A quintessential clambake wedding
There are Vineyard weddings, the kind with triple-figure budgets and no expense spared for the silver flatware and crystal goblets, and then there are Vineyard weddings — the kind that year-round, working couples with working budgets create.
Carolyn Stoeber, whose family has had a summer home in Chilmark for more than two centuries, said of her picturesque early autumn wedding to Island builder Stephen Morgan: “We wanted a real Vineyard wedding. You know, scaled down on glamor and white-glove service, for something simpler that could accommodate more people. So we had a clambake!”
Inclusion of family and friends, she said, was the most important factor in planning the festivities.
The couple also wanted to honor all of the Island localities significant to them.
“We had our rehearsal dinner at our home in Edgartown, which belonged to Stephen’s parents, and he remodeled,” Carolyn said. “We got married in the Chilmark church, because I grew up spending summers in Chilmark, and we took photos at my family’s home (overlooking Stonewall Pond.) Then we had the reception at the ag hall in West Tisbury, because that’s right in between.”
They got engaged two weeks before Christmas 2005 — “because Stephen couldn’t wait until Christmas,” Carolyn said. They’d been dating for four years since Carolyn (now the assistant vice president for loan administration at Edgartown National Bank), moved back to the Island after working in sponsor relations and grant administration at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab in Boston for five years.
“We knew we wanted the wedding to be in September,” Carolyn said. “It’s such a beautiful time, the weather’s great, and there are fewer people around . . . We just love the fall here.”
Because the ag hall accepts only six non-agricultural events per year, Stephen said they did not even try to book it for that coming September. Instead they called in February 2006 to request Sept. 8, 2007 — picked for the symmetry of the numbers, 9-8-07. Even that far ahead there was already another couple booked, but it turned out to be Stephen’s cousin, who chose another location in Chilmark.
The rehearsal dinner featured hamburgers and hotdogs cooked on the backyard grill, manned by Stephen’s cousin and best man, Steve Morgan.
“And Porky and Carol Francis (Capt. Porky’s Bait & Tackle in Edgartown) gave us tons of ice and brought a champagne toast to the rehearsal dinner,” Carolyn said, noting how grateful the couple are for all the ways their friends and family came together for them.
Foster’s Down East Clambake, based in York Harbor, Me., handled the clambake at the ag hall.
“It was really great how they did it, right out there behind the barn doors, with everything layered on pallets: clams, lobster, chicken, corn,” Stephen said. “Carolyn actually found them on-line when we were on our honeymoon in Hawaii.”
“We went on our honeymoon first — six months before our wedding,” Carolyn explained. “Which turned out to be a really good decision. I think we would have been a lot more stressed planning the wedding if we didn’t have that break. Plus we found the groomsmen’s shirts and bridesmaids’ dresses in Hawaii!”
In keeping with the casual, Island lifestyle theme for their wedding, they did not want formal wear for the bridal party. The groomsmen wore Hawaiian shirts. “Reverse Hawaiian shirts, so the colors are muted,” Carolyn noted. The color scheme for the bridesmaids’ dresses and groomsmen’s shirts reflect the land and seascape of the Vineyard: sea blue, green, and sand. Stephen also bought his white Guayabera-style shirt in Hawaii, and strings of Kukui nut (candlenut) beads for himself and the groomsmen.
Wedding-day photos taken by former Vineyard wedding photographer Bob Schellhammer capture Carolyn, in a slim classic cut ankle-length dress with her rich, auburn brown hair swept up at the nape of her neck, exuding a timeless sophistication and beauty reminiscent of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. “And I bought my dress on-line for 35 bucks,” she happily admitted. “The great thing about a $35 dress is you can sit on the grass, and drink red wine without worrying!”
One of the trickiest endeavors for the wedding was transporting the cake made by friend Susan Chaffee from the Cape, where she lives, to the Island.
“They had to take apart the layers, and lay them on ice, and bring them over on a sailboat that they tied up at Stephen’s mooring in Edgartown. Then they had to get it to shore in his little boat,” Carolyn said.
The cake was decorated with white hydrangeas from Vineyard friend Paul Brewer (colloquially known as the tree guy), and flowers from the family garden. Bridal bouquets and table arrangements were made by Carolyn’s aunt, Susan Jones.
“We have only one surviving parent between us,” Carolyn said, “my mom.” So, in writing their own vows, they said it was important to both of them that they honor all of their parents in the ceremony. “And after, we stopped at Abel’s Hill, so I could leave my bouquet on my father’s grave.”
There were a lot of details that went into creating the overall effect of their casual yet elegant Vineyard wedding.
Vicky Lazarova, a professional bartender, made a drink menu for signature cocktails like Morgan’s Passion with fresh squeezed lemonade, cranberry juice and mango rum. And for kids, a lemonade blue raspberry drink called Finding Nemo, complete with a Swedish fish treat in the bottom of the glass.
Rather than numbering guest tables, the couple named them after favorite Vineyard locations — Menemsha, Cottage City, Moshup’s Trail — and guest’s names were written on quahaug shells. They opted for paper napkins, instead of cloth, in bright jewel orange and golden green colors.
“It was really pretty inside the ag hall,” Caroline said. String lights wrapped around the beams added to the ambience. Plus, Tad and Judy Crawford of West Tisbury, who hosted their son’s rehearsal party there the night before, offered to leave up the white Japanese lanterns.
“I met them at my cousin [the Rev. Robert Day] Bob’s birthday party a few weeks before. It was such a nice thing to do.” The John Alaimo Trio played during the cocktail hour.
“And we were lucky to have such a gorgeous day,” Caroline said. “We had the barn doors wide open, people could wander in and out. It was kind of perfect.”
[Originally published in the April 25, 2008 issue of the Vineyard Gazette's Wedding Planner; reviewed for updates in 2012.]