Ask a Wedding Planner

When to book. What to pack. Teri Pirozzi shares all.

We want to get married at an iconic Vineyard venue. How far in advance do we need to reserve our spot?

The venue is the biggest piece of your wedding puzzle, so you want to make it your top priority. Most venue operators suggest booking eighteen to twenty-four months ahead of time, though you may need even longer depending on which venues you are considering.

The Old Whaling Church in Edgartown, for instance, is one of the most popular ceremony locations on the Island. It can be rented as a dual ceremony/reception venue with the Dr. Daniel Fisher House, and frequently has a one-year backlog for popular weekends in May, June, September, and October. The Federated Church, Winnetu Oceanside Resort, and the Harbor View Hotel are other popular Edgartown spots. Unfortunately, the Harbor View Hotel will be under construction from October 2018 through spring 2019, during which time weddings will be on hold. That might cause other locations to fill up more quickly.

In Oak Bluffs, Farm Neck Golf Club hosts only ten weddings per year, making it a hard-to-get venue for couples with a short engagement since most weekends are filled more than a year in advance. Similarly, the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury allows only six weddings per year; the Allen Farm in Chilmark holds four to six weddings; and the Captain R. Flanders House will do eight. There’s significant competition for each of those spots, so the earlier you lock in your date, the better.

Working with less time? Don’t despair – cancellations do happen and there are always other options off the beaten path.

We want to welcome our off-Island guests with a gift that represents the Vineyard. What items should we include?

A welcome bag isn’t just a great way to thank your out-of-town guests for making the journey; it’s also a good way to present them with helpful information for keeping track of wedding events or exploring their surroundings. For that reason, I like to include maps and guides to popular spots.  A bottle of water and an Island-themed snack also makes a great addition.

Everybody loves sweets, so I often include some Chilmark Chocolates or Murdick’s Fudge. Throw in a copy of the Martha’s Vineyard Times or the Vineyard Gazette for Island news, or even better, the Welcome Guide, a Gazette publication that gives visitors tips and recommendations for things to do while on the Island. I also love to suggest mugs from the Black Dog, Island note cards, Morning Glory granola, and MV Sea Salt!

I like the idea of getting married at a lighthouse, but don't know how to pull it off. What logistics are involved?

Lighthouses make romantic, unforgettable backdrops for wedding ceremonies, but they do pose some planning issues that you’ll have to take into consideration. As a general rule, no ceremonies are allowed during normal lighthouse visiting hours, and no receptions or tents are allowed on-site. Beyond that, the particulars depend on the location, so I recommend you contact the appropriate point person as soon as possible. The Martha’s Vineyard Museum operates the Edgartown and East Chop lighthouses, while the town of Aquinnah is the steward of the Gay Head Light.

Because most lighthouses have limited parking, you will need to consider how you plan to transport your guests. Think about renting one of those funky old-school trolleys for the wedding party and hiring a full-service transportation company to shuffle all of the guests to and from the correct locations. You could also rent a large bus or a fleet of taxis.

Once you’ve established a date and  a general plan, reach out to a rental company. Big Sky, Tilton Tents, and Seaside Celebrations are the big ones on-Island, and can help with chairs, arbors, and other decorations. You may also want to hire a sound engineer to ensure guests can hear you say your vows. For beach ceremonies, it’s a great idea to provide a basket of flip-flops for guests to walk through the sand.

No matter what, you’ll need a backup plan in the case of inclement weather.  Most couples use their reception venue. If you don't want to do that, consider booking another ceremony location so that you and your loved one can still say your “I do’s.”