Planning a Destination Wedding in Oregon? Here are the 5 Things to do First
With its rugged coastlines, scenic mountains, mild weather, old-growth forests, quirky cities, and countless stunning backdrops — it’s no surprise that Oregon has become a top destination for weddings and elopements, with couples coming from all over the world to say their vows in the Beaver state.
In recent years, we’ve worked with couples planning their Oregon destination weddings from Australia, Israel, Bolivia, New York, Texas, Florida, Kentucky, Illinois, Arizona, Southern California, Alaska, and more. Whether you are planning from the next state over, across the country, or across the world — planning a destination wedding can present many challenges, big and small, and we want to ease that stress for couples as much as possible!
So, no matter what reason you choose to get married in Oregon, whether you have family here, fell in love with the PNW on a cross-country road trip, or simply became enamored with a venue on a Google search (this happens more than you’d think!), we love guiding couples through this often-overwhelming process and we hope you find the below info helpful.
Here are the five things we recommend doing first when planning your Oregon destination wedding:
One: Discuss your priorities with your partner
Something I’ve noticed over nearly 12 years of working with engaged couples is that it’s pretty common for each partner to have their own “must-haves” and priorities. If you aren’t totally aligned in your priorities — that’s okay! But you will want to find this out in the beginning, not half-way through the process. Sit down with your partner and discuss what will matter the most to each of you on the wedding day, and how you can make those things happen for each other. For example, maybe you are a foodie and your big priority is having high-quality food and drinks, but your partner is more concerned with the dance party and the music portion of the evening. Or maybe you are dreaming of a more intimate affair and your partner is hoping to invite all of your friends and loved ones. You may discover that you each value different things, and having this discussion in the beginning of the planning process is so important because it will help guide many of your decisions. During our initial consult, I always ask couples what each of their priorities are, and more often than not, they admit they haven’t had those conversations yet.
Two: Set your budget & create your guest list
The budget ties directly in with the previous point, because where priorities go — so does the budget. So the high-quality food and drinks mentioned above is going to be a good chunk of your budget, as well as that great DJ or live band that your partner desires. After you discuss your priorities, sit down with your partner (and anyone else who will be contributing to the budget) and set estimates for each category — venue, catering, bar, DJ/band, photography, videography, rentals, planner, florist, dessert, and so on. All-too often, families pull an elusive “budget” number out of the air with no real basis to it, and are shocked when the actual numbers start adding up. If you don’t have a planner, you will need to do some research for vendor costs in the area you are planning to get married in. If you do have a planner — they will help you through all of this!
Destination weddings have an additional set of costs to factor in, including travel and airfare expenses, lodging, and transportation. If your lodging is not on-site at the venue, you will want to provide some kind of transportation for your guests, so be sure to factor this into your budget from the get-go. Discuss all possible expenses associated with your destination wedding and plan accordingly so there aren’t surprises down the road. Some couples opt to cover the lodging expense for guests, while others have each guest pay for their own lodging.
Another note on budget — you will need to have narrowed down your guest list and know how many people you estimate will attend the wedding before working on your budget. With destination weddings, you will have more declines than a local wedding, so keep that in mind. The number one way to reduce wedding costs is to decrease your guest list, as each guest is directly connected to the cost of just about every vendor. You can expect to pay anywhere from around $600 – $1,500+ per guest for a destination wedding in Oregon.
Three: secure your venue & set your date
With destination weddings, there tends to be more flexibility in dates since couples are usually planning far in advance — which means you might be deciding your date based on your dream venue’s availability. If you are coming into it with it set date, just know you may not get your first pick of venue and it may take a little bit longer to find one that has availability for your desired date.
When choosing your venue, consider all aspects of travel and accommodations — does the venue provide on-site lodging, or are their hotels nearby? Where is the closest airport? Are there transportation options for getting guests from the airport to their lodging and to the venue? Is Uber/Lyft available? Does the venue provide in-house catering and bar or will you need to hire an outside caterer? Does the venue include rentals — tables, chairs, linens, etc? In my opinion; the more all-inclusive the venue, the better! This means less vendors to deal with which ultimately means less work for you.
Four: Hire your planner & key vendors
As far as hiring a planner goes — this can certainly happen earlier in the process (and I personally love when it does, because I love helping my couples find their venue!), but more often than not, the couple has their date and venue selected by the time they bring on their planner. If you don’t live in Oregon but are planning a wedding in Oregon — I cannot emphasize enough the importance of bringing on a planner who knows the area and local vendors to help guide you through the process. Relying on Google searches for your whole vendor team does not always go well — your planner will be able to recommend vendors who have worked at your venue before and know the ins and outs, as well as vendors who work well together and who fit within your budget and your specific needs.
The earlier you bring on your planner after getting engaged, the better off you will be. You will get SO much more value if you hire your planner in the very beginning of the process versus half way through. You are leaving so much on the table if you don’t bring them on in the beginning — so don’t make this mistake!
For the remaining vendors, you will need to have your date and venue solidified first. Once that’s done, you should start reaching out to all key vendors right away to check availability. The key vendors to connect with at this stage are photographer, videographer, caterer, DJ/band, and florist.
Five: Create a wedding website and send save the dates
Since your guests will most likely need to take time off work to travel, the earlier you can give them the details, the better. Once your date and venue are set, you can start setting up your wedding website and designing your save the dates. We love Minted for this because they offer stunning matching save the dates, invites, and websites so everything can feel cohesive from the get-go. All too often I see couples choose a save the date without even considering their invitations or website, and things end up feeling disjointed. Keep in mind that your save the date is the VERY first impression your guests will have of your wedding!
We also love working with designers to create a fully customized stationery set including save the date, invitation suite, and all paper goods and signage needed for your wedding including place cards, table numbers, seating chart, etc. This way everything will match from the first impression all the way through the end of the reception!
We recommend that all of our couples request their marriage license through the Lane County office (you can request your license from any county in Oregon; it does not need to be the county you’re getting married in). This is a completely online option, meaning you won’t need to go to the county clerk’s office to pick up your license once you arrive to Oregon. Instead, you fill out the online application, share some details over the phone, and they mail you the license! Just don’t forget to bring it with you when you travel! 😉
If you’re currently planning an Oregon destination wedding and starting to feel overwhelmed, we would love to chat with you! Get in touch here and we’ll set a date to discuss your plans and vision and how we can help ease that stress.
Becky & the Event Crush Team