MY March 2012 : Bride-26
Megan Swoyer Garbinski
<br /> Whether basking in beachside bliss or teeing up amidst a log lodge atmosphere in northern Michigan, your wedding locale is most definitely the icing on the cake.<br /> <br /> When Shanna and Allen Verriest decided to tie the knot a few years ago they had their hearts set on sandy beaches and oceanfront breezes. The Shelby Township couple's wedding dreams came true nearly three years ago near Cancun, Mexico, at the Excellence Playa Mujeres resort.<br /> <br /> "I have always wanted to have a destination wedding," says Shanna Verriest. "We love Mexico with its beaches and scenery so we thought it would be a good choice for our wedding." The couple exchanged vows on the beach in October and although they were a bit surprised by the high temperatures (it was in the 90s), they were ultimately thrilled with their destination decision.<br /> <br /> The reception, which included 22 family members and friends, was held on a rooftop terrace at the resort.<br /> <br /> The Verriests' are one of many couples opting to marry outside of their hometowns. According to Knot Inc., a leading lifestage media company with wedding websites, about 24 percent of U.S. couples are planning destination weddings this year.<br /> <br /> With plenty of planning and a good dose of resourcefulness, these weddings can turn out to be a couple's most cherished getaway.<br /> <br /> Verriest says overall, her wedding went quite smoothly. "We used a travel agency (Shelby Travel) which helped us a lot," she recalls. "Some of their staff had first-hand experience at our resort which was great." Verriest also researched quite a few destinations on the Internet before making a decision. "It helped to read online reviews to see what people were saying about different resorts."<br /> <br /> The busy mom says she appreciated that her wedding package was pretty much all-inclusive and even featured a photographer. "Weeks in advance of the wedding, the resort's event planner would email us information and options so that we could choose things like flower type, cake flavor, food and wedding location," she explains. "Then when we arrived we made our final selections."<br /> <br /> The bride was extremely happy with her decision to beach it. "We got used to the humidity and the heat," she says. "I wouldn't change anything about our destination wedding. We all love to travel so it was a great opportunity for all of us to be together in a beautiful place."<br /> <br /> OLD FLORIDA CHARM<br /> <br /> When Cathy Heinen of Grand Blanc was in the throes of her son's wedding plans four years ago, she was most impressed by the way the bride and her family orchestrated a destination wedding in Boca Grande, Fla., on Gasparilla Island. Heinen, too, got into the planning act and hosted a memorable rehearsal dinner on the island, but not without a lot of preparation.<br /> <br /> This page:The Gasparilla Inn & Club, top, built in 1913 in Boca Grand, Fla. on Gasparilla Island, is a popular spot for island-style weddings. Photo courtesy Garparilla Inn & Club. Shanna and Allen Verriest, above, tied the knot in Mexico at the Excellence Play Mujeres resort near Cancun.<br /> <br /> Opposite page: Here come Mr. and Mrs.Verriest, who didn't need "something blue,"for their wedding day,as it was as far as the eye could see, thanks to the gorgeous blue ocean. Photos courtesy Shanna Verriest.<br /> <br /> Above: Whether you have a passion for golf or not, Garland Lodge and Resort, which features four golf courses, offers romance galore for brides and grooms.<br /> <br /> Right:This couple was all about rustic elegance when they chose to get married at Garland.Towering pines and hardwoods and a stone path lined with pails of pretty daisies, made their walk down the"aisle"a memorable one.<br /> <br /> "I very much appreciated the pre-wedding trip we took to Boca Grande, especially meeting the folks at the club where we held the rehearsal dinner," says Heinen. The wedding took place at a small, quaint church while the reception was held at the Gasparilla Inn & Club, an idyllic southwest Florida wedding venue built in 1913 complete with a charming ambiance.<br /> <br /> "I highly recommend seeing everything in person before the wedding if possible," Heinen says.<br /> <br /> Like the Verriests, a sense of place played an important role for Heinen's daughter-in-law, whose family had been vacationing on Boca Grande since the 1950s.<br /> <br /> "I grew up going there with my family every March," she says. "It's a special place with a lot of great memories for me, where I always felt relaxed and had a lot of fun." She and her husband-to-be thought it was the perfect spot for a wedding. "Also, we knew everyone would get a little vacation built into the wedding trip."<br /> <br /> Balmy breezes, endless Gulf beaches and year-round sunshine, make southwest Florida's Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel (which includes Boca Grande) one of the world's most romantic wedding destinations.<br /> <br /> "Wedding parties are drawn to this area because of its island feel without traveling outside of the country," says Nancy Hamilton of the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau.<br /> <br /> "I loved our wedding," adds Heinen's daughter-in-law, "and I wouldn't change a thing."<br /> <br /> RUSTIC STYLE<br /> <br /> A location in rustic northern Michigan was just the ticket for a couple that married recently at Garland Lodge and Resort in Lewiston, Michigan, just south of Gaylord.<br /> <br /> They hired wedding planner Tracie Morris of Livonia-based, You're the Bride. Morris has been planning couples' special day for the past 13 years.<br /> <br /> "The father of the bride wanted to have the wedding and reception at Garland because he was fond of the area, and because the guests would be able to enjoy beautiful surroundings and play golf if they wanted (there are four courses that play out of one clubhouse)," Morris says.<br /> <br /> As this was his only child, he wanted the entire experience to be special for not only his daughter, but also the entire wedding party and all the guests. "He wanted to make a whole weekend out of it."<br /> <br /> Located in the heart of northern Michigan, Garland's golf courses meander around lakes and streams, and through wildlife-rich forests and challenging elevation changes. The resort offers more than 180 guest rooms.<br /> <br /> But the piece de resistance for log buffs is the resort's rich, wooded beauty. Built of 15-inch Engelmann spruce logs from British Columbia in 1985; the spacious facility-gleams with log-style appeal at every turn. Take the soaring lobby, for example, it welcomes guests with comfortable furnishings in front of a huge fireplace, game table, old snowshoe adornments, stunning stained-glass windows and more.<br /> <br /> Morris says "Weddings held at locations such as Garland are made all the more special with memorable northern Michigan touches, such as a down-home rehearsal dinner of hot dogs, burgers, and s'mores served around a fireplace."<br /> <br /> This October, Morris is planning another wedding at Garland that will welcome some 145 guests. "The theme will tie in with the natural beauty of the area," she shares. "We'll likely have birch bark and moss accents for centerpieces." Colors will reflect the spectacular hues that dress the hardwoods this time of year. "It will pretty much be a nature theme ... except the cake," she notes. "The groom wants it classic and all white."<br /> <br /> INFORMATION & CONTACTS<br /> <br /> THE BEACHES OF FORT MYERS & SANIBEL in southwest Florida include Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, Fort Myers Beach, Fort Myers, Bonita Springs, Estero, Cape Coral, Pine Island, Boca Grande & Outer islands, North Fort Myers and Lehigh Acres. For information on weddings and resorts in this area, contact Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau at 239.338.3500, fortmyerssanibel.com.<br /> <br /> For a list of wedding planners, go to fortmyers-sanibel.com/ wedding-services-offered-vcb.<br /> <br /> EXCELLENCE PLAYA MUJERES RESORT, Cancun, Mexico, 800.966.3670, excellence-resorts.com.<br /> <br /> GASPARILLA INN & CLUB, Boca Grande Island, 877.403.0599, 941.964.4500, the-gasparilla-inn.com.<br /> <br /> GARLAND LODGE AND RESORT, Lewiston, 877.442.7526, garlandusa.com.<br /> <br /> SHELBY TRAVEL, Shelby Township, 586.731.1034, shelbytravel.com.<br /> <br /> YOU'RE THE BRIDE, Livonia, 248.408.4602, yourethebride.com.