Family, memories and tradition lead to a laid-back venue
Grandpa Joe always loved CBA.
In the summer of 1938, when he was a freshman at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, he piled into an old car with a group of friends, crossed the Sagamore Bridge for the first time, and pulled up to the Craigville Beach Association.
As my uncle—Grandpa Joe’s youngest son—Kevin put it while he married my husband Christo and me at CBA this past September, since that day, “we’ve never left.”
When Joe arrived at CBA that day in 1938, I imagine it looked much like it does today—a sandy spot off of a long beach drag in Centerville, protected from the road by tall, wooden bathhouses and boardwalks flanking a large pavilion lined with rocking chairs. On most days, you’re greeted by a warm southwest breeze and a view of the open Atlantic. In the sand, beach chairs face out toward Martha’s Vineyard and, farther in the distance, Nantucket—the island my husband Christo and I met on six years ago this summer.
It is, in many ways, the perfect wedding venue.
And CBA has indeed been the site of many wedding ceremonies. But before our wedding on September 16, 2017, the club had never hosted both a ceremony and a tented reception on the beach—for just about 190 people, no less.
After all, our wedding would be filled with family. Everyone has their own CBA story: Family members have been lifeguards and parking attendants. My cousins and I took swim lessons and swam to the rafts. There were jellyfish stings and sunburns but also cookouts and sunsets.
What I didn’t know is that Christo’s grandfather, Bill Schultz, had too been a lifeguard at the beach in the summer of 1949. He gave diving lessons off of the raft and dragged the beach every morning with a wire net.
For us, a CBA wedding just felt right. So, with approval from the board of directors, wedding planning began.
In the months leading up to our wedding, there were a lot of “knowns.” I knew, for one, that I wanted our wedding to be just like all of my favorite CBA memories—many of which involved pizza from Craigville Pizza. John Mahoney, the co-owner of Craigville Pizza, agreed to cater our wedding—51 pizzas, plus Caesar salads, Craigville chicken dishes, meatballs and more for 190. A CBA visit also wouldn’t have been complete without Four Seas, which provided tubs of homemade black raspberry and coffee ice cream for dessert. Roche Brothers provided the makings for a full raw bar—oysters, little necks and sushi—that we set up in an old rowboat filled with ice.
I also knew I wanted the décor to match the laid-back yet elegant ambiance we had in mind—a white, oversized sailcloth tent, big wooden farm tables, copper silverware, string lights, an old-school trolley, and natural florals. After researching many suppliers, I came across Boston Rustic Wedding Rentals, which provided most of our furniture, and Cape Destinations, which provided transportation to and from the beach to a private home in Cotuit, where we stayed.
My mother-in-law also found a lovely little floral company, Field and Vase by Stow Greenhouses, and organized all of the flowers for our wedding—dark purple seasonal arrangements from a family-owned farm.
One of my other priorities was finding a photographer who could truly capture the magic of the night and all of its moments. When I came across Lauren Methia’s candid photography work, I knew she was the right fit.
While browsing through the only Brides magazine I bought, I found my perfect dress, too—a Rosa Clara strapless gown that my mom bought for me. It seemed to perfectly epitomize “beach formal,” our dress code for the night. I also let my bridesmaids choose their own dresses within a neutral color scheme. (I didn’t see them until the actual wedding day.)
In a last-minute decision, we also decided to utilize a makeshift plywood platform that would serve as a dance floor in the sand. Eduardo Alves, our DJ for the night, curated a perfect playlist based off our favorite songs—a mix of country, James Taylor classics and dance, plus string quartet songs pre-ceremony.
Then there were the unknowns. After all, an outdoor beach wedding on Cape Cod in September, at the tail end of hurricane season, is a roll of the dice.
Leading up to the wedding, many people asked me what my “Plan B” was. I always told them the same thing: There was no Plan B. There was no rain date. There was no back-up location—even as Hurricane Irma barreled up the East Coast just days before our wedding date. The rain. The wind. The temperature. They were all unknowns. But my family and I decided to choose the unknown for the possibility of extraordinary over ordinary.
The morning of September 16, 2017 was unlike most Cape Cod mornings. There was no foggy haze that slowly burned away as the day went on for a late afternoon clearing. It was simply sunny. When my father and I arrived at CBA just before the 4 p.m. ceremony, we stepped out to brilliant sunshine. When we walked down the aisle (to Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love”), the sky behind us was blue; the temperature even a little warm.
But minutes later, as cocktail hour began on the pavilion, an evening wind blew fog, almost visibly, onto the beach. It came in fast with cool, raw air, and in minutes engulfed the area. The fog sat there, socked in the air, warming it.
My father, concerned about Saturday evening wedding crashers on a popular beach, had hired a Barnstable police officer, and checked in with him halfway through the evening. The officer told him that the fog had almost created an invisible wall. The only people on the beach were those on the invite list.
After the sun set, in the darkness of the beach, Christo and I climbed one of CBA’s lifeguard towers, like I had many times as a kid—this time with our wedding, the lights of the pavilion that we had strung the day before, the sailcloth tent, and the sounds of music and laugher behind us.
Days after the wedding, I found a photo taken on an iPhone by Fran Lahey—a longtime CBA member who is on the board of directors. Fran watched our wedding from a beach chair in the sand (alongside many other beachgoers) that day. My best guess is that the photo was taken around 3 p.m., when setup was near complete. The benches are arranged in the sand, the chuppah is waiting for flowers, a soft line of clouds spreads across the top of the frame, and one lone sailboat drifts by in the distance. I like to think that onboard that boat are all of the people who weren’t at our wedding—our many grandparents stopping by to survey the scene, an uncle who loved to fish.
People have described the setting of our wedding as “intoxicating.” It’s an intangible descriptor that’s hard to argue with.
I never met Grandpa Joe. But I imagine that when he pulled up at CBA’s entrance in 1938, he felt the way I do, and the way I’ll feel every time I arrive there in years to come: a sense of calm that comes only from being near the ocean, paired with the comfort of that soft southwest breeze and the sand at your toes.
Weddings often seem like they are all about one day. But this wedding, our wedding, wasn’t. It was about close to 100 years of family history and about the power of place, this place, and love.
Cassie Shortsleeve is a freelance health and travel writer whose work has been published in Shape, Men’s Health and Condé Nast Traveler, among other publications. She lives in Boston with her husband.
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