When you grow up in the Midwest, it’s not uncommon to ask friends or even extended family what they’re up to for the weekend and get in response something to do with “heading to the lake house.” Whether it’s Michigan or Wisconsin, having a lake house (or regular access to one) in a neighboring state is Chicago’s version of a place in the Hamptons.

Hate to disappoint, but I did not grow up with, nor do I have as an adult, a lake house. 

So when I was invited to a late-summer wedding complete with an extra bed at a lake house the bride and groom had rented for the occasion, I knew it’d be a special weekend. As if a wedding wasn’t wonderful enough, a weekend lounging by the water sounded more than amazing. I could’ve carpooled with family heading out from the city, but I decided to rent a car and make a solo road-trip of it, music turned up and windows rolled down.

The occasion was my uncle getting hitched to a wonderful woman he’d been dating for a couple of years, and together with their combined brood of five grown children, we gathered in Kalamazoo to celebrate the couple and cheers to their new life together. A second go-round for both, the wedding was everything it needed to be—a joyful exchange of vows and a killer dance party—without any of the pomp and circumstance that distracts from what’s important. 

The bride wore a simple white cocktail dress and her daughter and new step-daughters chose their own sundresses, while the groom and his new step-sons kept it casual in khaki shorts and beach shirts. We decamped from the lake house long enough to party at a local brewery for both the ceremony and reception, the former of which perfectly balanced the significance of the event with a healthy dose of humor. 

With just about sixty people in attendance, the whole affair made up for in good vibes and love what it lacked in size. It seemed like everyone in the room spent the whole time beaming, broken up only by a few moments of happy tears. Blending families is no easy task, and while I’m sure goes more smoothly when the kids are young adults with lives (and homes) of their own, it bodes well that this new Brady Bunch was immediately so comfortable with each other, as happy about the union as the bride and groom themselves. 

But I digress. The lake house. 

In my flurry to get out of the city and join the festivities, I managed to throw everything in the rental car except my bathing suit! Like I said, this lake house thing is new to me… I thought about it in the days before I left, mentally reminding myself to grab one. And then when the time came, I completely spaced. Plenty of ladies at the house offered to let me borrow one, but I was just as happy lounge on the dock off the backyard in a strappy sundress, watching the rest of the gang float on inner-tubes or kayak out to the middle of the lake and back.

The view from the house out to the lake. Swoon.

Though I didn’t get in the water, I still managed to fully enjoy my brief taste of lake house life, particularly the quiet afternoon before the shin-dig. While the bridal party was off getting ready (or playing golf), I chilled with a few new friends on the dock, reading and soaking up the sun and warm air. And maybe sipping on a glass or two of rosé in the process…

The morning after, everyone was invited over to the lake house for brunch, and soon the house was as full of energy as the party was the night before. We filled up on eggs and potatoes and bloody Marys, and headed back out to the dock to sneak in as much time near (and in!) the water as we could. Sitting there on an adirondack chair (classic!), living my best lake house life, I completely understood the appeal of such a getaway. Whether it’s a go-to cabin near a favorite body of water or a new place every time, I may just have to add “long weekend at the lake house” to my Midwest summer plans. 

Wedding optional.

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