Nowadays, you don’t have to go to the chapel to get married. Around Calhoun County, you can go to the greenhouse, or the garden or the barn, or even on top of Fragrant Hill.

“The barn trend is at its peak right now of popularity,” says photographer Stephanie Parshall.

Parshall covers 25 weddings a year and more than half of them are in Southwest Michigan.

Her advice for couples looking for a venue:

  1. Maybe it’s the rain, maybe it’s a pandemic. While it’s good to think of your wedding in the best-case scenario, have a back-up plan that you love just as much. 
  2. Communication is key. Clearly establish what the venue is providing and take nothing for granted, whether it’s the bartender or tablecloths. It’s also less stressful to pick a venue that replies quickly throughout the process.
  3. There is a difference between venue coordinator and event coordinator. Talk with your coordinator about what she or he will take care of. For instance, a venue coordinator will help with guest parking, but an event coordinator will focus on making sure the bridal party is where they’re supposed to be on the big day. Sometimes it will be one person doing both, but not often.
  4. As a photographer, Parshall doesn’t have any requests for what makes the best pictures. But she does like to spend time talking with the couple about what they love about the venue. That way, she knows what to emphasize in the photos.

Here are eight venues to check out around Calhoun County:

Dreamfield Acres and The Wagner Ballroom, Marshall

Dawn and Don Worthington can offer you a venue in a turn-of-the-century barn or a turn-of-the-century ballroom. They do more than offer space, though. The Worthingtons also have a photography business and music experience. Bundles include photography, video, DJ services and day of wedding coordination. That’s a chunk out of your to-do list right there!

Green Gardens Community Farm, Battle Creek

“It’s really unique,” Parshall says. Green Gardens is a working farm (ask them about their candy carrots) but they also host events on the property and in the greenhouse. Between the rolling hills and fairy lights, farm living has never looked so romantic.

Greencrest Manor, Battle Creek

No need for a destination wedding — Greencrest Estate feels like a secluded manor in the French countryside. According to Greencrest’s website, the venue has been recognized on the Oprah show.

Leila Arboretum, Battle Creek

Get close to nature by renting space at Leila Arboretum. There’s a pavilion located on the top of Fragrant Hill, named for the flowering trees that are on full display in the spring. It also gives a sweeping vista of fall color. Other sites include the fountain, Fantasy Forest, gazebo, the wildflower garden and more.

Olde Farmhouse Barn, Marshall

With a red barn and white farmhouse, this wedding venue has a relaxed country feel. And no country wedding is complete without a great spread of food. Many customers praised the in-house catering at Olde Farmhouse Barn.

Record Box Loft, Battle Creek

The Record Box Loft is very Instagram-friendly, with hardwood floors, exposed brick and a view of the river. Even the old freight elevator, which once hauled cereal boxes, is now a photo booth. Bonus: A craft brewery shares the same building.

Southern Exposure Herb Farm, Battle Creek

If flowers are your thing, check out Southern Exposure Herb Farm. The wedding takes place in an English garden, surrounded by aromatic plants, birds and the burbles of fountains. Southern Exposure also has Mi Suk Palmatier — according to Parshall, she is one of those rare people who are both event coordinator and a venue coordinator, to make sure everything runs beautifully. Palmatier has more than 20 years of experience.

Stone Barn, Sherwood

This barn near the village of Athens comes with a marvelous legend: Touching the hex symbols on the southern-facing wall brings good luck. But who needs luck when you’ve got a venue that can accommodate an inside ceremony? Mother Nature can send all the rain she likes, but your guests will be dry. If the weather plays nice, Stone Barn has an outdoor fire pit for people to gather around and make s’mores.