Love and marriage - cyber style
Google “destination weddings” and more than two million sites pop up in less than two seconds. It takes serendipity, savvy, and persistence to create the perfect wedding from cyberspace. Monique Adams and Steve Pinckney did it though. From half a world away in Sydney, Australia, they found Martha’s Vineyard – the ideal setting for their worldwide web of friends to converge for a wedding celebration.
Monique found just about everything for the wedding online. Including, in a roundabout way, her bridegroom. With an information technology career in health care consulting, Monique was working in London on a project a couple of years back. “My friend was on Match.com, and so was my [now] husband,” recalls Monique. “She sent me his profile. I thought it was funny.”
Just out of another relationship, Monique wasn’t looking for a match. Steve was traveling through Asia and heading for Europe though, so they made contact. She explains: “We got to know each other by e-mail. He’d tell me about his journeys, and I thought, ‘Wow, he can write.’”
They finally met in London. But by the time their blind date happened, Monique’s U.K. project had come to an abrupt end, and she was about to head back to Los Angeles. “It was a good date,” she says. “I thought, ‘Nice guy, nice to meet you. ’”
Steve thought it was so nice, he got his boss to send him to work in San Francisco, to be nearer to Monique. “We dated for a week – that was it,” she says. “We were inseparable and started a romance seeing each other every weekend.” Then in February of last year, Steve dragged her from sunny L.A. to freezing New York for a weekend and gave her a diamond engagement ring.
Steve and Monique wanted a simple wedding. Family and close friends. “On the beach, no shoes,” is how she puts it. But where? They were moving to Australia for Steve’s next job, but that was too far away from most of their guests. Invitations were going to London, France, Italy, Hong Kong, California, Chicago, Utah (where Monique comes from) and Texas (where Steve grew up).
The East Coast of the U.S. seemed a relatively central gathering place, and Labor Day weekend was their chosen date. At first, Florida looked good, until Monique noticed a few too many special deals – September is hurricane season there.
So she clicked on until the mouse made its way to the Lambert’s Cove Inn website. They had never been to Martha’s Vineyard before, but Monique thought, “That’s it. That’s the spot. It had character, classic elegance.”
Also, she had always wanted to visit the Vineyard: “I knew they had a rich black history.They call it the black Hamptons.”
Part of the Lambert’s Cove package was the assistance of Boston-based wedding planner Ellen Sax. This was invaluable for the Australian-based couple – but they did not hand over the plans. Monique says, “[Ellen] gave me the contacts, but it was me doing the picking out of the linens, the picking out of everything. It was crazy.”
First, invitations went out to those far-flung fifty-five adults and ten kids. Then Monique went back online, in a time zone fourteen hours ahead of Martha’s Vineyard, to sort out the finer details. “At first I wasn’t working, so it was like a twenty-four-hour-clock adventure, being on the phone, the Internet – many times my now-husband had to force me to stop,” she laughs. “I got the votive candles from eBay. The napkins for the outdoor cocktail party, I ordered online.” (Monique’s sister’s home in Maryland served as the shipping destination.)
Monique, who unbelievably denies she is all that organized, also e-mailed photos of various items she selected to Joan Merry of Gossamer, the Vineyard florist hired for the event. “The inn has very distinct characteristics and colors, and it all had to tie in,” she says. “I sent all my swatches to Joan, who knew what would work. She was wonderful to work with.”
Monique finally made a trip to the Island just before the Fourth of July weekend. “There were a lot of decisions to make,” she says. “It was thirty-six hours on the Island, running from one place to another.”
That trip reinforced the logistical challenges. As the couple could transport very little to the Island themselves, they also wanted to take away as little as possible. Pictures and memories were going to be the only keepsakes; everything else had to be disposable – even the wedding dress. Monique found a business called One Night Affair, which rents couture gowns and is based (like her hairstylist) in Beverly Hills.
“So for $1,000, I’m wearing a $10,000 dress!” Monique marvels. She picked it out online and arranged a fitting on her way to a training course in Kansas City.
There, on a lunch break, Monique found the champagne flutes at a department store. “Wherever I landed, I made progress on the wedding.”
The globe-trotting guests received favors of luggage tags, bought online naturally. “That’s what kept me up at night – comparing websites,” sighs Monique. Even the couple’s gift registry was online. Through an Australian site, guests could pay in any currency to get the couple “exploration gifts” to help them see more of the country – dolphin tours, sailing trips, spas, horseback riding trips.
Finally, the week before Labor Day, Steve and Monique landed in the U.S. Breezing through L.A., they picked up the dress, and Monique had her hair done. Next stop: Boston. While there, the couple made a day trip to the Island to get their wedding license (which must be acquired at least three days before the ceremony).
They came back to the Vineyard on Friday and immediately began playing chauffeur – in rental cars paid for with all those frequent flyer miles – picking guests up from the ferry and the airport, delivering them to the Lambert’s Cove Inn and spillover accommodations at the Mansion House, not far away in Vineyard Haven.
“The wedding was also a reunion,” says Steve. “My mother had not seen her sister in nearly twenty years.” His uncle, Ellis Cunningham, who was one of the first black Marines, an Iwo Jima survivor, and a Korean War Purple Heart recipient, came for the wedding. So did friends who Steve, a former Marine himself, came to call his “London family,” while he lived there for four years. “It had been a dream of mine for some time to have all of my friends meet each other.”
On Saturday, the bridal couple hosted a bus tour of all six towns on Martha’s Vineyard, from the Gay Head Cliffs to South Beach. Their guide provided all the black history Monique had hoped for, and a comprehensive general Island history. For that night, the couple had booked the outside bar area at Lola’s Southern Seafood restaurant on Beach Road in Oak Bluffs. “We did the clambake, which was great, with so much food. The Europeans were definitely overwhelmed,” she says.
Sunday was the wedding day. Although Steve and Monique had a backup plan for bad weather, it was a splendid day. Innkeepers Scott Jones and Kell Hicklin smoothed the way for everything, meanwhile preparing a feast for the wedding reception dinner. Steve picked up a prearranged box of fresh mint from up-Island Cronig’s supermarket for the post-ceremony mojitos to be served in the library. Monique spent time with her mother.
By 3 p.m. wedding celebrant James Pringle had arrived for the ceremony in the gardens, the cellist and violinist were playing, and the ceremony began. “Everything was just so relaxed,” says Monique.
After the cocktail party, the guests enjoyed a lamb dinner, followed by individual cakes (cupcakes for the kids). The couple had a two-tiered delicacy to cut for themselves. “We tried to keep the bottom, but we were traveling. It lasted like a day,” the bride laughs. Deejay Steve McCullough spun dancing music until the 10 p.m. town limit. Guests lounged by (and in) the inn’s pool until much later.
The couple had underestimated the value of a wedding planner, Monique says, “especially when you’re doing a destination wedding, and not even in the same country.” It wasn’t the only thing they underestimated. “The budget – oh my God – I was very, very, very bad.” Still, she says, it was all worth it.
“It was such an adventure. People said, ‘Why did you pick that place, it’s so hard to get to?’ – and we said, ‘When you see it, you will love it,’” remembers Monique. And so it was. “It was all people we loved, a real multicultural affair, with just about every language spoken....A lot of people walked away saying, ‘We should all buy a home on Martha’s Vineyard.’”
[Originally published in the 2008 issue of Martha's Vineyard Magazine's Island Weddings; reviewed for updates in 2012.]