What to wear to a Martha’s Vineyard wedding

Since President Obama and his family are here on Martha’s Vineyard, (not that we’re hanging out or anything), I’ve been giving some thought as to what people should wear to events here, specifically weddings.

“What should we wear” is the second question I get from off-islanders regarding weddings, the first being: “how many beds do you have for our extended family?” (My official answer, “Our septic system can’t handle any guests, and you don’t want to find out why.”)

To tell you what to wear to a Vineyard wedding, I need to know two things: who is it, and where is it?

If the wedding is “up island,” (in rural, expensive Aquinnah or Chilmark), then the next question is: Hippy or Hollywood?

If it’s Hollywood, you can count on gorgeous views:


Tons of charm, great food, lots of well-organized assistants and heavy security. I recommend that L.A. “wealthy boho” look you can find at Calypso St. Barth.


It costs a fortune, but you know you can make something like that. Please note that the wedding will probably take place under a tent in a field something like this:


So wear flat shoes that won’t sink in the grass and will protect you from ticks and manure. And make sure that your dress can be pulled up easily in a porta-potty, because there’s going to be one.

If it’s a hippy wedding, odds are good you’ll be peeing in a field, so dress accordingly. If they ask you to bring food, do it. As a matter of fact, I’d eat first and bring a flask of Sancerre. Seriously, you can wear anything, even this:


(Doesn’t that rope thingy look like something midcentury sculptor Isamu Noguchi would have designed for a Martha Graham dance about yachting? It was about as expensive as a Noguchi, too.)

There’s a lot of poison ivy up island, so again, your footwear should be flat, disposable, or hose-able. Lily Pulitzer Crocs would be good. During one particularly bad October deluge, the bride resorted to wearing her garden clogs down the aisle.

And for any wedding in a tent or field, you need good bug spray to ward off the ticks that carry Lyme disease, and a WARM wrap or jacket for after the sun goes down.

Now let’s head “down island” for a wedding either in Edgartown (permanent host of the Preppy Olympics) or any place with the word “Club” in it.

Let’s look at Edgartown. Beautifully manicured Captain’s houses:


Gorgeous New England seaside gardens:


And ample places to buy the preppy uniform of whale pants, polo shirts, breton shirts etc…


For this type of wedding “weekend,” bite the bullet and fit in. If you just landed from planet “not preppy,” you could go to this store and be all set:


A pretty teal dress for an afternoon wedding, white jeans and Breton shirt for whatever lunch/brunch comes your way, and a featherweight lavender cardigan for anything outdoors.

As for the khaki shorts on the left, at my Vineyard wedding 20+ years ago (at an inn with an outdoor wedding venue but indoor plumbing, thank you very much) a plus-one guy from Edgartown showed up in an oxford cloth shirt, docksiders, the ubiquitous preppy navy blazer and khaki linen shorts. Shorts! At a wedding! Mercifully for him, I can’t recall his name.

On that same afternoon, the power went off all over the island, including at the hairdresser, sparing me from looking at wedding pictures with a giant 80s bouffant hairdo. It was fate! (Note: between the salt air and the wind, everyone’s hair looks terrible on the Vineyard, so don’t worry about making an effort.)

As for weddings in the other regions and cultures of the island, where the wedding could be in the tin-roofed Tabernacle:


Or in the sand:


Best to call the mother of the bride and ask. She’s probably dying to vent.

One last question about Edgartown. Is the wedding at the Whaling Church?


It’s gorgeous, historic, either too hot or too cold, and has the most uncomfortable seats on the planet.

For your sake, I hope the wedding looks like this:


Okay, that wasn’t actually a wedding. It was the Official Blues Brothers Revue, doing a fundraiser for the Vineyard Playhouse. The gorgeous trompe l’oeil painting on the back wall was done by talented Vineyard muralist Margot Datz.

While I was at the concert, sitting with boomer-age friends who, in the 70s, toured as recording artists, lived with famous musicians, and spent quality time alternately crashing in Teepees or on lumpy NYC futons, ALL we could talk about was how happy we were that the Whaling Church had new, thicker cushions for our aging bums! And even with better cushions, my sitz bones were killing me! So bring a wrap, even if it’s hot, because you’re going to need to sit on it.

And enjoy the Vineyard. Really, there’s a reason why presidents have been coming here for more than a century.

13 thoughts on “What to wear to a Martha’s Vineyard wedding

  1. Next time you do in the ditch try the -# 10 foot for better results. The #5 is really for hems. Love the scarf and wedding info. SR

    Sent from my iPad

    • Good idea! I’m looking forward to getting more Bernina presser feet in the fall, when I’ve off of Gilligan’s Isle and back in town. I think a pintuck foot might work as well.

  2. I would break with my Bernina gladly except that I have so much money invested in those feet. And another (starts adding up consecutive trips to the repair shops – one to tune it up, the next to repair the tune up)…well, those tears have dried. I have found that a lot of the feet are Remarkably The Same as each other. I am saving up and planning on selling a kidney or a spare teenager for a walking foot.

  3. Sand weddings are tough. I made the mistake of wearing heels which is worse than wearing them in a field. The sand was unbearably hot too and most of the party that did not bring ‘flip flops (?) were just hopping back and forth so as not to burn the feet.

  4. Wonderfully funny post about Vineyard weddings. Enjoy your last days of summer although I know what you mean about being on Gilligans Island. Maybe Bernina will give you a foot collection if you promise to show the sewing world creative uses for them. I sympathize with other Bernina owners about the price of those little feet! My dealer advised me to wait until the sale and I ordered a load of feet. Beg, borrow and definitely sell your teenager for the walking foot; it quilts cotton, boucles to silk, and keeps plaids/stripes matched like nothing else.

    • I agree about the walking foot (and trading a teenager for it) and fortunately Bernina has generously loaned me one to keep Karl company. I can see how collecting those feet could be addictive…I already have that problem with shoes!

      • Well, you can go on and on about it to me, and Bernina will have another sale. And Karl can smile upon it all.

        One teen did make me a lovely apron in his ‘adult living’ class, so I shall keep that one, The other is on notice.

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