Back to top

Rustic Romance: Our Guide to Getting Hitched in Eastern Oregon

By: 
Megan McCarty Taylor Ellsworth

For a wedding day focused on intimacy and authenticity, Eastern Oregon’s majestic natural beauty provides an unbeatable backdrop for down-home pastoral affairs, aided by the bounty of ranches, farms and national park sites where a couple can say I do.

Oregon’s least-populated geographic area is also its largest. Traditional definitions establish Eastern Oregon as the region bordering Western Idaho and beginning just east of Bend. The Umatilla National Forest and its numerous valleys compose most of the region’s midsection, while the rugged mountains of the Wallowa National Forest cover the northeast-most tip. With such a vast and remote landscape, the cities and towns of Eastern Oregon each have their own flavor. Pendleton’s classic Old West vibe is as authentic as Joseph’s art galleries and coffee shops.

alfresco_oregon


Only a three-hour drive from Portland, Pendleton is also served by Eastern Oregon Regional Airport and offers TSA-free flights to and from Portland, Bend and Coos Bay. Visitors to the easternmost region can take advantage of nearby Boise, Idaho’s daily flights to and from PDX. Amtrak stations are located in Baker City, La Grande and Pendleton for easy train or bus transport to and from Portland, Eugene and Bend.

Pendleton and its surrounding northeastern Oregon neighbors provide a classic ranching experience—couples can exchange vows within the opulent oak-paneled walls of Hamley Steakhouse, a saloon-themed downtown Pendleton restaurant and event venue, famed for its unbeatable steak. Boasting an antique American apothecary, classic American cuisine and lavish, glossy décor worthy of a storied Southern estate home, Hamley Steakhouse is a fitting venue for brides looking to combine a rustic country vibe with dreamy elegance. A variety of indoor and outdoor event areas provide endless options—Slickfork Saloon, the largest of them, accommodates 250, while the Wine Cellar, Hamley’s most intimate option, caps out at 25 guests. Following the festivities, newlyweds can top off a weekend of country luxury at the Pendleton Bed and Breakfast, a pink, Italian Renaissance-style 1800s hideaway. Nearby, couples can tour the historic, quintessentially Oregon Pendleton Woolen Mills or try their luck at Wildhorse Casino.

backyardgardens


Just a few miles north of Pendleton lies Winn Homestead in Weston—an idyllic venue for couples who dream of rustic, down-to-earth outdoor weddings and relaxed barnyard receptions. With space for 150 indoors and 300 outdoors, this farmland gem is home to a historic, towering red barn, several acres of landscaped greenery and irrigated flowerbeds nestled against the foothills of the gorgeous Blue Mountains. To provide sustenance at such affairs, Backyard Gardens catering company (photo above) boasts an emphasis on fresh, locally sourced produce, local grass-fed beef, seasonal cuisine and the ability to personalize any menu to the couple’s tastes. Oftentimes, the produce featured in wedding dishes is straight from owner Beth Gibans’ farm in nearby Joseph.

geisergrandhotel


A few hours south of Pendleton, the sumptuous Geiser Grand Hotel in Baker City (photo above) features a stunning leaded glass skylight arcing above a built-in mahogany-paneled dining room that accommodates 300 guests. Wedding guests can feast on Columbia River steelhead and other locally sourced dishes while surrounded by Italianate Victorian glamour. A few miles west of Baker City lies Sumpter, a small mining town along the Oregon Trail, where historically inclined couples can take a trip through time along the Sumpter Valley Railway steam train (photo below). When it’s not carrying passengers through the gold-mining days of yesteryear, the train provides a charming backdrop for wedding-party photos.

sumptervalleyrailway


Bennett Botanical Gardens in Hermiston, located just 30 miles west of Pendleton, sets the stage for a forested fairy tale day surrounded by greenery. Situated on over two acres and populated with hundreds of evergreen conifers, deciduous trees, perennial plants and petunias that have stood the test of Eastern Oregon’s often harsh climes, this venue can accommodate 350 guests. Newlyweds can tie the knot after dark under an outdoor gazebo and trees strung with lights, or against the backdrop of a hypnotizing waterwall—just one of seven available water features. Crisp white chairs, 72-inch tables and market umbrellas complete the pastoral scene. The Gardens try to make things easy for couples: nearby Oxford Inn Suites partners with the Gardens to provide guest shuttles on the big day, while Gardens owner Kris Bennett also runs an organic floral business, KRISanthemums.


Despite often being overshadowed by the more densely populated Willamette Valley, Eastern Oregon is undeniably beautiful, rich with history and teeming with adventure—all the key ingredients for the ultimate Oregon destination wedding.

Resources:

CATERERS
Chuckwagon Sisters Catering (Joseph): Owner and chef Diana Wortman prides herself on never cooking the same menu twice. Creations are personalized based on couples’ preferences using local ingredients and served buffet-style.

Country Gourmet Catering (Hermiston): For a taste of the Old West, owner Sharon Harvey and her team sets up an authentic chuck wagon complete with Dutch ovens.

COORDINATOR
Memory Makers Event Planning (Boise, ID): Owner Glenna Tooman and her team of planners help Oregon brides pull the big day together by recommending the ideal combination of locations and vendors.

CAKES
Sugar Time Bakery (Enterprise): From the “Basic Betty” chocolate and vanilla variety to uniquely decadent treats like honey lavender and raspberry champagne cupcakes (yum!), owner Eva Harold will whip any confection her clients dream up, with a complimentary dose of small-town charm.

FLORIST

anativebloom

A Native Bloom (Bend): (photo above) Though based in Central Oregon, florist Madison Hartley travels far and wide with her painterly approach to floral arrangements.

PHOTOGRAPHERS

shelleyk

Shelley K Photography (La Grande): (photo above) Earthy and simple is how photographer Shelley Banks describes her work that infuses natural light and texture into every scene.

H&M Photography (Hermiston): Owner Daniell McAfee’s images are the sun-drenched and bucolic scenes that country weddings are made of.

RENTALS
Perfect Parties (La Grande): Everything a country wedding might require including rustic decor, signage and even lawn games to keep guests entertained.