How to Plan a Wedding at Martha’s Vineyard

Martha’s Vineyard weddings are iconic. Here’s how to plan your Martha’s Vineyard with a little help from Zola!

By The Zola Team

How to Plan a Wedding at Martha’s Vineyard
Photo by Dreamlove Photography

The First Look ✨

It’s no secret that Martha’s Vineyard is a lovely place. The scenic views, isolated nature, and timeless beauty of its beaches make it perfect for weddings, too.

Hosting a Martha’s Vineyard wedding does require significant planning far in advance of your wedding ceremony and wedding reception. The island’s popularity means that it can be difficult to find vendors, accommodations, and wedding locations or venues during peak seasons.

Luckily, we’ve put together this helpful guide outlining the seven key steps you’ll need to follow to pull off a successful Martha’s Vineyard wedding, including:

It might be more stressful to plan an island wedding, but we think you’ll find it was worth it on your gorgeous wedding day.

Why Do People Love Martha’s Vineyard?

Martha’s Vineyard has been part of the state of Massachusetts since 1692. Throughout the next two centuries, whaling and farming were the biggest sources of industry on the island. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that it began to be used as an escape for mainlanders in the summers. Since then, tourism has supplanted other industries to become the top source of revenue for the island.

It brings in significant earnings for those who rely on visitors to the island. The year-round population is around 17,000 people, but in summer this can balloon to as many as 200,000. People are drawn to the:

  • 96 square miles of island with beaches, forests, and farms
  • Temperate island climate
  • Eclectic shop and restaurant selections
  • Outdoor activities for all ages
  • Casual atmosphere

Thus, you won’t be alone in wanting the enchanting Martha’s Vineyard wedding experience.

Step #1: Plan Ahead…Way Ahead

People flock to Martha’s Vineyard to experience a little tranquility and time away from the big cities on the east coast. Since it’s a relatively small island, there’s a limited capacity for visitors and weddings at any given time. Summer is particularly busy and competitive for couples who want to host a wedding on the island. If you’d like to be one of these couples, be prepared to have your wedding details finalized months and months before the private event.

Set a Budget

The first thing you must do when you begin to plan your wedding is set a budget. This will influence all the other choices you make from the date you select, the venue, guest list, caterers, and more.

An informal survey of couples who were married on the island in 2019 found that 42 percent of couples paid more than $75,000 for their wedding while two percent paid over $200,000. Before you panic, it’s important to note that the national average wedding cost is closer to $30,000 and many couples pay less than this.

The wide range of potential costs is why it’s so important to set a budget well in advance of your planned wedding date and stick to it.

Seasons Matter

Your budget will help you select the appropriate season for your Martha’s Vineyard wedding. As you can imagine, the most popular and expensive time to have your wedding on the island is between the months of June and August. If you have your heart set on a summer Vineyard wedding, you might need to put it off for a year or two to secure the venue and other services you want.

If you’re willing to consider a spring or fall wedding, you’ll likely find it much easier to book your services. Many vendors even offer special deals in the off-season. You also won’t have to compete for space with the summer visitors, which will make it easier to accommodate your wedding guests.

As a bonus, winters on Martha’s Vineyard are typically fairly mild with temperatures hovering in the 40s. You can hold a truly breathtaking wedding on the island in the winter and save money at the same time.

Weather Implications

One final thing you’ll need to plan for is the weather. Even on nice days, there are frequent ferry cancelations due to high winds. Allowing an extra day or two for all guests to make it to the wedding ceremony safely might be necessary, and thus you should include this advice in your invitations.

Craft Expectations With a Fabulous Wedding Website

We know this is a lot to take in and a lot you’ll need to communicate with your wedding guests. An island wedding can be tricky to pull off, so you must have a wedding website that provides everyone with the details they need. Zola’s free wedding websites have easy to use, customizable templates and perfect designs for every wedding theme.

Building your website early on in the wedding planning process can help you prepare your guests for the event well in advance.

Step #2: Choose Your Vendors and Venue

Once you’ve locked down the date and budget for your wedding, it’s time to find the venue and other vendors you’re going to use to make your day special. When you have a wedding on the island, it’s customary to use vendors located on the island or nearby. This makes it less likely that you’ll have a transportation snafu at the worst possible time.

Venues

Martha’s Vineyard is home to many enchanting wedding venues, from a majestic mansion to the Old Whaling Church. The right one for your event depends on the number of people you’re planning to have, as well as your budget and the venue’s availability. The types of wedding locations or venues on the island include:

  • Churches – If a traditional ceremony followed by post-vow festivities is your goal, you’ll find several churches and chapels on the island to meet your needs. Space is limited in some of these, so you may have to pare down the guest list so that everyone can fit inside.

  • Hotels and inns – There are also charming inns and elegant hotels where you can host both a ceremony and reception.

  • Public spaces – If an outdoor affair is your dream, you’ll find a few public spaces where you can host a large event or a smaller, more intimate ceremony.

  • Farms – For that special rustic appeal, a barnyard wedding is an optimal choice.

  • Clubs – There are many yachts and other specialty clubs on the island that have event spaces that you can use for your wedding. Sizes and rates will vary, so you’ll need to check with each to find the right one for your needs.

  • Community centers – The two community centers on the island also have wedding reception spaces that can be rented out for private events.

  • Historic places – For the history buff groom and bride, one of the historic locations on the island will make a delightful venue for your wedding.

As you can see, the island offers wedding venues for every taste.

Caterers

There are several wedding catering services on the island to suit a variety of tastes. You can hire a caterer to produce a feast including:

  • Clam bakes
  • Dishes using fresh, local ingredients
  • Eclectic collections of desserts
  • Vegetarian or vegan options

Utilizing local caterers gives your wedding that extra touch of island atmosphere.

Photographers

Your wedding photos will help you remember your ceremony and reception. You want them to showcase both your ceremony and the captivating Martha’s Vineyard scenery. It might be helpful to select some special, can’t miss, spots that you want to incorporate into your photos ahead of time. This way, when you select your wedding photographer, you can make sure that you tell them about the things you want to capture in your pictures.

Other Services

There are many other services you’ll need for your Martha’s Vineyard wedding. Many couples choose to use island vendors for:

  • The wedding cake, cupcakes, pie, or another delectable dessert
  • Flowers for the couple, wedding party, and venue
  • Hair and makeup for the wedding party
  • Music for the ceremony and reception
  • Transportation around the island

When you use vendors that know the island, you give the economy there a boost and get the opportunity to work with Martha’s Vineyard experts.

Finding the Best Vendors for Your Wedding

You might be wondering how to find the best vendors on Martha’s Vineyard to meet your wedding needs. We’ve made it as simple as possible for you with Zola's pre-screened wedding vendor and venue finder. You can browse our lists and sort by location, price, style, and more to save time and stress.

Step #3: Select Your Theme and Decor

Once you’ve decided when and where you’re going to have your Martha’s Vineyard wedding, it’s time to decide how. When you picture you and your spouse at the altar or dancing at your reception, what does it look like? What mood and style of decor appeal to you?

While there are endless options for wedding themes and decorations, our favorites for a divine Martha’s Vineyard affair involve three different approaches: classic, charming, or rustic.

Classic Elegance

Many couples choose Martha’s Vineyard because it has a classic, romantic beauty nestled in among the old, stately homes, lighthouses, and stretches of sandy beaches. If you and your future spouse are looking to capture this with your wedding, then an elegant approach to the overall theme and decor is appropriate.

You’ll find no shortage of inspiration starting with the venue. Couples in search of a stunning space can choose a club, hotel, or historic location. Then, there are many ways to complement the venue with your other materials. Some of our top elements to incorporate into an elegant Martha’s Vineyard wedding include:

  • Colors – Classic black and white are always a winner. For a pop of color, red, gold, and even pale pink are excellent choices.

  • Table settings – Crisp, white linen is a must. You can highlight your tables with snowy white china, sparkling crystal glasses, and black, red, or gold cloth napkins.

  • Flowers – Roses are the classic choice for any glamorous wedding. You can stick with white, or use bright crimson or pink for a touch of color.

While much of the island sticks to casual dress, your guests will love the opportunity to wear their fanciest outfits to celebrate your marriage.

Waterfront Charm

Another delightful theme for your Martha’s Vineyard wedding is all around you—the water. There are so many ways that you can incorporate the setting into every aspect of your wedding, from invites, to colors, to decor. Look around you when you go to visit and you’ll see inspiration everywhere. For waterfront weddings, we love:

Invitations – There are many captivating nautical and beach themes that you can use for your invitations. You can also use the same theme for your wedding website, save the date cards, and thank you cards for a true start to finish island experience.

Colors – Blues are all the rage when it comes to a waterfront wedding. From navy to dusty powder blue, you can’t go wrong. Other colors inspired by the ocean include pale green, gold, yellow, and pink.

Decor – Buoys, boats, driftwood, lighthouses, lanterns, seashells, sea glass—there’s a long list of sea-worthy items that you can add to your ceremony and reception to set the mood for your oceanside wedding.

Use the setting – The sand beneath your toes, waves in the distance, and lighthouse down the coast can all become part of your decor. These also make fetching natural props for your photographs.

Take advantage of every bit of beach beauty and you’ll end up with an amazing wedding experience.

Rustic Whimsy

Lastly, Martha’s Vineyard provides ample rustic settings for the couple seeking a charming, whimsical wedding. From barnyards to small inns, you’ll adore the special touches that a rustic wedding sets the scene for. Some of our favorites are:

  • Dusty pastel colors throughout
  • Lace and gauzy fabrics
  • Candles or fairy lights for nighttime events
  • Barrels, planks, and hay bales for decor
  • Bunches of wildflowers tucked into mason jars
  • Plenty of hearty food made from locally sourced ingredients

You’ll also want to provide an enticing array of beverages for your guests. Interestingly, Matha’s Vineyard doesn’t have any actual vineyards on the island, so you’ll have to source your wine elsewhere. There are several breweries, however, so you can bring in some local brews.

Step #4: Send Your Invites and Request RSVPs

A typical wedding invitation should go out at least eight weeks before a wedding, with RSVP deadlines two to three weeks before the big day. A destination wedding, however, has a whole different set of rules. You should plan:

Save the date cards – These should be sent at least nine months before the wedding so that your guests can begin planning to get away for your wedding. You can get your wedding website up and running around the same time to begin sharing details as they become available.

Invitations – Experts recommend sending invites at least four to five months before a destination wedding in a place like Martha’s Vineyard.

RSVP deadline – Because of the number of details you’ll need to finalize before the wedding, you should request RSVPs no later than eight weeks before the date. This allows you plenty of time to make changes to accommodations, food, and more.

Early invites and RSVP cut-offs will save you an incredible amount of hassle and stress in the weeks leading up to your wedding, and ensure that you don’t end up paying for resources you don’t end up using.

Step #5: Make It Official

To legally get married in Massachusetts, you must have a marriage license issued somewhere in the state. An out-of-state license isn’t acceptable. To get a marriage license, you must:

  • Both be physically present
  • Go to city or town clerk anywhere in Massachusetts
  • Obtain the license no more than 60 days prior to your ceremony

You should note that there’s a three-day waiting period between the application for and issue of the license, so you’ll need to plan accordingly—maybe a pre-honeymoon weekend is in order?

You must have the clergy member or the justice of the peace who performs the ceremony sign the license and return it to the city or clerk from which it was issued. If the ceremony is being solemnized by a clergy member from a different state, they’ll need to get a certificate of authorization from the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth before the wedding.

As an alternative, you can have a friend or family member perform the marriage if they apply for and receive special permission before the private event.

Step #6: Finalize Transportation and Accommodation Details

The last hurdle in your way to the perfect Martha’s Vineyard wedding is a big one: getting you and all your guests to the island.

There are two ways to get to the island: by air or by water. Commercial flights are available from the following locations:

  • Boston, MA
  • New Bedford, MA
  • Hyannis, MA
  • Nantucket, MA
  • Westchester, NY
  • New York City, NY
  • Washington, DC

However, many of these flights are seasonal only. If you wish to fly in during the off-season, you might need to book a charter flight.

To get to the island by ferry, depending on the time of year, you have a few options. For ferry service year-round, the only choice is to take the Steamship Authority from Cape Cod. The trip lasts about 45 minutes and this is also the only ferry that transports cars to the island.

Other ferry options run from May through October, and they leave from ports in:

  • Falmouth, MA
  • Hyannis, MA
  • New Bedford, MA
  • North Kingston, RI
  • Highlands, NJ
  • New York City, NY

Trip lengths vary, depending on the departure location. It’s very important to remember that weather can delay or cancel ferry and plane runs at any time. You should give yourself an arrival cushion of a day or two and advise your guests to do the same.

It’s also important to make sure that your guests plan for accommodations on the island well in advance of the wedding day. You should help by having rooms set aside for the guests who plan to stay on Martha’s Vineyard. To do so, you need a well-managed guest list.

Zola’s wedding guest list manager will help you ensure that every guest can get to the island and will have a place to stay once they’re there. It’ll help you track your guest’s RSVPs and can be synced with your wedding website for communicating vital wedding details to your friends and family.

Step #7: Enjoy Your Special Celebration

You’ve done the work, now relax and enjoy your wedding! Often couples put so much effort into planning the day and making sure that everything goes off without a hitch that they forget to appreciate the little moments.

Tips for Relaxing and Enjoying Your Day

  • Arrive early so that you don’t have to worry about last-minute travel delays.
  • Schedule a massage a few days before the wedding.
  • Exercise is an amazing wedding-stress buster—take a walk or bike ride around the island.
  • Yoga and meditative breathing will also help you achieve pre-wedding zen.
  • Drink plenty of water and eat well.
  • Don’t forget to sleep—dark undereye circles and wedding photos don’t mix.

Remember, the wedding is just one day. Regardless of what happens, you still have the rest of your lives to spend together. A few wedding day hiccups won’t change that.

Zola: The Expert You Need for Your Martha’s Vineyard Wedding

You’ve decided that Martha’s Vineyard is the ideal place for your wedding. Now that you’ve read our guide, you know the steps you must take to make your ceremony and reception a dazzling success. The hard part comes now when you have to put all of your ideas into action.

That’s where Zola comes in. We’re here to help you with all of your wedding planning needs. When you register at Zola, you’ll gain access to all of our wedding planner and preparation tools, plus advice on how to pull off an amazing event. Then, you get to relax and enjoy your special day on the island.

Find Your Wedding Vendors at Zola, All Pre-Screened for You