On Blueberry Hill
She was a California girl, by way of New York City. He was a kid from Concord. They met in Los Angeles. They found love in Mexico. They’ve traveled around Europe. He proposed in Paris. (Smooth.) They blended households in Venice, California. Naturally, they wound up marrying on the Vineyard.
Lilly McDowell has been vacationing on the Vineyard since she was eight years old. Charlie Walton was familiar with the territory after lifelong forays from Concord to points south on the Vineyard, Nantucket, and Cape Cod.
“Getting married on the Vineyard just felt right to both of us,” says Lilly. In September 2010, they tied the knot before 180 guests at Blueberry Hill, the Chilmark home of her mother and stepfather, actors Mary Steenburgen and Ted Danson. Her father, British actor Malcolm McDowell, was also present.
The bride and groom set the stage with subtle whimsy. “It was a melding of themes that resonate with us: vintage, nautical, and world travel,” says Lilly. For their invitations, programs, and place cards, they replicated old maps, post cards, and other ephemera they’ve picked up at flea markets and antique shops. The guests witnessed the back-lawn ceremony while perched on bales of hay draped with linens. “Fortunately, the SBS store [in Vineyard Haven] let us return the bales so long as they weren’t damaged,” says Lilly.
The key orchestrators – bride, groom, and event planner Emily Kelly of Unscene Inc. – were all based on the West Coast. No problem. Lilly’s mom was familiar with Island resources from years of events she’s hosted at Blueberry Hill. Lilly’s friends who had married on the Vineyard shared recommendations too. And Lilly had insider insights of her own, since as a teenager she worked summers at establishments such as Midnight Farm, the Black Dog, and Sweet Life Café.
For Emily the planner, the close-knit Vineyard community was quite a departure from the high-powered LA scene she’s accustomed to. “She loved the Island experience,” says Lilly. “Everyone she worked with was so personable and nice.”
Lilly dreamed up custom ideas for decorations and favors such as tossing lavender (in lieu of rice) held in cones made of photocopied pages from antique books; garlands of family photos; and dinner napkins hand-stenciled with names of the couple’s favorite travel destinations. The clever bride also organized craft-making parties. “I have a great group of friends who love to be creative and get their hands dirty,” she says. “I bribed them with wine and cheese.” Lilly regularly pours her creative spirit into Nell’s Compass, a candle company she launched with her mother in 2008. For the wedding, she conjured two new candle scents – Atlantic and Pacific – as takeaway gifts for the guests.
For a bride with such creative spirit, there’s nothing like getting a stamp of approval from the ultimate style guru: Martha Stewart Weddings featured the crafts, among other wedding highlights, in its Summer 2011 issue. Said Lilly on her company website: “Pinch me now!
Choosing a celebrant
Who would perform the wedding ceremony? Lilly had a notion. Privately, she mulled it over and over. Ultimately, it was Charlie who put it into words: “What about Ted?”
And that’s how Lilly’s stepfather, actor Ted Danson, proudly switched careers for a day. (A one-day certificate from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts made him legit.)
“Charlie and I both adore Ted,” says Lilly. “We have a very sweet relationship.” The couple met with Ted a few times to give him a general idea of what they wanted him to convey. They asked him to put their thoughts into his own words. “We were surprised at how sweet and touching his words were – about me, about him, and about us as a couple. And he had never done anything like this before! But he was wonderful. He was a pro.”
For more information about a one-day marriage designation in Massachusetts, visit www.mass.gov/governor/administration/legal/marriage.
[Originally published in the 2012 issue of Martha's Vineyard Magazine's Island Weddings.]