The Top 5 Mackinac Island Wedding Planning Mistakes

A Mackinac Island wedding is a wedding like none other!… It’s such a special and unique place… Partly because no cars are allowed… and, of course, it’s an island!⁠ Avoid these top 5 mistakes that couples make when planning their Mackinac Island weddings.

1) Misunderstanding “Island Time”

Because of where it’s located in Northern Michigan, the wedding season on Mackinac Island is only 6 months long! What does this mean for wedding planning?

  • Many of the offices on the island close for the winter.
  • Venues open their booking windows later than other places… often only a year to six months in advance.
  • There’s transition time as vendors move their offices on and off island between the seasons.
  • Confirming details might take a bit longer… don’t worry, it gets done!

Everyone is in the same boat when in comes to Mackinac Island wedding planning. Understanding the seasons and timelines of island life will help your wedding planning process become smoother and less stressful!

2) Forgetting about “Horse Power”

No cars are allowed on Mackinac Island. While this is part of the island’s charm… it’s also part of the challenge of wedding planning on the island. Keep these things in mind when creating your wedding schedule:

  • Everyone…and everything!…is transported by horse, bicycle, or on foot.
  • Horses take longer than the bicycles and are slower than walking.
  • If you book a horse-drawn carriage, allow ample time for getting on and off it… especially if you’re taking your wedding party on a carriage ride. That’s a lot of people to get on and off at each stop!
  • Places like Arch Rock take a long time to reach… that’s a lot of time out of an already busy day!
  • Plan a carriage ride to locations with lots of photo opportunities in that one spot. (I know a bunch!)
  • Go through downtown on your horse-drawn carriage ride. Why? People will applaud and cheer as you ride by – it’s an experience like none other!!!

Setting aside enough time to enjoy your horse drawn carriage ride and choosing a beautiful route with great photo destinations will help your wedding day be as fun and romantic as you’ve dreamed!

3) Waiting too Long to Check the Mackinac Island Ferry Schedules

The two ferry lines are the main ways on and off Mackinac Island. They depart and return from two locations – Mackinac City and St. Ignace. Check the schedules early and often (they vary by time of year). Here are several ways that they come into play:

  • There are two Mackinac Island ferry lines – Shepler’s and Star Line. They both offer wedding packages. Be sure your guests know which line to take!
  • On the mainland, give yourself at least a half hour before the ferry’s departure to park, take a shuttle from the parking lot, drop off your luggage, and buy your tickets.
  • Arrival Time: If you have something scheduled, be sure to arrive in plenty of time to reach your destination. (Remember, everyone travels by horse, bicycle or on foot!)
  • You may need to go to St. Ignace for your marriage license. Check the ferry schedules to determine when you can get there (and back)!
  • Know when the last ferry leaves in case your guests need to leave the reception to get off the island. You don’t want them to miss your first dance or the cake cutting, so plan accordingly!
  • If you are planning to do DIY elements for your wedding, remember that everything needs to get on and off the ferry (and to the destination).

The ferry rides are part of the fun of Mackinac Island. Having the schedules at hand will ensure that you and your guests have plenty of time to arrive and depart without missing a thing!

4) Staying Only One or Two Nights on the Island

The day you arrive on Mackinac Island is a busy one! You’re taking the ferry, traveling to your hotel, and settling in. And remember, everything moves at a slower pace by horse, bicycle or foot. Here’s why I recommend staying 4 nights:

  • Arrive the day before your rehearsal dinner and/or welcome party. This gives you plenty of time to get settled and avoid the stress of getting into your hotel room an hour before your rehearsal! (Check in times are fairly rigid during peak season.)
  • On the day of your rehearsal dinner you can check on everything and be ready to welcome your guests. Plus that day guests will most likely be contacting you with questions. This way you will already be settled from the day before.
  • You’ll definitely want to stay on island for your wedding night! (And most of your guests might, too. Be sure they are aware of the last ferry departure well in advance so that they can plan accordingly!)
  • Give yourself the chance to sleep in and have a leisurely day after your wedding. Check out times can be early! Plus some couples plan a farewell brunch as a fun wrap-up to their wedding weekend. You don’t want to spend your first day as husband wife rushing around, packing and traveling.

You’ll be so glad that you gave yourself extra time before and after your wedding festivities. You’ve put so much time and effort into planning them… why not be relaxed and well-rested so that you can fully enjoy them?!

5) Hiring Off-Island Vendors

Mackinac Island’s unique logistics present a special set of challenges for wedding vendors. Hiring those with lots of island experience will take so much stress off of your plate! Here’s why:

  • Goods are transported by dray – a flatbed cart pulled by a horse. If your vendor doesn’t know how to use one, or who to talk to about one, getting things from Point A to Point B is going to be difficult!
  • You will bear a lot of the logistical stress if you are trying to figure things out along with an off-island vendor. Local vendors take care of things without you even realizing that they needed to be taken care of!
  • It’s such a tight-knit community of vendors. We all know each other and help each other. Click here to see how the community banded together when a reception venue almost caught fire… during the reception.
  • Island vendors can give you unique experiences. For example, if I know who will be performing at a restaurant downtown, I can request a special song for my couple!

I’ve traveled and shot weddings all over the world, and yes, you don’t always need local vendors. However, after photographing countless Mackinac Island weddings, trust me when I say that this magical place is magical for a reason… it’s unique and thus has unique challenges. It’s so important to hire Mackinac Island vendors!

Avoid these Mackinac Island Wedding Planning Mistakes

I hope that this blog has given you some insight into Mackinac Island Wedding Planning. By avoiding these top 5 wedding planning mistakes, you’ll create a fun and relaxed wedding where you can be fully present… and full of joy!

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