Just two years ago, engaged couples across the country faced a stark choice: postpone their wedding or drastically empty the guest list. As many of these couples finally come down the aisle, they’re shaking things up and doing things their own way.
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It all starts with setting a date.
“We’re booking so far into the future,” said Candice Grant, owner of Port 393 in Holland. “It’s not slowing down at all. We already have events booked through 2024.”
Grant and her husband recently launched Ivy House in Saugatuck, a second wedding venue that focuses more on outdoor experiences, complete with a converted greenhouse.
“We just started marketing Ivy House six months ago, and we’ve already booked 120 events there,” Grant said. “I feel like people are just, in general, more enthusiastic about hosting events and bringing their loved ones together.”
Go big or…not?
But due to sellers and placeholders, micro-weddings and runaways have become more popular. For example, at Lavender Hill Farm near Boyne City, the company has added packages that cater to couples looking for a smaller ceremony.
Packages include Elopement, Lavender Mini-Money, and Small Lavender Wedding. They range from 10 to 50 guests, with the option to accommodate up to 75 at an additional cost.
Lavender Hill Farm event planner Trisha Lockman told The Petoskey News-Review in March that by adding smaller, shorter options, the venue is hosting more weddings than ever before.
“We weren’t really sure when we started if it was going to take off and it was going to be something that was going to happen,” Lockman said. “And it happened. Even though things are getting back to normal, people are still looking for intimate type weddings.”
According to Jim Plouffe, managing partner of the Elope Up North wedding venue in St. Ignace, smaller weddings aren’t new, not only because they’re less stressful and less expensive, but because they’re more personal.
“Our goal is to give someone a wedding like a movie star would on the lake,” Plouffe told The Petoskey News-Review in March. “Without all that drama, without all that stress, and make it a very memorable moment that’s about the bride and groom, not the event.
“A wedding is a very personal thing, it’s really between them. It’s not about the party. So we try to make it very memorable for them, very unique for them and in a beautiful setting.”
The great outdoors
Small weddings may not be new, but gorgeous outdoor settings have become increasingly popular since the onset of COVID-19.
“I think people really like the idea of outdoor locations after going through what we’ve all been through,” Grant said. “We still have event guests calling us and asking about protocols – there are definitely people who are still afraid to gather, but that has dropped significantly.”
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Tim Overway, owner of Hog Wild BBQ in Holland, has seen a dramatic increase in barn weddings over the past 15 years.
“When we first started doing weddings, we would go to maybe three or four barns in western Michigan,” he said. “Now there are 15 or 20 scattered about. And they seem to be full, because we are full every weekend.”
Hog Wild’s dining orders have also increased, with more couples interested in semi-casual fare.
“Barbecue travels well,” Overway said. “We try to be an affordable caterer, and people seem to appreciate the ability to keep prices low. We do a lot of roast pork and chicken quarters. We also have beef brisket from time to time, and we even made ribs.
“For sides, you can go the traditional way with mixed vegetables and red potatoes, or you can go with the picnic-style pasta salad, beans, and macaroni and cheese. We make about half -half on these.”
Overway estimates that his company hosts more than 100 weddings a year, ranging from 250 guests to less than 75 – but he, too, has noticed a lower number of guests.
“It gets quite expensive when you’re trying to feed 200 people,” he said. “We still have some big ones, but it looks like a lot of people have cut those numbers down.”
Balloons, dessert bars and more
The change also came in wedding decorations and desserts, including bold and colorful balloon displays.
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“It’s always organic, trendy stuff for weddings,” said Lisa Higgins, owner of West Michigan Balloons. “Big gold hoops with balloons and greenery or flowers, it’s very popular at weddings.”
On his sites, Grant has definitely noticed an increase in balloon decorations.
“They’re gorgeous,” she said. “You can have a really big impact because they can be so much bigger than flowers. They’re big and beautiful and cause a stir, and that’s definitely a new trend. It’s part of that goal of really ‘wow ‘ your guests.”
The changes Grant has noticed since launching Port 393 have mostly strayed from tradition.
“I think people don’t do all the traditional things that they did in the past,” she said. “I think they really do what speaks to them about their relationship and themselves as individuals. How do they want to celebrate their day?”
This could include colorful glassware, late night snacks and dessert bars.
“That one is almost constant in every marriage,” Grant said. “Couples will have a cupcake to cut, but people do anything and everything with sweets. Bars of their favorite desserts, like donuts and pies. things.”
— Contact journalists Tess Ware and Cassandra Lybrink at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.