A destination point for weddings
By Sue Baldani
Mackinac Island (pronounced Mackinaw) in Northern Michigan, has been a popular destination for years for generations of families staying a week or more and for day trippers taking advantage of a rare day off. But, it’s also a dream location for couples planning a wedding and/or a honeymoon.
“We’ve had brides say, ‘I started coming to the island with my parents when I was three and I always knew I was going to get married here.’ And they do!,” says Liz Ware, vice president of sales and marketing for Mission Point resort hotel, and the owner’s daughter.
“The island is truly beautiful and the water is crystal clear, like the waters of the Caribbean,” she says. Everyone has flowers and a garden; we have a lilac festival every year. It’s just a different way of life.”
Her parents, Denny and the late Suzanne Ware, bought Mission Point six years ago when the former owner wanted it to stay a family business. Today, Liz helps her father run the resort along with four of her five siblings.
“Working for a family business is so different and the owners are really involved,” says Michaelena Waite, manager of wedding sales. “They really know about any challenges our staff faces so they make sure they set us up for success. And I think guests like knowing that the family is right here.”
Mission Point, voted one of the top resort hotels in the Midwest by Travel + Leisure Magazine in 2020, is located on 18 acres right off of the lakefront overlooking the Straits of Mackinac. Liz calls the décor rustic elegance. “Our lobby has these big logs that were floated over from the island across from us when it was built.”
There are two buildings with a total of 241 guest rooms, and of those, 72 are two-bedroom family suites. Its Lakeside Salon & Spa is the largest spa on the island with its 5,000 square feet. It offers the full complement of body and hair care – anything one would need for a wedding.
To get around the island, which is a Historic National Landmark, you walk or bike, or you can take a horse drawn taxi; there are no cars allowed. Food for their restaurants comes from local area farms and is brought over by a ferry and put on a wagon. It’s then pulled by horse and brought to the hotel.
“We believe in our farm to ferry cuisine and locally-sourced foods,” says Liz. “Northern Michigan has a lot of small farms and produces a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. We also have a cocktail garden where we grow a ton of mint, lavender and a bunch of other ingredients that are used in our fresh cocktails.”
Mission Point is well known for its great lawn, where guests can stroll around, enjoy the view of the lake, and breathe in the fragrant scent of flowers. There are also plenty of Adirondack chairs where they can sit back and relax.
Mackinac Island is a seasonal destination, and the season generally begins the beginning of May and goes through the end of October. Mission Point opens its doors on April 30, and weddings are held all throughout the season.
“The charm of the island is a favorite thing,” says Andrea Crawford, senior manager of Conference Services, which also handles weddings on property. “You feel like you’re in a different place. Time stops. My absolute favorite thing here is when they have the horse and carriage bring the bride, or pick up the couple. No matter how many times I see it, it’s just the most amazing thing ever.”
Due to COVID-19, the focus is on flexibility of space and bringing celebrations outdoors since the outdoor restrictions haven’t been as severe as the indoor restrictions. “What we’re finding, in most cases, is couples who are planning on getting married want to get married,” says Liz. “They’re not interested in postponing, so it takes a really strong team on a property like ours to work with couples to go through Plan A, B, and possibly C. You can’t just plan on one set of restrictions. You have to plan for multiple versions.”
“We do everything and anything that we can do to make their day as special as we can while still abiding by the restrictions,” says Andrea. “We have to communicate with our couples and crew to keep them informed, and they trust us to do that.”
“With COVID, our whole world has flipped upside down,” says Michaelena. “Thank God we have an amazing team who all jump in together to make things happen. It’s definitely not easy. I give you an idea of what will work best to make your wedding dream come true, and then do the handoff to our Comfort Services team, which is just amazing and flawless. Then that trust and that relationship is built even more while planning all of the details with them.”
For an outdoor ceremony, says Andrea, there are a couple of choices. They can set up white chairs on the great lawn facing the water, and have an arch that is beautifully decorated with flowers for the couples to be married under. Or, there is also a gazebo on the great lawn, which is separated by beautiful landscaping to give it a more intimate feel.
“We have a lot of outdoor space,” says Liz. “We have a 38,000 square foot conference center and the rooftop area of that is a deck area, and we just built this beautiful pavilion on it. It opened last May, and the views of the water are spectacular.”
Pre-COVID, Mission Point could hold receptions for up to 350 people. Now, the number allowed this coming season is up in the air. “There’s not the shock this year as there was last year,” says Liz. “We’ve lived through a year of COVID, and everyone has learned to become flexible and pivot, and so couples are pretty calm about it and pretty adaptable to any situation. Which is really good, because there’s a lot of stress with a wedding to begin with, and then you have possible restrictions on top of it. But all in all, we’re very positive about this season.”
Many couples who get married at Mission Point stay on for their honeymoon. Others come just for their honeymoon. “We offer several packages and we can create custom packages as well,” says Liz.
Packages include round-trip ferry tickets, and champagne and chocolates upon arrival. They also include a five-course dinner in Chianti. “This is a restaurant I would call a great place for foodies and wine lovers,” says Liz. “We have a five-course prix fixe dinner that is served every night and it is outstanding.”
There are several signature suites in which a couple can stay, based on availability and budget. There is the 1,200 square foot Presidential Suite overlooking the water. There is the Tranquility Suite with two double doors that open up to a view of Tranquility Point, which overlooks Lake Huron.
“It is extremely beautiful and has its own little patio,” says Liz. “Brides love to get ready in there and have photos taken.”
Since Mission Point is a very popular destination for weddings, Liz recommends booking large weddings a year in advance. And thinking outside the box. “With so many people having to rebook from last year, Sunday weddings are becoming popular along with weekday weddings. If you can do a weekday wedding, do it. Your destination isn’t likely to be as crowded and you’ll find you’re going to get a break on your pricing. Your wedding guests can make it a vacation for themselves as well and stay more than one day. And this way, you can spend more time with family.
Guests can even bring their dogs. Liz says Mission Point is the only resort on the island that allows pets. Nick, the resident Border Collie, loves greeting guests when not helping keep the geese off the great lawn He’s very popular with children (and adults), who love getting their picture taken with him.
Mackinac Island is located 4.5 hours north of Grosse Pointe. To find out more, or to book a day trip, a spa day, or a wedding or other event, go to https://www.missionpoint.com/.
Written for Grosse Pointe Lifestyle magazine in Grosse Pointe, Michigan.