Ask Linley

From barn, to beach, to ballroom

We met on Martha’s Vineyard, so it’s the obvious choice for our big day, but we also love the idea of a barn wedding. Any ideas?
– Island Bound Hoedown

A drive along the Vineyard’s winding up- Island roads – with scenic stonewalls and cow and sheep pastures aplenty – would stir up anyone’s vision for a harvest inspired celebration.

Check out the Grange Hall or the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury, or ask your wedding planner about renting a farm venue with a barn for your event. Picture cocktail hour under a circus-style tent, with hay bales for seating, and lawn games just outside. Offer your guests lemonade in mason jars, popcorn, and cotton candy, in the style of an old-fashioned county fair. Move the party indoors for your reception. Decorate with Japanese lanterns, juxtaposed against the rustic post-and-beam of the barn. For table settings, consider burlap cloth and fresh wildflowers in galvanized pails. And rather than the more customary wedding fare, why not serve up some barbecue? Nothing like a good ole’ pig roast to complete such a grand barnburner.

We want to get married with the sand between our toes. What should we keep in mind when planning our literal sand ceremony?
– Beachy Beloveds

Whether you choose to marry at the foot of one of the Island’s historic lighthouses or any of the myriad public or private beaches, there are as many scenic sandy backdrops as there are brides. With
miles of sea-sprayed shores and surf, from Edgartown’s Bend-in-the-Road to Chilmark’s Squibnocket Beach, it’ll be a shoe-in, or, well, shoes-off for finding the perfect setting for your barefooted exchanging of vows. Be sure to contact the town in which the beach is located, as each town has its own set of rules, and you’ll need to determine what licenses or fees may be expected.

You might consider engaging a party-rental service to provide seating for elderly, pregnant, or otherwise incapacitated guests. (Having attended several weddings while on crutches, I can tell you firsthand how appreciated this detail can be!) Designate a spot and place a sign at the beach’s entryway for shoes, so guests can lose their heels and wingtips and enjoy the warmth of the sand on the soles of their feet, too. Gift them each with a beach bag of sunblock, bug spray, bottled water, and maybe a beach hat, and you’ll have happy, comfortable guests who can relax and partake in the joy that you and your beloved share.
Carry your beach theme through the festivities: decorate tables with shells and sea glass, offer a raw bar manned by seasoned shuckers, and consider a clambake for the main fare.

We love the Vineyard and would like to have our wedding there, but we are concerned about weather and older guests. Are there any more conventional venues you might suggest?
– Ballroom by the Bay

You love the idea of a wedding by the sea, but the unknowns involved in such an event make your legs wobbly – and having witnessed a couple of wet ‘n windy hurricane-season affairs, I completely understand your desire to stay dry.

Why not have the best of both worlds: a ballroom wedding with a water view? There are a number of resorts, such as the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown and Beach Plum Inn in Menemsha, well equipped to host indoor small-and sophisticated or large-and-luxurious celebrations. Venues like these also offer some choice spots to exchange your vows, such as the porch of the Harbor View. Or one of the Island’s upscale restaurants might be the perfect venue. A bonus to the bigger venues is that most offer wedding-consultant services – a boon when planning your day from afar. Plus you avoid rental fees for such things as tables and linens. So if champagne under chandeliers is more your style, start researching restaurants and hotels in the town of your choice.

Landlubbers we are not! How can my fiancé and I bring a little offshore action into our wedding?
– Two, if by Sea

So you met in sailing camp and now you want to get nautical on the big day? Well, if Gram and Gramps and the whole gang are game, why not take your “I do’s” to the sea? For smaller parties, you might consider chartering a sailboat or yacht, and there are options for larger celebrations as well, such as the Seastreak ferry, which can accommodate parties of up to four hundred.

If you’re concerned that some of your guests might not have the sea legs for a full day on the water, you can still get some water time in on your wedding day: Get on that Hobie Cat the two of you were learning to navigate when you fell in love at sailing camp, and tool around the harbor between your ceremony and reception. If you’re a stone’s throw from the water (and given you’re on an island, chances are you will be!), charter a boat big enough to transport the whole wedding party from your beach, lawn, or church ceremony to the reception venue. In lieu of attendant gifts, book a sunset charter for your wedding party for after
the rehearsal dinner. And if you’d rather not risk getting harbor spray on your wedding clothes or losing your best man to the sea, just set up that raw bar during your cocktail hour – with the clams and oysters in an ice-filled rowboat, of course. Just enough of the sea to give you a seafaring bon voyage!

Linley Dolby has shared in many couples’ special days on the Vineyard and had her own wedding here eleven years ago. Though she has no formal ties to the wedding industry, she is the friend many call upon when they decide to get hitched. Send her questions for the next issue at asklinley@gmail.com.

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