Getting to and around MV
During her thirty years at the Steamship Authority’s Vineyard Haven ferry terminal, Bridget Tobin has seen a lot of wedding parties. “It is not going to be your best man who misses the boat,” she says knowingly. He usually gets there the day before, if only for nine holes at Mink Meadows. “It’s more like the band.”
Bridget recalls an accident by the Bourne Bridge — a major access point to Cape Cod, and the road that leads to Woods Hole, where the ferry departs. “It delayed the band, and they missed their boat,” she says.
When they should have been in sound check, the band was in standby. And as anyone who ever took ferry bookings too casually knows, standby is an Island euphemism for purgatory — hours of watching other people head off to Island paradise while you sit in a vast parking lot, inhaling exhaust fumes and watery coffee, wondering if it’s too far to canoe (it is for most of us).
Now Islanders and regular visitors know that not all standbys are created equal — and the band in this case was considered an emergency. They went to the head of the line and were squeezed onto the next boat. “We’ve never had anybody miss the wedding because of us,” Bridget says cheerfully.
The essence of Bridget’s tale is simple. So simple that bridal couples may forget that some guests are not in the know about a simple fact: Martha’s Vineyard is an Island, a very popular Island — particularly in summer — and there is no bridge and only so many ferries that make the trip from the mainland each day.
When traveling with your own vehicle, the only option is the Steamship Authority in Woods Hole; make your reservations early. There are other ferry tricks, besides appealing to Bridget and her coworkers: Island residents can make ferry reservations before the general public in January for the current year. You can also leave the car on the other side and just walk on a boat: Year-round, the Steamship Authority operates from Woods Hole (no reservations are necessary for walk-ons), and the New England Fast Ferry runs from New Bedford and the SeaStreak from New York in the summer. Seasonal passenger ferries also leave from Falmouth, Hyannis, Nantucket and Quonset Point, R.I.
Remember that all of these boats operate “weather permitting,” when the seas are not too rough. But then there are mechanical problems that can sideline a boat and disrupt the rest of the schedule. So you could be on time for your reservation and find that the boat has been cancelled.
Some of your guests to fly, another weather-dependent mode of transport. Cape Air operates from Boston, Providence, Hyannis, New Bedford and Nantucket,, and in the summer JetBlue and Delta fly direct from New York’s JFK airport. And of course, there are charter airplane services.
Once you’re on the Island, there are buses, taxis and rental cars (book early in summer) to get around the six towns on the Island: Vineyard Haven (also called Tisbury), Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, West Tisbury, Chilmark, and Aquinnah (formerly known as Gay Head). Chappaquiddick, technically part of Edgartown, is almost another island, and once again, there is no bridge that actually connects Chappy with Edgartown. Whether you’re sightseeing or staying there, you should know that the Chappy ferry stops its three-car, three-minute journeys around 11 p.m. or midnight, depending on the season.
For the wedding day’s events, bridal couples can book various forms of transport for themselves and their guests — think horse-drawn carriages, sailboats, speedboats, vintage cars, limos, tour buses, trolleys, and more. These are all handy, so long as you consider Island logistics. First, check that there is adequate parking at all your wedding locations. Second, remember that many roads on the Vineyard are dirt roads, so make sure the vehicles you’ve chosen can handle the terrain at your chosen sites. Third, if you are expecting guests to walk at all — say, down to the beach — consider elderly guests and plan for their assistance.
Finally, consider the titillating effect an Island wedding can have on your guests. It can make people forget the small stuff. Stuff like, say, driving back from the reception venue to pick up the bride and groom after their photo shoot.
“I always photograph the whole wedding party, then large groups, then prune down until I have just the couple,” explains photographer Anne Vose. “Once the three of us — the bride and groom and I — were alone at the East Chop Lighthouse, doing the sunset pictures. And I suspect someone was supposed to come back for us . . . .”
Anne was lucky there was cell phone reception at the lighthouse in Oak Bluffs (don’t try this at the Gay Head Light). “It took us a while to get someone to answer their phone, and then it took what seemed like forever before they came to get us,” she says, laughing at the bride and groom stranded, away from their own reception. “I think everyone was having too good a time already.”
[Originally published in the 2007 issue of Martha's Vineyard Magazine's Island Weddings; reviewed for updates in 2012.]