Northern Michigan Elopement Guide
Michigan is full beautiful locations in nature to choose to elope from. It could be a forested ceremony, a secluded beach wedding, a hike to the top of a dune for your vows, sailing Lake Michigan with your loved ones, or hosting a small event on a special piece of land you played on while growing up. The possibilities of where and how to elope in Northern Michigan are endless. This elopement guide is for you if you want to forgo a traditional church wedding and have a more intimate celebration of love. Northern Michigan’s diverse and underrated landscapes make epic and unique backdrops.
There are a few things to do to make things official when you start to plan your Northern Michigan elopement:
- First, you’ll have to choose a date and location. Keep in mind that Michigan’s weather tends to be most desirable May through October. The shoulder months are more likely to have cooler weather and rain. May is when the trees usually bud and spring flowers pop up after the long winter, it’s beautiful but the weather can be cold or wet. June, July, August, and September tend to be the hottest months. This is the busy season so make sure you contact your photographer as soon as you determine a date. October is when the trees and shrubs erupt into their autumn colors but tends to be more windy, wet or cold. Michigan’s weather is often unpredictable but really, any of these months have pros and cons. What is most importable and beautiful to you?
- Figure out if your location needs a permit. For example, there is a $150 permit needed to elope at Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes. With this permit, you can legally hold a ceremony in the park, but cap the amount of guests from 15-35 depending on the location. Once you choose where to host your intimate ceremony, a quick Google search should inform you if a permit is required. Although, if you plan to have a small gathering on private property, like on a family summer home on the Grand Traverse Bay, you may feel less restricted.
- Next, you’ll need to obtain your marriage license. You have to apply in the county you reside, or if you aren’t a Michigan resident, you apply for a marriage license in the county where the marriage is to be performed. Here’s where you can get a marriage license in Grand Traverse, Antrim or Leelanau counties.
- Hire an officiant and figure out 2 attendees that will sign your marriage license as witnesses. Fun fact, your photographer can sign as a witness. It’s also incredibly easy to have a friend or relative get ordained to host your ceremony if you don’t want to hire just any preacher.
These easy steps get the legal stuff out of the way for your Northern Michigan Elopement.
Now to plan the fun stuff for your Northern Michigan Elopement.
- If you aren’t from the area, you’ll have to figure out where to stay that’s near where you plan to elope. There are 100+ hotels in Traverse City alone. You can find anything from budget motels, to rooms on the water. Airbnb has plenty of unique options and can often get you more secluded lodging, or entire homes in the woods. However, they can sell out quickly in the summer months so book quickly. One of my favorite experiences outside of Traverse City is glamping at Nature Michigan.
- Make arrangements with your vendors.
-Photographer & Videographer
-Makeup Artist & Hair Stylist
-Caterer or Dinner Reservations
-Transportation or a Rental Car
- Elopements are carefree, right? It’s true, they are less daunting than a big traditional wedding. Don’t be too casual, it’s way too easy to lose track of time. Make an elopement timeline with exact locations. This is not only helpful for your vendors, but also for your attendees (if you have any) to know where to be, at what time without calling or texting you for more details the day of. Making a timeline will help me guide what is in my control as your elopement photographer.
Here’s an elopement timeline example for 4 hours of coverage:
10am | Breakfast with family
12a – 3p | Getting Ready & Brunch @ “Location”
3p | Photographer Arrives
3p-3:30p | First Look
3:30p-4p | Travel to ceremony site
4:30p-5p | Northern Michigan Elopement ceremony
5p-6p | Toasts, Mingling, Family Photos
6p-7p | Sunset Adventure
7p | Photographer Leaves
8p | Dinner reservations @ “Location”
9:30p | Bonfire @ Dad’s House
*Modify to fit your ideal day together*
A perk of an intimate elopement in nature is the lack of strict time restraints. If the weather is calling for rain, it might be a possibility to push the ceremony a few hours or even a day. Don’t let gloomy weather in the forecast make you worry too much though. I can’t tell you how many times I drove in rain, only to begin photographing and have the clouds open up for an epic sunset and beautiful sun flares. Even when that isn’t exactly the case, clouds do provide a nice diffused lighting for me as your photographer, and drizzly rain can sometimes cause rainbows. Throw your expectations out the window and don’t stress.
Your Northern Michigan elopement will be an adventure you never forget.