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This Magic Moment

A Cape couple’s love for their community and each other kept their seaside wedding bright and breezy despite pandemic challenges.

Jen Villa just naturally has the kind of star power that promises a wedding day like no other. The Hyannis resident’s big, warm-hearted personality and dark vivid beauty light up any room she’s in.  As her husband, Blane Toedt, vowed to her during their September 20th, 2020 Cape Cod wedding day, “You’re always the brightest star in the room, wherever you are.”

As co-owner with Toedt of The West End, a Hyannis restaurant she helped transform into a must-go dining favorite in 2017, Villa is well-known in the mid-Cape’s business and arts communities as a young mover and a shaker. She has also received all kinds of kudos as the creator, along with close friend Amanda Converse, of Love Live Local, an organization that is dedicated to community advocacy and the importance of shopping local with events and festivals, the publishing of annual publications, and the sharing of digital communications.

Villa, who has lived on the Cape full-time since 2009 and who grew up summering at her family’s cottage on Hyannis’s Sixth Avenue, also ran The Little Beach Gallery for a decade, a showcase for the work of local artists and craftspeople. Oh, and then there’s her popular, cold pressed juice line, The Local Juice, which is sold in Hyannis’s The Local Juice Bar and Pantry, along with organic smoothies, botanicals, and locally sourced pantry items. These creative, resourceful entrepreneurs have dived deep into their Cape Cod community, even when unforeseen circumstances have threatened to sometimes swamp their dreams.

Of course, Villa hoped to have a splendid wedding—the kind that would stand out in peoples’ memories, a pull-out-the-stops celebration with hundreds of guests, truly unique food perfectly prepared, a huge tent, and a band playing dancing hits all night long. And of course, since both are lovers of the ocean, a picturesque beach location was a must.

Following a romantic proposal on the Cape beach where Villa played as a child with her best friend and lover bended on one knee in the sand—a gorgeous diamond from his mother’s wedding ring hand-crafted and set in rose gold by DePrisco of Osterville and Boston sparkling in the Cape sunlight—her wedding fantasies seemed easily at hand. And then the Covid pandemic hit, shaking not only the couple’s plans for the future success of The West End, but upending their wedding plans as well.

Sitting in the serene garden room at The West End recently, it is obvious that both have weathered the Covid storm with the kind of relaxed, yet positive, forward-thinking confidence they are known for by their legions of friends and acquaintances. Toedt, who has years of experience as the former food and beverage manager of Mashpee’s Willowbend Country Club, agrees with Villa when she says that in many ways Covid helped them see what really matters about getting married.

“We finally realized that the wedding day should just be about the two of us, about Blane and me,” she says. “It simplified things really and made it so we could focus on each other, on our marriage, because we didn’t have to worry about planning and running this huge event. We are both so into being great hosts all the time since we are in the hospitality industry and if we had had the huge wedding of my dreams with 200 people—a big showstopper event— we would have gone crazy trying to make everything perfect.” Or as Toedt says simply, “It just made it all so much easier—there was no fluff in our wedding.”

One nurturing constant for the couple has been their love of the beach and the ocean. During the Covid epidemic, daily walks along Craigville Beach near their cottage home helped both get through the stresses of trying to run a big restaurant at the site of Hyannis’s former The Paddock with a daunting bottom line that was affected dramatically by the virus outbreak.

“Our sales were down 75% in 2020,” says Villa. “It was pretty devastating. We just kept focusing on working hard, staying healthy, keeping our loved ones alive. We had just found love and we didn’t want the world to explode! I was so worried about my parents in South Carolina, constantly trying to figure out how to make the business work. Everything just felt shaky and on pause.”

With drastically reduced staff at the restaurant, the couple served take-out and tried to keep upbeat. “We tried to stay really focused, to do what we could to be mindful for our families and our community, but we really needed those walks along the beach to get through. The walks saved us,” she says, noting that they often passed The Beach Club in Centerville on daily treks by the water.

“We knew from the beginning that if we could, we wanted to have our wedding at The Beach Club,” says Villa. “It is such a beautiful place. We just knew it would be the perfect venue.” Founded in 1927, The Beach Club has long been a favorite for seaside weddings with old-fashioned New England charm and a huge deck offering unparalleled Nantucket Sound views.

“We never even considered anywhere else,” Villa says, noting that she was in constant contact with the club’s staff about Covid restrictions right up to the day of the wedding. “We knew we could only have 50 people and that everything had to be outside.”  

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