First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage

With its breathtaking beauty and laid-back attitude,
the Coast is a magnet for destination weddings

Story by Rosemary Camozzi

THE OREGON COAST. It always rains there, right?

Well, not always. When you’re ready to tie the knot on one of the coast’s many beautiful beaches or bluffs, the sun comes out and the breeze goes still.

At least that’s what we heard from three coastal wedding planners and numerous couples who held their weddings on the coast. “Even if it’s nasty in the morning, it seems like the weather always breaks right before the wedding,” says Wren Smart of Rose Haven Designs (www.rosehaven, a coastal wedding planning service based in Mapleton. Smart says that out of 30 weddings she has planned in the last three years, only one has been rained on.

“Ninety-eight percent of our ceremonies are held outside,” says Judy Joubert of Stone Crest Cellar (, a bed-and-breakfast retreat just south of Newport that offers weddings and elopements. Joubert hosted 67 ceremonies last year. “Even in inclement weather, it opens up and a ray of sunshine comes out.”

Ask Julie Coren and Dan Reyhle about the weather. They married last July at a vacation rental near Yachats, in a wedding orchestrated by Smart. About 20 family members and friends joined them, including many from Kansas and Nebraska who had never been to the Oregon Coast. The group spent the week leading up to the Saturday wedding hanging out on the beach, going to Newport and Yachats, and generally relaxing and enjoying the company of family and friends. “We showed up on Monday,” Coren says. “I was worried because it was really windy. But it got better every day, and Saturday was one of the best days I’ve ever spent on the coast. It was in the 70s with no wind at all. We ate outside and spent the whole day outside. It was an absolute blast.”

An outdoor ceremony at Stone Crest Cellar.

 Alisa and Travis Dillard revel  in the moment during their September, 2006, ceremony at the Adobe Resort

Above: Alisa and Travis Dillard revel in the moment during their September, 2006, ceremony at the Adobe Resort.
Left: An outdoor ceremony at Stone Crest Cellar.
Festive tables await wedding guests at Stone Crest Cellar.

Festive tables await wedding guests at Stone Crest Cellar.

All this doesn’t mean, of course, that you shouldn’t prepare for rain. Or wind. Or both. This is, after all, the coast. It’s not the spot for couples that want a formal, “just-so” wedding. “If you want upswept hair, you better have helmet hairspray,” says Smart, who adds that weddings right on the beach may include spectators watching from nearby resort balconies or seagull-chasing dogs running through the ceremony.

Couples get married on the coast for a multitude of reasons, but they all enjoy the laid-back feel of a coastal wedding, Smart says. “They can make it a vacation for everybody. They can bring their family and friends and spend a whole week at the coast.”

Cat and Lee Pearsall held a vow renewal ceremony at Stone Crest Cellar 22 years to the day after Lee first proposed.
Cat and Lee Pearsall held a vow renewal ceremony at Stone Crest Cellar 22 years to the day after Lee first proposed.

And with spectacular beauty all around you—sparkling waves, coastal pines and perhaps a few picturesque rocks just offshore—you don’t need a lot of decorations.

There are a few important things to keep in mind, however. Tell your guests to dress in layers, Smart says, and find a beautiful wrap that goes with your bridal gown. “And dollar-store umbrellas are a huge thing,” she adds. “You’ve got to have them on hand, just in case.”

Which leads us to the backbone of every Oregon Coast wedding: Plan B. “Even in summer, you have to have a Plan A and a Plan B,” Smart says. Plan B is somewhere indoors where you can have the ceremony, whether it’s one of the many venues along the coast such as the Adobe Resort, Chinook Winds, or Salishan, a covered picnic area at a park, or the house you’ve rented for the week. And for any of these locations, it’s important to book way ahead, usually six to 12 months.

If you plan to get married on the beach, it’s also important to look into local regulations. If you have just a few people, permits aren’t usually necessary, but if you plan to have a crowd, you’ll need them. Day-use areas need to be reserved, although rental fees are very low. And you’ll need to provide your guests with day-use parking passes if you’re in a public area.

Elopements are very popular among couples who want to marry on the coast. But while “eloping” in the old days meant getting married on the sly without telling your parents, these days it means choosing simplicity and intimacy over pomp and circumstance.

“Some people want to spend $20,000 on a wedding,” says Joubert of Stone Crest Cellar. “But others want to do something simple. They’d rather spend the money to buy a house or go on a honeymoon.”

Smart charges 15 percent of the cost of the wedding for her services (which would amount to $750 for a $5000 wedding). Joubert offers an $8,400 traditional wedding package for up to 50 people, but many couples choose her $795 elopement package, which includes two nights’ lodging, the minister and ceremony, flowers, champagne, a small wedding cake, and a CD of photos taken by Joubert herself. (Joubert, like Smart, is an amazing one-woman show with a hard-working husband as backup).

Sandy and Bill Lupton of Las Vegas “eloped” at Stone Crest Cellar last December, on a secluded bluff overlooking the beach. “We didn’t want to get married in Vegas,” Bill says, “We both work on the Strip and we’re Vegas’d out. We both love nature, and I’m a big lighthouse buff.” They talked to Joubert once on the phone, and then arranged the rest of the ceremony by e-mail. “It was a perfect, incredible experience,” Bill says. “When we arrived, we were greeted by Hoover, the coolest dog in the world. And while we were getting married, Merlot, the black cat, plopped onto the altar.” Everything went exactly as planned, Sandy adds. “But it would have been perfect even with rain. It wouldn’t have been a crisis. We’re laid-back people.”

ulie Coren and Dan Reyle of Eugene were married at a beachside vacation rental.
Julie Coren and Dan Reyle of Eugene were married at a beachside vacation rental.

Lauren Beam, head women’s swimming coach at University, and her husband Mike, a New York Manhattan lawyer, invited 55 guests to their July 2006 wedding at Stone Crest Cellar. Lauren, who grew up in Albany, Oregon, says she and Mike knew the beauty and open space of the Oregon Coast would amaze their big-city guests, and it did. “Even now, people are raving about it,” Lauren says. “It was such a warm, inviting environment, and the coast is so gorgeous.”

Lauren and Mike wanted their wedding to reflect a totally different feeling from the hustle and bustle of New York. “We wanted people to be relaxed,” Lauren says. “What made it great was that we didn’t have things set a certain way. We decided that we wanted to just go with the flow, and if something didn’t work out, we could laugh about it later.”

But from her Big Apple vantage point, she admits she secretly worried that their Oregon wedding might turn out to be “cheesy.” But she was dead wrong, she says with delight. “I wanted classy and that’s what we got.” It didn’t hurt that the July day was a perfect 72 sunny degrees, with no wind. “It was unbelievably gorgeous,” Beam says. “We didn’t know it could be that nice.”

Indeed, in looking for tales of rained-out and windblown ceremonies, I found only one drizzly wedding day. The most disastrous story I could pry out of the couples I interviewed was one about a groom who got “fried by the sun” and turned beet red for the ceremony after getting lost while taking a morning run on the day of his wedding.

It’s the Oregon Coast. Go figure.

Oregon Coast May/June 2007

More Top-of-the-Line Wedding Venues

For those who want to get married at the coast but want a little more luxury or a little more excitement, there are a number of great resorts that host weddings:

The Adobe Resort, just north of Yachats, is a “one-stop-shop” for weddings, says Sue Keyes, general manager. With a breathtaking view of the surf, the Adobe is booked for weddings every weekend from mid-March to mid-November. The resort helps plan the whole event, from flowers to officiant to photographer, offers discounts on rooms, banquet menus, and honeymoon specials. Keyes says that couples are always surprised at how inexpensive it is to hold their wedding on the coast, as compared to other areas. “We take care of them from start to finish,” she says.

Danielle and Brad Krysinski of Maple Valley, Washington, got married in the stone shelter near the top of Cape Perpetua in August 2003. After the ceremony, the wedding party of about 30 all went back to the Adobe, where the family had rented three apartment suites and a block of rooms. “It was fabulous,” Danielle says. “We didn’t want a big, fluffy, over-the-top kind of thing. We like to sit in the Jacuzzi, drink champagne, and watch the sunset.” (800-522-3623;

Driftwood Shores, north of Florence in the Heceta Beach area, is another popular spot for weddings. Couples can get married on the beach, on the deck, or in the Pacific Room. The resort will provide a justice of the peace, or couples can bring their own officiant. Driftwood Shores hosts 10 to 20 weddings a year, and is booked for May, June, and July. (541-997-8263;

Nikita Gearing and John Coughenour walk through the forest to their wedding at WildSpring Guest Habitat.
Nikita Gearing and John Coughenour walk through the forest to their wedding at WildSpring Guest Habitat.

WildSpring Guest Habitat, in Port Orford, is the perfect spot for those looking for a wedding setting that is both luxurious and secluded. Five richly appointed cabins set in the forest, a guest hall with a fully equipped kitchen, and an open-air spa overlooking the ocean welcome guests. “People feel more like they’re at a private estate,” says Michelle Duarte, who owns WildSpring with her husband Dean. “It’s an amazing place for small wedding parties, especially if the families are looking to get to know one another.”

Nikita Gearing and John Coughenour were married at WildSpring in September 2005. Gearing’s family came from Australia, and Coughenour’s from the East Coast; the two families, meeting for the first time, were able to spend three or four days getting to know each other before the wedding. After the celebration, they had a big dinner together in the guest hall. “We all cooked together, ate our meals together,” says Gearing. “It was a magical experience. Our families were blown away.” (866-333-9453;

Salishan Spa & Golf Resort, located near Gleneden Beach on the Central Coast, offers space for ceremonies and receptions up to 250 guests, as well as beach weddings at Gleneden State Park, in a grassy little area called “The Glen” that is tucked away in the trees. Salishan began doing weddings last fall, and according to Trudy Mosey, sales and catering manager, the phone began ringing off the hook this spring. Mosey emphasizes that couples who want to get married at Salishan must have a professional wedding planner. (The resort has a list of planners to choose from.) Salishan offers a number of reception packages, and discounts on rooms for wedding guests. (800-452-2300;

Chinook Winds Casino Resort, in Lincoln City, offers the best of both worlds: entertainment and beautiful surroundings. Couples can get married on the beach, in a banquet room overlooking the ocean, or in the convention center. The casino offers a number of packages for weddings, and will provide an officiant for couples from outside the area.

The beach awaits after a romantic wedding at Chinook Winds Casino Resort.
The beach awaits after a romantic wedding at Chinook Winds Casino Resort.

And there are plenty of activities for the wedding party, says Heather Hatton, publicist for Chinook Winds. “The bachelor party can include poker the night before, and golf the morning of the wedding,” she says. Chinook Winds offers child care for kids age 3 to 11 and an arcade, a great benefit for wedding guests with children. Lincoln City also offers many things to do, including glass-blowing, hunting for glass floats on the beach, world-class restaurants, bookstores, live theater, and more. (888-CHINOOK;

The Stephanie Inn in Cannon Beach offers an elopement package that includes a night’s lodging, the officiant, a witness, a bridal bouquet, champagne, a wedding cake and of course the location, which can be the oceanfront library/chart-room, an oceanfront guest room, or the beach. After the wedding, couples will return to their room to find a cozy fire, bubble bath, and rose petals on the bed. The Inn is also happy to coordinate music and photography. “The only thing that is required is a marriage license,” says Mary Branton, who coordinates weddings at the Inn. “It’s a great package if you just want to get away and get married, very romantic. There’s nothing more beautiful than the Oregon Coast, and you wouldn’t believe the number of people who would rather spend their money on a nice honeymoon instead of a lavish wedding.” (800-633-3466;

—R. C.

Great Places to say "I do"

Oregon’s beaches are all public, and there are several state parks along the coast that provide access. Knowing the conditions at each area is critical to finding that perfect location. Here’s a list of wedding planner Wren Smart’s top spots for wedding ceremonies.


Couples often choose to tie the knot at a lighthouse because the views are gorgeous and the lighthouse itself makes a unique addition to wedding photos. Keep in mind that lighthouses are often subject to strong coastal breezes. Each lighthouse on the Oregon Coast has different restrictions on whether you can marry inside the lighthouse or only outside. Contact individual lighthouses to find out which one is best suited for your special day.

Cape Meares––You can’t get married inside the 118-year-old lighthouse overlooking the North Coast, but an adjacent grassy area is a popular spot. It is an intimate space, so smaller weddings are recommended (not more than 25 to 30 people) due to limited parking and space. Considerations: Contact Cape Lookout State Park for possible permit requirements. (503-842-3182)

Heceta Head Lighthouse/Heceta House—Couples may marry at the lighthouse, or at the caretaker’s house (Heceta House). Perched above the Pacific Ocean, the area has beautifully manicured gardens and a gorgeous view. Considerations: There is a short but easy hike to the lighthouse; a day-use fee is charged for each vehicle.


Beach Ceremony Sites

Nothing can beat the beauty and romance of a marriage ceremony on the beach. Keep in mind that because Oregon beaches are public, there may be other people on the beach too. Most of the time, other beachgoers are respectful of couples and stay at a distance during ceremonies. Contact the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation for permit requirements and day-use fees at state parks (information 800-551-6949 or 541-265-8179 for permits).

Sunset Bay State Park—Located just south of Charleston, Sunset Bay is a protected cove surrounded by sand-stone cliffs. “The rock formations are very colorful and make a nice backdrop for photos,” Smart says. Beach access is easy from parking areas and there is a meeting hall/covered area close by. No day-use fee is required. Consideration: This cove is popular, so be prepared to have other people on the beach during your ceremony.

Fogarty State Park—A short walk is required to access this beach near Depoe Bay, but there are wonderful photo opportunities along the way, including quaint bridges crossing meandering creeks. The park near the beach is picturesque, and there are some covered areas nearby for receptions. Considerations: A day-use fee is required for each vehicle.

Haystack Rock—Haystack Rock makes a dramatic backdrop to a beach wedding. It is situated off the coast near Cannon Beach, a quintessential beach town with plenty of amenities for guests. Considerations: Cannon Beach is a very popular place to get married, so be sure to plan well in advance. (503-436-2623;

Couple getting married

The Truly Unique

Overlook at Cape Perpetua—The stone building at the overlook has one of the best views on the coast. At 803 feet above the ocean, this site is not for those afraid of heights, but is one of the most memorable areas. A short hike is required to get to the overlook (less than a 1/4 mile), but the trail is wheelchair accessible. The stone shelter would be ideal for wedding ceremonies with less than 12 people. Considerations: The site is not reserveable, so the general public is allowed to use the area during ceremonies. A day-use fee is charged for each vehicle. (541-547-3289;

The Little Log Church and Museum
The 1930s-era building in Yachats is the site of about 20 to 30 weddings a year, including the popular Wedding Vow Renewal Ceremony on Valentine’s Day. The property was deeded to Yachats by the Oregon Historical Society, and underwent extensive restoration in 1993. (541-547-4547;

West Woahink Meeting Hall—The rounded architecture of the meeting hall (yurt), located in Honeyman State Park, creates a wonderful aura to this building that faces the lake. The fee to rent the hall is very reasonable, and also includes some chairs and primitive cooking facilities. Considerations: The meeting hall is all yours when you rent it, but the surrounding park can get very busy in the summer.

—Emily Kolkemo

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