Rob and I started off the 2022 wedding season with a sweet and simple courthouse wedding in northern Michigan! Ben and Etta’s wedding day was filled with sweet details honoring family while making new memories together.
When we had our intro call with Etta and Ben this winter about their spring courthouse wedding, I knew right away that they were a special couple. Extremely down to earth, full of laughs, and lovers of the outdoors (especially northern Michigan) – they’re exactly the type of couple we love to celebrate wedding days with!
When Ben and Etta contacted us about their wedding, they explained they were keeping things small and simple, getting married on a Friday with just a few close family members. The Grand Traverse Courthouse currently only allows six people total to attend their wedding ceremony. In addition to the two of them, they planned to have Ben’s parents, his brother and wife, and Rob and I attending. Wow!! We consider it a privilege every time we get to capture a couple’s wedding day, and doubly so when there is a guest limit.
Spring in Northern Michigan
Northern Michigan springs are feisty and unpredictable with a mix of sleety, gray days and blue sky days that remind us summer is right around the corner. As we traveled to Ben and Etta’s getting ready cabin, the clouds hung low and I hoped the rain would hold off at least until the afternoon.
Etta and Ben got ready at Ben’s grandparents’ cabin overlooking Torch Lake. It was an easy-going Friday morning, just the two of them and their three dogs Oreo, Eleiko, and Arrow.
Ben and Etta both recently finished their Army service in California and are in the midst of settling into their new home in New York. So why a Northern Michigan wedding? While Ben grew up in the South, he fondly remembers many summers spent at his grandparents’ cabin (yes, the one they got ready in together!) Etta isn’t a Michigan native either, but she’s grown to love Michigan right along with Ben.
Etta’s bouquet featured a bird pin from her grandmother, whose nickname was Wren. I love when brides include family heirlooms!
Another thoughtful way Etta incorporated family into the day was by including frames of their grandparents and great-grandparents.
Arrow was all too happy to keep me company while I took getting ready pictures!
Eleiko kept Etta company while Oreo stayed on the porch with Ben. We never know what to expect when people want to include their dogs in their wedding, although we always support their decision. Thankfully all three dogs are very well-behaved and chaos was minimal!
Pictures at Torch Lake
A first look is special no matter where it happens. Ben had a wide grin when Etta walked into the living room. She pinned his boutonniere on – after the dogs inspected it!
Etta’s parents weren’t able to travel to attend their wedding. Ben and Etta requested to recreate a picture from their 1980s wedding.
And, of course, before heading out we made sure to get a picture with all three dogs!
Courthouse Wedding at Grand Traverse County Courthouse
I was relieved to watch the clouds break up as we left Torch Lake and headed toward Traverse City. We arrived at the Grand Traverse County Courthouse and made it through the security detectors without a hitch. (I’m not sure why I always get unreasonably nervous going through those things!)
Despite being right on time for their 2 p.m. appointment, the magistrate was still with the previous couple. Etta and Ben spent the down time setting up the Zoom meeting via phone and chatting with friends and family. Ben’s parents Dave and Carol attended and stood as their witnesses.
What to expect at a courthouse wedding?
They’re brief! The ceremony was only about 5 minutes long – vows, ring exchange, and first kiss.
After making everything legal, we headed outside for family portraits. The Grand Traverse County 86th District Court building has really cool medieval style arch doors out front which made for a great background.
Portraits By The Water at Grand Traverse Bay
After getting some wedding portraits at the courthouse, we headed just down the road to Clinch Park & Marina. The park was quiet for such a gorgeous Friday and we walked the pier enjoying the sun.
In closing –
Ben and Etta, thank you for inviting us to be a part of your intimate wedding day. We were so happy to capture your courthouse wedding and meet your family! Wishing you a smooth move to New York, and an amazing marriage full of love and laughter!