The proposal: Cue food sickness (Kierstin’s) on a cruise, a fumbled handoff by Joe that sent the diamond engagement ring tumbling into the shallow Caribbean—feet from where a shark and stingray lurked … all to the soundtrack of Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney singing out love ballads from Joe’s phone. Okay, the ring that Joe dropped was a fake, but the rest was true. And Joe knew, as Kierstin prepared to dive into that carnivore-invested water after it, that she was ready to risk life and limb for his eternal love and bling. Before she dove, Joe pulled out the real ring and did his proposal up right. Then he snapped a pic of Kierstin wearing the ring—with that ’ol stingray floating just behind her.

The happily ever after: No sharks or stingrays at the wedding venue, Grand Traverse Resort and Spa on Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay. Just clear blue water with nothing that bites. No food sickness either. Only perfectly prepared, upscale cuisine à la Traverse City, the Midwest’s food capital. Beyond those compelling reasons for having their big event at Grand Traverse Resort is the fact that the bride and groom have both vacationed in the Traverse City area enough to know that it is a place where memories are made.

Two Twisted Trees Photography

Most of the 160 guests who came from Indiana, Chicago and all parts of Michigan stayed on the grounds of Grand Traverse Resort. This destination wedding extraordinaire actually began the Thursday before the wedding, when 40 members of the bridal party and guests boarded buses to sip their way through Old Mission Peninsula’s vineyards. “We had two buses that took us around to four or five different wineries on Old Mission,” Kierstin says. “The wineries were great about getting us special tastings for such a large group.”

By Friday night the event rocked into a welcome barbecue at the resort’s Pavilion venue. Afterward, they hosted guests in the resort’s Manitou Room for entertainment by Bruce Barker, the Piano man—a favorite entertainer around Purdue where Joe went to school. Saturday morning dawned bright and sunny. The outdoor ceremony was waterside at Grand Traverse Resort’s private beach club on East Grand Traverse Bay. With the I do’s said, the resort’s shuttles whisked the bridal party and their guests across the property to the elegantly rustic Garvey Family Barn—built in the 1880s, the restored barn is now one of the resort’s seven venues.

Following a cocktail hour complete with passed hors d’oeuvres, the guests dined on dishes that included Maytag blue cheese–encrusted filets and Traverse City–style chicken breasts with Michigan cherry chutney. Joe and Kierstin kicked off the dancing to “One of Those Nights,” by Tim McGraw. No average couple’s first dance this—they had taken lessons to learn the choreographed dance several times a week for three months. “It was my Christmas present from Joe,” Kierstin says. “I was begging to do dance lessons and I think I brought it up enough that he bought them for me,” she says with a laugh and adds: “We had a blast.”

Kierstin and Joe’s fabulous wedding weekend closed with a brunch for their guests on the window-filled 17th floor of the resort’s signature Tower. With sweeping views of the fields, orchards and shorelines below them, the couple hosted a delicious goodbye to the people who had helped them launch their new life together.

This feature is in the 2017 issue of MyNorth Wedding.
Get your copy for more Northern Michigan wedding inspiration!

The bridal gown is by Watters.

Mays suggested the couple incorporate a wine ceremony into their vows—the box holds letters to each other and a bottle of Peninsula Cellars’ Old School Red wine that they will open, read and drink on their first anniversary

Kierstin chose neutral shades for her bridesmaids’ dresses so that they would complement but not overpower the landscape.

Table numbers set atop pieces of birch log add a rustic feel.

The flowers on the tables were by Amy Kate Designs of Elk Rapids.

The Thank You! boxes contain candles made by the bride set in cut-down wine bottles.

Kierstin and her mother sprayed the decorative bottles gold.

The cake topper is from Etsy.

A young family friend helps man the Polaroid camera set out next to the guestbook.

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Photo(s) by Two Twisted Trees Photography