We have another lovely Massachusetts wedding for you today! From the waterfront ceremony to the narwhal escort cards, it was a perfectly Cape Cod celebration. Plus, brides Tracie and Nellie kindly shared tons of details about their planning and the day with us (love that they walked down the aisle at the same time – what a great idea!), so be sure to read on for the full story.
Photography by Love Me Do.
From Tracie & Nellie:
Why did you choose this location for your ceremony? I am fortunate enough to have spent every summer of my life on Cape Cod, where my family has a house in Wellfleet, a town 20 minutes south of Provincetown. I have always felt connected to Provincetown, an artist’s community and gay enclave that seamlessly mixes a deep reverence for the natural world with glitter and cabaret. When I got the chance to introduce Nellie to the Cape, she fell in love, too. We knew we wanted to get married on the Cape, and Provincetown felt like the perfect place. It was so exciting to see our friends and loved ones experience such a unique place, and one we love so much.
Pilgrim Monument itself is spectacular. The Monument stands like a shining beacon on the Provincetown skyline, welcoming us every time we pull into the harbor. However, I hadn’t been on the grounds of the Monument since I climbed it as a little kid. As soon as Nellie and I walked up the path toward the monument on our first visit, I knew we had to get married there. The grounds are so beautiful, and perfectly capture the wild beauty of the Cape. I cannot imagine a more perfect backdrop for our ceremony than the Provincetown harbor.
Your ceremony in three words. Personal. Poetic. Joyous.
How did you go about planning your ceremony? Our officiant gave us a ceremony book she uses, and we laid out a blanket at a park near our home and read different parts of the ceremony to each other, customizing and changing where needed. We cried and laughed and crafted the perfect ceremony for us and the way we wanted to feel on our wedding day.
Who officiated your ceremony? Joan Gilbreth, an amazing minister who also happens to be our wedding planner’s mother. When we described who we wanted to officiate the ceremony, Jamie knew that Joan would be a perfect fit – and she was! Joan radiates warmth and sincerity, and her reading at the ceremony felt so caring. We were so grateful to have her as a part of our day.
Did you include any traditions in your ceremony? Our officiant opened the ceremony with a poem, and both of our readings were poems that were meaningful to us. One of the poems was written by Mary Oliver, an incredible poet and Provincetown resident.
What was your ceremony music?
Processional – Forever by Ben Harper
Recessional – Signed, Sealed, Delivered by Stevie Wonder
What were your ceremony readings?
Opening poem read by the officiant: i thank You God for most this amazing by E. E. Cummings
Reading 1: [i carry your heart with me (i carry it in)] by E. E. Cummings
Reading 2: Coming Home by Mary Oliver
What were your vows like? We wrote our own vows, which we read to each other the day before to try to take the edge off. (It didn’t work; we both bawled). We also included a traditional exchange of vows after the personal vows that struck a cord with us. (READ TRACIE AND NELLIE’S VOWS HERE.)
What was your favorite thing about your wedding ceremony? It’s hard to pick one thing! My favorite thing was watching Nellie during the different parts of the ceremony, and feeling so present and deeply connected. I asked Nellie (without showing her my answer) and she said that for her it was watching me and holding my hands during the ceremony.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share about your wedding ceremony? It was very important to me that Nellie and I be able to walk down the aisle at the same time. The Monument provided the perfect opportunity: the two walkways along each side of the Monument joined together in front of the ceremony area. We were able to sneak peeks at each other as we made our way toward one another, and it was so beautiful and exciting.
We were each walked down the aisle by both of our parents. It was important to us to acknowledge the significance of our mothers and our fathers in that moment, and to reframe the notion of being “given away” to instead symbolize the role of each of our parents in bringing us to that point in our lives.
Another fun detail is that we hired pedicabs to bring our guests up the hill the Monument sits on, so they weren’t exhausted and sweaty before the ceremony. We didn’t expect it, but Nellie and I hitched a ride on the way to the ceremony too!
How would you describe your reception? Romantic, whimsical, and a fantastic party!
What inspired you when you were planning your wedding? We wanted the ceremony space to look romantic, organic and a little bit playful. We used farm tables with lace runners, a variety of different lanterns, oil lamps, and glass bottles filled with Juliet roses and more wild looking blooms. There were also touches of gold throughout, including gold Chiavari chairs, gold flatware, and gold-rimmed glassware and china.
We also wanted to include fun, personal touches that referenced our love of the sea and our Cape Cod location without resorting to traditional motifs. Our directional signs were in the shape of whales, and our escort cards were in the shape of whales and narwhals, which were displayed on twine wrapped around a huge tree in the cocktail area and secured with mini clothespins. Our cake toppers were two mini narwhals too.
Our open air photo booth really helped keep the mood fun and playful. It was so great to look over from the dancefloor to see our guests goofing around in the photobooth with all of our nautical-themed props.
What was your favorite moment or part of the reception? My favorite moments were our first dance, and dancing all night with my beautiful wife! Honestly, as silly as it sounds, I loved running back and forth from the tent to the little cottage on the grounds that only she and I had access to. Running hand in hand, giggling, and smiling ear to ear. It was perfect.
Any special dances?
First Dance – “That’s Where It’s At” by Sam Cooke
Father/Daughter Dance (Mike and Nellie) – “Silver Wings” by Merle Haggard
Father/Daughter Dance (Jeff and Tracie) – “Daughter” by Loudon Wainwright III
Last song – “Sail Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison
Menu: Raw Bar: Wellfleet Oysters shucked to order // Passed Hors d’Oeuvres: Polenta Cakes with Sun-dried Tomato Tapenade / Cosmos Clam Chowder passed in Demi Tasse Mugs / Smoked Local Bluefish Pate in Profiterole / Curried Vegetables wrapped in Scallion Crepes with Coriander Yogurt / Zucchini and Carrot Fritters with Charred Tomato Jam // Salad Course: Garden Green Salad with Citrus Shallot Vinaigrette, English Cucumbers, Carrots, and Walnuts // First Course: Butternut Squash and Parmesan Ravioli, sage brown butter, oven-dried tomatoes with asiago cheese // Second Course: Butter Poached Cape Cod Lobster Tail with Creamy Mashed Potatoes and Seasonal Vegetable Bundles / Cosmic Filo Purse filled with Three-Grain Pilaf with Fresh Herbs, Shiitake Mushrooms and Summer Squash and Seasonal Vegetable Bundles
What type of cake or dessert did you serve? Our wedding cake was a beautiful textured pink ombre strawberry shortcake wedding cake (citrus olive oil cake, vanilla pastry cream and fresh strawberry filling with vanilla buttercream frosting). We also served a dessert table with strawberry rhubarb crostatas, mini vanilla cheesecakes topped with raspberry, mini key lime pies, and s’mores tartlets.
Did you have a signature cocktail? We had two: The Fitz, a classic Mint Julep with Bulleit bourbon, based on Nellie’s own recipe, and The Palmer, a sparking Cape Codder with cranberry juice and vodka, and topped with Prosecco.
Please tell us about any other special details or moments from your reception. Both of our fathers gave wonderful speeches, and my cousin noted that neither of us could help but sing along to the music during our father/daughter dances.
Did you include any other traditions in your wedding? Yes! We both did the something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.
Tracie: Old and blue: a beautiful antique blue brooch from the 1800s that my aunt gave me for my 30th birthday. Our florist fastened it to my bouquet. // New: pretty much everything! Though I count my Jimmy Choo shoes with crystal clusters. // Borrowed: The rosary beads that my grandmother, my father’s mother, who passed away when I was 13, used everyday. My father loaned them to me to wrap around my bouquet to represent both of my father’s parents.
Nellie: Old: A gorgeous antique pin that Tracie’s aunt gifted Nellie for the wedding. // New and blue: Adorable blue narwhal cufflinks. // Borrowed: a gold coin that Nellie’s grandfather gave to her mother, and her mother kept in her shoe at her own wedding. Nellie put it in her shoe and wore it during ours!
What was the best advice you received as a bride? Be present and enjoy every second. It truly does go by quickly. That, and I read an article during the planning process that advised not to overly restrict your parents’ guest lists. A wonderfully unexpected part of the wedding day was seeing how much fun our parents had celebrating and reuniting with dear friends. It’s you and your partner’s day, but your parents’ joy adds so much.
What advice do you have for other couples in the midst of planning a wedding? Stay true to yourselves and don’t get overly concerned with convention. And always be each other’s allies. It’s a long and sometimes stressful process, but the key is to make your shared vision come alive and, of course, to get married!
Also, get a planner! Jamie was invaluable to us every step of the way. We went with a full service package, because we are both busy attorneys and Type As who lived outside the area where the wedding was being held. Jamie not only brought such wisdom and expertise, she was also a calming force (and often the voice of reason) throughout the entire process. By the end, it felt like we planned our wedding with a friend, which is more than we could have asked for.
Relatedly, make sure you really hit it off with your beauty team – your hair and makeup artists will be a surprisingly intimate part of your day. Ours were warm and wonderful and added to the happy excitement of the getting ready process.
Do you have any budget tips for other brides? The budget advice I would give other brides is to have one! Nellie and I came up with a number at the beginning, but then never took the next step to breakdown how much to allocate to each item (floral, venue etc.). Although it was truly worth every penny, we ended up spending much more than that first number we threw out during our initial meeting with Jamie. Also, spring for videography! Our highlights video is so amazingly beautiful, and I still can’t watch it without crying. Getting to see the day captured on film is priceless.
Is there anything else that helps tell the story of your wedding? Wherever it felt right, Nellie and I bucked tradition and went our own way. After some thought, a “first look” didn’t feel right to us. As two women, we didn’t want it to seem like one of us was being revealed to the other. We were both the bride! Instead, Nellie got dressed at her parents’ cottage and then she came over to our hotel where I was getting ready. My hair and makeup was done, but I was still in my robe when she arrived. She helped me put on my dress, sash and veil and I pinned on her boutonniere. It felt perfectly us.