Ask Linley

Advice for outdoor weddings.

It’s official: We’re getting married! We would like to exchange our vows at the Edgartown Lighthouse. How do we arrange that?
    – Going to the Lighthouse and We’re Gonna…

Dear Soon-to-be-Mrs. Lighthouse,

    Congratulations! I love the idea of the beach wedding, barefoot in the sand, and I’m a total sap for the symbolism: saying your I dos at the base of a beacon that has guided wayward sailors home to safe harbor and family for centuries. Beautiful.

    Edgartown Lighthouse, along with East Chop and Gay Head Lights, are overseen and maintained by the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. There is a ton of information available on its website ( about renting these properties, including costs (currently $300 per hour) and other guidelines.

For a ceremony on the beach, do we need to provide seating for all our guests?
    – Beach Bride

Dear Beach Bride,

    If your ceremony won’t be more than twenty minutes, people can stand, although I would recommend supplying some seating, as you may have guests who are elderly, expecting, or unable to stand for other reasons. Plan on providing chairs for 15 to 20 percent of your guests: If you have a hundred guests, twenty chairs should be reasonable.

    To make your guests even more comfortable and to enhance the beachy vibe, designate a place for the ladies to literally kick off their heels by posting a “shoes here” sign where people walk onto the sand.

Parking seems to be so limited everywhere on the Island, where can our guests park?
    – Behind the Wheel

Dear Behind the Wheel,

    I’d suggest picking a specific place for your guests to park and renting a van to shuttle people. If you have a lot of guests staying in one place, you could hire a bus or trolley to bring them from hotel to ceremony to reception.

    Another idea is cheap labor: My wedding took place down a long, dirt road, and there was plenty of parking, but not in plain sight, so we hired a few strapping young lads (i.e., the neighbors’ kids) to park cars for our guests.

    Keep in mind, if guests are parking their own cars along narrow dirt roads, they could easily land shin-deep in poison ivy, or heel-deep in mud, or have their stockings – or worse, bare legs – attacked by prickers. The only pain your guests’ legs should endure is from dancing the night away, so any assistance you can offer on the parking front will be much appreciated.

I’ve heard rain is supposed to be good luck on your wedding day, but I’m not buying it. What do we do if it rains?
    – Afraid of Rain

Dear Afraid of Rain,

    There is no way to predict the weather on the Island. Last year, June was sunny and lovely; in years past, it’s been more of a monsoon. September can be kind – an extra month of summer that no one expected – and also cruel with its procession of hurricanes as determined as your line of bridesmaids.

    My sister got married in a hurricane, and days before, as we watched that little, gray blob on the TV screen moving up the coast, she made peace with it. The location she had chosen for her reception was in a residential neighborhood, and the festivities had to be early in the day, so when hurricane Ivan threatened to crash the party, she welcomed him, saying, “If it rains, we’ll put the sides down on the tent, and people will think it’s night, so they’ll dance more.” And that’s exactly what happened.

    She was lucky to have planned her actual ceremony indoors though, so do make sure you have an alternative for where you exchange your vows. Just don’t stress about it; the weather is one of those things that makes the day uniquely your own – and it can make for fantastic photo ops.

Is there anything special we can do to ensure that our guests are comfortable at our outdoor ceremony?
    – Above and Beyond

Dear Above and Beyond,

    An outdoor wedding is a special kind of celebration that we take for granted around here, and there are definitely some little things you can do to increase your guests’ enjoyment: Consider placing a basket of bug spray and sun block, and a tub of bottled water or lemonade in a conspicuous location. Parasols are lovely (or umbrellas in the alternative situation) as are paper fans (print your programs on these). Put a little time into the details so that rather than the heat and the mosquitoes, your guests can focus on you.