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michigan beach weddings 101 | location

You’ve heard the saying right, “location! location! location!?” We talked about the dream—just you, your groom & guests, a gentle breeze and not another soul on the sand for miles? The reality is, on a beautiful summer day, you’re likely going to see people on the beach—and that’s not a bad thing! If there’s no one around, it’s probably because you’ve trekked half a mile from a public entrance, or it’s—dare I say the word—RAINING! So don’t fret—having a few beach goers out means you have a beautiful day on your hands!

Many brides see photos from beach ceremonies on our blog and are shocked to find out it took place on a public beach with beach goers (very politely) minding their business 100 feet away—you’d never know it from the beautiful photos! Unless you have access to private beach property, you can expect that on a public beach you will have some fellow beach goers—we’ve politely asked more than a few to relocate in order to secure the perfect ceremony spot—and take it from me, if you offer to help carry beach chairs and umbrellas, you’ll rarely hear a ‘no!’ So no worries, if you select the right beach, you can still secure a spot that is gorgeous and will provide you with an amazing backdrop for your photos, regardless of a few vacationers enjoying a beautiful Lake Michigan day!

So how do you find that perfect beach ceremony location? There are a lot of factors that go into finding a bride & groom the beach that will best fit their needs—-guest count, city ordinances, sound requirements, accessibility—-for your best options, contact a Michigan wedding planner who is familiar with the area and can direct you to public beaches or rental homes that can provide the best location for your ceremony needs! All beaches are not created equal and you want to ensure you don’t pick a (lovely) but highly popular and congested beach where your photos will feature one too many bikini-clad beach combers, or drunk beach-goers will outnumber you 100 to 1.

While trying to choose the perfect ceremony location, here are just a few important questions to consider:

Is there ample parking available?
This is one area where unexpected costs can arise. When budgeting, take into consideration the cost for shuttle service to get guests to the location, or for many public beaches, the cost of admission/parking. This can add up to as much as $9 per car in Southwest Michigan, but can often be paid for ahead of time if the proper arrangements are made.  If your ceremony location has an admission fee, that is a cost you’ll want to cover for your guests. If you’re tying the knot on a public beach with limited parking or a private residence where parking is limited, you’ll want to consider shuttle service.

Is it easily accessible to handicap or older guests? Are there restroom facilities for small children?
Secluded beaches or outdoor areas can be beautiful, but make sure to consider accessibility and amenities. Do you have older guests who will not be able to walk the distance? Is it handicap accessible? Are there nearby restrooms for small children who are attending?

Are there any policies, ordinances or restrictions to consider?
For example, some public beaches will not allow chairs brought in and will request all guests stand. This is fine for a group of 50 or less guests, but can be difficult for a larger wedding of 150. Also, if you’re renting a public park or beach area, you’ll want to check on any restrictions with serving alcohol if you’re hosting an outdoor reception at the site. In Southwest Michigan, most public beaches are governed by the city or county and do not permit alcohol. They also will not “reserve” any portion of a public beach—it’s first come, first served.

Dreaming of a beach ceremony in Southwest Michigan? Find out how our Beach Ceremony Services can help you plan a gorgeous Lake Michigan event!

Photo by Ben Pancoast, from the beach wedding of Tanya+Jason

michigan beach weddings 101 | the dream

This week we’re starting a new blog series on Michigan beach weddings! We plan 15-20 beach ceremonies each summer and we want brides to be prepared and knowledgeable before deciding if this is the right option for them! Because while beach weddings are certainly some of the most beautiful, they are certainly not for every bride!

So first up, let’s talk about your expectations for a beach wedding. We all know what that idyllic magazine beach wedding looks like— a beautiful stretch of beach, an elegant fabric covered canopy blowing in the breeze, the soft strum of guitar as the bride descends barefoot across the sand—just you and your guests, the soft waves of Lake Michigan and not another soul for miles. Who wouldn’t want to be the bride in this beautiful picture?!

Stay tuned this week and next as we cover the realities of a beach wedding (you can certainly have that idyllic day!)—what to expect, how to prepare, finding the perfect spot, time considerations, what to wear, restrictions & ordinances, weather worries and budget considerations. We’ll share real examples from beach weddings we’ve planned and coordinated, and help you determine if a beach wedding is the right fit for you!

Dreaming of a beach wedding in Southwest Michigan? Find out how our Beach Ceremony Services can help you plan a gorgeous Lake Michigan event!

Photo by Jennifer Mayo Studios

real wedding::beth+cesar’s lake michigan wedding trailer

As I’m looking out my window at “snow-pocalypse” 2011 (for those of us in the Midwest), I’m trying to tell myself that spring (and then summer) is just around the corner. On days like this it’s hard to remember what an amazingly beautiful place Southwest Michigan is in the summer! So as a little reminder, check out this absolutely stunning wedding trailer from Beth+Cesar’s September 2010 wedding on Lake Michigan, by Coastline Studios! Love this couple, love this location and love that this video looks like an amazing shot right out of a Pure Michigan ad! It makes me long for summer, warm days on beautiful Lake Michigan, and another wonderful wedding season.

Cesar & Beth’s Wedding Trailer from John Pottenger on Vimeo.

You may remember I mentioned before that this entire wedding was bi-lingual, with the ceremony, stationery and speeches all spoken in English and Spanish, which was so special and beautiful! The beautiful tented reception began with cocktail hour on the lawn overlooking the Lake and ended with an amazing fireworks display over Lake Michigan! Once again I have to give a huge thanks to Coastline Studios for capturing the day in film, St Joseph wedding photographer Jennifer Mayo for her gorgeous photos, and the gang at Modern Day Floral for another gorgeous job well done!

real wedding | beth+cesar’s lake michigan wedding – part 2

Talk about an amazing location for your wedding—this tented wedding on Lake Michigan was absolutely stunning, from the beautifully draped tent to the lush florals by Modern Day Floral, to the incredible band, Maggie Speaks, out of Chicago. Talk about fun—the bride & groom even had their own custom tambourines to celebrate, and the night ended with a show-stopping fireworks display over the lake! It was most certainly a picture-perfect Lake shore wedding captured by Jennifer Mayo Studios!

real weddings::beth+cesar’s lake michigan wedding

There were so many things I loved about Beth+Cesar’s beautiful September wedding. The setting was amazing—-the brides parents home on Lake Michigan, under a gorgeous tent overlooking the lake. The view was absolutely stunning, the lush florals by Modern Day Floral were exquisite and there were some fantastic personal details tied in. There are so many beautiful photos from Jennifer Mayo Studios, we’ll be sharing them in several posts over the next few days!

After 3 days of some of the highest winds we had all summer, Beth+Cesar’s day started full of sunshine, and calm skies! I’m so thankful when that happens!  The photos speak for themselves on this one…a lovely couple, amazing location, tons of family & friends and lots of fun!

One of my favorite things about this wedding was how much attention Beth put into making Cesar’s family (flown in from Spain) feel included and welcomed, despite a language barrier. Every piece of stationery from invitations to table numbers, to the program, were bi-lingual.  During the reception, speeches were translated via small headsets. During the ceremony, readings and vows were also recited in both English and Spanish. It was something that struck me as extremely personal and such a beautiful inclusion.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

real wedding::tanya+jason’s st. joseph beach wedding

This summer was filled with beach ceremonies for us—ceremonies on the waters of Lake Michigan are some of our favorites and always some of the most beautiful!  One of those beautiful beach ceremonies was planned for Tanya+Jason on July 6th. They tied the knot right by the water, surrounded by their closest friends and family. Tanya+Jason planned their wedding in just a few months from out of state, and we helped them pull together everything they needed for their beach wedding ceremony—an officiant,  fantastic guitarist, photographer, bridal bouquet & ceremony decor, rentals, a trolley and a nearby restaurant for an intimate dinner reception after wards. They could not have asked for a more beautiful day for a Lake Michigan wedding, and we couldn’t have asked for a nicer couple to work with!

I think my very favorite thing about this wedding was the fact that despite threats of rain, we made it through the ceremony without a drop. Tanya walked through the dunes down on to the beach, said I Do, wandered the beach (and pier) for photos and just as they hopped back onto the trolley, the skies opened up.  The shot above was just before the storm rolled in.  We couldn’t have asked for more perfect timing!

Photography by Southwest Michigan wedding photographer Ben Pancoast

real wedding:: brittany+scott’s lake shore wedding, part 2

After a beautiful ceremony at Shadowland Pavilion, guests were invited to enjoy a beautiful tented cocktail hour on the lawn of the Silver Beach Center, before heading inside to Shadowland Ballroom. Escort cards were nestled into wooden trays filled with pebbles and succulents, and the tables were beautifully appointed with gorgeous centerpieces from Modern Day Floral. When I first sat down with Jenn at Modern Day and we talked about Brittany+Scott, what they were like, their style, and the concept I had in mind, she not only got it, she made it even better and she is so much fun to work with! Beautiful manzanita (very reminiscent of driftwood) was used in several of the reception centerpieces and focal pieces, and the bright white flowers with all of their beautiful fresh green stems paired with tons of candlelight were just perfect! I loved it not only because it was beautiful, but it was absolutely perfect for Brittany+Scott—elegant, natural and reminiscent of the beach, but not overdone!
And the dessert table? One of my favorites! There were 6 different cupcake designs in 4 delicious flavors, whoopie pies, blue gummi bears (the brides favorite) and other assorted bites of goodness! A huge thanks to Dee’s Specialty Cakes for the delicious cupcakes and whoopie pies! Brittany+Scott had a fabulous band, the Dave Ivaz Orchestra who had people dancing all night…and boy did they dance…this group got right out on the dance floor at the first song and never left—it was a great party!

Brittany+Scott, thank you so much for trusting us with your special day, and for being such an absolute pleasure to work with! If you’re curious about their sailing adventure, you can live vicariously through them (like I am!) by following them on their blog at!

If you missed Part 1 of Britt+Scott’s wedding, check it out here! All photos are by talented duo Ben+Mindy Peterson of Studio623

real wedding:: brittany+scott’s lake shore wedding, part 1

We plan several full-service weddings each summer…these are couples we get to work with from start to finish to plan every detail and aspect of their weddings, and we usually get to work with them for 6-12 months! When I met Brittany+Scott for the first time last November, I knew this was going to be a fantastic wedding with a fantastic couple, and it was going to be so fun to plan! Brittany+Scott are from Chicago, but they’re 2 sailors who happened to meet in St. Joseph during the Tri-State Regatta, so having the wedding in the same city where they met was the perfect choice for them. They wanted a beautiful wedding that was elegant but casual, beachy but not overdone. Working with Brittany was amazing, because she gave me direction and an overall feel, and she let me run with it! (I’ll be sharing another post later this week showing how a wedding develops from inspiration to the finished product).

The ceremony was held at Shadowland Pavilion on Silver Beach, which overlooks the St. Joseph River and lighthouse, and is right across the river from the yacht club where they met—the perfect place to tie the knot with sailboats drifting by behind them! The photo lower right shows Brittany opening her wedding present from Scott—a flag for their sailboart, named Rasmus! Just a few weeks ago these 2 embarked on a sailboat trip around the world which will keep them out on the water for several years—-a pretty incredible journey for these adventure-seeking newlyweds!

Despite torrential rain the entire morning of the wedding (and I mean serious, ‘will it ever stop?’ rain) the storm clouds parted and the skies were dry and blue for their afternoon ceremony. They walked down a gorgeous custom aisle runner adorned with a dune grass pattern that coordinated with all of their stationery items from Save the Dates to Welcome Bag maps! The father of the bride surprised them with personalized golf umbrellas for guests in case of rain, and also, to stay optimistic (which paid off) hand held motorized fans with the couples names! It was blazing hot by the time the ceremony came around, so guests were so appreciative and they were a great little memento!

I’ll share more on the florals and decor in the next post, but check out the ceremony arrangements and those gorgeous bouquets! The amazing team at Modern Day Floral absolutely rocked out these bouquets—-elegant, earthy and unique—just like this couple! Stay tuned later today for more on their reception and details!

All photos are by talented duo Ben+Mindy Peterson of Studio623!

real wedding::michele+john at mill creek barns

September is one of my favorite months for weddings—especially outdoors! The weather cools down, beaches clear out, and fall weddings lend themselves to so many rich and vibrant color choices! When Michele+John decided to host their ultra-relaxed and intimate wedding at Mill Creek Barns on September 25th, I knew it was going to be fantastic. They are a laid back and super sweet couple, and I could tell from their first email that I was going to enjoy working with them!


We plan a lot of beach weddings throughout the summer, but September is my favorite month for lake shore nuptials! With kids back in school, the beaches are deserted and we are able to have a pristine, beach go-er free backdrop for ceremonies on Lake Michigan! Michele+John had a beautiful ceremony, with beautiful crashing waves, and despite just a bit of chilliness, it was an absolutely gorgeous afternoon! Guests were greeted with baskets of flip flops so they could slip off their formal shoes before hopping in the sand and Michele’s dress….absolutely gorgeous! Instead of a unity candle or sand ceremony, they planted a rosemary bush, adding soil and water from vintage blue mason jars, symbolizing the love they will nurture and help to grow.


After the ceremony,  guests headed over to Mill Creek Barns where they were greeted with passed h’ors dourves, lemonade and iced tea, hot cider , delicious apple donuts and old-fashioned yard games like croquet and bocce ball! Vintage blue mason jars filled with bright and cheery sunflowers adorned the tables, and guests were given tiny glass jars filled with orange, yellow and green chocolate-covered sunflower seeds. A vintage window pain strung with twine and clothespins held “wishes” from guests…so many adorable details

Friends and family enjoyed a delicious family-style meal before dancing the evening away and enjoying a lovely bonifre. All of these lovely photos were captured by Amy Carroll (who we were so excited to get a chance to work with!) and you can see many, many more on her blog!

Michele+John, thanks for letting us be a part of your special day—it was a personal and beautiful day and we were so happy to be there!

real wedding sneak peek::dave+shannon’s southwest michigan beach wedding

Sweet bride? Check. Beautiful day? Check. A wonderful groom, fantastic location & tons of fun family and friends? Check. Check and Check! On August 7th we coordinated the wedding of Dave+Shannon, who tied the knot in a lovely & personal ceremony on the beach, followed by a reception at the Veranda at the Whitcomb in downtown St. Joseph.


Three things I loved about this wedding:

1) They opted for freshly made pies (complete with a heart cut on top) that sat at each guest table. Shannon collected a variety of cake plates, and Crystal Springs provided beautiful wreaths of flowers and greenery to wrap around them. They made for beautiful centerpieces!

2) Their signature drinks was the Matrimotini—-too cute!

3) The escort cards were adorable—tiny paper umbrellas that were tucked into wicker trays filled with sand. They were colorful, cute and a perfect tie-in to their beach wedding!

Shannon and Dave, thank you for letting us be a part of such a beautiful day, and for being so much fun to plan with! All photos are courtesy of Kelly Powers Photography—we’ll post more soon!