Destination Weddings in Corvallis
A vibrant Valley college town surrounded by epic natural beauty proves to be the perfect setting for weddings with heart and style.
Tucked between the Cascade Mountain Range and the Willamette River, it should be no surprise that Corvallis is Latin for “heart of the valley.” Such a romantic provenance is just icing on the (wedding) cake for brides and grooms who choose to get married in the area, which is rich with both scenic and civic charm. The college town of approximately 55,000 (nearly 20,000 Oregon State University students) sits pretty much smack dab in the middle of the lush, fertile Valley, and the supportive, tight-knit community that calls it home couldn’t be more lively, genuine, and well, heartfelt.
“The Corvallis community really blends academic and technology innovation with its agricultural roots, creating an eclectic atmosphere we really love,” says Jonathan Brownell, co-owner (with his wife Carrie) of Corvallis-based Blue Castle Photography. Indeed, the University brings in a variety of talented people from different walks of life, and that activity results in a big-city selection of resources. And yet, after over 160 years, it still maintains the tree-lined streets and everybody-knows-your-name small town feel.
That appeal radiates to the surrounding towns of Albany (about ten miles to the Northeast) and Philomath (five miles west) and the rolling hills and meadows in between. The area’s farming roots—OSU began has the state’s agricultural in the late-1800s and is still known for animal, food, and plant sciences—means that there is extensive land right outside the towns and an incredible array of picturesque natural settings perfect for the big day.
“There are beautiful colors here all year round—so many fun flowers and the trees are spectacular,” raves photographer Katy Sharratt of KS Photography in Corvallis. “Everywhere you look it seems there is a potential photographic background.” Brownell agrees, noting the “variety of different environments” from family farms to groves of trees and OSU’s historic architecture.
So how to choose your Corvallis-area venue? With so many sensational settings, it’s surprisingly overwhelming for such a compact area. Let’s start at the heart of town and work our way out.
What your mom warned you about often proves true at OSU: you’ll meet your spouse in college. Many couples with undergrad memories or connections to the PAC-10 Beavers sports choose to get married right on campus, surrounded by the stately brick buildings and wide-open lawns of the 400-acre Olmstead Brothers-designed grounds (with the correct permits, ceremonies can happen many places outdoors). Receptions are usually held at the Alumni Center, where the Cascade Ballroom can hold up to 500 and OSU catering offers literally pages and pages of menus to choose from.
Many of the city’s 47 lovely parks are also available for weddings (again, with the correct permits), including Central Park, with its huge gazebo and canopy of trees in the heart of downtown, and the lawn at Riverfront Commemorative Park, where you can’t get any closer to the river. The most popular spot is the Rose Garden in Avery Park, which can hold up to 100 people amidst 250 varities of roses that are in full bloom in June.
Benton County Parks offer a number of historic locations as well, like Bellfountain Park, the county’s oldest park at 150 years old, and Fort Hoskins Historic Park, which served as a Union infirmary and outpost to protect the Siletz Indians during the Civil War. Both feature rustic wood structures and vistas of the surrounding hills. The Beazell Memorial Forest offers a few more modern amenities, like a kitchen and restrooms, since the 1930s barn was renovated into The Education Center event site five years ago. “I believe you can have a beautiful wedding without spending a small fortune, says Jessie Brown, who was married there on October 3, 2009. “I wanted our wedding to have a homemade, warm atmosphere, and the Beazell barn captured everything we were looking for.” Indeed, the 586-acre wooded site about 20 miles from Corvallis is a favorite for weddings up to 100.
Parks are certainly an affordable option to be surrounded by natural beauty on a budget, but they also require a bit of extra planning for basics like chairs and running water that may be missing. “Working with a local organizer makes a world of difference in taking a city park and turning it into a wedding site,” notes Brownell. “Special Occasions does amazing work and they have great ideas about how to turn a park into something magic.” The family-owned Corvallis rental company recently added 3,000 square feet to house more tents, staging, and trendy pieces for lounge and bar setups. “Their continually growing business really excites me because of the variety of options they have to offer,” says Adrienne Kume, who has been planning weddings in the area for the last five years.
If you’re looking for a more all-inclusive locale, there’s even a County Park site that comes with it’s caterer: the Adair Clubhouse is situated right across the street from Adair Park and is operated by renowned Valley Catering, which offers over 20 years of culinary expertise, eclectic menus, and lots of personalized attention from their staff coordinators. The air-conditioned space is a blank slate for creative ideas—for example, Corvallis wedding planner Raina Powell, who was a Valley Catering coordinator for five years before branching out on her own last year, turned the renovated Air Force officer’s club into a whimsical indoor garden party with pink check tablecloths and planted centerpieces. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the light-filled room opens up onto an enclosed patio filled with colorful plants.
Other classically beautiful options nearby include the Hanson Country Inn, a Colonial-style bed and breakfast that was built in 1928, featuring period touches, rich woods, and a fireplace indoors, with a rose garden and meadows outdoors, for plenty of old-fashioned style. Meanwhile, the 92-year-old Corvallis Country Club is an elegant environment for larger groups up to 200, surrounded by old-growth trees and mountain views.
The Vue, on the other hand, is just a year old and quite modern, a sleek option for brides seeking a contemporary, urban style wedding even in “small town” Corvallis. The high-end architectural details of the two-story space are striking—black walnut bar, two-sided fireplace, plush banquets, cantilevered terraces—and the panoramic vista of the sixth floor setting is breathtaking. “It totally lives up to its name,” says Corvallis photographer Chris Becerra of Becerra Photography. “You are up in the clouds.”
Albany is also home to a refreshing indoor venue called Flinn Block Hall. “It had an elegant but unpretentious look [that we liked],” says Kevin Schutz of why he and his wife, Ruth McDevitt, chose the venue for their May 15, 2010 reception. The restored historic ballroom features modern touches like exposed brick and linear overhead beams, but the sparkling antique wood floors and cream walls keep the space warm. Similarly, the 2008-built Philomath Scout Lodge “can be dressed up for dressed down,” according to planner Powell. Becerra also likes the site, which sits on 58-acres of wetlands, for the eye-catching big timbers in the huge, open hall.
Heading out into the country, you’ll find a handful of delightful grounds that you can have all to yourself for an entire destination weekend. “This area is really the perfect place for a gorgeous outdoor country chic wedding,” says Powell, who was born and raised here. “Its more of a family gathering than a huge production.” Indeed, our favorites are owned by couples who welcome the wedding party like their own family.
Just three miles outside Corvallis, officiant Heather Privatsky and her husband Andy turned a former wheat farm into a wedding destination just six years ago. Yellow Gold Farm no longer grows its namesake “yellow gold” (though neighbors do—perfect for photo opps!), but the grounds do feature giant 130-year-old black walnut trees that tower over the nuptials, which can be held in the gazebo or under the branches themselves. “I have a weakness for trees, so I loved that the whole reception area could be surrounded by trees,” explains Ashlee Dunsworth, who was married there last July 17.
Meanwhile, The Garden in the Woods near Albany offers a few distinct scenes for weddings, including a in front the striking gate to the Asian garden or a grassy lawn with view over the natural three-acre lake and waterfront gazebo. A rock patio and dance floor surrounded with jasmine are perfect spots to party the night away. “It’s as elegant as couples want it to be or as casual as they want it to be,” says co-owner (with her husband Wayne) Helen Anderson. “It’s very personal—they feel comfortable and at ease to be here.”
A little farther away—but so worth the 25-minute drive from Corvallis—sits the 80-acre Thyme Garden, nestled in the Coast Range foothills. Rolfe and Janet Hagen settled here in 1989 after their herb gardens took over the Valley restaurant they had owned for the previous ten years. In addition to one of the largest collection of herbs in the Northwest, there are tall firs, two streams, and for the past 12 years, everything you need for a stylish, festive wedding getaway in the woods. “We wanted to make an experience, have it be a celebration more than just a ceremony,” says Rolfe. So couples are invited out on Friday for a rehearsal dinner cookout, can party by the firepit all night after the Saturday reception and even camp out on the grounds, and then send off their guests with brunch in the morning.
Catering & Cakes
In fact, another draw to The Thyme Garden is the food—signature dishes that take advantage of all those fresh herbs and even edible flowers. Each event menu includes drinks like agua de jamaica (a traditional Mexican drink made from hibiscus) and lavender lemonade, homemade breads like rosemary rolls with herb spreads, salads and sides with zesty dressings like curry tarragon, and of course, a main dish. We recommend the salmon, which Rolfe smokes all day in the traditional Native American method, on cedar stakes around smoldering coals. It is a sight to be seen.
If there’s one thing that all area caterers have in common, it’s a dedication to using fresh, local ingredients as much as possible. Cloud Davidson serves comfort food with a twist at his downtown Corvallis bistro Cloud 9 (available for rehearsal dinners—see more in the sidebar) and at local venues; Valley Catering also serves their fare, from Northwest classics to Asian fusion, at off-site locations. And Jacopetti’s Catering, based in Albany, has been sharing dishes made from scratch using family recipes for over ten years.
When it comes to sweets, there’s some new royalty in town—Rocket Queen Cupcakes, out of Albany. Jennifer TK has proven endlessly creative with her cheeky names and uncommon ingredient combinations. Out of over 30 cupcakes on the menu, the gourmet in us is curious about “She’s a lady” (yellow cake filled with orange flower water, lavender infused whipped cream topped with cream cheese frosting) and “Wine colored roses” (merlot chocolate cake dipped in dark chocolate ganache with a balsamic finish), but the glutton just wants to dive into “Squealer” (yellow cake mixed with bacon bits, topped with maple butter cream frosting). Custom orders are also available—root beer cake with marshmallow butter cream, anyone?
For more traditional (though no less finger-lickin’ delicious) cakes, Edelweiss Cakes in Corvallis has the lock on using the freshest, natural ingredients in their impressive, decadent creations. In addition to the classic flavors, why not experiment with champagne or pumpkin ginger cake, with marscapone brandy cream or a variety of seasonal Willamette Valley fruit fillings? Owner Carolyn Krueger welcomes different flavors on every tier, so you don’t have to choose just one.
Personal attention is a signature of many Corvallis area wedding vendors, but the ladies of Celebration Florals may be the cream of the crop. Former teachers Carol TK and Peggy TK always begin with free consultations where they listen and get to know each client—just like they used to do with students—to know exactly what their vision is for their wedding flowers. They stay on top of floral trends from as far away as Europe, bringing new ideas to the classic natural beauty of the area.
Indeed, all the farms in the area mean that brides have more access to locally-grown flowers than maybe anywhere in the Valley. Bethany Schiminsky of Sun Dappled Designs uses only in-season flowers that she grows at her home or at Thyme Gardens, with a focus on choosing both meaningful and eco-conscious blooms for each of her incredibly affordable bouquets. “I encourage clients to think of the significance of certain flowers in their lives when choosing a floral scheme,” she explains. So a bunch of orchids, lilies, and jasmine speak to affection, lasting relationships, and sensuality—quite an auspicious beginning for a marriage.
At Midway Farms in Albany, you can tour the grounds and pick out your flowers while they’re still in the ground; they offer a combination of planted arrangements, wildflowers, and unusual greenery for wedding flora. And at Philomath’s Greengable Gardens, European-trained florist Viesia Baliant uses the large variety of tulips, daffodils, irises, and peonies in her dramatic and sculptural displays.
And what about those photographers we met earlier? They’re the perfect example of big-city talent that call this small town home. Blue Castle Photography’s husband-and-wife team Jonathan and Carrie Brownell have been focusing on local weddings for the past six years, and their insider knowledge of the Corvallis wedding community is invaluable. They’re able to recommend fellow local vendors and know exactly when and where the lighting and scenery will be perfect at local venues. The timeless style that they bring to their photos is the result of a now-innate understanding of each other’s artistic vision: “Being husband and wife, that kind of relationship and history and understanding makes things go much more smoothly,” says Jonathan, “and guarantees we can get more variety of coverage.”
Katy Sharratt, who owns Corvallis-based KS Photography, has also been capturing wedding memories since 2004, and one of her signatures is an easy-going, go-with-the-flow attitude that goes far on a day when there will be inevitably be some hiccups in even the best laid plans. “I want the couples I work with to have fun, so I just adjust and adapt so we get the shots that the bride is hoping for,” she explains.
Chris Becerra’s striking images capture not just the sights, but the emotions of the day. “The pictures are about the connection between people,” he notes of his top priority. Indeed, it’s Chris’ ability to connect with all kinds of people—in addition to the impeccable photos he creates—that makes him such a hit at local weddings. Seven years after moving to Corvallis and five years after he started his business, he couldn’t imagine doing anything else. “I was the kid who grew up with the bathroom as a darkroom. Some kid’s are coach’s sons; I was a photographer’s son. I never expected to do this as a career, but I love it and I love shooting weddings—and I love Corvallis.”
We couldn’t have said it any better ourselves.
Where Guests Should Stay
- Donovan Guest Houses
- Harrison House Bed & Breakfast
- Hilton Garden Inn
- Holiday Inn Express
- The Pfeiffer Cottage Inn
- Salbasgeon Suites Hotel
Where to Have Your Rehearsal Dinner
- Big River Restaurant & Bar (eclectic Northwest)
- Cloud 9 Bistro (slow-cooked American)
- del Alma (Latin)
- Le Bistro (country French)
- Luc (modern European)
- Sybaris (farm-to-table)
- Vault 244 Bistro & Lounge (global tapas)
Where to Get Pretty
- Camellia Collection (vintage-style gowns and estate jewelry)
- Epic Day Spa (full-service bridal packages)
- The Kid Shop (flower girl dresses & ring bearer suits; Corvallis, 541.754.0185)