Elope to one of the gay-friendliest on earth with a crowd of your favorite people.
If your idea of wedded bliss includes tranquil beaches, New England charm, and a built-in honeymoon, get thyself betrothed surrounded by the paradise that is Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.
Same-sex residents of the gay-friendly Bay State can become lawfully wedded wives or husbands, as can residents of any place that recognizes gay marriage. Until the someday comes when every state, country, and continent is as gay-friendly as Massachusetts, Martha’s Vineyard holds steady at the top of the list for queer commitment ceremonies.
It’s hard to say what’s more of a draw – the exclusive, exotic backdrop behind you no matter what direction you’re facing on the island, the easy access from Boston, Providence and New York, or the diversity of lodging and event locale to fit virtually any budget. There are 85 hotels, inns and B&Bs, and hundreds of private homes available for rental in the six historical towns that make up Martha’s Vineyard. 80 restaurants, 19 public and private beaches, 40 wedding photographers, 15 florists, 8 bakers, and 5 wedding planners are on the island to help you create the ideal ceremony, large or intimate, formal or informal, indoors or out.
The island is also quite proud of its lesbian-owned jewelry store, CB Stark Jewelers (cbstark.com). Cheryl and Margie have long been an island institution, living as life partners since June of 1972. They got married on the island on their 33rd anniversary in 2004, just after same-sex marriage became legal.
“We already felt married, but it was important to us, not just because of the economic benefits, but just because we could. Growing up we could never imagine being able to legally marry someone of the same sex, and here we are, legally married.”
Though they’ve been a well-known out lesbian couple for decades, they never expected the kind of warm reception the Martha’s Vineyard community gave them.
“We ended up being on the front page of the Vineyard Gazette, and we got so many cards, letters and phone calls from customers and people we hardly knew on the island telling us how happy they were for us.”
Cheryl and Margie’s ceremony was small and simple, just family and a few friends, and a small party afterwards. They spoke of how much they loved each other from the rooftop of the Mansion House Hotel as the Islander Ferry (which was retired a year ago) came in view. The ceremony was officiated by a friend, a licensed Jewish Buddhist.
“(Weddings on Martha’s Vineyard are) completely custom and totally at each end of the spectrum. All budgets can be accommodated,” says Lynn Buckmaster-Irwin, Wedding Planner and Consultant for Weddings on the Vineyard (vineyardweddings.com). “The vineyard’s a beautiful, romantic, friendly, welcoming spot. The views are spectacular, the venues are top notch.”
Lynn suggests that the first thing to do when planning your wedding is contact the chamber of commerce for a comprehensive wedding packet. She insists any size, budget and style of wedding can be accommodated in the endless locales available on the island.
GO Magazine scouted the island and discovered a few favorite gay wedding-friendly venues.
Lambert’s Cove Inn
The gay couple that owns Lambert’s Cove Inn (lambertscoveinn.com) moved from Atlanta’s corporate America to the Vineyard in November of 2004, and immediately put their 30 years of combined experience in event planning to good use. After taking over the Inn, Scott and Kell put their queer eyes to work renovating the circa 1790 Inn, resulting in 15 beautifully furnished guest rooms. On seven and a half acres of beautiful lawns, untouched woods and immaculate gardens, the Inn affects an atmosphere of comfort, quiet and charm.
Lambert’s Cove Inn specializes in upscale events for guest lists ranging from 70 (indoor in the library) to 350 (outdoor in the tented garden). You’ll have to rent out the entire place to have your wedding here, but the perks are worth it, including access to Lambert Cove’s very exclusive private beach, impeccably appointed grounds, and a staff that’s perfected the art of synchronized table service.
Harbor View Hotel
Since 1891, the expansive Harbor View Hotel (harbor-view.com) and its lighthouse have been a landmark, with a view of Edgartown Harbor and Chappaquiddick Island, surrounded by majestic elms and 19th-century whaling captains’ cottages. The Harbor View is Martha’s Vineyard’s only year-round full-service hotel, and is in the process of interior modernization while keeping the historical integrity of its original footprint. By the time they’re done, the hotel’s new management hopes to become the number one five diamond resort on the east coast.
The Harbor’s View’s grounds can accommodate up to 300 people in their outdoor lawn area. Very near the hotel’s lighthouse floats The Stardust – a picnic boat kept in their private dock, available for small ceremonies, photos and intimate six-person luncheons or dinners complete with private chef. The Stardust also makes a regular two-hour tour of Edgartown Bay, and hosts an hors d’ouevre and wine happy hour three times a day.
Beach Plum Inn
Overlooking the shimmering Vineyard sound and old world fishing village of Menemsha, The Beach Plum Inn (beachpluminn.com) is one of the few places on the East Coast where you can actually watch the sun set into the sea. Besides the unparalleled view accessible from several terraces and the spacious dining room, the Inn boasts seven acres of fragrant lawns and gardens and eleven guest rooms and bungalows.
Built in 1952, The Beach Plum can accommodate events for 50 to 250 in its 11 rooms and bungalows, and has a private bridal cottage. When you and your guests aren’t dabbing at tears of joy, you can take advantage of the Inn’s private outdoor Jacuzzi tub and showers, a tennis court and gym, striper fishing and golf outings, the wooded path to Menemsha Beach and Harbor, and passes to the area’s private beaches.
Off the Beaten Path
Many alternative venues are available for couples that want to craft an event that reflects their personal style. Use your imagination and apply it to venues such as…
Grange Hall (mvpreservation.org), yet another historical building circa 1859 in the rustic town of West Tisbury. Situated across the road from the Field Gallery Sculpture Garden (fieldgallery.com), the budget-conscious two-level hall can accommodate up to 140, and offers tech support with use of the upstairs theatre stage.
The Aquinnah Lighthouse (marthasvineyardhistory.org) stands in one of the most picturesque locations in New England, atop the 130-foot multicolored clay cliffs at the western shore of Martha’s Vineyard. (All three of the Island’s historic lighthouses run $300 per hour this season.)
The Tall Ships Alabama and Shenandoah (coastwisepacket.com) are anchored in Vineyard Haven Harbor and available for ceremonies while sailing anywhere around the Island.
The Farm Institute at Katama Farm (farminstitute.org) offers a setting among vegetable and flower gardens and all the resident farm animals.
The MV Chamber of Commerce (mvy.com/weddings) can direct you on how to reserve a spot on any of the island’s 19 public and private beaches, and every other bit of information you’ll need to get married on what is arguably the gay-friendliest islands on earth.