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michigan beach weddings 101 | the photos

Posted by Jennifer Mayo, Jennifer Mayo Studios

From a photographer’s perspective, the landscape of Southwest Michigan offers an abundant variety of photographic opportunities.  Beach weddings along the shores of Lake Michigan provide for expansive views of long, romantic coastlines and nostalgic lighthouses.  From New Buffalo to Grand Haven, Lake Michigan is also home to numerous charming lakeside towns that provide the backdrop of urban architecture for wedding day images.  Take a drive just a few minutes inland and you’ll be surrounded by a picturesque countryside.


As a photographer who also frequently photographs Windy City weddings, photographing events in big cities often presents some logistical problems that require allotting larger spans of time for dedicated photo shoots on the Big Day.  The nice thing about photographing weddings in West Michigan is that so many different photo locations are in such close proximity to one another and traffic is usually not an issue, so you can often visit most of your favorite spots for pictures and still manage to finish cocktail hour with your guests.


While planning a three o’clock wedding might seem like a good idea, later is usually better… West Michigan is at the far end of the Eastern Time Zone pushing sunset back to as late as 9:30 pm in the middle of the summer.  Mid-day sun is the least favorable time to take photos at the beach.  The sun can create harsh, unflattering facial shadows when high in the sky and often causes squinting.  Evening is a much better option for photos at the beach.  Take advantage of Lake Michigan’s sunset coast and consider the possibility of taking a few minutes away from your reception if your venue is in close proximity to the beach to take a few pictures at sunset.  If the middle of the afternoon is the only possibility for achieving photos at the beach, parasols to create shade where it is otherwise unavailable also make adorable props at the beach and water resistant varieties are even available if you’d like them to double for your rain plan.


Regardless of the time of day, a photographer experienced at photographing weddings at the beach will be equipped with the techniques to capture beautiful images in a variety of lighting conditions.

Photos by Jennifer Mayo Studios

michigan beach weddings 101 | weather


Last week it rained and snowed in the same week—if you know Michigan, you know that the weather is unpredictable! So if you’re planning a beach wedding, you also need to consider what you’ll do in case of inclement weather. Will you reserve a nearby pavilion? Will you use your reception location as your back-up? Will you cross your fingers and pray for sunshine? (I don’t suggest the latter)

Some ideas for back-up locations:

  • Your reception venue
  • A local art gallery
  • A covered pavilion (many local beaches have these)
  • Your local church
  • A museum

One thing I always tell brides and grooms to keep in mind, is that a summer rain storm rarely lasts all day. An optimistic spirit comes in handy if you’re thinking of a beach wedding! We’ve had a handful of weddings where the day has started off with thunder storms….after hours of rain the sun comes out, our staff dries off ceremony chairs, sets up decor last minute (so it isn’t destroyed in the rain) and the ceremony can still go on as planned! So if you wake up to storm clouds on your wedding day, don’t give up just yet—-you very well may still have that beach wedding you’ve dreamed of!

Rain isn’t the only weather culprit at a beach wedding….a sweltering hot day can make 100 guests sitting out on the beach WISH for a downpour! Consider providing your guests with paper fans, sun parasols or battery-operated handheld fans to keep them cool and comfortable! Because the last thing you want during your vows is Great Aunt Mary passing out!  (More “Michigan Beach Weddings 101”–The Dream, Location)

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

Photos by Haylee Dixon Photography, from the beach wedding of Jenny+Spencer

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