I Do, Montauk Style

A WEDDING JOURNEY BY SUZETTE HARREL

Karen Solares Photography

Karen Solares Photography

Yesterday: Dyed-to-match bridesmaids’ dresses. Rubbery chicken. Crooning wedding singers. Ah, the memories! 

Today: Iced ceviche and sashimi food stations. Personalized wedding websites. Flip-flops for the bride and her guests.

As Bob Dylan once sang, “The Times They are a-Changin”—especially when it comes to present-day Montauk weddings.

Last October Jordan Hoffmann and John Dunnett of Chicago got hitched and threw a big party at sunset for 150 at a dockside restaurant, Swallow. White hydrangeas in galvanized buckets lined the covered outdoor patio where their ceremony was held, with rustic mason jars and antique vases serving as table centerpieces. Their evening kicked off with a raw bar and cocktail hour and ended on a decidedly untraditional note: locally baked pies in lieu of wedding cake. “I grew up coming out to Montauk for family summer vacations, and we wanted to show our friends the side of Montauk we love—the fishing, the golfing, the nearby vineyards, and the bonfires on the beach,” said Jordan, who also has the advantage of having a built-in wedding officiate with her dad Bill being the Montauk Community Church pastor. The couple encouraged their friends to make a vacation out of their trip to the East End, and many are did just that—renting houses or taking advantage of off-season rates at local hotels and motels.

Montauk is now a much sought after “destination wedding” location, and the choices have never been greater. From April through November (and even into the winter months for the intrepid few), bridal parties flock to Montauk for its laid-back vibe, breathtaking waterfront settings, fresh-from-the-boat seafood, and the delight of running their toes through the sand as they say their “I Do’s.” A fantasy wedding three hours from Manhattan, accessible by public transportation—no passports required!

“Couples want a beach wedding. Some of them have been coming to Montauk all their lives and some of them have never stepped foot here before. They make a weekend of it—it’s a destination wedding without the hassle of the airlines,” says Phyllis Lomitola of Gurney’s Montauk. “September’s our most popular month for weddings,” with June close behind. Montauk motels and hotels typically have a three-night minimum in July and August, which they relax in the spring and fall. With the ocean still warm in September and October, fall brides can look forward to glorious Indian summer weather, while May and June brides prepare for cooler climes with the springtime ocean temperatures keeping the beach air a bit more on the chilly side.

The ingredients for a successful Montauk wedding are simple: picture-perfect sites for both ceremony and reception, and heart-felt prayers for good weather. It also doesn’t hurt to have a Plan B in your back pocket, just in case.

Here’s a quick guide to some of your best options in Montauk:

The Wedding Ceremony—For those desiring a church wedding, the Montauk Community Church (Protestant) and St. Therese of Lisieux Parish (Roman Catholic) are your two alternatives. You do not need to be a member of the Community Church to be married there, and Pastor Bill will even marry you on the beach, but he does require advance pre-marital counseling. montaukcommunitychurch.org has more information. Father Mike of St. Therese performs weddings only in the church sanctuary, and St. Therese’s recommends contacting the church office at 631-668-2200 at least six months prior to the desired wedding date.

For an “only in Montauk” wedding ceremony, the museum and tower at the Montauk Lighthouse may be your ticket with that unparalleled view of the coast line. Choose the Tower Only option, a great excuse for a small wedding with an eight-person limit (including the couple, photographer and officiate!). No food or beverage is permitted on the lighthouse grounds, with the exception of a non-alcoholic celebratory toast.

The Reception—Many brides opt for a single location for their ceremony and reception. In addition to Gurney’s, which offers an on-the-beach ceremony (with multiple back-up plans for inclement weather), a stunning sun deck cocktail hour, an ocean view banquet room, and a post-wedding bonfire complete with s’mores, there’s a reception setting for nearly every budget—and many with spectacular water views.

North of the Village, Fort Pond boasts a veritable embarrassment of riches for your wedding reception. From the Zen atmosphere at Sole East, the dazzling gardens at The Harvest, the panoramic pond views at East by Northeast, and just up the hill, the sweeping vistas offered from the Montauk Manor, you have scores of fantastic choices. By the harbor and around Lake Montauk, venerable Gosman’s Dock Restaurant, laid-back Rick’s Crabby Cowboy Café, and the elegant Montauk Lake Club offer more waterfront options for a dream
wedding reception.

Brides looking to arrive in style? Rent a pedal boat at nearby Puff ‘n Putt and pedal across Fort Pond to sister restaurants The Harvest and East by Northeast. Pull up to The Harvest’s dock and make your way to a sundrenched secret garden where your family and friends await your entrance. At ENE, couples can throw a day or night wedding, with plenty of room for creativity. “We’ve set out fire pits at night, lit sparklers, and have even had brides throw special wreaths into the Pond in memory of loved ones,” says Regina Michielli, Events Manager for The Harvest and ENE.

For those who must have their mojitos with their toes in the sand, there’s New American cuisine at Navy Beach complete with dazzling sunset views of Fort Pond Bay and Block Island Sound.

Do-it-yourself types, be sure to check in with the East Hampton Town Clerk’s office for necessary permits (mass gathering permits required for 50-150 people; over 150 requires town board approval). Stay local with photographers, tent rentals, caterers, DJs, bands, and florists.

Montauk weddings can be magical in any type of weather. Nicole and Ryan Hiller didn’t let a little rain ruin their beach wedding this past July. Nicole, born and raised in Montauk, planned a wedding week for friends and family, many of whom traveled from the west coast where the couple currently lives. “Montauk is home, and I wanted to share this peaceful gem of a place with our friends from all over, and especially with Ryan’s family from Utah and Colorado.”  Six months in advance of their July wedding, the couple wisely reserved blocks of rooms for their guests. Their rehearsal dinner—an outdoors lobster bake at Gurney’s overlooking the ocean on a perfect summer night—captured the natural beauty of Montauk that they wanted their guests to experience. 

On her wedding day dark clouds gathered in the afternoon. Grateful for the rainy day back-up options at Gurney’s, Ryan and Nicole posed for pictures on the beach before their ceremony, umbrellas in hand. An exquisite driftwood arch built just for them was moved to an ocean-view tent where the ceremony was relocated. Natural arrangements using beach grass, driftwood and wild bamboo dotted the reception area. While it was too soggy for their guests to enjoy post-wedding s’mores on the beach, Nicole and Ryan proved that as long as it’s Montauk, your wedding can be phenomenal, rain or shine.

Paola Basseto Photography

Paola Basseto Photography