It Takes a Village – How I got married on San Juan Island

Posted on February 12, 2016

I’m Steffi. I have been with the Earthbox Inn & Spa for over a decade. I write this blog, I take care of groups, I am the resident Jackie of All Trades. A couple of years ago I fell in love. Hard. With a single Dad from Kirkland. For the first year of us dating, we saw each other only every other weekend. Until I moved to Kirkland last year, we had never seen each other on a Wednesday.

Getting Married on San Juan Island


Late last year, when visiting our friend Laura, the owner of the Earthbox Inn & Spa, sipping coffee on her patio, watching whales swim by, we decided to get married. On South Beach, on the first full moon of the New Year. Yes, we decided to get married on a beach in the Pacific Northwest, in January. San Juan Island is in a rain shadow, which doesn’t mean we never have slashing rain, nine-foot waves and 70 miles an hour winds, especially in January. Don and I started joking that we are registered with REI and our wedding color is Gore-Tex. The kids were worried.

South Beach is San Juan Island’s longest beach. The sun sets to your right over the snowy tops of the Olympic Mountains, while the moon rises to your left above Cattlepoint Lighthouse. Besides astonishing beauty, you’ll see bald eagles, otters, seals, sea lions, Orcas and every sea bird you have ever heard of. There is magic here and you can feel the power of Mother Nature.

The License

We applied for a marriage license with San Juan County, online for $61. There is a three-day waiting period and once you apply you can marry under that license for the next 60 days.

The Rings

We wanted unique rings with meaning to us and decided on Rosewood rings with a Mother of Pearl inlay. The wild rose is our flower and everything we do is by the sea. Simply Wood Rings, a small company in Chicago, made them and kindly held our hands through the process as we worried that they wouldn’t be ready in time.

Lovely wooden wedding rings

The Dress

Anticipating the above-mentioned nine-foot waves and 70 miles an hour winds, I wasn’t planning on wearing a white dress. Our friend Jayme though, the woman who introduced us, wouldn’t have it. She bought me several wedding dresses to try on. I decided on a simple one for $17.33, sewed some old lace and fabric flowers on it and bought myself a warm, beige coat at the second hand store to go with it.

The Minister

We knew we wanted to be married by our friend Therese. She is a singer and an actress, a swimmer and the best friend a girl could wish for, full of life and love, courage and art. She gave up fear for lent last year. Therese became an ordained minister for us, gently inquired what we had in mind and coached us both through writing our own vows and blew our expectations out of the water. If you don’t want a cookie cutter minister, contact Therese:

The Hotel

Of course we stayed at the Earthbox Inn & Spa. The location is simply unbeatable. Some of our guests didn’t bring cars and just walked up the three blocks to the hotel. The kids were over the moon to have the pool, sauna and hot tub.

We arrived late. I picked up the keys to the double queen room I had reserved for us, and found a note from Laura to go to the Wind Place instead, a two-bedroom house with a kitchen, 1 ½ bathrooms and a TV room with a fold out couch. My lovely co-workers had decorated it with white balloons, streamers and something that looked like giant white paper blossoms hanging from the ceiling. There was chocolate, popcorn and water. We felt spoiled and grateful.

For information on wedding blocks and group rates, contact me!

The Photographer

Laura, who is the best, gifted us a couple of hours with John Sinclair--friend, motorcycle enthusiast and mind blowing photographer. I had been worried about the shutter distracting us from being present. John was totally un-intrusive and captured the mood on our beach brilliantly.

The Wedding

Don and the kids went to South Beach several hours before the wedding to build a bonfire. It was raining hard. When I arrived with Therese the rain stopped and our small group of guests was gathered around a raging fire, sipping hot coco and coffee. My stepdaughter led us down a path to the beach, to a driftwood arch, decorated with balloons, seashells and bones, courtesy of Don & the kids. A couple of sea lions swam by, checking us out. It was absolutely still but the sound of little low tide waves lapping onshore. Therese did her magic and with lots of laughter and some tears later, we became husband and wife. We returned to the fire for champagne and toasts and stayed until the sun set dramatically and gorgeously after the rain.

The Reception

We had reserved the upstairs room with the fireplace at the Cask & Schooner, an uncomplicated public house with excellent local fare, by the water. We crossed Spring Street to enter the pub right when the ferry unloaded. Old friends and strangers getting off the ferry honked and hollered their blessings. When our guests arrived, we ordered drinks & appetizers. Then the Sound Vibrations, the island’s all women Acapella group showed up. I had sung with all of them in a choir before I moved and was more than delighted to see them. They sang a couple of songs for us, among them “Sweet Dreams” by the Eurhythmics, which made my day. If you’d like to be serenaded, contact their director, Angel:

Before returning to our hotel, Laura - did I mention what an amazing friend and boss she is? - drove us around the island in her convertible, with the top down. We leaned our heads back to see the stars and sang along with David Bowie as loud as we could.

It was a good wedding.