guests can be customized.
>> Guests can fly in and out of the Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport.
>> Have a “wed-cation” by making the wedding part of a getaway to stay and play on the mountain, whether in winter or summer.
TIP: Rent a large house or villa as a “base camp” and have Moonlight Lodge cater a private welcome party or rehearsal dinner there for you.
Fairmont Empress Hotel, Victoria, B.C.
Want to feel like a princess? Get married at the Fairmont Empress. You can reflect your wedded bliss while dancing under the mirrored ceilings and gleaming chandeliers in the Crystal Ballroom. Begin the festivities with a formal Empress bridal tea or gather at The Veranda, a perfect spot to relax for lunch and people watch along the harbor front. The newly designed reception room, a chic twist on old style, includes a private entrance through which you can escape for a romantic carriage ride.
>> Every service is available at the hotel, including treatments at Fairmont’s Willow Stream Spa.
>> The Empress pastry kitchen is legendary, so let them make your cake.
TIP: Fairmont has a partnership with Helijet. From Fairmont hotels in Vancouver, take the hotel car service to the nearby Helijet pad for a scenic flight to the Empress. Helijet.com.
Holland America Cruise Lines, Alaska “Wedding” Cruise
How about a wedding at sea? Opt for one of Holland America Line’s (HAL) Alaska cruises for your nuptials. HAL’s wedding packages range from intimate to a major celebration. Guests book their own cabin class and you add the wedding package. Holland America will take care of everything from the officiate, food and flowers.
Basic packages include ceremony, cake and champagne but you can add on services, such as music and photography. Contact the wedding cruise coordinator for details.