Tying the knot seaside

Determined couples find a way to weddings with water views

By Meredith Goldstein
Globe Staff / February 6, 2011

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New Englanders who are not lake people tend to be beach people. And when those beach people decide to wed, they think of sand. They picture taking their vows by the water. They imagine bridesmaids’ dresses blowing in a seabreeze.

For Christina Pescatore, getting married on the beach was a must. The question was where. “We were really torn between [a local beach] and a destination wedding, which would have been somewhere beachy anyway,’’ she said. “It was kind of based on when we were going to be able to get something.’’

Once she and her fiance, Steve, decided to stay local, they began the hunt for an ideal New England wedding site by the water. They found a range of options, from simple to extravagant. There were public beaches and private resort properties on the water. There were sheltered pavilions and outdoor properties with no cover from rain.

They chose Castle Hill on the Crane Estate, a property in Ipswich owned by the Trustees of Reservations, a site that offers both an upscale and relaxed vibe. The property has a few options: One is a wedding in and around the 59-room mansion, which was built in the 1920s. Another is a ceremony or reception on tiny Steep Hill Beach, a gorgeous strip of shoreline that might not have plugs for sound system or a fancy bathroom (it’s a bit rustic by the water), but makes up for it with perfect sand and an ocean.

The Pescatores, who now live in South Boston, went for Steep Hill and were not disappointed. It’s one thing to be near the beach; it’s a better thing to be on it.

“There is a little path where you can walk to the beach,’’ Christina recalled of her Sept. 4 wedding, adding that after a small reception on grassy Steep Hill, many of her 90-some guests wandered back down to the water. “They thought it was beautiful.’’

Couples also have the option of the Boston Harbor Islands, which are quite beachy, according to those who work all summer on weddings there. Jasper White’s Summer Shack has been put in charge of catering on George and Spectacle islands. Hilary Neville, the company’s catering sales manager, said if a beach vibe is the goal, Spectacle is the better choice. “There’s a lifeguard and people are swimming. If we do an evening wedding, we can do a bonfire there.’’ There’s a gazebo, where some couples choose to have their ceremony. Both islands are tent-ready.

In Rhode Island, the Towers in Narragansett has become a popular wedding spot for couples drawn to the Atlantic. The castle-like structure that hangs over Ocean Road can be set up to look formal or casual. In the 1800s it was the Narragansett Pier Casino; now it is an open space for social events, with a downstairs gift shop devoted to its history. When it’s not being used as a banquet hall, it houses dance classes and theater productions. A few weeks ago, it hosted a Contemporary Theater Co. performance of “The Gift of the Magi’’ on one weekend night, and turned itself into a wedding venue the very same day. Tables were set up for guests. The balcony was cleared so that friends and family could gaze over the water.

Someone who knows all about the versatility of the space is Kate Vivian, who works at the Towers — and happens to have been married there, too. She and her husband used to ride bikes by the building and found out about an event cancellation. The engaged twosome took over the date and planned a wedding in three weeks.

“We danced until midnight,’’ Vivian remembers, saying that she now knows of couples who get engaged in the shadow of the Towers and then get married inside. “A lot of people are drawn here for the ocean. They might name the tables after local beaches.’’

Tricia Pan married Ryan Richer at the Towers in November. The two have surfed nearby for years. The venue gave Pan the security of knowing that even if it rained, her beach wedding would be safe. And when good weather came, the guests could walk down to the shoreline.

The true beach wedding challenge is for Vermonters. As photographer Andy Bishop said, there just aren’t many sandy areas for weddings up there like there are in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Maine. “It’s really just lakes,’’ he said. Bishop and his business partner and wife, Daria, did, however, take pictures of a beautiful beachy wedding in October on Kingsland Bay. Bishop said it was the closest thing to a Cape Cod-style sandy wedding that one can get in Vermont.

EJ and Stever Bartlett’s wedding involved bare toes in the water, beach games, and sundresses.

“They had lots of games for people to play. They encouraged kids to come,’’ Bishop said. “It was a fun, intimate gathering of friends, versus something that’s too formal.’’

Conversely, on the Cape, there are almost too many options. Quincy residents Susan Dellio and Jeff Goldberg got married there last year and wound up having to choose between a country club on the water and a simple ceremony on the beach unprotected by a venue with a roof. After looking at a long list of waterside resorts they liked — including the Falmouth Yacht Club and the Lighthouse in Dennis — the beach bums decided to get a permit and get married on Skaket Beach in Orleans. They walked their guests out onto the shore, making sure to choose a time when the tide was low and when there was enough light to be able to see.

Dellio said she was prepared for rain and would have picked up umbrellas at the last minute. She recommends preparing friends and family for anything if you’re going to do a beach wedding on your own. But if you want to be on the water — not just near it — she said it’s worth the risk.

“Both my husband and I love the water; we love the Cape. I said I need to get married with my feet in the sand,’’ Dellio said.

The couple paid $100 to get a permit from Orleans and brought their portable CD player for music. The bride got married barefoot and told their guests to be casual, at least for the ceremony. After they became husband and wife, they brought the party to the Captain Linnell House on Skaket Beach Road. But it’s the beach at dusk that everyone remembers.

“We just keep getting compliments,’’ Dellio said.

Meredith Goldstein can be reached at