Have you and your fiancé been considering a destination wedding? But don’t have the budget for the Caribbean? Have you begun to feel the pressure that comes with trying to manage the many details of planning a wedding and feel like you’d like to get away from it all? Why not consider a destination wedding at a not-so-far destination. We have a little bit of that island-feel right in our own backyard. Lake Erie’s Western shoreline -- Sandusky, Huron, Port Clinton, the Lake Erie Islands -- is just a short drive away, yet you’ll feel like you’re miles away from Ohio and the Midwest. 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, the Western shoreline of Lake Erie is Ohio’s vacation destination.

Chances are if you grew up in this area you’ve been to Cedar Point in Sandusky. Many of us spent our high school "after-prom" at Cedar Point. Granted, Cedar Point is fun -- it’s been voted the Best Amusement Park in the World seven years in a row -- but there’s much more to this part of Ohio and the Lake Erie coast than roller coasters. We’ve scouted the area and come UP with six ways to incorporate a little vacation feel into your Midwest wedding.

1. Propose while on 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 Place" in the 1992 issue of 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 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 power boats 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 Monument to view the panoramic vistas of Lake Erie and the islands.

Getting there…The Miller ferry 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 aboard hydro jet catamarans, offering the smoothest, fastest ride across Lake Erie. Traveling at speeds up to 40 mph, the Jet Express offers a 12.5 mile scenic tour.

2. The Bridal Party’s Attire - The Brides World and The Tux World have been locally owned and operated for the past 42 years. "We can be set apart from other bridal shops because we are family owned and operated. Unlike the chain bridal shops we give personalized service to each and every bride," says owner Nancy Rossi. Their trained bridal consultants have years of experience helping brides chose a gown from the 100’s of gowns they offer, with lines like Jasmine, Casablanca and Private Label. Their skilled alterations department will fit your gown flawlessly. "We offer brides a wide selection of gowns and all of the accessories to go with the dress -- shoes, jewelry, headpieces and veils," says Rossi. The shop also carries gowns for bridesmaids, flower girls, mother-of and guests.

While you’re there have your groom and his guys fitted for their tuxes too. In association with the Brides World, the Tux World, partner with Tuxedo Junction has big company inventory with small-shop services and price. They offer wedding service across the country to accommodate those out-of-town groomsmen. With the help of The Brides World you can be assured that your wedding will be coordinated for your special day.

Conveniently located at 912 W. Perkins Avenue in Sandusky. Call 419.626.8539 to make an appointment.

3. Beautiful Wedding Cakes - In 1994, after a ten-year run as a Paris-based fashion model, Wendy Kromer, moved to New York City, and enrolled in the professional pastry and baking program at the Institute of Culinary Education, turning a lifelong hobby of baking and decorating into a second career. Her love of pastries and confectionery art has been shared by many brides and grooms looking to create the grandest and most significant "sweet" they will ever share.

For the past nine years, Kromer has worked as a contributing editor for Martha Stewart Omnimedia, producing many of the wedding cakes viewed in the Martha Stewart Weddings magazines. Her work has also appeared in publications like Colin Cowie Weddings, In Style, People and Oprah.

Sandusky native, Kromer, moved back to her hometown along with her husband and in 2004 realized her dream of opening a specialty baker. Wendy Kromer Confections is located in historic downtown Sandusky at 137 E. Water Street. Call 419.609.0450 or visit her website at wendykromer.com to see samples of her beautiful cakes.

4. Bachelor Party/Golf Outing - Instead of the typical strip club 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. Strategically situated sand bunkers dot the fairways. The frequent lake breeze adds to the challenge of having water hazards come into play on 14 separate holes. The course plays 6,702 yards from the championship tees. Par is 71.

Sawmill Creek Resort sits on 235 acres of pristine beauty. This full-service resort features 240 newly decorated guest rooms and suites and superb dining in one of their six restaurants/lounges/sports bar/ pub -- everything they need to make it a great guys golf weekend.

Sawmill Creek Resort is located at 400 Sawmill Creek in Huron. Call 1.800.729.6455 for reservations or visit www.sawmillcreek.com.

5. 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 more often opt for co-ed bridal showers to include the groom other male friends. One option for a co-ed shower is a "wet" weekend at Ohio's largest indoor water park, Kalahari Resort located in Sandusky. Surf or 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 water roller coaster slide, the first of its kind in the world. Add an extra touch of luxury to your getaway by renting your own Water park Cabana including four Kalahari beach towels to take home, a mini fridge with bottled water, private television and house phone, a table and four chairs and two lounge chairs. Or relax and unwind at Spa Kalahari with their exclusive Hot Stone PediKur, a luxurious treatment including Eucalyptus, Turkish Salts and a foot massage with hot stones.

With 308 African-themed guest rooms and suites and the Kahunaville Restaurant & Bar with Las-Vegas-style dining and entertainment Kalahari Resort is a great place to spend a day or the weekend. Call for reservations 1.877.525.2427 or visit www.kalahariresort.com.

6. Have Reverend Kim Sutter Perform Your Ceremony - Reverend Kim L. Sutter, a non-denominational, ordained minister is an "on-call" wedding officiate and will travel anywhere in Ohio at anytime to perform a wedding. Authorized and licensed to solemnize marriages within the state of Ohio since June 2002, Sutter says, "I first became ordained when my friend opened a bed and breakfast with a wedding chapel inside." Most ministers required consultation prior to the ceremony. For some couples getting married on the spur of the moment, this process didn’t work. Sutter saw a need and started her business. Since 2002 when she was ordained, Sutter has married almost 60 couples, she says, "I meet with the couple and we work out the ceremony and write the vows." She recognizes that today not all couples belong to a church or want a traditional church wedding. Sutter is very open-minded to the couple’s request to make each and every ceremony intimate and personal. She sees the uniqueness of each couple and wants that incorporated within the wedding. She has performed wedding ceremonies in a wedding chapel, on a boat, by a swimming pool and once under the tree where the groom proposed. Sutter also does vow renewals and ceremonies for couples with children, incorporating vows of commitment to the children as well. You can call to reserve a date at 419.547.8148 and read testimonials at her website www.ohioweddingofficiate.com.

7. Host Your Ceremony and Reception - Lyman Harbor -- once home to the Lyman Boat Works, manufacturer of Lyman Boats, the premier vessel of Lake Erie in the 1930s -- is now Lyman Harbor Waterfront Entertainment Complex providing recreation for boaters and non-boaters alike. Waterfront dining, concerts, shopping, and a superb marina facility are backdropped by a stunning view of Cedar Point and the Sandusky Bay. Lyman Banquet Facilities can fulfill the needs of any bride and wedding of any size. Lyman Harbor offers three indoor reception venues. The Lotus Room is the smallest seating around 80 people. With no windows this room offers an intimate and private appeal for a wedding. The Boeckling Room is the next in size seating around 190 people. There are front windows to give a view of the waterfront. The most popular room to rent for wedding receptions is Compass Point. Seating up to 700 people this room has an amazing view of the Sandusky Bay. Large industrial doors in the room open to lead out to the pier. Maybe you prefer to host an outdoor wedding, the Lyman Lawn is perfect for any wedding reception with a picture perfect view and a waterfront boardwalk. Lyman Harbor offers catering and something that cannot be found anywhere else in this part of the nation. "We have a Cinderella Carriage," says Jenni Hammond of Lyman Harbor. "It looks like it came right out of the fairytale and it even lights up at night." Lyman Harbor also has other carriages and a limo service. The Blue Heron Restaurant offers a unique dining experience along with a breathtaking view of the sunset over Sandusky Bay. Jumpin’ Jupiter with over 4,000 square feet of automated lights, laser effects, top DJs and State of Nirvana Bar is a high-energy nightclub designed to keep everyone entertained. For more information visit www.lymanharbor.com or call 419.62LYMAN.

The newst addition to African-themed Kalahari Resort is the Nia Center -- Nia meaning "purpose" in Swahili. Kalahari Resort is a destination in itself with its pampering spa, shops, and spacious guest rooms and suites providing guests a luxury of choice uncommon in the Midwest (see item #5 above). And now with the addition of the $19.5 million Nia Center which can accommodate groups up to 2,200 Kalahari can host your once-in-a-lifetime wedding.

With its first phase opening in August 2006, Nia Center will be furnished with the same one-of-a-kind artwork that is found throughout the resort. From roots carved into elephants to ostrich skin wall hangings, each piece of art at Kalahari is hand-crafted in Africa. The center has 25 meeting areas including a 17,200 square-foot ballroom with a 24-foot ceiling that can be subdivided into eight rooms.

You'll appreciate the level of professionalism in every detail. Nia Center's event planners are available to assist you and make certain that your event will be one that's talked about for years to come. For more information visit kalahariresorts.com or call 419.433.7759.

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