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Beyond the Forest, a business that helps couples plan their weddings, now has a storefront location on the Plaza.

PMG PHOTO: SCOTT KEITH - Hayley and Michael Starkey, along with Chamber member relationship manager Jak Massey (in blue shirt) Planning a wedding can be overwhelming.

Where will guests sit? What will they eat? Open bar, cash bar, no bar? Everyone wants a wedding that will look beautiful in the pictures — wait! Who's taking the pictures?

Beyond the Forest, a new business in downtown St. Helens, aims to help couples-to-be answer those tricky wedding questions.

The South Columbia County Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon-cutting on Friday afternoon, July 22, to welcome owner Hayley Starkey to her new storefront at 245 S. First St., right there on the Columbia County Courthouse Plaza.

Beyond the Forest, according to Starkey, is a full-service wedding business, helping with photography, catering, bartending and floral arrangements.

Once operated out of her home, Beyond the Forest is now the latest addition to St. Helens' downtown business scene.

Starkey and her husband, Michael, decided to open the business to make it more affordable for people in Columbia County to get married.

"We pretty much bring the whole wedding to whatever venue you choose," Starkey said. "We actually go to every venue with you. We shop around and make sure it is in their budget."

Starkey added that soon-to-be-married couples may not be aware of wedding venues offered locally.

"A lot of Columbia County actually will rent out their acreage, so if someone just wants to bring a tent to their house, that's great," she said "We'll do whatever you want."

At Beyond the Forest, you can find plants, gifts and "look books," which are books that can be used to help plan the style and format of weddings and other functions.

In addition to house plants for décor, you'll find gifts that include soap bars, and Drifted Seasons jewelry, which is a St. Helens product.

As an added amenity, Starkey's business offers coffee, espresso, fresh smoothies and baked goodies.

"It's all to-go, so if people want to call, order and pick it up, they can," she said.

Beyond the Forest is intended to take the stress our of planning a wedding.

"We can do start-to-finish," Starkey said, adding that her business can also simply coordinate for clients who are already planning their own weddings. "I can just show up the day of and coordinate for them. I can help them build a timeline."

She explained, "My main focus when I'm doing coordination is I want to make sure the guests are enjoying themselves. I always tell brides and grooms that you need to focus on your guests because you want them to enjoy their time and stay as long as possible."

Beyond the Forest will handle backyard weddings all the way up to ballroom weddings.

"We've done it all," Starkey said, noting her business has helped clients well beyond Columbia County.

"We've gone to Mexico for a wedding once," Starkey said. "They had me do photography and coordinating. I actually planned their wedding with the hotel and got all the details of the florist there, because I obviously can't travel with flowers internationally."

Much closer than Mexico, there are popular locations for weddings in Columbia County.

"My most popular location is actually Caples House in Columbia City." Starkey said.

She says a couple of other locations are great for weddings, including Lake House in Scappoose and Camp Wilkerson at Deer Island.

In addition to flowers for weddings, Beyond the Forest can hook customers up with colorful flower selections for any occasion.

"We've always offered wedding flowers, but now we can get everyday flowers delivered (for any occasion)," Starkey said. "We deliver all the way from the edge of Scappoose to Longview."

Starkey is looking forward to getting to know the community at her new storefront.

Starkey said, "I've made a lot of connections through the Chamber. I'm so thankful for them. I'm actually a Kiwanis member, so I work with them a lot. They have really helped me make friends, which is really nice."

She added, "My husband and I have lived here for eight years, and we actually started our family two years ago. We really wanted to be able to enjoy spending time with our daughter more."

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