A Wedding Trip to Mackinac Island
by Lynn Conway
Copyright @ 2002 Lynn Conway.All Rights Reserved
photo by Robert Jerstrom
My husband Charlie and I were married on Mackinac Island on August 13, 2002. This page describes the Island and our wedding trip there, and links to pages of our wedding photos. We love the Island and wanted to share our experiences with others who might enjoy visiting, marrying or honeymooning there.
Mackinac Island is an especially romantic location for weddings. Going there is like going back in time: Most of the Island's hotels, inns and cottages are built in Victorian architecture. No motor vehicles are allowed on the Island, except for a few emergency vehicles, and all transportation there is by horse drawn carriages, horse drawn taxies, bicycles and foot. Much of the Island outside the downtown area is one of Michigan's many State Parks. Mackinac Island has long been a favorite summer vacation spot for people from all over the world, and is renowned for its quaint shops, romantic settings, beautiful gardens, and breathtaking natural scenery.
Mackinac Island is located in northern Michigan, in the Straits of Mackinac that connect Lake Michigan with Lake Huron. The Island is reached by 15 minute rides in fast ferryboats from Mackinac City at the top of Michigan's Lower Peninsula, or from St. Ignace at the east end of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
The two peninsulas of Michigan are connected by the mighty Mackinac Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the Americas with 8614 feet suspended and an overall length of 5 miles, and the bridge in the distance is a prominent landmark from many Island viewpoints. In addition to visiting the Island while in the area, many tourists also visit the various historic colonial sites in and around Mackinac City, including Fort Michilimackinac (more) and the restored lumber mill at Mill Creek. For Mackinac (Mack'-in-aw) tourist information see the very informative Mackinac Island and Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau websites.
Click for more maps: Downtown Map ; Island Map; Interactive Map; Satellite Photo
Many of the Island's tourist just visit for one day - taking a morning ferry over and a late afternoon ferry back to the mainland. During the middle of the day in peak summer season, the downtown area near the docks with its many quaint shops is often crowded with these "day people".
Mornings are a good time to take a carriage tour of the Island. Getting an early start before all the day people arrive is a good way to avoid long lines for these popular rides. The carriage tours are a great way to get introduced to the overall Island and see a lot of the important sites there. You'll hear a description of Island history as you glide along, and can plan to visit some of the sites later on by bicycle or by hiking.
During the middle of the day is a good time to take longer walks, bicycle rides or horseback rides well away from the crowded downtown area. Historic Fort Mackinac overlooking the downtown is a great place to spend some time, exploring the fortifications and watching the demonstrations there. The Fort has a large veranda where you can buy a lunch and eat while while enjoying a spectacular view out over the downtown and the harbor.
Bicycling is especially popular on the Island. You can bring your own bike over on the ferry, and this is advisable if you plan to do a lot of riding. Or, you can rent a bike at one of several large rental outfits. However, be sure to rent one early in the morning before the day people arrive, because by afternoon they are all usually rented. There is an easy 8 mile well-paved bicycle road all the way around the Island that is lots of fun to ride on. There are almost no hills on this ride, and there are many interesting places to stop and explore Island history - all the while passing beautiful beaches and the clear waters of the Straits of Mackinac. If you have some basic experience in horseback riding, you can rent horses at several livery stables and ride on your own all over the Island.
Charlie looking south from Fort Mackinac out over the harbor and downtown area of Mackinac Island.
You can see the mainland of lower Michigan in the distance.
(click on photo for more detailed view)
If you ever plan to visit the Island, we highly recommend that you spend at least two nights on the Island on your trip there. During the early mornings, late afternoon and evenings, the Island settles back into a more relaxed feeling, even in the downtown area.
Only by staying overnight a few nights, and taking time for long strolls during the more relaxed times, can you really begin to feel what the Island is really like to those who love it - and to begin to sense its very special charms. Especially in the evenings, when many couples and lovers stroll the quiet streets together, the Island comes alive with a feeling of romance.
It is great fun to take long strolls in the early mornings and in the evenings along the tree and flower lined streets, stopping off in the many little shops, and exploring the many historical sites and tourist exhibits there. In the evening you can also sample fine foods in many wonderful restaurants such as the main dining rooms in the Mission Point Resort, the Iroquois Hotel, the Grand Hotel, and the Island House, and the Yankee Rebel Tavern and many more. There are many wonderful hotels, inns and resorts, bed and breakfasts and restaurants to make your stay on the Island comfortable and memorable. Almost all of these places are described in the Mackinac Island website.
Especially famous is the Grand Hotel, with its spectacular grounds and golf course, and its wonderful evening entertainment - including a world class restaurant, a Cupola Bar on top of the Hotel where you can watch the sunsets over Lake Michigan, and a ballroom with a dance band where you can listen to music and dance every night in season. Note that the Grand Hotel charges a $10 admission during the day, for those who want to explore it and the grounds there. However, after 6 pm in the evening you can get in free if "dressed" (coat and tie for men, dresses for women) and thus have free access to the Cupola Bar and the Ballroom. There is also fun evening entertainment by musical groups most evenings in the lounge at the Chippewa Hotel and at Horn's Bar in the downtown area.
Most places in the downtown area are within a moderate walk of each other, since the whole downtown strip is only about 3/4 mile long. If you are tired, or if the weather isn't perfect, or if you need to go further outside the downtown area than a convenient walk, you can easily get horse drawn taxi's that only charge $3.50 to $4.50 per person for a ride. Note that the "taxi's" aren't private, but are more like horse drawn busses that carry multiple parties, so taxi's meander around while dropping off people off at various spots.
This is one of the many examples of "Island time", where things may not happen on an optimal schedule but they do eventually happen. Thus you need to allow some flexibility in your schedule, and then relax about when things happen. If there's something that needs to happen on a schedule, simply make allowances for some extra time ahead of time.
Most visitors who are used to the Island tend not to "overplan" their days there, but instead kinda make it up as they go along, doing whatever feels like fun at the time depending upon their mood, the weather, etc. In a way the Island's habits reflect the customs of a less hurried time a century ago. Once you've been on the Island a while you'll get used to this idea, and may even get to like it. After all this is one of the charms of the Island.
A ferryboat on its way in towards Mackinac Island's harbor.
It's just now passing by the Little Stone Church and the carriage road to the Grand Hotel

Planning our wedding trip to the Island
Charlie had been to the Island for two weeks each of two summers as a teen-ager, having been in a Boy Scout troop that was selected for summer duty as guides in Fort Mackinac. Even as young teenager, he sensed that the Island had a special romantic attraction for couples. There's always a hint of romance in the air, with lovers strolling almost everywhere you look. When we got together back in 1988, Charlie was eager to take me to the Island and show me some of the special places there. Over the years we made several trips to the Island together and had wonderful experiences there.
When Charlie and I got engaged we'd been together for a long time, almost 15 years. Many folks who knew us simply assumed that we were married. Therefore, we didn't contemplate a "regular Church wedding" with lot of folks attending. Instead we wanted to go someplace special and enjoy a ceremony and honeymoon that were designed "just for the two of us". We wanted to celebrate our love for each other and create some special romantic memories that we would carry for the rest of our lives. We thought of all the special places that we'd been over the years, including glitzy places like Las Vegas, places we'd visited on our Caribbean cruise, and special locations in our favorite cities. However, it wasn't long before we decided "let's get married on Mackinac Island"!

Many people who get married on the Island have also seen and been especially moved by the 1980 love movie "Somewhere in Time". We hadn't seen the movie before we decided to get married there, but our wedding planner put us onto it, and after seeing it we can understand how many couples are inspired by the movie to choose the Island for their wedding.
The movie starred Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, and is the story of a very special, tragic romance. Although it was panned by critics when it first came out, the film has been elevated to cult status by people all around the world who've been moved by its unusual story. Set in the Grand Hotel in Victorian times, it evokes something special about the Island and why it attracts to many lovers to visit there - and eventually to be married there. If you haven't seen this movie, try to get hold of the new DVD and watch it when you are in the mood for a good story. Then you'll understand.
For more information about and
mementos of this movie, visit the official
Somewhere in Time Web Site:

To get an idea of how romantic a Mackinac Island wedding can be, also take a look at the wonderful photographs on the following web pages about Mackinac wedding locations, ceremonies, accommodations and carriage rides. As we'll see, our wedding turned out to be as magical for us as those photos suggested it might be.
Making the arrangements for our simple "elopement ceremony" was made easy by working with a very experienced wedding planner who has arranged many ceremonies on the Island. We met with our planner for one evening about six months in advance to become familiar with the various options for our wedding, and to learn a lot about the Island from a real authority. We then did the rest of our interactions with our planner by e-mail, which made it very convenient. Any couple interested in a Mackinac wedding would be well advised to seek the help of a wedding planner familiar with the Island. That way you can rest easy and not worry so much about all the little details, and focus instead on enjoying yourselves and having a great time.
There are many wonderful sites for weddings on the Island - several outdoor gazebos, the Little Stone Church, many beautiful settings in the hotels and inns, and several full-sized churches too. There are great places for weddings large or small, and great places for receptions and entertainment afterwards. If you are interested in exploring the possibilities of an Island wedding, a good place to start is the Mackinac Island Wedding Guide. Another good reference is the Mackinac Island Weddings free online wedding consulting site, which contains lots of wedding planning information and links to many key wedding services on the Island.
We decided to stay at the Harbour View Inn during our wedding trip. The Harbour View is a very historic old inn. It has beautiful, peaceful grounds including a gazebo where we could have an outdoor ceremony. We wanted to hold the ceremony in the same place we were staying in order to simplify arrangements and to easily cover contingencies such as the possibility of rain (at the Harbour View we could hold the ceremony in the parlor or on the porch in case of rain). Similar arrangements could be made at a number of other hotels and inns on Mackinac.
We made our hotel reservations early and selected Room 1207, which is located on the second floor of the Inn just off the front balcony. Our three large windows would look out over the balcony to the harbor to the south and also out over gardens to the west. We would have easy access to the porch on the balcony where we could relax and watch the carriages and walkers pass by on the street out front.
Although the front portion of the Inn where we were staying is in the old traditional form and doesn't have air conditioning, we were willing to trade-off a little extra humidity for the better views and setting in the older original part of the Inn. The Harbour View does have some air-conditioned rooms (and do some of the other hotels, inns and bed and breakfasts) - but note that most rooms on the Island do not have A/C because the summers are usually very mild there.
The Inn is set back from the street just far enough to provide a feeling of privacy and relaxation for those sitting out on the front porches. Although it is within very easy walking distance to the downtown area, it's just far enough outside the shopping and tourist district that it is quieter and more peaceful than at the hotels right in town.
Our wedding assistant had arranged for the minister and also for a great photographer, Robert Jerstrom of Resort Photography, to do our wedding photography. Our assistant also gave us lost of great tips and hints for special things to do not only on our wedding day but also during our honeymoon stay on the Island. We also arranged for flowers, and for a carriage ride after the ceremony.
A long carriage ride is a great way to experience the Island, especially on your wedding day. Our photographer Robert Jerstrom lives year-round on the Island, and is widely known for his artistic photos of Island scenes (photosonmackinac.com). In addition to taking photos at the ceremony, Rob planned to follow the carriage on his bicycle, taking photos of us at scenic spots all around the Island. As you'll see, he created some truly wonderful mementos for us (see the wedding day photos).

By deciding on a basic ceremony and obtaining assistance from a wedding planner, the preparations for this trip were pretty easy. Other than the usual worries about weather or whether some other contingency might arise, it was a fairly non-stressful process. Other than these simple arrangements, all we needed to do now was order my gown and arrange for a tux for Charlie - and look forward excitedly to our wedding trip to Mackinac Island!

For a day by day description and photos of our trip, click on the following links:

Our wedding trip, August 11-16, 2002




Wedding Day 





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Page version of 3-14-03

Links updated 1-13-07