Been thinking about a destination wedding, but don’t have the budget for the Caribbean? Why not consider a destination wedding at a not-so-far destination. You can get a little bit of that island-feel right here in your own backyard. Lake Erie Shores & Islands – Sandusky, Huron, Port Clinton, the Lake Erie Islands – are just a short drive away, yet you’ll feel like you’re miles away from Ohio and the Midwest.
It’s no wonder nearly seven million people visit Sandusky and Erie County each year, solidifying its position as one of the most appealing vacation spots in the Midwest. From lakefront hotels and cottages to unspoiled natural coastlines, championship golf courses and wineries, the Lake Erie region of Ohio is brimming with a host of places to go and things to do.
If you’re from this area chances are you’ve been to Cedar Point in Sandusky – voted world’s best amusement park by the Travel Channel – but there’s so much more to this part of Ohio and the Lake Erie coast than just roller coasters. Whether you’re looking to boat and fish or just get away for a few lazy days at the beach, the Lake Erie Shores and Islands offer a coastal retreat with abundant recreation options. The area is alive with weddings and wedding-related outings each year. If you’d like to incorporate a little of that “vacation” feel into your wedding, read on. Here are just a few options to help you plan that destination wedding you’ve been dreaming of.
1. propose during a weekend getaway at the Lake Erie Islands
With the beaches and beautiful views, any one of the islands would be a romantic place to pop the question. Named as a “Top 10 Undiscovered Places” in Vacations magazine, Kelleys Island is an island paradise for travelers. On the north side of the island Kelleys Island State Park has a wide sandy beach ideal for a day of swimming. The downtown area offers miniature golf, and bike and golf cart rentals along with shops, eateries, pubs and seasonal live entertainment within steps of the waterfront.
Middle Bass Island, where Lonz Winery was once located, is dominated by vineyards, old homes, summer cottages, beaches, marinas and the Kuehnle Wildlife Area, which protects a variety of plants and animals.
South Bass Island (Put-in-Bay) with its ‘festive atmosphere’ is popular for its abundant entertainment and shopping options. Rent wave runners, kayaks and powerboats at South Bass Island State Park. Tour the Heineman Winery and sample wine made from native grapes grown on South Bass. Or ride the elevator up 352 feet to the top of the towering Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial to view the panoramic vistas of Lake Erie and the islands.
Getting there… The Miller Ferries offers auto and passenger trips to Put-in-Bay and Middle Bass Bay from Catawba every half hour in the summer. Want to get there faster? The Jet Express offers passenger transportation from Sandusky and Port Clinton to Put-in-Bay and Kelleys Island aboard hydro jet catamarans, offering the smoothest, fastest ride across Lake Erie.
2. bachelor party or golf outing
Instead of the typical bachelor party, grooms and friends can head out to Sawmill Creek Resort for a weekend of golf on their world-class 18-hole golf course. Tom Fazio, world-renowned golf architect, designed large, undulating greens, which support a variety of pin placements to satisfy the most demanding playing conditions. The frequent lake breeze adds to the challenge of having water hazards come into play on 14 separate holes.
Sitting on 235 acres of pristine beauty this full-service resort features 240 newly decorated guest rooms and suites and superb dining in their restaurants, lounges or pub – everything they need to make it a great guy’s golf weekend. Call 800-729-6455 for reservations or visit sawmillcreekresort.com.
3. host a co-ed wedding shower
Gone are the days of girls-only wedding showers where you play those goofy shower games. Experts say brides and grooms of today often opt for co-ed bridal showers to include the groom and other couples. One option for a co-ed shower is a weekend getaway at America’s largest indoor water park, Kalahari Resorts located in Sandusky. Boogie board year round on FlowRider with its 50,000 gallons of water flowing under you each minute to create five-foot ocean-like waves. Everyone can have fun in both indoor and outdoor pools. Experience the Zip Coaster uphill rollercoaster waterslide, the first of its kind in the world.
Kalahari has nearly 900 African-themed rooms and suites. There’s something for everyone at the African-themed Reserve Restaurant and Bar which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with an American fare menu and signature drinks. Kalahari Resorts is a great place to spend a day or the entire weekend. Call 877-525-2427 or visit kalahariresorts.com/ohio.
4. host your ceremony and reception
Built of limestone quarried from Kelleys Island, Mother of Sorrows Catholic Church, located in Put-in-Bay, seats 150 on the main floor with room for an additional 35 in the balcony. The church is a smaller copy of one that exists in Lombardy, Italy. Above the entrance is a beautiful 14-petaled, stained glass “grapevine” Rowe Window, depicting the origin of the wine used during Mass as well as the major agricultural industry of the island. For more information contact the church at 419-285-2741.
Lyman Harbor Wedding and Conference Center, located in Sandusky, is one of the premier wedding and event centers in the area. It was once home to the Lyman Boat Works, manufacturer of Lyman Boats, the premier vessel of Lake Erie in the 1930s. It features banquet and conference capabilities larger than most, and can host events for up to 1,100 guests. The banquet facility is back dropped by a gorgeous view of Cedar Point and Sandusky Bay. You can drive your car to its large facility on First Street, or dock your boat along its private dock and enjoy outdoor dining or just have a drink on the patio or in the Pub.
Lyman banquet facilities can fulfill the needs of a wedding party of nearly any size, with the assurance and flexibility to design your custom event. Lyman offers five indoor reception venues, with capacities ranging from 50 to 1,100 seated guests. The Lotus Room is the smallest, seating a maximum of 75 people. This room offers an intimate and private appeal for rehearsal dinners and indoor wedding receptions. The Boeckling Room seats 120 guests, ideally suited for cocktail parties or special dinners, or smaller wedding receptions. The third venue, Clinkers Waterfront Ballroom, with an outdoor patio, comfortably accommodates 150 guests. It boasts large windows facing the lake and Cedar Point, with an abundance of light and breathtaking views. The second largest of the venues is the Starlite Ballroom, which seats 450 people and is the most elegant and intimate setting for a wedding reception. It has large crystal chandeliers, and an ambiance which sets the perfect mood. The largest of rooms is the Compass Point Ballroom, with seating for up to 650 people, and amazing views of Sandusky Bay and Cedar Point. It also provides large chandeliers which can change color to compliment the wedding theme. The Starlite Ballroom and the Compass Point Ballroom can be joined together to accommodate a maximum of 1,100 guests.
Lyman is unique in that it offers the ability for indoor or outdoor wedding ceremonies. In addition to being able to host your ceremony in one of the rooms described above, there are two lawn areas for outdoor ceremonies. This makes travel from the ceremony to the reception an easy walk. Lyman Harbor banquet facilities provide full-service catering and bar service and can fulfill the needs of any couple and weddings of any size. For more information visit lymanharbor.com or call 419-625-9626.
Also located in Sandusky is African-themed Kalahari Resorts. From the most intimate to the extravagant, Kalahari offers the flexibility to accommodate parties from 12 to 2,200 at their unique resort. The banquet facilities are furnished in the same African design as the hotel. From elephants carved out of roots to ostrich skin wall hangings, each piece of art at Kalahari is hand-selected in the markets of Africa. With 215,000 square feet of event space, the resort has 39 unique meeting rooms including a 38,200 square-foot ballroom with a 24-foot ceiling.
Kalahari is a destination in itself with its beautifully appointed guest rooms and suites, Spa Kalahari where you can rejuvenate your body, mind and spirit as well as America’s largest indoor and outdoor water parks. Combine this magnificent venue with their premier banquet staff and their professional event planners and your event will be one that’s talked about for years to come. For more information visit kalahariresortweddings.com/ohio or call 877-642-6847.
For a local destination wedding check out The Crew’s Nest, located at Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island. Their various banquet facility choices can accommodate intimate gatherings of a few or large affairs up to 400 guests. Venue choices include the Historic Victorian, Italianate Doller Mansion, built and owned by the former mayor of Put-in-Bay, Valentine Doller. Host a more intimate affair for 15-60 guests inside the mansion. Or for larger parties, the mansion’s large lakeside front yard with a panoramic view and backyard gazebo is a location few are likely to forget. If you are looking for privacy yet the convenience of being on their main property, close to amenities, The Crew’s Nest Pavilion is the perfect place for your outdoor event. Its vast backyard provides plenty of room for dancing and socializing. For more information visit thecrewsnest.com or call 419-285-3625.
Sawmill Creek Resort, located in the heart of the Lake Erie Islands region is the perfect destination to entertain your wedding guests. From a ceremony set with a backdrop of Lake Erie and the surrounding Sandusky shoreline to a tastefully simple reception in one of their four beautiful ballrooms, you and your guests will appreciate the beauty of this special place. Stay the night in one of their newly remodeled rooms or Jacuzzi suites and enjoy the three restaurants, marina, shops, pools, beautiful lakefront sand beach and a 500 acre nature preserve. For more information visit sawmillcreek.com or call 419-433-3800.
The major appeal of the Lake Erie shores is of course, the Lake itself. There’s a feeling that can be gotten only by being on the lake in a boat. Operated by Goodtime Lake Erie Cruises, The Goodtime I departs daily from Sandusky to the most well-known islands on Lake Erie, South Bass (Put-in-Bay) and Kelleys Island. For couples desiring a wedding on the water, The Goodtime I hosts private parties as well as Friday Night Party Cruises, sunset cruises and daytime island hopping. For more information visit goodtimeboat.com or call 800-446-3140.
With a rich history in the area, Mon Ami Restaurant and Historic Winery, located on Catawba Island near Port Clinton, has the ambiance of a French country estate. Founded in 1872 by Catawba Island Wine Company then acquired by Mon Ami Champagne Company in 1937, the historic winery offers a perfect setting for a wedding. Whether your occasion calls for a relaxed atmosphere or a formal style a variety of venues are available. You may choose to be married on their lawn, surrounded by the lovely gardens or for a more intimate affair you can exchange nuptials in the wine cellar. The restaurant offers the best in cuisine to compliment their selection of excellent wines and the chef will tailor a menu for your special event from the simple to the elegant. For more information visit monamiwinery.com or call 419-960-4208.
If you are interested in planning any type of event in the Lake Erie area, be it a bachelor or bachelorette party, rehearsal dinner or the entire wedding ceremony, reception and overnight accommodations, the Lake Erie Shores & Islands visitor’s bureau can provide information for over 615,000 square feet of meeting space and over 8,000 guest rooms in and around Lake Erie. Whether you’re looking for a traditional or non-traditional setting there are numerous choices along with a plethora of attractions and entertainment options to keep your group entertained. If you need assistance planning your event go to the Meetings and Groups section of their website and click on the Request for Proposal. One of their group travel experts will provide you with the information you need. For more information visit shoresandislands.com or call 800-255-3743.
Article courtesy of Akron-Canton Weddings Magazine. For more information on planning a wedding in the Akron-Canton area, consult their website at AkronCantonWeddings.com.
Lake Erie Shores and Islands