When the father of the groom is Bill Laimbeer, the former Detroit Pistons star, NBA Hall of Famer and all-around Michigan sports icon, you know the guest list is going to be large. Check out this beautiful Northern Michigan wedding. 

By last May, 230 people were making travel plans for the July 30, Charlevoix wedding of Kelly Storves and Eric Laimbeer. The couple currently lives in Florida and both grew up in metro Detroit, but with Northern Michigan connections strong in both families—vacations and family homes—the couple knew they wanted to be married Up North.

Not long after Eric’s breathtaking proposal atop a cliff on the West Indies’ island of St. Barths (a wide-open view of the Caribbean on one side, the harbor on the other), the couple headed to Northern Michigan to find a venue. Their search took them from Traverse City to Charlevoix, only to find that venues on their wish list were already booked (over a year out!) or weren’t big enough to accommodate all of their guests.

Charlevoix Country Club wedding

More sleuthing led them to Shanahan’s Barn at the Charlevoix Country Club. The mammoth, soaring, perfectly restored turn-of-the-last-century barn sits on what is now the 16th hole of the club’s Heatherwoods course. The barn didn’t look like much when they first saw it—weathered timbers against a bare cement floor. “When my dad first saw it he was pretty hesitant because it looked so bare,” Kelly remembers. But Kelly and her mom were confident that they could put together the right event team to play up its rustically elegant, lost-in-time ambiance. What’s more, with an occupancy max of 300 or so people, the barn had room to spare!

Kelly and Eric planned a full-on destination wedding with a rehearsal dinner on Friday night at Sagamore’s in the elegant Inn at Bay Harbor, just north of Charlevoix. They also invited all 230 guests to a welcoming party at Charlevoix Country Club immediately following the rehearsal dinner—it was to be a fun, relaxed event with grilled burgers and dogs.

But the best laid plans: In May, two months before the event the Charlevoix Country Club burned down. While fortunately no one was hurt in the fire, it threw the welcome party plans into a frenzy. So close to the wedding date there were simply no available options—except to tap into the booming, delicious, trendy Northern Michigan food truck scene. The solution? Erect two tents on the on the country club tennis courts and bring in the Cheese & Co., and The Landing food trucks. The trucks were a huge hit. “It was so fun,” Kelly says. “I think it worked out better than what we had planned.”

Charlevoix Country Club wedding

From then on, everything about the wedding went seamlessly—a fact that Kelly credits to her mother, the staff at Shanahan’s barn, Jennifer Haf of BLOOM Floral Design and to their wedding planners Sheila Dodson-Wright and Carly Shafer of Tableau Events. “Tableau did everything from the planning to the designs, invites and decorations—Sheila and Carly were amazing!” Kelly says. She recalls her reaction the first time she saw it fully decorated, just moments before she walked down the aisle: “I stood in the doorway and thought, Wait I don’t want to go yet, I just want to stand and look.”

After a simple, lovely wedding ceremony on the barn’s second floor, the guests and bridal party enjoyed a leisurely cocktail party on the patio with a live-music trio and hors d’oeuvres that include smoked white fish and trout, melted brie with walnuts and caramel and chicken sate. Afterward, the plated dinner catered by Grey Gables Inn featured whitefish and filet mignon. When the plates were cleared it was dancing to the Detroit-based band, Your Generation in Concert, a nine-piece band that rocked the old barn down to its fieldstone foundation with six decades of American/British pop hits—songs that got all ages up and dancing. “They were so fun and entertaining,” Kelly says.

Charlevoix Country Club wedding

As the lights in Shanahan’s Barn went out, the bridal party and guests who still had the energy were shuttled to (and from) Charlevoix’s popular Villager Pub. It was a wild, crazy-fun scene made more so by two giant Kelly and Eric heads that first appeared on the shuttle and then traveled to the pub with the group—made by Eric’s fun-loving and talented aunt.

This destination-wedding extraordinaire came to a close the next day with a brunch at Charlevoix’s Weathervane Terrace.

Whoa! Hold that ball a minute! Any Piston fan worth a seat at The Palace is going to want to know how the Big Man was on the assist: “He was great, very cooperative,” Kelly says. Adding with a laugh: “He didn’t ask questions, just did what he was told.”


Featured in the 2017 issue of MyNorth Wedding. Get your copy.

Photo(s) by Michael Murphy IV Photography