Area wedding venues celebrate the end of COVID-19 event restrictions

SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN – This week, Michiganders were given the green light to celebrate together after more than a year of gathering size limits, to the relief of event venue owners around the state.

Michigan pandemic mandates that imposed capacity limits for indoor and outdoor gatherings venues were lifted Tuesday by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Gatherings in any capacity can now be at 100 percent capacity to the venue. The state’s mask mandate was also lifted as of Tuesday.

“It’s obviously great news for us,” said Melanie Kennedy, owner of The Grand LV, 104 N. Third St., Niles. “We can do things without feeling like we are doing something wrong.”

The Grand LV’s renovated 1928 brick building was once an Elks Temple in downtown Niles. Kennedy, and husband, Don, purchased the building in 2018 and transformed it into a wedding and event venue. The year 2020 was set to be a successful one for the business until COVID-19 mandates completely shut their doors for nine weeks and continued to limit their work for more than a year.

In the early shut downs, The Grand LV issued refunds, but soon had to change its policy.

“As much as we wanted to refund everyone, it was not practical for us. We didn’t want people to lose out financial or be burdened. We did our best to make everyone happy,” Kennedy said. Soon enough, the Kennedys had to find creative ways to bring in revenue, working around ever-changing pandemic mandates to host events. One of the most successful was “Small Shops,” a series of pop-up retail experiences showcasing small vendors.

A little over 20 minutes away in Cassopolis, Marion Magnolia Farms, 57276 Twin Lakes Road, is also ready to welcome back events without the limitations of pandemic orders.

Marion Magnolia Farms is an event venue based out of a renovated 1800s-era barn. Opened last summer, this week is the first time owner Brittany File is experiencing running her business without COVID-19 mandates.
“I feel like we were kind of born as a venue into the pandemic — born into these restrictions and rules — which was really difficult at first, but we were able to work around a lot of them because we are outdoors and can be considered that way,” File said. “Since restrictions are lifted, it’s kind of a whole new world for us. We are able to host these events the way we always envisioned hosting them.”

Unable to host the events she was planning on in 2020, File, like the Kennedys, had to find creative ways to bring in revenue and spread the word about her business. File decided to plant sunflowers at Marion Magnolia Farms fields, which attracted photographers and locals to the property.

Now, after a year of event cancellation and creative solutions, both Marion Magnolia Farms and the Grand LV are not just reopened for business — they are busier than ever.

Kennedy said her venue is now booked every weekend through the end of the year with rescheduled events, parties and weddings delayed from 2020.

With people trying to book events to celebrate baby showers, graduations, birthdays and more, Kennedy said The Grand LV is now facing a new challenge – hosting multiple events in one weekend.

“This weekend, [we have] just one wedding,” Kennedy said. “It will seem so quiet.”

Like The Grand LV, File said Marion Magnolia Farms is also very booked for the rest of 2021. With the challenging combination of being a new venue and opening during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, File is thankful to be where she is today.

“We didn’t advertise a total of nine months, and we had basically 2021 almost all the way booked. It was huge and such a big blessing. I’m amazed at it,” she said. “Most venues, you’re kind of lucky if you can book half of your weekends just starting out. Here we are – we booked all of them.”

Moving forward, both Kennedy and File are thrilled to host unrestricted events.

“It’s a blessing to really see how people have transformed from last year,” File said. “We can be together again and enjoy each other’s company again.”

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