Looking for a distinctive, affordable and easily accessible destination for your dream wedding? Consider Grand Rapids, which is quickly becoming a wedding hotspot.

You’ll find a tremendous range of wedding and reception venues, from historic churches and top-notch hotels to beautiful parks and sugar-sand beaches, with options for every budget. Out-of-town guests can fly into the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, named the best, easiest and most enjoyable airport in North America. There are plenty of things for friends and family to do before and after the wedding, whether it’s nightlife, art & culture, outdoor adventure or Beer City adventure.

Need some inspiration?  Read on to see how local couple Caitlin and Chelsea crafted their perfect wedding with a little help from local businesses, family and friends, and one of the area’s most romantic parks.

Brides holding hands in Fallasburg Park

Brides Chelsea and Cailtin knew they wanted an open air wedding in the summer due to their shared love of the outdoors.

Photo by Stephanie Facer

The Couple

Caitlin and Chelsea were ready to make it official after a four-year, long-distance relationship. The Grand Rapids natives loved the incredible growth their hometown was experiencing, but they wanted to find a small, cozy setting that would match their vibe. The couple started by setting a specific budget in mind resolving to do most of the planning and preparation themselves to keep costs in check.

The two outdoor lovers knew they wanted to start their new life together in an open-air space. They chose an August date to take advantage of West Michigan’s glorious summer weather. Then they began their venue search.

The Location

“We checked out a couple of different parks in the area, and when we saw Fallasburg Park, we knew it was the one,” Caitlin said. The picturesque greenspace fulfilled many of their wedding “must haves.”

The park’s size and layout allowed the couple to stage a semi-private wedding even as the park remained open to the general public. They found an area for the ceremony near the reception pavilion – a historic enclosed shelter house – which minimized the wait time between the ceremony and the reception. A paved path connects the sites, which made it easy for a rented golf cart to transport their grandparents to and from locations.

The couple booked the Fallasburg Park space roughly six months ahead of their August 1 wedding date. “The park staff walked us through the booking process and also suggested renting space near the enclosed reception pavilion for a very reasonable price,” Caitlin says. “Their recommendations helped to make our day that much more relaxed for everyone.”

Brides exchange rings at Fallasburg Park wedding.

Fallasburg Park was the perfect setting with its variety of areas, making the public space feel private and intimate.

Photo by Stephanie Facer

The Ceremony

The wedding ceremony was performed by Caitlin’s college roommate, who became ordained online just for the occasion. Standing near a creek surrounded by their guests, Caitlin and Chelsea exchanged vows in a 30-minute ceremony that started at 3pm. Chairs from A1 Rent All were arranged to allow for two aisles.

The park’s gorgeous landscape provided a wonderful backdrop for wedding pictures after the ceremony. As the wedding party posed for the camera, guests played lawn games in the grassy space the couple had reserved and enjoyed live music at the reception pavilion.

Brides celebrate at Fallasburg Park.

The reception pavilion included a porch for the live band and picnic tables the party decorated with table runners and succulents.

Photo by Stephanie Facer

The Reception

After photos, Caitlin and Chelsea joined their guests for fun, food and dancing. “We really wanted live music but didn’t have a particular band in mind,” Caitlin says. “We went to the Winter Bridal Show at DeVos Place and Frederic and Ronza were playing as we entered. They were perfect.”

The R&B/soul duo played on the pavilion’s wraparound porch. Caitlin and Chelsea opted for no dance floor, but there was plenty of space on the porch for revelers. Other weddings have rented a hard mat to place outside the pavilion for dancing.

Fallasburg Park doesn’t cater food, but the pavilion has a full kitchen that proved perfect for the wedding meal made by Caitlin’s aunt. Guests enjoyed the meal at picnic tables the betrothed and their friends arranged into communal-style configurations with table runners down the middle. The romantic, barn-like atmosphere, featuring exposed wood beams and a large stone fireplace, added to the family feel.

The pavilion was spacious enough to accommodate a picture display in one corner and a wedding cake (created by Caitlin’s brother) in another. A third corner served as the starting point for the food line.

Wedding gifts were collected on the front porch, and guests departed with succulents planted by a family friend as a wedding favor.

Park rules state everything has to be cleaned up and out of the area by the time the park closes at sunset, so everything that was brought in by the wedding party had to be taken out the same day. “It was actually a nice, natural way to wrap up the evening,” Caitlin says.

Advice for Others

Caitlin advises couples not to sweat the small stuff – small wedding details don’t matter as much as you may think they do. She says she was so wrapped up in the emotion of the day that, “I didn't really care if I had the absolutely 100 percent correct glass beads [for decoration], that wasn’t what the day was truly about!”

Even so, she recommends being clear about what you want and setting boundaries in advance. “Be intentional about what you want and stand by that. Stay true to your heart and your vision,” she suggests. Then, you can trust the process and go with the flow on your special day.

“On the day, no one told me just to relax,” she says. “Just being there and having supportive people is what matters. That’s what you’re celebrating.”

Bride signing next to succulent party favors.

Grand Rapids has a variety of wedding venues, including locations that allow couples to bring in their own decorations.

Photo by Stephanie Facer

The Guests

Fallasburg Park is in Lowell, about 30 east minutes of downtown Grand Rapids. Caitlin and Chelsea booked blocks of guest rooms in hotels on 28th Street, which is a nice halfway point between the city center and the country park.

Many out-of-town guests made a full weekend out of the wedding by making the short drive to check out downtown’s 200+ restaurants, shops, museums and nightlife venues.

Caitlin and Chelsea were happy (and confident) to use local businesses and are very proud that their special day helped support local businesspeople – including Grand Rapids-based photographer Stephanie Facer. “It was important to us, and so we made it happen,” Caitlin says.

By staying true to their vision and enlisting a little help from their friends and family, Caitlin and Chelsea hosted a fantastic, fun-filled evening that that truly reflected their personalities and celebrated their love.

Plan Your Wedding

Grand Rapids allows you to craft a wedding experience that suits you.

Whether you take a “hands-on” approach or hire a wedding planner, whether your guest list is five or 500, Grand Rapids has all you need to ensure a magical day – including nearly 100 hotels offering a wide range of budget, location and amenity options.

Visit our Wedding page more information on planning a wedding in Grand Rapids.