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Weddings Reimagined: Small local venues are a saving grace for couples hoping to say "I do" in 2020

Many couples are learning that "small can be beautiful" and "bigger isn't always better."

ZEELAND, Mich. — Many couples dream of big weddings, surrounded by hundreds of friends and family -- in 2020 that just hasn't been possible. But as the pandemic progresses, we've found that love will find a way.

In fact, smaller venues are becoming the saving grace for couples determined to realize their dreams.

"Plan A was to go abroad and get married in Montenegro," explained Nadija Kadunic-Horning. "I'm from Bosnia originally, Montenegro is right next to it. We had that planned to a T -- the plane tickets bought, the villa booked."

"Going into this year we had our calendar full of things that we were anticipating doing from art classes to sourdough bread making, yoga," explained Chris Marlink, the owner of the Glass House Creative Community in Zeeland.

Enter COVID-19. 

"We had to rework the wedding," explained Joshua Horning.

"Like everybody else, we pushed pause or cancel because of the stay-at-home orders," Chris explained.

A dream deferred for both parties, or so they thought.

"It was about early may when the governor started opening things back up and our phone and email started to blow up from couples who needed to think very differently about gathering safely for their weddings," Chris went on to say.

"After we had to cancel everything we thought about just waiting until 2021," explained Nadija. "I found myself searching #michiganweddings and I happened to come across a photo, it was a staged photo shoot that someone had done at the Glass House. I was like, 'Josh what is this place?' We went to look at it the next day in person."

What they found at the Glass House convinced them that a beautiful 2020 wedding was possible after all. A pivot, they say, paid off.

"Honestly it was perfect, looking back on it -- I couldn't imagine getting married any other way. It wasn't our initial plan, but it was the perfect plan," Josh recalled.

From a private "first look" and the ceremony inside, to dinner and dancing on the grounds, the newlyweds say what made their wedding day really special was the intimate connections made possible by a smaller gathering.

"We had time to spend with our grandparents -- it was so special," Josh explained. "It wouldn't have been possible if our wedding had been so much larger."

Credit: Arielle Teft Photography
Credit: Arielle Teft Photography

"A lot of couples have said to us afterwards, if they had to do it over again this would had been Plan A rather than Plan B or C because it's been so meaningful for them to have that time with their family and friends," Chris said. "And by necessity it's been small, its been intimate."

Small certainly can be beautiful.

"We always imagined that this would be a really special gathering place, but this year of course has brought that into a reality in a way that we would never have expected," he continued.

The newlyweds say that villa in Montenegro is still waiting for them. So, is the Glass House.

Credit: Arielle Teft Photography

"Our dream and our hope is that they will return 10 years or 20 years from now to book their anniversary party and well see it grow from new love to old love," Chris explained.

At the start of 2020 the Glass House, which is off Chicago Drive in Zeeland, had just 1 or 2 weddings booked. Now as we close out the year, they have been the "smaller wedding" solution for dozens of couples.


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