Kim & Travis - Vernonia, Oregon
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July 25, 2015
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From the bride:

When Travis asked me to marry him I had no idea our wedding would evolve into such a life-changing event.  Travis really wanted to get married in his hometown of Vernonia, Oregon, so I knew I had to put forth some steady effort in finding a suitable spot for all that I had dreamed.  He suggested Cedar Ridge because he grew up there-participating in several camps, growing up with the staff and their children, and it just felt like home to him.  I had to honor that request and take a look!

While visiting Cedar Ridge, I fell in love with its natural beauty and incredibly friendly staff, but it just didn't feel like my ideal wedding spot. At the time, they had only hosted a few weddings, and none of them were near the size of our guest list- 350 people.  As I politely let Tory know I was not interested, she took me to the upper grounds and expressed her love for the tall trees, the park-like atmosphere, and tranquil setting.  The longer I stood there, the faster my creative juices flowed.  The upper grounds had historically served as a challenge course for basketball campers.  Little did I know, a year later, that same area would be completely transformed into a breathtaking venue.  Tory connected me with Larry and Travis and I sat down with him to discuss my vision.  I showed him photos of what I had in mind, venues I had visited that really nailed it, and we put our heads together to create what we believe to be a very magical place. 

Throughout college, I photographed weddings during the summer months and really developed an eye and understanding for what it takes to host a beautiful and functional wedding venue. Having visited so many venues, I believe that the Cedar Ridge crew really valued my insight.  Their years of experience at camp provided for a dynamic combination of forces.  We wanted a wedding venue for everyone to enjoy for years and years to come.  We had to sit tight for permits, electrical work, and other major items for several months after we initially met. While this made me a bit anxious, Tory and Larry continuously reassured me that things would work out.  And they did.  The camp applied for a grant in effort to run power to the venue, received the funding around November, and from there it was on.  Larry, Tory, Ryan and I couldn't have worked as a stronger team.  They continuously kept in contact with me around what I thought would serve the venue best, and they worked tirelessly to make sure the venue was up to code, safe, and wedding-ready by the date.  Travis and I owe them the world.  I believe they're miracle workers!  Over the year we collaborated on everything from the design of the barn to the pruning of ferns.  We drew up plans for a barn, a bridge to connect the camp bathrooms and venue, arena-style seating for guests to enjoy the ceremony, a stage, reception area with a retaining wall that doubled as additional built-in seating, and so much more.  We had to continuously consider natural and artificial light during various hours of the day, ceremony, and reception protection from potential Oregon rain, and aesthetically pleasing backdrops for variety in group and couple shots. We spent months making it perfect.

We kept the important details in mind as we knew our main goal was to not only show our guests a good time, but celebrate our love with minimal complaints.  I knew that not only would I have to keep future weddings in mind, and allow for the next bride and groom to really see the venue's potential without all the decor displayed, but channel the energy and necessary accommodations for a wide variety of cliental.  The venue needed to look like a fresh and beautiful, yet blank canvas full of endless possibilities every time we gave a tour. While I knew we couldn't please everyone, major factors that I considered in the planning were: housing (Vernonia is a good drive and we didn't want people drinking and driving home), flexibility in set-up (it's too hard for me to imagine setting up for a wedding and taking down on the day of the ceremony! I needed time to minimize stress), on-site catering (this was perfect because Cedar Ridge is accustomed for large camps and they have the kitchen and staff to make whatever we needed), a good dance floor and flat/covered space for vendors such as the DJ and Photobooth, and a variety in ceremony and reception lay outs (there are essentially two locations within the venue; the Tree Cathedral and Reception Barn).

Being a country girl myself, I knew that old barns just oozed with wedding charm and allowed for flexibility in both casual and formal wedding set-ups.  I knew that tall trees not only provided shade for guests in those summer months, but a beautiful, natural, and breathtaking backdrop.   We ended up taking out several trees and limb-ing many of them up so that people could really experience that "wow" factor upon arrival. I knew that renting an outhouse was expensive (seriously, it's like $1,000 for a portable toilet!) and that close restrooms were a must. We knew that we didn't want the ceremony right under the sun because not only would that wash out the wedding party in photos and become a total nightmare for the photographer, and would melt the guests trying to enjoy the show.  Parking needed to be efficient and accessible for all guests, including those in a wheelchair-the aisle is wide enough for a gold cart to travel in the event guests need a ride to and from the ceremony.  As a mom, I knew that children needed to have a good time.  If there is one thing that gets me a bit twisted, it's children playing games on a phone during a wedding. Let's give them something to do! Travis and I grew up outside; climbing trees, catching salamanders, raising havoc-we knew children would have room to roam and be safe at Cedar Ridge. At our wedding, we did away with crayons and coloring books and went straight to the fun-a bouncy house. Cedar Ridge has their own and let me tell you what-when the children enjoy themselves, the parents enjoy themselves! There is also a swing set and playground area for them right next to the venue where it's close enough to see, but far enough to eliminate noise.  The bouncy house was a hit full circle and I couldn't tell you how many parents told me their children commented that it was the "best wedding they had ever been to!"

In addition to Cedar Ridge catering our food, Honorary Uncle Loren Dennis BUILT a wood-burning pizza oven for us to use. We totally had fresh pizza in the middle of the tranquil forest! Our guests were just smitten.  Our Aunt Neano made our wedding cake that people were begging me for the recipe afterwards.  We had red velvet, a raspberry cream, and a hummingbird cake that is basically banana and pineapple bread with cream cheese frosting.  It was incredible.  Other details that we incorporated that was unique to our wedding was a full bar complete with a bartender in a kilt, a 200 foot slip n' slide that we used just for the bridesmaids and groomsmen two days before the wedding (in effort to help everyone bond and become more than just a wedding party- they became friends), and we kicked off the ceremony with a unity toast for all of our guests. It was magical. It made me want to become a wedding planner. It was the best day of our lives!

We. Were. The. First. People. To. Get. Married. Here.

We named it Gwin Grove after our ancestors, and couldn't be happier.

We were ridiculously excited. Like, seriously? Can we have two weddings, here?!

 

 

-Kimberly and Travis Gwin

 

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