By Pat Stinson
Comfortable and fun. Ryan Hampton wanted both as he and his
bride-to-be, Laura Powers, combed the west side of the state in search
of the perfect wedding site.
At the top of her list? Comfortable and beautiful.
According to Powers, the southeastern Michigan couple easily visited
20 locations. It helped that they knew the area. His parents have a
cabin near Manistee and have worked in Traverse City; she spent summer
vacations tent camping with her parents at campgrounds in Leelanau
One rainy, gray summer day the couple took a winding road near
Burdickville and turned onto a country lane that climbed through the
woods. They reached a plateau of pastures ringed by wooden fences and
distant hardwoods. On the edge of a ridge were charming barns, pockets
of giant spruce and an attractive, wooded-sided home. Brown, white,
buff and caramel-colored llamas and alpacas dotted the landscape.
Owner-caretaker Juliet Berkshire Sprouse greeted the couple and showed
them her 100-acre oasis, called Snow Moon Ranch. They met alpacas,
toured the multi-purpose barn and discovered a wide, green lawn
leading to views of Glen Lake, Alligator Hill and the distant Dune
Climb. They knew immediately that this was the place. Recalling the
dreary day of their visit, Powers noted: It was still beautiful. We
were thinking, If it looks this good now, we wont care if it
The wedding day was gorgeous and sunny, an absolute perfect day,
Powell said. Shuttles brought guests from their hotels to the site,
in time for lawn games of crochet, Bocce and badminton, plus kids
games, followed by cold drinks and appetizers. The early evening
ceremony was held in front of a wooden arbor on the lawn, at the Glen
The décor was simple, Powers said, describing her birch-bark theme.
My sister called it rustic elegance. We didnt need much, the
landscape was so beautiful.
They liked walking from the ceremony site to the barn and adjacent
pasture, where a rented tent shaded guests as they helped themselves
to the buffet. Their caterer, Sodexo, of Northwestern Michigan
College, identified dishes that would keep well and withhold well
at the site.
The couples one concern was for guests needing transportation between
the ceremony and reception sites. Berkshire Sprouse attempted to find
a used golf cart and finally purchased a new cart on the morning of
It was just amazing, Powers said. Shes so sweet and kind-hearted.
That was her whole demeanor. She was the one that carried the train
of my dress. I was also thankful that she told our photographer to
take a break and eat some dinner.
The feedback from guests was also complimentary.
Everyone we talked to loved it and thanked us for having such a fun
wedding, she said.
Sarah (Wigton) Dominguez of Ann Arbor, a 2002 Glen Lake School
graduate, grew up next door to Snow Moon Ranch and decided to hold her
wedding there, even before she had chosen a date. Her then-fiancé
Marxengels had worked briefly on the farm, so he had a connection, and
she fell in love with the water view.
Like Powers, she was excited to have her ceremony and reception in one
place. Another appealing feature was the many play areas for kids,
which helped them feel like part of the celebration.
My second cousin was rolling and rolling and rolling in the grass,
she said, laughing at her memory of the six-year-old. He was having
so much fun.
Dominguez spent two or three hours at Berkshire Sprouses dining room
table, as the two discussed every important detail. The wedding was
kept natural and simple. Local people provided flowers, food and
Juliet is great to work with and a really good communicator,
Dominguez explained. She wants to make sure everyone has the best
possible experience and makes herself available. People said it was
the nicest wedding they had ever been to.
For Erin (Easter) Crowther, whose wedding had a modern but country
theme, the rustic setting of Snow Moon Ranch was ideal. No stranger
to farm life or alpacas, (her parents own Northern Dreams Alpaca Farm
of Empire), Crowther felt comfortable around the cool fences, trucks
and animals, which made great backdrops for photographs. She and her
(then) fiancé, Josh, planned a mid-afternoon wedding to take advantage
of sunlight on the water and to accommodate the needs of older guests.
They liked the seclusion and roominess the acreage provided, and the
proximity to area lodging for their out-of-town guests. There was
so much room that everything flowed quite nicely, she said of the
barn, tents and bar.
She also was impressed with Berkshire Sprouses extensive list of
vendors and back-up ideas.
Almost anyone can have their needs met, she said, sharing that a
ton of people complimented them, saying that it was the best wedding
they had ever attended.
Weddings at Snow Moon Ranch
Juliet Berkshire Sprouse remembers the first wedding she hosted at her
When I decided to do this as a gift for my goddaughter, I thought,
Oh, my gosh, what did I get into?
The llama and alpaca rancher said she was wondering where to start, to
bring her 30-year-old property back to show quality, but things have
gradually fallen into place, with new roofs, barn doors, irrigation,
landscaping and lighting. Berkshire Sprouses background in fine arts
also gives her an eye for subtle design details.
She said most people who tour the grounds are impressed with the view,
and the fact that Snow Moon is a working farm. Theres also plenty of
space for activities and privacy. Clients can use the property for
two or three days without worrying about bumping into another event.
Her typical wedding size is 200 people, although she has hosted 35 to
350. She said shes constantly moving during a wedding shes wants
it to be perfect for them, and they want it to be perfect too.
Weve never had to do a ceremony inside, she said, but the thought
of a storm brings sleepless nights. All summer long I wake up and
look outside. Is it raining? Oh, its not Saturday!
For more about Snow Moon Ranch, visit www.snowmoonweddings.com