Families united with Island spirit
A mini-golf date arranged by their mothers when they were both about 12 years old culminated in a wedding last September for Marylander Colleen Freda and 13th-generation Islander David Burt, after a 20-year pause.
“Although his mom and stepfather tried for years to get us together again, it didn’t happen until 2007,” Colleen said. Her mother, Joan O’Sullivan, met David’s mother, Audrey Straight, when they worked together in Maryland, and they remained friends until Ms. O’Sullivan’s death in 2007.
Audrey and her husband, Michael Straight, invited Colleen to the Vineyard for respite after years of caring for her mother and before she started graduate school in Boston. “Little did I know that she was also trying to reunite me with David!” Colleen said. “It was a wonderful visit, where I fell in love with the Vineyard and bonded with the whole family, including Dave and his daughter, Isis.”
Dating was complicated because David worked in New York, only coming home on weekends, and Colleen was in Boston. After he proposed on Valentine’s Day weekend last year, they bought a house in West Tisbury and started organizing their wedding with the help of former wedding planner Julie Hatt of Vineyard Weddings.
Because of David’s family history and their love for the Vineyard, it was a natural decision to have their wedding here. A third of the wedding guests were Vineyard residents or had houses on-Island. “And despite the travel challenges it created for our other guests, we saw our wedding as an opportunity to share our love of the Island with friends and family that hadn’t been able to visit yet,” Colleen said.
Colleen was decisive from the start. “She knew exactly what she wanted,” Mrs. Hatt said, right down to her flowers. Colleen’s late mother loved the color lavender and irises were her favorite flowers, so Colleen worked with floral designer Melissa Thomas of Seascape Designs to bring her mother’s spirit to the wedding day.
Sachets of lavender buds were placed on each chair, three sprigs of dried lavender were tied to each program, and fresh lavender sprigs were in the welcome champagne and on the cupcakes. An iris appeared on the back of each program and even the bridesmaid dresses were in a color called iris. Ms. Thomas said, “We used echevarias that gave the arrangements an exotic touch along with chocolate callas and sage to make the lavenders and dark purples really jump.”
The weekend began with a welcome reception at the Straights’ home overlooking Quitsa Pond in Chilmark, followed by the wedding and reception at the Beach Plum Inn. “We were blessed with a beautiful sunset and the dining area was bathed in the warm light of a perfect September evening on the Vineyard, and it truly made all of the planning worth it,” Colleen said.
Colleen, David and his nine-year-old daughter Isis took part in a sand pouring ceremony to symbolize the creation of a new family. The sand came from each person’s favorite beach; Colleen chose Great Rock Bight, David chose Lucy Vincent, and Isis chose Squibnocket. “The sand from Squibnocket was attractive in its dark color but was sticky coming out of its cylinder, providing some comic relief,” Colleen said.
At the reception the bride overcame her somewhat restrictive apparel to win first place in a limbo contest. A white feather boa that was a gift at her bachelorette party became a limbo stick. She said the fact that she does a lot of yoga and excels at backbends might have given her a certain advantage.
Mrs. Hatt sees a distinction between a bride who comes for a destination wedding versus a bride who is an Island resident. “Colleen had a different calmness and could just take in the moment. She had a ball!”
The festivities concluded with a farewell brunch hosted by Dick Burt, David’s father, and Nancy Shaw Cramer at their West Tisbury home.
“One thing that we learned through this process is to approach the wedding as a team effort,” Colleen said. “Planning and executing a wedding, especially a large one — we had 180-plus guests — cannot be done by one or two people. Don’t be afraid to delegate jobs and when someone offers to help, take them up on it.” She says it’s good to give people choices in what they help with since everyone is good at something.
“It may feel at times that the wedding is about two people, but it really is also about community,” she said. “It feels good to get other people involved, especially when the big day arrives and you can share that feeling of accomplishment with others you love.”
[Originally published in the May 14, 2010 issue of the Vineyard Gazette's Wedding Planner; reviewed for updates in 2012.]