Spokane Journal of Business

A peek at peak wedding season

Many Spokane-area facilities said to host both wedding, reception in current market

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-—Samantha Peone
Ellie Aaro, CEO of Grace Catering LLC, which does business as Beacon Hill Catering & Events, says nearly all Saturdays through wedding season are booked at the venue, but couples still have options on Fridays, Sundays, and weekdays.
-—Samantha Peone
Beacon Hill hosts about 60 weddings a year. Its grounds become a popular setting after spring comes and plants flower again.
-—Samantha Peone

As Spokane approaches wedding season, traditional Saturday slots for both ceremonies and receptions nearly have filled up at some popular venues, managers say.

“Every year, it seems like people start booking further and further out,” says Bob Adolfson, owner of Glover Mansion Events LLC, which does business as Red Rock Catering, the event planning and catering service for Chateau Rive, at the Flour Mill, at 621 W. Mallon; the Glover Mansion, at 321 W. Eighth; and other venues.

For both Chateau Rive and the Glover Mansion, about half of Saturdays during peak wedding season book by the preceding October and virtually all claimed by January, he says.

However, weekday and Sunday weddings are becoming increasingly popular and are much easier to secure dates for, he says.

Venue managers say the peak season for weddings tends to range from around June through September.

From his experience, Adolfson says, most couples now have both the wedding ceremony and reception in the same location.

Built in 1888 by Spokane pioneer James Glover, Adolfson describes the Glover Mansion as a “Gothic, Tudor-style” facility that has a total of 12,000 square feet of space. The venue can seat 150 people inside, or 225 people with both indoor and outdoor seating in warmer months. It also features a garden that seats up to 250 people.

The Chateau Rive space was constructed in 1895 in what’s now known as the Flour Mill complex. Chateau Rive offers weddings near the Spokane River’s north bank. The venue can hold 200 people inside but can go beyond that number in summer when guests can sit outside as well, says Adolfson.

He says people choose the Glover Mansion because they like the inclusive packages offered at the venue, which include catering, set up and tear down, ceremony coordination, tables, chairs, linens, china, silver, and other dining necessities.

Chateau Rive also offers inclusive services, with some key differences. China and ceremony coordination, for examples, are charged at an additional rate, he says.

Saturday peak season rates for both the Glover Mansion and Chateau Rive start at a $3,000 venue rental and $3,000 food and beverage minimum. Pricing for other days of the week drop from that figure, and both venues offer weddings at an hourly rate during the week, Adolfson says.

As far as wedding trends go, he says couples right now are “really into customizing and bringing their own personal sense of style into their wedding.” While adding personal touches to a wedding isn’t a new custom, it’s something he’s seen grow in popularity recently, he says.

For example, he says, couples will choose different foods from catering menus to serve together rather than going with a typical meal.

“We really enjoy doing that. It gives them a chance to bring things that might be really familiar or traditional to their families,” he says. “We’ll even cook their family recipes if we can.”

Along with personalized meals, custom cocktails are a popular trend right now, says Ellie Aaro, co-owner and CEO of Grace Catering LLC, which does business as Beacon Hill Catering & Events.

On one occasion, Beacon Hill Catering & Events made huckleberry old fashioned cocktails for a couple who visited Priest Lake growing up, say Aaro.

Another common trend she’s seen is mix-gendered bridal parties, rather than all-female bridesmaids and all-male groomsmen, she says.

Overall, millennial couples in particular want their wedding celebration to represent their own personal style, she says.

Aaro also says peak-season Saturdays at popular venues she works with are nearly booked by January of that year. However, Friday, Sunday, and weekday weddings can still be available.

 “We’re still booking for 2018 at all properties, and we’ve booked weddings up until nine days before them, but we’re also already booking into and throughout 2019 and are fielding inquiries for 2020,” she says.

Two prominent venues Aaro works with include Beacon Hill, at 4848 E. Valley Springs Road which is also the address of Aaro’s event business, and Barrister Winery, at 1213 W. Railroad, which is owned by Greg Lipsker, Michael White, and Tyler Walters. Other venues Beacon Hill Catering & Events partners with include Arbor Crest Winery and Mobius Science Center.

The Beacon Hill venue includes a 6,500-square-foot clubhouse and 4 acres of gardens and ponds that overlook the city of Spokane, says Aaro.

Barrister Winery has partnered with Beacon Hill Catering & Events, which handles event planning and catering for the winery, for more than a decade, she says. The 100-year old warehouse venue attracts couples “looking for that artier and off-the-beaten-path experience.” Barrister Winery features original artwork on the walls that changes up month-to-month and a courtyard converted to an urban garden area for outdoor ceremonies, she says

The average catering costs through Beacon Hill Catering & Events is about $30 per person. Full-service venue packages for Beacon Hill range from $2,200 to $5,500. They include pre-event planning sessions, a day-of-wedding coordinator, a guided wedding rehearsal, set up and tear down, and chairs, linen, and tables for up to 250 guests, she says.

Full-service venue packages at Barrister Winery range from $2,500 to $2,950 and offer the same amenities for up to 200 guests, she says.

Beacon Hill hosts about 60 weddings a year, (including weekdays) Barrister Winery holds about 30 weddings per year, she says.

In the heart of downtown, peak season isn’t the only popular time for weddings. December can be a busy month for marriages at Davenport Hotels, especially The Historic Davenport Hotel, at 10 S. Post, says Matt Jensen, corporate director of sales and marketing for Davenport Hotels.

“Weddings are a big part of our business,” says Jensen.

Although December and peak season Saturdays fill up quickly at the hotel, event staff can sometimes squeeze weddings in a couple months before the event, he says. Jensen says couples are encouraged to check back in to see if they can be scheduled on a date another couple might have cancelled on. 

The Historic Davenport hosts about 100 weddings each year, says Jensen. 

The hotels have a wedding department and offer a room-block program, in which wedding parties can spend nights in the Davenport Hotels at discounted rates. Ten venues in the area, including Beacon Hill, Barrister Winery, and Glover Mansion, have agreements with Davenport Hotels, and discounted rates are offered to wedding parties that are having their celebrations at those venues. However, Jensen also says the Davenport Hotels is open to working with any wedding party, no matter the venue. Wedding parties also have access to the spa and other hotel amenities, and fees can be charged to the party’s rooms.

Catering averages about $55 per person. Ceremonies and receptions can be held in one of the Historic Davenport’s five ballrooms, and rental prices for those ballrooms range between $1,500 and $2,000. Pricing specials are offered for weekday weddings.

Jensen describes The Historic Davenport as “Spokane’s time machine.” The hotel was built in 1914, and each of the five ballrooms were created in different styles of European design.

He says, “It’s all about the fairytale wedding at the Davenport. There isn’t really much you need to do in the (ballrooms) as far as décor, because it’s all built in.”

Samantha Peone
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Reporter Samantha Peone joined the Journal in 2015 as research coordinator before later transitioning into a reporter role. She covers real estate and construction.

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