Over the years the Ritz in Oak Bluffs has been many things to many people: a beloved watering hole for locals to catch an afterwork drink, a stage for bands to perform and promote their music, and recently a go-to spot for foodies looking for a good deal on great food — courtesy of the bar’s notable chef, Ben DeForest of Red Cat Kitchen. The Ritz has now become yet another destination: a wedding venue.
On Friday, Dec. 4, 2015, manager of Chicken Alley Thrift Shop Noavakay “Noava” Wibel Knight of Vineyard Haven and her painter and carpenter fiancé Stanislav “Standa” Harag of Litvínov, Czech Republic, were married at the bar and grill, in front of 200 friends, family members, and other bar patrons surprised to be in the presence of a wedding. In the span of only four days, the couple planned the very Vineyard affair, thanks in part to a number of friends, local resources, and the power of social media.
So just how did they transform the renowned dive bar into an appropriate place to exchange their vows? The space just up from the bar, where you’d often find bands performing or a pool table in use, was split in two by several rows of benches, occupied by guests of the couple. At the front of the room, a rustic white screen was placed, adorned with fabric and lights, provided by Ritz owners Jacqueline and Larkin Stallings. In front of the screen stood officiant Seth Gambino, owner of La Choza Burritos in Vineyard Haven, clad in jeans, Converse sneakers, and a newsboy cap. Beside him, the groom — in a v-neck T shirt and jacket — held the couple’s beloved Pomeranian terrier, Providence. Nearby, Kyleen Keenan of Not Your Sugar Mamas passed out sachets of lavender to guests.
Shortly after 9 pm, the bride entered the door at the front of the room, steps from Circuit Avenue, after being dropped off by a Hummer driven by Bubu Luncar of I’ll Be There Painting, in Vineyard Haven. Guests rose to greet her as she walked the aisle in a long white gown with a high neck and a low back, which the bride herself had made from an Amish tablecloth she found at the thrift shop and previously created for a Martha’s Vineyard Fashion Week event. On her head sat a custom crystal tiara made for the occasion by Jessica Kramer of Hawkhouse jewelry designs, who offered her services to the bride via Facebook. In her hands she held a vintage-inspired bouquet of anemones and snapdragons provided by Morrice Florist, a wedding gift courtesy of Ms. Knight’s boss, Sandy Pratt.
In a short ceremony, the couple exchanged vows and rings, to a room full of cheers and applause. Shortly after, the benches were cleared from the room and the newlyweds socialized with their guests, while musicians Tristan Israel and Paul Thurlow performed a previously planned set, and business as usual resumed at the Ritz.
“It was perfect, simple. I never really imagined what my wedding would be like, so in that way it was even more than I imagined,” said Ms. Knight in a phone interview with the Times. The couple chose to make it official at the Ritz, a spot special to the two, who first started dating there on St. Patrick’s Day in 2011. Ms. Knight has also worked with the bar on various events over the years, including the annual Odd Ball party, which benefits Martha’s Vineyard Community Services.
Why the hurry? “We were looking at buying a home, and my mom said that she would sell us hers if we were married. So we decided and posted our plans on Instagram and Facebook,” said Ms. Knight. While sitting at the Ritz having lunch the previous Monday, they decided on the location after discussing potential last-minute wedding venues, which also included the town hall, the beach, or possibly a wooded site. The social media posts grabbed the attention of many friends and colleagues, who helped the couple pull off the event in four short days.
In addition to providing the space, the Ritz offered up the apartment upstairs from the bar as a bridal suite for Ms. Knight to get ready, and the bar’s “Tiny Baker,” Erica McCarron, constructed a small cake for the couple. Ms. Knight and Mr. Harag’s nuptials marked the first wedding at the Ritz under the new ownership of the Stallings, who were happy to be part of the event. “Larkin and I were so thrilled to be a part of this special couple’s day. Noava does so much for our Island community, and it was lovely to have the opportunity to do something for her. Larkin enjoyed it so much, I’m sure he’ll try to convince our recently engaged daughter, Jordan, and her fiancé, Will, to rethink their Island venue!” said Mrs. Stallings.
Despite the short notice, Ms. Knight’s sister, Dawn Breeze of New York, was able to make the ceremony, as well as Mr. Harag’s cousin, also named Standa, who happened to be in town visiting from the Czech Republic. Most guests heard about it on Facebook or through word of mouth among friends. Ms. Knight is grateful for those who were able to make it, and is OK with the fact that everyone wasn’t there. “We let it be our day and for us, and if it didn’t work around everyone else’s schedule, that’s OK. We still love everyone.”
Ms. Knight credits the short notice with the success of the event — no wild expectations allowed for minimal stress, plus it was cost-effective: “We had the cheapest wedding ever. I recommend doing it in four days for anyone. I can’t imagine planning it for two years. It’s anticlimatic. I’ve done a lot of events. You put a lot of energy into it, and then it’s over and nothing has changed. For us, it was really, really great to do it really quick. We didn’t have to worry about it.”
Ms. Stallings of the Ritz echoed her sentiments. “Only having four days to plan turned out to be all the time we needed. Everyone who we called on to help jumped at the chance to be a part of our first Ritz wedding. As I took pictures, I marveled at how everyone in the room had a big smile on their face as they witnessed the happy couple exchange their vows. Noava and Standa, the gathering of our community, and the genuine spirit of the evening, left the Ritz with a special little glow that, I think, will last a very long time.”
Next, the couple will focus on renovating the Vineyard Haven home they purchased from her mother, the same house Ms. Knight grew up in. Currently renting in West Tisbury, they plan to move into the home this winter, which they’ll share with Ms. Knight’s mother, Leslie Wibel. “We’ll do renovations piece by piece. My dad did a lot of weird renovations to it over the years. My family had five kids. We slept everywhere; it’s a funky little house. We’ll rework it to make it ours.” Once the renovations are complete, they hope to have the groom’s family visit in the spring from the Czech Republic.
As for honeymoon plans, the couple will try to get in a trip in February, “to someplace warm, depends on the cheapest airfare,” Ms. Knight said with a chuckle.
Originally posted on MVTimes.com Dec. 9, 2015