Mass Appeal: Same-Sex Love & Marriage In The Bay State

Off the southeastern tip of Massachusetts is the famed summer vacation destination—the island of Martha’s Vineyard. The voyage to get there can be a romantic one, with ferry service from Falmouth, Woods Hole, or Hyannis that arrives in the harbor slid- ing past wooden sailboats and schooners toward a dock where you disembark onto the stunning New England shore. With both woods and sprawling beaches on the Atlantic, the island is full of roman- tic spots and potential wedding grounds.

Lambert’s Cove Inn and Restaurant, a 15-guestroom, restored 18th-century farmhouse, owned by same-sex couple Scott Jones and I. Kell Hicklin, is a beautiful site for a personal wedding away from the island’s masses. It’s a few minutes’ walk from a private secluded beach and has lush bridal gardens with panoramic views of the island’s landscape. Cristina Azzinaro and Christy Burbidge picked this location for their vows last August and they fell in love with it on sight. “We had never been to a same-sex wedding, and neither had our guests,” said Azzinaro, “and we wanted a private, remote location. Lambert’s Cove Inn was every- thing we wanted and more.”

If you are looking for a romantic getaway closer to town, Mansion House has rooms with views of Vineyard Sound and oversized soaking tubs, fireplaces, large screen TVs, and decks for sipping cocktails while overlooking the water. There is also a spa with offerings like the Moshup Mud Wrap, named after a Native American creation deity that is thought to have magical powers.

There are plenty of other romance and entertainment options on the island as well. Sailors can rent out a yacht or charter the 34’ sailboat Sail Ena for a full day on the ocean, with a stop for a catered lunch and swimming. Don’t know how to rig a sail? USCG-licensed captain Lynne Fraker has been teaching women how to sail for 15 years. If you want the pleasure of being on the water but would rather not be underway, A Bed and Breakfast Afloat is a floating inn for two in the Oak Bluffs Marina that never leaves the harbor. You can be lulled to sleep by the gentle movement of the ocean, wake up to the sunrise, and savor the sounds of the water lapping against the boat without having to leave the dock. Remember it is an urban myth now that a captain is authorized to marry you at sea (unless he/she is otherwise a licensed officiant), but honeymooning at sea is always a great option.

SunsetMartha'sVMike Liu

If mountains, forests, and green space are more appealing to you than sand dunes, the Berkshires in the Western-most part of Massachusetts is the place for you. The area is home to numerous spas, plenty of quaint inns, and myriad wonders, both natural and man-made. There’s a lot to be said for going off the grid and disappearing for a while with your loved one. Finding marital bliss among bucolic hills, with some of the world’s best regional outdoor performance venues (Tanglewood, the Berkshire Theatre Festival, Jacob’s Pillow, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Shakespeare & Co.), is why a Berkshires escape is so appealing.

The Porches Inn at Mass MOCA calls itself “retro-edgy, industrial granny chic.” Its design is comfortable and stylish, full of bold col- ors and vintage items. The Porches Inn is part of the revitalization of the northern Berkshire town of North Adams, which started a few decades ago when 13 acres of abandoned Sprague Electric Co. buildings were transformed into a venue for contemporary art, MASS MoCA. In the 1990s Porches Inn opened on a street behind the museum, in six renovated Victorian-era row houses that once provided housing for the city’s millworkers. Your family and friends can take over one, two, or more of the buildings for a wedding in the woodland glen and gazebo.

Apart from the contemporary, the Berkshires also has a wonderful heritage and is home to very old North East architecture and homes. The Red Lion Inn, for example, traces its history back to 1773. Located in a quaint New England village in the heart of the Berkshires, the Red Lion offers luxurious accommodations, excellent cuisine with locally sourced ingredients, and large gardens for ceremonies.

Boston2 by Ross Tracy

Topia Inn, in Adams, run by partners Caryn Heilman, a dancer, and Nana Simopoulos, a composer, is another secluded option for a romantic escape. Personally-selected artists designed each of the eco-conscious, individually themed rooms (Zen, Grecian, and Moroccan among them). The Moroccan room, an ideal honeymoon suite, has a king-sized bed, vaulted ceilings, a chromotherapy bathtub big enough for two, plus unique lighting fixtures that create a warm, romantic glow.

The couple also renovated an old vaudeville movie theater next to the inn, turning it into the Topia Art Center. The center connects international artists with local talent to support and provide space for performance work, as part of the area’s initiatives to resuscitate old industrial and mill towns through the arts. “The building was just call- ing to be brought back to life, loved, and animated,” says Simopoulos.

Simopoulos says that the area, at the base of Mount Greylocks, draws people who are looking for outdoor experiences, including snow- boarding, skiing, and hiking. In the winter people hike with snowshoes to the top of the mountain and ski down, like they have been doing for hundreds of years. “It is very wild and very natural,” she said. “In the summertime there is kayaking and hiking, and in autumn the fall foliage [is the best]. It is also an incredible area for art and culture.”

Bernadette Smith offered some parting reflections on the many same-sex unions she has seen and attended across the state of Massachusetts in the last five years: “When I’m watching the event unfold and seeing the couple’s friends and family witness a legal wed- ding, I can see that it changes people’s minds. Even if the couple has been supported by their friends and family, the ceremony validates on a whole other level,” she said. “It’s a very cool thing to witness.”