The lure of beautiful lakefronts, islands, orchards, and urban rooftops has many couples dreaming of their ideal wedding location. Often, that site isn’t around the corner or down the street and requires travel to a beautiful locale outside their area.

When St. Louis, Missouri residents Courtney and Alex Kelsch, both Michigan natives, began compiling their guest list, they realized it would be a destination wedding for most no matter the venue. So why not choose a scenic castle in gorgeous northern Michigan?

The couple made several planning trips to Castle Farms in Charlevoix before the big day, but Courtney believes that, in the digital age, planning a destination wedding isn’t any more difficult than organizing a hometown fête. “I was incredibly lucky; all the vendors I worked with frequently collaborate with Castle Farms and brought up everything that could go wrong. I don’t think I could have stumped them if I tried — and I did,” said Kelsch.

There are things every destination wedding hopeful should consider, advises Shelby Ferguson of The Day’s Design in Harbor Springs. “Hiring someone local to advocate for you is crucial. They know the best vendors to hire and have connections with liquor stores, dress shops, and restaurants.”

Tackling too many projects themselves is a mistake many couples make leading to stress when traveling, especially with flowers, which need tender care. Lovebirds often want an outdoor event which, on the wrong day, can wreak havoc with floral arrangements. “I always keep an eye on the weather and have had to make last-minute substitutions once the seven-day forecast comes out. That’s not a luxury you have if you’re DIYing flowers. Hire vendors that know how to deal with that,” Ferguson suggests.

Destination wedding musts

  • Consider your budget and include the cost of trips to see vendors. Meeting them in person will increase your comfort.
  • Transportation can be a headache in an area where hotels may not have shuttle, cab, or car services. Can you rent vans? If so, who will drive them? Plan ahead.
  • A detailed wedding website is an easy way to direct attendees to restaurants and sightseeing opportunities.
  • Guests at destination weddings are sometimes included in cocktail parties and brunches. Is this something you will want to do?
  • Decide early who, how, and when to extend those invitations.
  • Most importantly, have a back-up plan for any outdoor event. This is Michigan. You should always have an indoor/covered option available in case of bad weather.

But Oh, the Possibilities 

Northern Michigan
Thoughts immediately drift to the Grand Hotel, but Mackinac Island offers venues as disparate as The Inn at Stonecliffe grotto and the Somewhere in Time gazebo. The old and new Presque Isle lighthouses are popular venues, and resorts like Boyne Highlands offer lodging, activities, spas, and shopping for attendees.

Grand Traverse
Ninety percent of weddings held at Omena’s Cherry Basket Farm, with its farm-to-table catering company, Epicure, are destination events. Couples have traveled from throughout the state and as far away as India, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia. The Leelanau and Old Mission peninsulas also offer myriad vineyard and bayfront possibilities.

West Michigan
Beaches from South Haven to Muskegon, The Grand Rapids Public Museum — where guests can take a spin on a 1928 carousel — and the Bissell Tree House at John Ball Park Zoo are stunning possibilities. The beautiful Spring Lake Country Club opens its doors to nonmembers, offering a lakefront vista with couples standing under the 72-foot canopy of a billowing 90-foot willow tree as they recite vows.

Mid Michigan
Mid-mitten may not be top of mind for a destination wedding, but the choices here are unique. Midland’s Dow Diamond baseball stadium offers an out-of-the-ordinary experience, or guests can step back in time at the elegant 1880s Grand Ledge Opera House or aboard the Michigan Princess Riverboat. The Michigan State University horticulture gardens offer several lush wedding sites, including a glass arboretum.

Some 50 couples each year travel from around the country to Loft 310 in Kalamazoo and its modern spaces, including a rooftop “Skydeck” and, new for 2019, a Palm Springs-inspired outdoor venue. Southwest Michigan also offers farms, vineyards, and manors as well as the eclectic and cozy Acorn Theater in Three Oaks, where couples get hitched on a stage.

If providing guests with ample sightseeing activities is a priority, consider the triple threat of

The Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village, and Lovett Hall in Dearborn. Likewise, they’ll be stunned by the grandeur and elegance of The Whitney Detroit, built in the late 1880s. For those who enjoy the paranormal, the mansion is said to be haunted and features the Ghostbar.

It is impossible to list every venue for destination weddings. It might be best to start researching your dream setting and go from there. Michigan has endless options.