Local Recommendations Archives - The Vineyard @ 12 Corners
Skip the Big City: Small Town Weddings Win

Skip the Big City: Small Town Weddings Win

Why a Small Town Michigan Wedding is Right for You

Without giving up my age, let’s just say I’ve been doing weddings for quite a while now. When we first began on our venue management journey almost all the couples we hosted had some connection to our lovely little corner of Southwest Michigan. Maybe they grew up here, maybe they vacationed at the beach, maybe they graduated from a nearby university and had the chance to see first hand the beauty of Lake Michigan, the unique wineries and breweries, the welcoming feel a quaint town or the peace some farmland can bring. And they chose to skip out on the busy day to day and overwhelming task of planning their wedding in a bigger city. But as the years have gone by, the connections to our area have become less of the reason couples choose to travel this way. We see more and more couples coming to beautiful Southwest Michigan (many for the first time!) just to host their most amazing day. Sure it can seem like a tough task to tackle – planning from afar, having to find local vendors, asking guests to travel – but here is why they continue to take that leap. And a few tips for how to quiet your worries about planning your mini-destination wedding.

Reason #1: Cost – Plain & Simple

I find myself telling couples when they come to view our venues, we get to see the best side of sticker shock in our little town. Yes, weddings are costly and yes, you still want to create the wedding of your dreams, so the simple solution is a small town wedding. Couples heading this way from larger cities like Chicago, Detroit, Grand Rapids, etc. take a look at costs associated with a wedding in our area and their mouths drop open – that’s the sticker shock. And then, a sigh of relief. “Maybe we can invite all the guests we want to celebrate with! Maybe we can do those creative food stations! Maybe we won’t have to take out a loan for this!” Big cities are glamorous but come with a hefty price tag. So take a look at a smaller town and start pinning all those extra little details you were dreaming of incorporating – it can ALL be within reach.

Reason #2: Unique Experiences

Yes, hotel and country club weddings are exquisite – but how many have you attended? If I had to guess, I would say many couples I work with have at least three other weddings they have to attend and/or plan around when getting ready for their own. It’s just a natural instinct that you want yours to stand out – to provide your guests with an experience they will remember for all the right reasons. So picking up and traveling just a little distance gives you the chance to create a wedding that is a whole new kind of lovely.

St. Joseph/Benton Harbor in particular is a great setting for your guests to enjoy more than just your wedding day. Of course there is the draw of Lake Michigan and the beaches – but there are also some killer restaurants (lots of farm-to-table in this area!), a whole trail of wineries and breweries to enjoy, hotels, unique shops, rental homes, etc. There is a solid reason this area is a tourist destination – show your guests a good time, create amazing memories, and get hitched all with one great weekend!

Reason #3: It Really Can Be Easier

Planning a wedding from a distance can be tricky but let’s focus on all of the details that can be easier than trying to plan in a big city. Parking – really I don’t need to say more about this. How much easier is parking in a small town versus the hassle of finding a space in a big city? So.Much.Easier.

Less Distraction –  if you choose to get married in or near your home town, do you ever really step away from it all to focus on your day? You run errands on lunch breaks or get sucked back into work and inevitably you find yourself wedding planning right alongside your day to day life. If you plan a small town wedding you get the opportunity to make a clean break from everyday and fully immerse yourself in your wedding, your family, and your friends.

Fewer Options – initially this may seem like a negative but if you are anything like me, or the hundreds of couples we work with, too many options can be overwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, fewer options doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice on quality. There are some unbelievable wedding professionals in this area! Researching options and making connections with your vendors doesn’t take as much time and is far less stressful to narrow down your top picks.

Still on the fence about trying to escape the big city? Let these tips for a small town Michigan wedding make your decision just a bit easier.

Tip #1: Do Your Research

Think broadly with this one! You don’t just want to get to know the venues in these smaller towns. There are so many other factors to consider. Conduct your research on the area as a whole. What can my guests do in town? What does lodging in this area look like? Are there local events I need to consider? Who are the best local vendors? Yes, finding the perfect venue is important and can narrow down the towns you research – but make sure to dig a little deeper and look past the venue itself. Some of the answers you’ll find by doing this will make planning so much easier in the long run.

Tip #2: Keep Guests Informed

You obviously want your guests to have a great time and remember how amazing your wedding was. The easiest way to make them happy is to prepare them for the weekend so they can relax and enjoy all a small town has to offer. Get those Save-the-Dates out early and include lodging information. Put important area information on your wedding website – things like directions to important places, area attractions, parking information, transportation options, etc. And if you decide to put welcome bags at hotels or rental houses, include a timeline for your guests to follow. Your well informed guests will love you for this extra effort!

Tip #3: Hire a Wedding Planner

Hiring a wedding planner is probably the obvious answer to making any wedding easier. But it’s even more important if you are hosting a wedding in a location other than “home”. Local wedding planners will know the best vendors, will be the most realistic about what to expect when budgeting, and will have all the in’s and out’s of the area you may not even consider. Plus, letting a planner take care of all the details is the best way for you to be able to spend time with loved ones without needing to run around crazy the entire weekend. Our friends at 1928 Planning Co. are SO good at what they do – check out their blog to see other tips and resources for planning!

So take a deep breath, take our advice, and this will be you – crushing your small town Michigan wedding!

 If you want to find out more about how your vision fits with our corner of Southwest Michigan, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

Photo Credits!

Craig Watson Photography

Michael Koch Photography

Rebekah Albaugh Photography

The Boulevard Inn

Kati Mallory Photography

Kitty Lee Photography

Sweet Lemon Drop Photography

Where’s the After Party?

As with many venues, the rental for your wedding space will end at 11:00PM. This is when your DJ will be asked to stop playing music, the bar will no longer serve drinks, and our staff will move in to begin cleaning up. So, you’ve got a few options on what you can do next.


If you and your spouse are looking forward to getting back to your Hotel or AirB&B to end the night but you know your friends and family will want to keep on celebrating on your behalf, you can recommend these local bars and restaurants for them. If there is no way you and your new spouse are going to head home when you know the party is going to continue on, you may want to make a plan to hit a few of these places.



The Vineyard at 12 Corners is located in Benton Harbor, Michigan.


The Livery


This Livery is a microbrewery that is open until 1AM on Friday and Saturday nights. It has an industrial but homey atmosphere that encases some historical aspects of the building. This is a popular spot for local bands to play at and holds many entertainment based events. Be sure to check out their website (liverybrew.com) to see if there are any events happening that you would want to check out the weekend of your wedding. It also features an outdoor patio that is pet friendly!

Serves: Craft Beer, Pizza, Sandwiches, and Salads (Vegetarian options)

Open Until: 1AM Fri & Sat

Location: 190 5th St.

Benton Harbor, MI 49022


River’s Edge Bar and Grill



This dive bar is located right off the Paw Paw river, which directly connects to the St. Joseph river. They have affordable prices and will be a decent choice to curb those fried food and burger cravings. For warmer nights, they have an outdoor beer garden right on the river. It’s far from classy, but it’s a casual place to have a few more drinks and hangout.

Serves: Fried Foods, Burgers

Open Until: 2AM Fri & Sat

Location: 653 W Main St

Benton Harbor, MI 49022

Next to Benton Harbor, located along Lake Michigan, is St. Joseph. It is approximately a fifteen minute drive from the Vineyard at 12 Corners.


Silver Harbor Brewing Co.


This Brewing company is large enough in size where it could accommodate more of your guests comfortably. Along with beer, they also serve hard liquor and wine. It has a classy but industrial feel to it and has excellent food. The restaurant closes at 11PM but if you book a group event, they will stay open until 2AM. They have a seperate space called The Garden where you and your guests can have a comfortable and private party. To book their space, you’ll want to call them or fill out the form on their website.

Serves: Craft Beer, Large Variety of Foods (Good Vegetarian options)

Open Until: 2AM – If you book the space

Location: 721 Pleasant Street

Saint Joseph, MI 49085


Czar’s 505


Located in downtown, St. Joe, this live music focused club is a host to many local and up and coming artists of many genres including country, reggae, hard rock, and R&B. If you and your wedding party feel like hitting a small concert to keep on dancing, this is the place to be. Check the show schedule on their website (czars.com) to see what bands are playing on your wedding night. The night club almost has a retro vibe and there is table seating in addition to the dance floor.

Serves: Pizza, Nachos

Open Until: 2AM

Location: 505 Pleasant St

St. Joseph, MI 49085


221 Main


This Restaurant and Cocktail House is located on – you guessed it – 221 Main St. in St. Joseph. They have a wide variety of whiskeys, wines, beer, and other liquors. They have excellent food – but the kitchen closes at 10pm, so the options will be limited. The pub section is a modern, clean and comfortable bar. It is a smaller and subdued area, so this would be the best choice for a smaller group of your wedding guests who are just looking to hang out together for a bit longer while winding down.

Serves: Seafood, Steak, Mac&Cheese, Sandwiches, Salads, and Desserts

Open Until: 2AM (Pub)

Location: 221 Main St.

St. Joseph, MI 49085

Mickey’s Pub


This local sports bar could be a fun way to spend the rest of the night if you’re feeling competitive. They offer pool, ping pong, darts, pinball, and club keno. They have cheap beer and affordably priced options all around. It is a very casual pub with friendly service. Can be a bit noisy, but this means your large group will fit right in. This link ( https://goo.gl/maps/ghA1oCbbzyp ) will show you some photos of the inside that will give you a better look at the space.

Serves: Traditional bar foods

Open Until: 2AM

Location: 1495, 1007 Main St.

St Joseph, MI 49085


Whether your ideal After Wedding Party would be a private event, a night of dancing, or a casual bar experience one of these locations (or a combination of a few!) will have you and your wedding guests covered.