Newlyweds Ben and Megan Fellows fill us in on their intimate Riverside Inn wedding and reception. From arriving to their nuptials by boat to a silent disco that inspired all to get out on the dance floor, you’re sure to find tips and ideas from this small venue Leland wedding.

Q: When was your wedding and how would you describe it?

A | Megan: Our wedding was on July 17, 2021, at The Riverside Inn in Leland, a place where we’ve experienced so many special moments growing up. There were 60 guests total and our goal was to make the day feel as intimate as possible. From a dinner party where guests could order off a menu to a silent disco with three different music channels for everyone to enjoy, we were able to make our day uniquely us. Our design featured modern, clean lines and the day centered around us being on the water. A ton of our friends were visiting Michigan for the first time, so Ben and I did a boat arrival to The Riverside Inn and then had small groups go out for rides as well, so everyone could experience the beauty of Northern Michigan.

A | Ben: Northern Michigan is pretty go-with-the-flow when it comes to events, but our venue gave us a high-class, yet authentic feel that inspired our black-tie dress code. Growing up in this community made it even more fun to dress up in tuxedos for a fun and fancy wedding. Deciding on a silent disco was also a great choice for our group. Having on headphones is so engulfing so our guests were really able to let go and there were multiple music stations so they could find exactly what they wanted to listen to, which helped with getting multiple generations out on the dance floor.

Q: Why was it so important to have your wedding in Northern Michigan?

A | Megan: Ben’s family is originally from the area and now all of our immediate family members are here too. Going back around 7 generations, my family has been spending summers in Suttons Bay, so Northern Michigan has always been home for us. This was important in selecting our venue as well, since numerous members of our family have celebrated birthdays, milestones and more at The Riverside Inn.

Riverside Inn in Leland

Photo by Jesse Zevalkink

Related Read: Searching for more Up North wedding planning, venues and tips? Visit our Northern Michiagn weddings page!

Q: What did you love most about your venue, The Riverside Inn?

A | Ben: The staff was incredibly responsive and flexible- everyone went above and beyond. They helped us find little wins that helped us make the day our own because it was so important to us to have parts of the day that truly felt like our decisions. We will also forever remember how flexible in the moment they were.

A | Megan: They truly allowed us to incorporate all of the things we love about Leland and Northern Michigan. From Village Cheese Shanty as our late-night snack to dancing outside right on the water, the full wait staff was constantly helping and supporting our visions. They also helped us with table layouts, flow of the evening, where to place the jazz band for the cocktail hours and planning out our signature cocktails. The location was also perfect; most guests could walk to where they were staying which meant no parking or shuttle issues and The Riverside Inn had four guest rooms we conveniently had all our siblings stay in.

Q: What was your favorite moment of the day?

A | Megan: We didn’t have a wedding party so we both spent the mornings getting ready with our closest family and friends. Seeing them all come together when we were finally ready truly made for the perfect start of our day. We also did our vows privately down by the water which made it so much more personal and allowed us to not be so nervous during the rest of the day!

A | Ben: I loved seeing people’s reactions to Northern Michigan! It was so much fun to have our wedding on the lake with gorgeous weather and watching our family and friends experience it. It really made me proud of where I grew up.

Q: Was your wedding originally supposed to be an intimate one?

A | Megan: Yes! When we had our first wedding event, a joint wedding shower, we both quickly realized we didn’t fully enjoy being the center of attention and we wanted to talk with our guests way more than we were able to. This, in addition to pandemic restrictions, inspired us to keep things small when selecting a venue. When we first booked The Riverside Inn, we knew there was a maximum of around 80 guests, however, we ultimately ended up having 60. Luckily, the week before our wedding COVID restrictions were lifted, otherwise, our final guest count would have been even smaller.

Dancing at Riverside Inn

Photo by Jesse Zevalkink

Q: How did the pandemic change your planning?

A | Ben: Just DAYS before the wedding, event restrictions lifted, so we had a few days to expand our guest list from 25 to 60. During our planning process, we also made sure to make as much as possible was outdoors for the safety of us all. Additionally, we bumped into a few supply chain issues since there were hardly any weddings in 2020 and it felt like everyone had moved their wedding to 2021. We also had guests who were located outside of the country, so we had to make sure we were aware of which borders were open.

One of the biggest pieces of planning was checking in with each other to ensure we were on the same page with everything. After so many restrictions and planning through a pandemic, we even asked ourselves ‘Are we giving too much up? If we can’t make it what we want, should we push it?’ Luckily, we ended up with everything we could have imagined and it was the perfect day.

A | Megan: We were planning our wedding alongside a friend who had already rescheduled three times, so the pandemic truly did change things for us all. From deciding on individual plates for cocktail hour to ensuring there was minimal mixing and mingling during the seated, indoor dinner we had to make sure safety was front and center. At one point, before restrictions lifted, we weren’t even allowed to have speeches—things were constantly changing.

Luckily, by the time we got to our actual wedding day, a majority of restrictions were lifted and some may have never guessed the obstacles we had to jump through. We still kept our cocktail hour, dancing and ceremony all outdoors and were rewarded with perfect weather.

Q: What advice do you have for a couple planning an intimate wedding? And those planning during a global pandemic?

A | Megan: Less might be more! We didn’t want to feel constrained by a typical wedding and wanted the ability to do what we wanted. With a smaller guest list, we were able to make things so much more intimate and meaningful than we could have ever imagined.

In planning, we had a clear sense of priorities that helped us find out what we wanted. Once we booked the photographer we wanted, the venue menu and everything else fell into place. We also opted for a week-of, and day-of, wedding planner, Melissa Condadie of Conradie Event Design, which made everything run smoothly.

A | Ben:
It’s so important to embrace everything positively, even if it is something that is unexpected. We rolled with so much, especially with the omnipresent pandemic, and ended up with a perfect day!

More Photos from Ben & Megan’s Special Day

Photo(s) by Jesse Zevalkink