Outdoor wedding at Black Butte Ranch. Photo by Cascade Photography
Tying the knot in the great outdoors
Sisters Country is like a great cathedral, with spectacular peaks reaching to the vaulted sky and sunsets that are more vivid than the most glorious stained glass window. It is the perfect place for an outdoor wedding, from the shores of Suttle Lake to the banks of Whychus Creek in the heart of Sisters Country
A longtime destination for Sisters Country weddings is Black Butte Ranch, where all weddings take place outdoors against a mountain view back drop. Aspen Lakes plays host to many outdoor weddings, along with FivePIne Lodge, The Lodge at Suttle Lake and Lake Creek Lodge. There are numerous smaller locations as well, bed-and-breakfast venues which offer intimacy and privacy.
"I think the thing that takes people by surprise is how awesome the event can be when it's held outside," says Scott Huntsman, CEO of Black Butte Ranch, a longtime destination for Sisters Country weddings. "There's something magical in the setting."
Sisters Country is reliably welcoming in the heart of the summer wedding season. Earlier and later weddings are possible, too, with proper preparations.
"Weather is really the main thing," Huntsman says. All of the weddings on the Ranch are outdoors. The key is to be prepared — not just logistically, but mentally and emotionally. "Being prepared to be mentally flexible with weather issues is important," says Huntsman.
The Ranch always has a Plan B in place, but it's up to the wedding party to take weather issues in stride. With the right outlook, a little wild weather can make a wedding even more memorable. You have more control in an indoor setting, but the magic of an outdoor setting makes a little risk worthwhile.
Outdoor weddings require a little education of guests. Advise them to dress appropriately for the setting — and that includes shoes.
"Heels are tough in the grass for ladies," says Kelly Cyrus of Aspen Lakes, which plays host to many outdoor weddings.
It's a good idea to let guests know in the invitation that it gets chilly in Sisters Country when the sun goes down — even in high summer.
"You have the ladies show up in their little strapless things and they freeze," says Cyrus.
Make sure there is a plan for access for people with mobility issues and check in advance that there is a good power source for lights and a band's sound system. Adequate restroom facilities are a must, and if they're needed, it's worth spending extra for a nicer grade of portapotties.
With the popularity of outdoor weddings in Central Oregon during the summer, weekend dates can be hard to come by. Consider booking a mid-week wedding.
Whenever you schedule your wedding, make sure you contact your venue well in advance. That's important even if you're planning an event in a City of Sisters park or on the Deschutes National Forest. There are permits to secure and logistics to nail down.
If you plan your wedding at a forest campsite, Hoodoo Recreation (www.hoodoo.com) manages campgrounds on the Sisters Ranger District.
And Sisters city parks make nice outdoor venues. Public works staff will move picnic tables for you, make sure the restrooms are clean and get the park all spruced up.
"We make sure that the maintenance is done right before the wedding so the parks are groomed nicely," says Nicole Montalvo of the City of Sisters.
"They need to fill out the special event permit form, which they can print from our Website (www.ci.sisters.or.us) or pick up at Sisters City Hall (520 E. Cascade Ave.)," Montalvo says. More than 25 people is considered a large event and requires a $250 permit and a $250 refundable deposit. You must provide proof of liability insurance, and if you an to serve alcohol, you'll need a permit for that, too. Contact the city in advance — at least 30 days.
A gathering of 75 people or more on the forest requires a special use permit. And the Forest Service will want to vette a venue in sensitive areas, like the riparian area along the popular Metolius River. Parking and sanitation must be taken care of and they'll want to know your cleanup plans and make sure any signage put up for directions get taken down in a timely fashion.
"It's not a huge, huge deal," says Sisters Ranger District recreation director Kirk Flanagan. "We try to work through things to leave the National Forest as clean as possible."
Camp Sherman is another truly enchanting spot. Not only is this community in the middle of the forest — a beautiful location for exchanging vows outdoors — Camp Sherman's Chapel in the Pines is also a perfect spot for a vintage wedding.
Whatever your choice of venue, from the shores of Suttle Lake to the banks of Whychus Creek in Sisters, your outdoor wedding is sure to be a memorable event, sprinkled with the magic of the beautiful Sisters Country.
• Click here to visit our directory of wedding venues.