GTPulse: Want To Elope in Northern Michigan This Summer?

I find eloping incredibly romantic. If weddings are a demonstration of love put on for friends and family, elopements are a demonstration of love done for the couple. Less people and less fuss, in my mind, is a dream. 

Eloping has had a long history with a changing definition. Thought to be derivative of the Middle Dutch word ‘lopen’ which means ‘run away,’ at one point eloping meant a person ran away from their spouse to be with someone else. Sometime in the 1800s, the word transitioned to meaning two lovers running away to get married.

Once viewed as an act of rebellion against family, church and community, eloping has less severe connotations in the modern-day. Nowadays couples elope to save money, time or have more privacy. Some couples who planned on a wedding this summer are eloping as an alternative to not getting married at all, and the willow tree at Aurora Cellars is welcoming them with leafy, swaying arms.

“We’ve never been able to do something like this before because the willow is booked every weekend, every year. We’ve never had availability like this on the property before, but it’s giving some of these couples joy again.” Kristi Brown, event manager of the winery said.

2020 couples who planned on having their weddings this year have had to figure out new plans quickly, whether that includes rescheduling or having an alternative plan.

“We were full for this season and now we have the opportunity for couples to make lemonade out of lemons, The couples that we’ve been able to steer in this direction have been dealing with so much stress this year. Early on, a lot of people who had weddings in May and June postponed. ”

When COVID-19 restrictions began and cancellations began coming in, Kristi wanted to find a way to offset losing so many weddings for the season.

“I have an intern that works with me and she and I were just brainstorming. We have the property. It’s quiet, it’s set up, it’s ready to go.”

One of my aunts eloped. She wore a chic white pantsuit in the 80s’ and went to a Colorado courthouse. My cousin Kellie eloped in a curve-hugging white lace dress that made her look like Kim K. One of my best friends eloped at San Francisco’s town hall in a vintage white dress that looked like a slip worn by an old Hollywood movie star. What they wore varied but their venues didn’t. The majority of elopements are done at a courthouse. If keeping things simple is the name of the game with eloping, it seems counterintuitive to schedule a venue.

“We’ve opened up elopements, and we can do them seven days a week. We’ve got three different offers. Just the couple, guests up to 20, and guests up to 20 with a two-night stay in the farmhouse. They all come with our brut rose and the ones with guests we do a mini couple cake. Our first one is going to be chocolate.”

Couples are responsible for their own officiant and their own photographer. Seating will be taken care of by Kristi if guests are coming. Prices range from $350 to $2500.

While many of the elopements are engaged couples using it as an alternative to rescheduling, that’s not the case for all of them. Non-engaged couples are using the opportunity to…well, elope. 

“Oh, yeah. They were not planning a wedding, it’s just a good opportunity to get in front of the willow. I’m hearing from all different aspects of elopement. It’s romantic, it’s more spontaneous, it’s less stressful.”

The willow tree is 50 years old and will only grow larger as time goes on. There is an ethereal quality to standing under the leafy umbrella and hearing the sound of the branches brush against each other. It’s the kind of pretty moment that makes people fall in love with Northern Michigan. I told Kristi that I thought it’d be a lovely place to elope, and that I’d consider it, but finding someone to elope with might prove to be difficult.

“Small details!” she laughed.


Kristi Brown:

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Categories: GTPulse