My Favorite Eastern Washington Wedding Venues

My Favorite Eastern Washington Wedding Venues

When you’re planning a wedding in a more rural area – basically any area that isn’t a major city center – it’s hard to find information on venues and vendors online. You’ll find listings for vendors in major cities – I’m looking at you Seattle-Tacoma-Olympia – on national websites, but it’s hard to find them for areas like Spokane, much less the Tri-Cities, Walla Walla, Yakima, or the Methow Valley and Winthrop.

So, here are a few of my favorite venues in Eastern Washington that I’ve worked at before. I’m also including a list of places I haven’t worked, but – hint, hint! – I would love to be your wedding photographer there. Contact me to find out if I’m available for your wedding date. I know that planning a wedding in a smaller town can be hard (we did it back in 2011!), so I’m always happy to pass along recommendations for other vendors I love.

Cave B Inn & Winery
I feel like I could write a love letter to Cave B Inn, and it would never say all the things I want to say about this gorgeous venue. Not only is the view out of this world, but the food is amazing and the staff are wonderful at taking care of their couples. When I photographed Jen & Chris’s wedding there last July, they were happy to share tips on little spots for photos that we may not have known about – since I’d never been there. Even though part of the Cave B was closed off during Leslie & Drew’s destination elopement (because of this little group called the Dave Mathews Band playing at the Gorge), they let us know where we could go and were so happy for us all. Someday, I’m going to go there for a night off and eat at the gorgeous restaurant and stay in one of the yurts! It’s an easy drive from Seattle or Spokane, and since there are plenty of accommodations on site, you don’t have to worry about where your guests will stay after the wedding.

Wedding Ceremony by Columbia River at Cave B Winery // Emily Wenzel PhotographyInterracial Couple at Cave B Winery Wedding // Emily Wenzel PhotographyEastern Washington Elopement at Cave B Inn Winery // Emily Wenzel Photography

Mazama Ranch House
The first time I drove up to Mazama, I fell in love. And each time that I have a wedding in the Methow Valley, I fall a little more in love with this beautiful slice of our state. Some day, I may just decide to stay and never leave! The Mazama Ranch House has a beautiful barn and – like Cave B Inn – rooms on site. These kind of locations are perfect for smaller, destination weddings. You could get married here in the snow, but I’ve only photographed Mazama weddings in the summer and fall. The Mazama Ranch house has the most wonderful red barn I’ve ever seen, and getting married here is just like getting married at a cabin in the woods. Someone, please book me for a winter wedding up here!!

Couple Kissing at Sunset at Mazama Ranch House Methow Valley // Emily Wenzel PhotographyMazama Ranch House Destination Wedding PhotographerWedding Couple in a field Mazama Ranch House

Spring Creek Ranch
My other favorite Methow Valley venue is in the larger town of Winthrop (Mazama is a hamlet, or maybe a village). Spring Creek Ranch has a beautiful old home, a gorgeous location with views of town, and while it feels secluded, it’s right at the end of Winthrop. Less than 5 minutes from the downtown area and you can walk there over a stunning foot bridge. Unlike the more cabin-like feel of the Mazama Ranch House, Spring Creek Ranch is more like getting married at your grandma’s beautiful old house, surrounded by the most stunning scenery. The Methow Valley is a small community, but don’t think that because it’s small, they can’t throw an epic wedding. They can – and do – host multiple weddings in the Methow Valley each weekend. The vendor who work in the Methow are amazing, and they love showing off their part of the world.

Spring Creek Destination WeddingWinthrop Destination Wedding PhotographyMethow Valley Destination Wedding

Fontaine Estates Winery
Oh, Fontaine Estates. This sweet little winery is tucked away in Yakima, and while their website isn’t very great right now, their Facebook page is updated often. Or you could check out one of the adorable weddings I photographed at Fontaine Estates. I love that this space is so flexible. You can have a country wedding or a simple and classic teacher inspired wedding (complete with lunch trays) in the same space. It’s a perfect blank slate, but in a way that doesn’t take too much work to make it look stunning. Does that make sense?

Yakima Valley Winery Wedding VenueYakima valley Country Wedding Yakima Valley Wedding Couple


Other venues in Eastern Washington
If none of these venues feel like the place you want to get married, maybe one of these other venues will be the place for you and your fiance. [listed alphabetically]

Walla Walla
Foundry Vineyards (I was here for a private dinner, and it is STUNNING)
Marcus Whitman Hotel

The Methow Valley
Freestone Inn
Mazama Country Inn (I haven’t photographed a wedding here, but I’ve stayed here twice, and I really like it)
Sun Mountain Lodge

The Tri-Cities & Benton City
Belle Fiore Gardens
J. Bookwalter Winery
Moore Mansion
Tagaris Winery
Terra Blanca

The Capitol Theater
River Ridge Golf Course
Yakima Valley Museum

Chelan, Leavenworth, & Roslyn
Sleeping Lady Resort
Suncadia Resort
Swiftwater Cellars

September Recap Post

September Recap Post

Hey all! It’s October, it’s raining today, and I’m working on a million things, but I needed to get this post up today. We’re back to a lot fewer photos…not that September wasn’t a crazy, beautiful month, but little miss has gotten quite adept with messing with my phone, so I’m doing my best to not have it out too much when she’s around. And, while I’d love to share a bunch of cool shots from when I shoot weddings, I never remember to grab my phone and snag a few! I’m really bad that that.

1.  We went over to Seattle for labor day weekend. The weekend started off pretty rocky, with us getting a flat a few miles out, and ended up starting our weekend with four new tires and a sad bank account. We also had to replace our windshield last month, and I think we’re now due for an oil change. BUT at one point, little miss was nursing and I tried to get a photo. She gave me her shoe instead. Thanks, baby girl.
2. It’s hard to capture this little lady’s hair. I think in most light, it looks kinda dark blond, but then the sun hits it and you can see the red in it. It’s also starting to grow in, and get longer. [See also: those eyelashes.]

Traveling with a baby // Emily Wenzel Photography

3. She started sitting up in her crib after naps (and now she stands), which is kind of impressive, since she still sleeps in a sleep sack. I found her like this after a nap. She was giggling and touching the wall.
4. For the dozens of you who’ve asked if our dog does okay with little miss, I give you this photo. He will lay there and let her pull on his collar, his ears, his fur. She’s poked him in the eye with her fingers (sorry, Shadow!) and he very calmly takes it all. He is the greatest friend a babe could ask for and these two are best of friends. She squeals with joy when she sees his face in the morning, and he would do anything to make her happy.

Babies and dogs // Emily Wenzel Photography

5 & 6. It’s no secret that I love the Historic Davenport Hotel. It’s one of my favorite wedding venues. But it wasn’t until last month that I got to stay there overnight! My mom came up for “grandma camp” and stayed at our place with little miss while we got away for dinner and a night off. It was strange and wonderful. The best part was probably ordering room service for breakfast and eating it in bed. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a lazy morning, that’s for sure!

The Historic Davenport Hotel // Emily Wenzel Photography

7. We loaned out one of our ring slings for a few weeks, and after getting it back, we had to get some extra snuggles in it. This is a single linen sling from Wildbird Slings, for anyone who is interested. As soon as we got it back, this lady demanded snuggles.
8. I had a networking event while H was out of town last month, so little miss joined me. It made networking a little more difficult, but I was impressed with her ability to hang out way past her bedtime.

My Wildbird Tanager // Emily Wenzel Photography

9. I traded with a friend for a few weeks and we got to love on this beautiful wrap. It’s a size we haven’t been using a lot lately, so I challenged myself to learn a couple new carries, including this gorgeous double hammock with a candy cane chest belt. As fun as it was, we still love our shorty wrap the most.
10. Little miss helping in the kitchen.

Babywearing Double Hammock CCCB // Emily Wenzel

11. We took advantage of a beautiful Sunday afternoon to get out to Bowl and Pitcher for a short hike. We got a new hiking backpack that little miss hangs out, so dad carries her. It’s great, because I usually have Shadow, and he helps me hike faster so I can keep up with H.
12. Technically, this was on October 1st, but…I don’t care. We were up in the Methow Valley for Heather & Craig’s wedding, and we hiked up to Blue Lake. The weather was quite different from the week before, when it was perfectly sunny and almost summerlike still. We had snow and were bundled up in our down jackets!

Hiking with a Baby // Emily Wenzel Photography

And just like that, it’s October! This month has been quite busy too. I mean, how is it already the middle of the month?! What did you do in September? Did you squeeze in something fun on those last few days of summer?

Doing a Frivolous Job when the World is on Fire

Doing a Frivolous Job when the World is on Fire

Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the light.
— Albus Dumbledore [JK Rowling]

This week, I’ve really been struggling with doing what I do. Don’t get me wrong — I love my job. I think I have one of the greatest jobs in the world. I spend my days capturing beautiful moments. But, in the currently world climate, I have wondered if what I do is a joke. I started this post a half dozen times, and wrote a zillion things, but it all came down to a few things.

I don’t save lives. I don’t help cure Cancer or West Nile Virus. I don’t work to change laws to make the world a better place. I simply photograph meaningful moments. My job is frivolous. It is unnecessary.

Church Wedding Photographer // Emily Wenzel Photography


After all, one does not need to have photographs – much less professional ones – to be married.

Yet, there is something to be said for the beautiful photograph. For that moment when you tear up as your partner promises to spend the rest of their life with you. For the moment when you see each other for the first time on your wedding day. Or the first day of your brand new baby’s life. Maybe it’s a simple moment at home, or as a family. Toddlers in all their glory and dogs and chaos and everyone grows so fast. It’s the last photo of you and your grandma, or maybe a photo of all your cousins together on your wedding day. Those college friends who flew in from all the corners of the world. It’s your dad dancing under the twinkle lights with your best friend from elementary school. Your mom embracing your new spouse. Those are the photos I strive to take.

Telling that story matters. Remembering the good matters. My job – my industry – may be frivolous, but we cannot fight the terrible things in this world 24/7. We must take time to cherish the beautiful moments as well. I don’t know what the next year will bring. I hope it brings more peace and love. I know that I’m going to continue to work to bring good in this world. We cannot sit around and just hope for things to get better. We need to work for them. We need to find the light switch and turn on the lights. So, I want to keep photographing these beautiful moments of yours. I hope that my job, while not life saving, brings light into your life and into the lives of the people around you.


Spokane Newborn Fresh 48 Session // Emily Wenzel Photography

Neuschwanstein, Schwangau, and Bavaria on Film

Neuschwanstein, Schwangau, and Bavaria on Film

I’ve been traveling to Germany for the past decade, and this was I think my 10th trip? I tried to count them up, but I can’t remember how many times I hopped across the border while studying in Prague. It’s like asking me to count how many times I’ve been to Portland. We’ve been to Munich a half a dozen times – after all, H grew up there. But for this trip, we knew we wanted a few day away from everything to just explore a new place. We looked at a bunch of different places, but when I saw this apartment on Airbnb, I knew we were coming to Schwangau.

Schwangau is where Neuschwanstein is – spoiler alert: we didn’t go to Neuschwanstein – and Hohenschwagau. It’s very typically Bavarian. In fact, on our second day there, the dairy across the street let their cows out into the field in the first photo. It was loud, and kinda smelly, but so very Bavarian. We laughed, and headed out to visit a few castles.

If you’ve ever been to Leavenworth, and loved it, you’re going to love the real Bavaria. Leavenworth, while good, isn’t anything like the real deal. The first morning, I woke up and snuck out on the balcony. The mist was out (that’s the first photo) and it was perfection. We wandered around and ate cake at a beautiful old cafe. I visited a cemetery (you can learn a lot about a village by how they treat their dead). We hiked a mountain with a baby and visited a castle. We almost got caught in the rain (which is why we didn’t make it to Neuschwanstein) and read books in the hammock on the balcony. It was good.

Schwangau Bavaria on Film // Emily Wenzel PhotographySchwangau Bavaria on Film // Emily Wenzel PhotographySchwangau Bavaria on Film // Emily Wenzel PhotographySchwangau Bavaria on Film // Emily Wenzel PhotographySchwangau Bavaria on Film // Emily Wenzel PhotographyVisiting Germany with Kids // Emily Wenzel PhotographyVisiting Germany with Kids // Emily Wenzel PhotographyVisiting Germany with Kids // Emily Wenzel PhotographyVisiting Germany with Kids // Emily Wenzel PhotographyVisiting Germany with Kids // Emily Wenzel PhotographyVisiting Germany with Kids // Emily Wenzel PhotographyNeuschwanstain & Hohenschwangau // Emily Wenzel PhotographyVisiting Germany with Kids // Emily Wenzel PhotographyNeuschwanstain & Hohenschwangau // Emily Wenzel PhotographyNeuschwanstain & Hohenschwangau // Emily Wenzel PhotographyNeuschwanstain & Hohenschwangau // Emily Wenzel PhotographyNeuschwanstain & Hohenschwangau // Emily Wenzel PhotographyNeuschwanstain & Hohenschwangau // Emily Wenzel Photography

My Favorite Coeur d’Alene and North Idaho Wedding Venues

My Favorite Coeur d’Alene and North Idaho Wedding Venues

When I first started making this list, I have to admit, I struggled a bit. I’ve photographed more than a few weddings in North Idaho, but many of them have been at private residences – homes that belong to the bride or groom, a family member, or something found through a vacation rental site. Here are my favorite North Idaho venues that I’ve shot at, and a list at the bottom of a few places I haven’t shot at, but would be great places to consider!

Private Residences
For everything from a lakeside elopement to a backyard bash for 100 guests, private residences in North Idaho – including Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint – are easy to find and great places to get married. It gives you the cozy feeling of an at home wedding without the stress of maintaining your own gardens. While finding a place may be difficult – and you’ll want to clear hosting a party with the owners before you book – it can be the perfect venue for a smaller wedding. Plus, you get all the joy of having a lake cabin for a few days! I do usually recommend hiring a planner for a backyard wedding, especially if you’re having more than a handful of guests! There are a lot of moving parts involved, and you don’t want to be the one they call when the toilet backs up. I might be gushing a bit, but private residence weddings are some of my favorite. I’m biased, because we had our own wedding at a private residence!

Coeur d'Alene Lake Wedding // Emily Wenzel PhotographyCoeur d'Alene Lake Wedding // Emily Wenzel PhotographyCoeur d'Alene Lake Wedding // Emily Wenzel Photography

Hayden Lake Country Club
Up until we did our winter inspired styled shoot there last fall, I didn’t know much about the Hayden Lake Country Club. I’d seen a few photos of it, but I hadn’t heard much about them. About 3 seconds after I arrived, I was completely in love. Not only is view of Hayden Lake stunning, the grounds and the club are beautiful too. Have a small intimate wedding on the deck and use the indoor space with the fireplace for a shoulder season or winter wedding. Seriously, the fireplace is so dang dreamy, imagine a winter wedding with a ceremony in front of it! Or maybe you’d prefer a large, outdoor wedding with a tent on the lawn? They do that too. The views of Hayden Lake are beautiful, and the staff are wonderful. They were so kind and helpful with our shoot — even having us stop to feed us a fantastic lunch.

Hayden Lake Country Club Wedding // Emily Wenzel PhotographyHayden Lake Country Club Wedding // Emily Wenzel Photography

Red Lion: Templins Post Falls
I’d like to think that the Red Lion in Post Falls is one of the best kept lake and riverside secrets in weddings. They’ve got a beach right on the Spokane River, a lovely hotel, and affordable prices. The don’t do many weddings, but if you’re on a tighter budget and dreaming of a lakeside or beach wedding, this would be the perfect venue! There is a beautiful, shaded, space next to the beach where you can have a wonderful reception, and if you want – rent a few stand up paddle boards and paddle off into the sunset. Not only that, you’re getting all the benefits of having a wedding at a hotel – catering in house, and places to sleep on site – with the bonus of having a gorgeous lake (errr, riverfront) wedding just steps away. Worried about other guests and boaters showing up? Don’t! They close the beach for private events.

Post Falls Wedding // Emily Wenzel PhotographyPost Falls Wedding // Emily Wenzel Photography

Rider Ranch
It’s been a few years since I’ve been out to Rider Ranch, but it’s a great little-known wedding venue just east of Coeur d’Alene. It’s one of the most stunning venues I’ve been to in North Idaho, and even though it’s not on a lake – shocking, given how many we have in North Idaho – it’s a beautiful space. You’ll get this great, blank slate of a venue, with the most beautiful scenery, and you’re only a few minutes from downtown Coeur d’Alene! As much as I love all of our lakes and rivers, I personally am just as much in love with the mountains. This beautiful working ranch is the place to go if you want a little bit of a country feel without having a big, red, barn.

Rider Ranch Wedding // Emily Wenzel PhotographyRider Ranch Wedding // Emily Wenzel Photography


Other Venues:
As I’ve said a dozen times before, I haven’t shot at every venue around. Here are a few other great venues in North Idaho. If you’re considering one of these locations, and looking for a photographer, I’d love to hear from you!

— The Blackwell Hotel
— Coeur d’Alene Casino & Resort
— Elkins Resort
— Schweitzer Mountain Resort
— Talus Rock
— The White House

[Listed alphabetically]

Not set on North Idaho? Check out my downtown Spokane venue list and greater Spokane area venue list too.

Munich in May

Munich in May

I didn’t take very many photos on our recent trip to Munich. We barely went into the city, in fact, we only went in once — to stroll around Schloss Nymphenburg on a sunny Sunday afternoon. As we wandered along the paths, the beautiful spring sunshine beating down on our shoulders, and the baby sleeping in her stroller, I had a moment where I realized — this could have been our normal.

I’d like to think that there are alternate universes out there, where things have gone ever so slightly different, and instead of living here in Spokane, we packed everything up and moved to Germany. In all realities, we probably wouldn’t be living in Munich, but it was a fun thing to think about as we sat down at the cafe and had our cake, and then posed in front of the lilacs on our way back to the car.

This last photo is something different. It’s the view from the sofa at my grandparents-in-law’s home in Munich. From there, you can see through the doors into their Winter Garten (the German version of a sunroom, it’s all glass and you put your plants in there in the winter). I’ve sat on this sofa during every trip to Germany, in this corner, and stared through these doors. I’ve seen rain and sun and snow fall out those windows. And this photo, more than almost any other, causes me such homesickness for a home I’ve never lived in. Funny how that works, isn’t it?