Personal touches—and some unscripted surprises —charmed this Cape Cod wedding.
The september morning of the wedding was overcast, with wispy fog rolling in on an easterly wind from Cape Cod Bay. The temperature hovered in the low 60s—not cold, but a little chilly for the bare shoulders of the bride and her bridesmaids.
After an exuberant rehearsal dinner the night before, when a rainstorm gave way to a pair of rainbows that faded into a glorious sunset over The Beach Club on Craigville Beach, the wedding party woke up to a gray morning. The parents of the bride and groom, several family members, and close friends headed for the reception site in a beautiful West Barnstable meadow overlooking Cape Cod Bay.
The sight of an expansive tent erected by Sperry Tent—floating like the sails of a clipper ship on the meadow’s rise—lifted the spirits of aunts, uncles, and friends who gathered to help set up. The bride’s father placed an elegant wooden rowboat—a high school graduation gift he restored for his daughter—on the edge of the tent to hold wedding gifts. A crew of the bride and groom’s aunts worked at a feverish pitch to decorate long farm-style tables with driftwood and rocks gathered from Cape Cod beaches, brightened with evergreens and mason jars filled with flowers from family gardens.
Remaining upbeat, the set-up crew warmed up a little with cups of coffee from West Barnstable’s Old Village Store around the corner. When the groom’s mother made a quick stop there for refills, the owner gave her a positive weather forecast. “Don’t worry,” he said after learning she was part of the bridal party for the big tent on Route 6A.“The wind is going to switch around to the southwest after lunch, the sun will come out—it’s going to be a beautiful day!”
Sipping hot coffee under the tent, the crew began to notice a slightly brightening sky. The groom’s mother and the bride’s parents—all year rounders—stayed cheerful, knowing the weather can turn in a heartbeat on Cape Cod.
The tent was a bright spot of personal touches—bold dahlias in every color of the rainbow from the mother of the bride’s gardens glowed in nests of Hinoki cypress and juniper on each table, gathered from the groom’s great great grandmother’s yard in Centerville. At each place setting, soft linen napkins made by the bride and her mom over the previous summer held hand-stamped seed packets with the bride and groom’s names, filled with wildflower seed.
At the bridal party table, two yellow wooden chairs for the bridal couple—antiques refurbished and painted by the bride’s father—waited for bouquets from family gardens. The hard-working crew included aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends from both sides of the family. There was lots of love under the tent.
On her way to get dressed, the groom’s mother stopped at his house in West Barnstable. After a quick hug, the groom asked his mom if she could “get rid of this cloud cover,” while waiting for a breakfast cooked by a childhood friend and one of his ushers. He had nicked himself shaving and was trying to stop the bleeding before his 1 p.m. wedding at the West Barnstable Parish Church around the corner.
An hour later, the bride and her six attendants began to dress in an old-fashioned Cape house nearby, rented for the week by the bride’s family. The crowd of girls—who had traveled for this day from Florida, Georgia, and even Switzerland—had their hair swirled or braided into up-dos. The bridesmaids’ floaty slate blue linen dresses from Free People made a serene background for the bride’s hand-fashioned gown of silk organza and Alencon lace.
The bridal bouquets arrived, designed and hand-tied by the groom’s mother and her best friend. At the bride’s request, each bouquet included one vibrant dahlia from her mother’s beautiful perennial gardens in Orleans. The bridal party and the mother of the bride helped button up dozens of tiny silk buttons cascading down the back of the bride’s gown and got on their knees to help her with strappy silver shoes.
Every moment was captured by well-known Cape Cod photographer Dan Cutrona and his wife, Amy, whose cameras didn’t stop clicking for the next 10 hours. Down Route 6A, less than a mile away, the groom and his ushers donned gray suits, regiment ties in slate blue with muted orange stripes and waited for their boutonnieres to arrive. The groom, his father—and his best man—and the ushers shared a fortifying toast of bourbon.
A crowd began to gather at the West Barnstable Parish Church, the oldest church on Cape Cod, first built in the early 1700s. The simple yet elegant structure has been through several reconstructions over the centuries, but its meetinghouse-style interior of encircling balconies around an altar shaped like a ship’s brow, still contains ancient wooden beams and a wooden floor worn pale with the passing of worshippers feet—and those of silver-footed brides.
As the 200 guests filled the wooden pews, the groom and his ushers waited before the soaring altar flanked by enormous windows. The crowd waited, watching the clouds roll by. The church organist played songs meaningful to the bride and groom and their families, including “Simple Gifts” and “Ave Maria.”
When the old wooden doors at the back of the church opened for the bride, she seemed to glimmer, standing bright and lovely beside her father. Was it the color of her dress, her blonde hair beneath a flowing veil? Or was that sunlight peeking through the cloud cover?
The yearning melody of the second movement from Dvorak’s “New World Symphony”—the groom’s parents’ bridal song 35 years earlier—filled the church. The groom smiled. And a few moments later, just as the bride and groom clasped hands and exchanged vows, the sun broke through the cloud cover, filling the church with light.
There were many more magical moments later that day during a glorious, summer-warm reception under a cloudless blue sky—with gentle winds from the southwest. The crowds arrived from the church to the delicious scent of fresh fish, lamb, and vegetables cooking over a wood fire. Westport caterers, Smoke & Pickles, worked with local vendors including Cape Cod Package Store and Cape Cod Beer, to make the day a uniquely Cape celebration. A close friend of the bride’s father, Arthur Tripp Grohe, was the event coordinator. “Tripp oversaw the seamless flow of events, which allowed Bob and I to enjoy the day without a single worry,” said the mother of the bride.
Such personal, heartfelt attention to detail contributed to the success of the entire wedding from start to finish. “It meant a lot to us to be able to celebrate this day with our close friends and family in a beautiful outdoor setting with fresh locally sourced food, great music, and personal touches from family and friends,” said the bride.
Those loving efforts were in evidence everywhere: the bride’s wreath hand-woven by her mother, encircling her hair with flowers picked that morning from the Orleans gardens of family and friends; the poem about this Cape marriage written by the groom’s aunt; and the surprise performance by the bride’s father, strumming Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” on the guitar with a Cape bluegrass band, Crab Grass, for the couple’s first dance.
Of course, other moments, like the passing of a Cape Cod Railroad train at the bottom of the meadow, tooting its whistle just as the bride and groom completed their dance, and the swooping cloud of migrating swallows dancing above the tent as the sun set over Sandy Neck, were unscripted. It was a memorable day of love—and Cape Cod magic.
Susan Dewey is the editor and associate publisher of Cape Cod LIFE and the mother of the groom.