Join us in celebrating all of the aspects that make the Cape an iconic wedding destination.
Written by Kaitlyn Murray; Planning & Coordination in Featured Wedding Photography by Cape Cod Celebrations
Serene waters. Salty breezes. Rolling Dunes. Quaint villages. Genteel trimmings. Mix it all together and you have the perfect recipe for a seaside wedding. You also get Cape Cod. Jamie Bohlin, a native Cape Codder and the founder of Cape Cod Celebrations — an all-in-one wedding planning service operating out of Yarmouth Port — understands the appeal more than most. In 2019 alone, she and her team helped plan sixty-five weddings and events in and around the Cape. “Most people who get married here have some sort of connection — they may have grown up vacationing here,” Bohlin says. “Sometimes we have couples that grew up on the Cape and they’re coming back to get married or, every now and then, we’ll get clients who wanted a destination wedding and they thought Cape Cod looked beautiful, so they ended up here.” Maybe you’re one of those destination-wedding-seekers, or maybe you’re thinking of establishing your own coastal family traditions. Regardless of your reasoning for wanting to tie the knot on the Cape, you’re in luck: you’ve been cordially invited to our inside look at planning a Cape Cod wedding.
No Place Like the Cape
Now, this pretty peninsula has quite a bit of real estate to choose from; more than 300 square miles, in fact. Plus, “There are beautiful venues in just about every town,” says Bohlin. So, where to begin? How about with a breakdown of the Cape’s four main regions.
The Upper Cape
Bourne, Mashpee, Sandwich and Falmouth.
Some might say that the Upper Cape is the best of both worlds, allowing easy access
to the coast as well as the mainland. Thanks to the Sagamore Bridge, a trip from the Cape’s oldest town, Sandwich (circa 1639), to Massachusetts’ most famous historical sites, Plymouth and Boston, takes just twenty-five minutes and an hour, respectively. Meanwhile, Providence, Rhode Island, is just an hour’s drive from the Cape’s other main connector, the Bourne Bridge. Or, you can take the ferry straight into the ocean lover’s mecca that is Woods Hole in Falmouth. It’s home to both the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and the Marine Biological Laboratory, as well as a number of waterfront restaurants and attractions.
Dennis, Hyannis, Barnstable and Yarmouth.
This section is probably best known for its residential vibes. Hyannis, Cape Cod’s one and only city, claims almost 70 percent of the Cape’s population along with some of its most beloved attractions, including the Cape Cod Potato Chip factory and the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum. And though the famous Route 6A (a.k.a. Old King’s Highway) runs through almost the entirety of Cape Cod, the Mid-Cape boasts some of its best viewings. In fact, Yarmouth Port alone features a two-mile stretch of century-old (or older) homes.
The Lower Cape
Harwich, Chatham, Orleans and Brewster.
Locals and tourists alike will most likely agree that the elbow of Cape Cod is often the most sought-after vacation spot due to its pristine beaches (popular for both sunbathing and surfing), prime shopping on Main Street in Chatham and plethora of family-friendly activities. As such, it makes sense that many to-be-weds also flock to the Lower Cape. “It’s wedding central,” says Bohlin. “Most of the bigger, more iconic venues on the Cape are located in Harwich, Chatham and Brewster.”
The Outer Cape
Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro and Provincetown.
Some may avoid this section of Cape Cod because of its tucked away nature, but many are grateful for the seclusion. It’s a setting taken straight from the pages of a romance novel with its rolling dunes, wild sea grasses and picturesque lighthouses (like Nauset Light in Eastham). On the flipside, you can’t profile the Outer Cape without highlighting Provincetown, affectionately nicknamed P-town. Celebrated for its thriving counterculture, LGBTQ+ friendly atmosphere and art scene, P-town is the most dynamic spot on the Cape. Plus, it isn’t as far out of reach as you may think. “Another thing we love about P-town is that guests can get off the plane in Logan and take a one-hour ferry across the bay,” says Bohlin. “It’s such a walkable town that no one needs cars to get around — you can just get off the ferry, walk to your accommodations and then even walk to most of the venues.”
(Married) Life’s a Beach
Thanks to its 400 miles of shoreline, the Cape essentially has a built-in wedding theme. “We’re such a destination location that most couples are looking for the Cape Cod quintessential look — classic, cozy, coastal,” says Bohlin. “A lot of times, you’re at these beautiful waterfront venues and couples will realize they can let the setting and the scenery speak for itself.” Some prime examples of such coastal elegance include the Wequassett Resort and Golf Club in Harwich, Wychmere Beach Club in Harwich Port, Chatham Bars Inn in Chatham and Ocean Edge Resort and Golf Club in Brewster.
However, if your ceremony plans involve less roof over your head and more sand between your toes, keep these beach wedding tips in mind:
1. Look into potential permit requirements and usage fees — some sandy shores in and around the Cape require them, others don’t.
2. Check for restrictions, like whether everything needs to be wrapped up before dusk.
3. Be aware of tide times to avoid wedding (wave) crashers.
4. Learn when the sun will set on your wedding day for optimal portrait taking.
5. Most importantly, have a plan B in the case of less optimal weather.
Or, if you’re interested in a Cape wedding sans the sand and sea, there’s plenty of other options. “Just because it’s Cape Cod, it doesn’t mean you have to have a beach wedding. It isn’t all on the water,” says Bohlin. “The Cape has some really cool barn venues, beautiful art museums and historic inns.” For instance, West Falmouth’s Bourne Farm lends itself to country chic as does Mashpee’s Willowbend (it even overlooks a cranberry bog!), while the Cape Cod Museum of Art in Dennis is perfect for more imaginative couples. Even some of the most well-known waterfront venues are well-suited for non-nautical themes. “At some of the bigger resorts you can kick it up a notch for that glam feel,” Bohlin adds. “You can bring in over-the-top florals or specialty linens to create the feel of a New York City or Boston-type wedding.”
All in the Details
If you do want to go full Cape for your wedding, the world is your oyster when it comes to possible accents. “Hydrangeas tend to make an appearance at a lot of Cape Cod weddings, whether they’re heavily featured or there’s just a touch of them throughout,” says Bohlin. “And then we’ve had a lot of twists on nautical recently. We’ve seen a lot of oyster shells and mussel shells being brought in as opposed to starfish and sea glass.” Some more Cape-appropriate extras Engaged has seen dominating Pinterest over the years: lighthouse or compass motifs on stationery; driftwood arches; lanterns or sand-filled vases for centerpieces; rope accents and flip flop favors. “We also have seen a lot of the iconic signs you see throughout the Cape — like ‘Entering Chatham’ — in the details, whether it’s on a welcome bag or table names,” says Bohlin. As for color palettes, the Cape planner points out that she encounters many variations of blue, like navy and teal. “There are tons of trends online every year, like the Pantone color of the year, and I feel like the national trends don’t tend to hit Cape Cod as much as they do other areas,” she says. “But we do see a lot of greenery, which I know has been taking off all over.” What about photo ops? “I would say it depends on the town. For example, the Pilgrim Monument, Commercial Street or the wharf are all fabulous locations in P-town for photos,” she says. “Lighthouses always tend to make their way into couples’ albums, the Chatham Lighthouse is a big one, and then, of course, the beaches. Almost everyone wants beach pictures — it’s beautiful and we’re surrounded by it, so how could they not?”
On the Menu
Bohlin admits there are two major staples: “We usually see Cape Cod Potato Chips in every single welcome bag and Cape Codder signature drinks made with cranberry and vodka are popular at cocktail hour.” But they aren’t the only fitting options for your wedding eats and treats on the Cape. More goodies for your guests’ welcome bags could include a bottle of Nobska Farms Hot Sauce, sweets from the Candy Manor, a rainbow of sea glass candy from Cake and Islands, some Chequessett Chocolates and/or a few freshly baked Salty Oats Cookies. You might also consider wine from Truro Vineyards and/or Cape Cod Winery along with some Devil’s Purse Brewing Co. beer at your cocktail hour. At the reception, perhaps you’d like to serve actual cod for the main course or go for a more casual Cape-delicacy like fried seafood. And you could finish the night off with an ice cream station, featuring favorite homemade flavors from Sundae School, Four Seas or the Ice Cream Smuggler.
When to Wed
While wedding season often runs from April through November on Cape Cod, with a few winter weddings here and there in between, Bohlin says the two most popular months are June and September. “It’s not too hot and it’s outside of the main summer vacation window, so there aren’t as many visitors here,” she adds. If you’re planning to say “I do” on the Cape during these months, plan to book your venue ASAE — as soon as engaged. “I always say start looking right away if you want a Cape Cod wedding, no matter the timing, and probably plan for a one to one-and-a-half-year engagement,” says Bohlin. “Our venues and vendors tend to book a lot farther out because everything is in such high demand.”
But if you’re looking for more budget-friendly options, Bohlin says to consider the shoulder seasons. “If you set your date before Memorial Day or after Columbus Day, sometimes you can get some really fabulous venues for lower food and beverage minimums or other discounts,” she explains. “And then if you can consider a Friday or a Sunday wedding, your minimums will go down as well.”
The Wedding Weekend
Cape Cod is a destination for most people, so don’t be afraid to treat it like one and plan a weekend full of festivities. Bohlin says an ideal timeline often involves setting Friday night aside for the rehearsal dinner, Saturday for the wedding and then Sunday for the post-wedding/farewell brunch. “A lot of times you can host all three at the same venue,” Bohlin says. “And if not, there are so many lovely restaurants you can take advantage of on the Cape for the rehearsal or for brunch.” Many couples have also been throwing welcome parties for incoming guests. “They’ll have a more intimate rehearsal dinner with just their wedding party and then they’ll invite the whole guest list to join them afterwards,” she explains. “Some couples hold both at the same venue, like at Chatham Bars Inn which has multiple rooms for different sized groups, while others will tell everyone to meet up around 9 p.m. for drinks at a local bar. The latter can be tricky, though, because you can’t necessarily make a reservation.” Another reason a three-day affair might be worth considering? Room blocks. “Most hotels on the Cape will require a three-night minimum stay on weekends in July and August,” Bohlin says. Luckily, there’s plenty for your guests to do in between the wedding festivities. They can tour a local brewery or vineyard; admire the displays at the Sandwich Glass Museum; glimpse a Humpback with Hyannis Whale Watcher; munch on some salty goodness during a Cape Cod Potato Chip factory tour; walk the plank at the Whydah Pirate Museum; catch a show at the Cape Playhouse; grab a round of (mini or regular) golf; watch the rookies of the renowned Cape Cod Baseball League play ball; jaunt over to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket for a few hours; and, of course, hit the beach.
About Cape Cod Celebrations
Jamie (right, pictured with senior planner Stephanie) started Cape Cod Celebrations in 2007 after working two years as a catering manager at Chatham Bars Inn. Since then, Jamie has grown Cape Cod Celebrations from four weddings a year to more than sixty weddings and events a year and has worked hard to become an award-winning planning company on the Cape. “My favorite part of planning is seeing it all come together,” she says. “Being there the day of and seeing the couples’ faces light up when they see that everything turned out exactly the way they wanted is very rewarding.” Jamie served on the founding board of the Cape Cod Young Professionals and is currently on the board of the Cape Cod Community College Educational Foundation as well as on the membership pillar of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce. Jamie is a 2004 graduate of Salve Regina University, a Cape Cod native and a mother of one.