A wedding in West Tisbury

Marching Down Music Street, from left: Jack Mayhew, Caroline, Daniel, Daniel's sisters Toni and Damarise Johnson. Toni's husband Scott Moulder is the tall man visible behind.

Photo by Sarah Mayhew

At about 4 pm on Saturday, June 14, 2014, people living on Music Street in West Tisbury looked out their windows and saw a long procession coming out of the playground next to the town hall. About a hundred people headed down the street, walking, not marching — there was no band, or any music, only Tom Hodgson, who seemed to be leading them toward the entrance to Look’s Pond Way, where they turned left and proceeded down the dirt lane.

What was going on? They all looked happy and were chatting with each other as they walked — some were even holding hands.

Tom-Dan-Caroline.jpgTall, short, thin, fat, old, young, white, black, Asian — there seemed to be no pattern to help an onlooker figure out who they represented. But I knew — they were all friends and family members of Caroline Mayhew and Daniel Johnson, who were leading them all, behind Mr. Hodgson, who would marry them when they arrived at their destination. Caroline is my granddaughter and Daniel has been her loving companion for 12 years — since they met at Simon’s Rock College.

I, too old to parade down Music Street, had sneaked in by car and took a seat on the edge of Look’s Pond to await them. There they came, through the yard of the house I had lived in for 55 years, past the stone wall, and down to the lower edge of the field. Some of them filled the dozen chairs that had been set up and others spread blankets on the ground to sit on, much like a beach party.

This was the spot Caroline had chosen for her wedding ceremony because her parents, my son, Jack, and his wife, Betsey, had been married here on the edge of Look’s Pond almost 30 years ago, in 1984. This was going to be a very unconventional  ceremony – Caroline and Dan had asked Tom Hodgson to marry them via the one-day privilege Massachusetts will grant to anyone who fills out the proper forms, pays the small fee, and gets a letter of recommendation from someone attesting that this is a good person to do the job. I wrote that letter, as I had known Tom since he was five years old.

Daniel Johnson and Caroline Mayhew.
Daniel Johnson and Caroline Mayhew.

When everyone was settled down, my youngest granddaughter, Katie Mayhew, opened with a song called Picture in a Frame; middle granddaughter Lucy Mayhew, Caroline’s sister, accompanied her on guitar. Tom then spoke very kindly about Caroline and Daniel and how committed they are to each other. Another song followed called One Voice. It was harmonized by my daughter Deborah, Katie, Leah Shearer, and Toni Johnson, Daniel’s sister.

Caroline spoke to the crowd, made up of her family, Daniel’s family, school friends of both of them, friends of Jack and Betsey, neighbors, and two people from Caroline’s law firm in Washington, D.C. In the crowd Ohio, California, Texas, North Carolina and probably a few other states were represented. Her talk thanked each group who had helped her along the way to this moment in her life. Daniel spoke in the same vein, with sincere thanks to his family and all his friends for being in West Tisbury to help him and Caroline celebrate this momentous occasion.

Caroline’s mother, Betsey, spoke and then her Aunt Deborah, who had collected some quotes about marriage from some famous people. She quoted Franz Schubert who once said, “Happy is the man who finds a true friend, and far happier is he who finds that true friend in his wife.” Caroline and Daniel have had 12 years to cement their friendship as they start on their life together as husband and wife. Caroline’s sister, Lucy, also spoke, welcoming Daniel into the family.

A real up-Island event – standing, from left: Tom Hodgson, Deborah Mayhew, Daniel and Caroline Mayhew and Jack Mayhew.
A real up-Island event – standing, from left: Tom Hodgson, Deborah Mayhew, Daniel and Caroline Mayhew and Jack Mayhew.

When Lucy finished, the bride and groom exchanged vows and rings. Daniel had designed their rings, made of silver with a small inscription on each. Yellow and blue were the colors of the day; the sun and the moon their symbols. Caroline’s ring was engraved with a moon and a small blue sapphire: Dan’s had a sun and a small yellow sapphire. They had found a jeweler in Alaska who made them to order.

No long white dress with veil for the bride and no tuxedo for the groom. Comfort came first. Claire Aquila, a costume designer and friend from New York City had designed a lovely pant suit for Caroline; Daniel wore a grey vest over a bright yellow shirt, blue jeans and sneakers.

When Tom concluded the service and the couple had each answered “I do,” he asked the congregation to agree that this was a good union and we all shouted, “We do!”

A song called We Are Gonna Be Friends, sung by Deborah and her daughter Katie, accompanied by Lucy on the guitar, concluded the ceremony, and everyone left to retrieve their cars while Eli Dagostino, the official photographer, took the formal family photographs near the pond. My daughter Sarah, who grew up working in my darkroom, is also an accomplished photographer, and she could be seen dashing around taking candid shots.

The Bodes played at the reception.
The Bodes played at the reception.

But wait — that was not the end. We all found our way to Jack and Betsey’s house in North Tisbury, where a huge tent had been set up and tables for eight arranged under it. Smaller tents for sleeping were sprinkled on the other side of the house for those who preferred not to (or couldn’t) spend big money for overnight accommodations  A badminton net was strung across the backyard, and one end of the tents was set up and amplified for the music that would take place after dinner. West Tisbury weddings — and sometimes West Tisbury memorial services — often have local musicians as part of the program. In this case it would be The Bodes — four middle-aged men who had started the group while in the regional high school, some 45 years ago. One of them was Jack Mayhew, Caroline’s father.

As dusk settled, the ambience was festive with twinkling lights strung among the trees and bushes surrounding the house — the music was rock and roll and the dancing began — not on a dance floor, but on the lawn. Katie sang four songs with the Bodes and Lucy joined them on the keyboard for several songs. This was truly an Island wedding — potluck dinner with smoked bluefish and smoked chicken by Aunty Sarah (who had been taught well by her father); pulled pork, grilled chicken, and lobster salad by Betsey; rice and salads and breads brought by guests — and, not a traditional wedding cake, but dozens of cheesecake and flourless chocolate cupcakes made by the bride over the winter and frozen until June 14th.

The decorations on each table were designed and made by members of the family and their friends — a tree stump topped with a candle in the middle surrounded by small clay animals — all animals and birds found on the Vineyard. Garlands of ivy surrounded the stumps which were what remained of a spruce tree in their front yard that had to be sacrificed when their solar panels were installed. They had saved the trunk and Caroline helped saw it into the right sizes with her dad’s chain saw. The little animals were made from clay that didn’t need baking – friends and family had been turning them out, a few at a time, for months.

Caroline didn’t want paper party ware — she wanted real china and glass glasses. She put out the word to the members of her family and all her friends to scour their local thrift shops and pick up plates and dessert dishes with any blue on them. Her dad, Jack, started collecting empty wine bottles from a local restaurant, cutting them down to size, and polishing the edges to a smooth finish. By Christmas the house started to fill up with odds and ends of blue and white china dishes and wine bottle/glasses. The freezer filled up with delicious cupcakes. Betsey had bought fabric from The Heath Hen Shop and made up all the napkins tied up with twine.

This was truly a Vineyard wedding — recycled dinnerware and wine bottles, recycled spruce tree that had grown to 40 feet from the day that Jack had planted it in their yard many years before, a wedding location that was very meaningful to the whole family, especially for the bride’s parents, homemade decorations and delicious food from everyone who attended.

And a final convention discarded — instead of the bride taking her husband’s name, the groom took his bride’s name and became Daniel Mayhew. He is a wonderful addition to our family.