The love story of Sara and Isaac

September 19 • 2012

Sara + Isaac


Cow Island, Maine

After almost 10 years together, Isaac and I got engaged in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, in March 2011, but didn’t really start thinking about our wedding until the summer of 2011. We had just moved from Brooklyn, New York to Portland, Maine in June 2011 where Isaac started his Internal Medicine residency program at Maine Medical Center. We were so focused on the move and the transition, that wedding planning had to take a back seat until we got settled into our new home.

It didn’t take long for me to start getting antsy—places and vendors book up fast, and I knew we had to start getting a move on things! Deciding where to hold our wedding celebration was one of the most difficult parts of planning our wedding. Isaac is from Vermont, and I am from Massachusetts, but pretty soon after we started thinking about location, we realized that having our wedding in the Portland area was going to be the best option for us. Maine represented a neutral state for our families, it would be more simple planning a wedding in the city we live in, but best of all, Portland would make a beautiful wedding destination for our friends and family.

However, deciding to have a wedding in the Portland area doesn’t necessarily make deciding on the venue any easier. There are still hundreds of options—charming inns, rustic barns, farmhouses, museums, restaurants, and islands in Casco Bay. We looked at what I felt to be A LOT of places, and I went a bit crazy doing online research. It was overwhelming to say the least! Nothing felt quite right.

One night in August, Isaac came home from work and mentioned “Cow Island” – an island where his colleague was married last summer. I had never heard of it. I immediately went online and found the website—Cow Island is actually owned by Rippleffect, a nonprofit organization that specializes in outdoor adventure programming. I sent off a quick email inquiring about a visit, and was surprised to receive a call back the next day from one of the staff. “It’s a beautiful island,” he said, “the food is delicious and fresh and simple, there’s a zipline, and you can stay overnight in one of the yurts.” A zipline? Yurts? I was immediately intrigued.

We scheduled an island visit the following week to go check it out. That next Thursday we met Nick, one of the Rippleffect staff, at Portland Yacht Services and zipped over to Cow Island—it was probably only 10 minutes—but once we touched down on the island, it felt like we had been transported to a magical sanctuary. There are no cars or buildings, just a few old forts and beautiful 360° views of Casco Bay. Nick walked us through the different spaces on the island where a wedding celebration can take place—the ceremonial “oak grove”, the cocktail tent area—a  wide grassy stretch with the zipline tower—and finally Battery Bayard, with a white event tent for dining and a wood plank dance floor. I was entranced. “I don’t have to look any further. This is it!” We would have the whole island to ourselves, our wedding party, and guests. The natural beauty of Cow Island mesmerized me. The word “magical” really does this place justice! I really felt like we had found our spot.

Later that week, Isaac and I started having second thoughts. “What if it rains? What if there’s a hurricane?” This could be bad.  My parents were also doubtful. When I said we were pretty close to deciding on Cow Island, my dad was not happy. He was probably envisioning walking me down the aisle in a church, followed by reception at a classy country club. Now he was picturing Lord of the Flies on a deserted island. Isaac and I knew we were taking a risk on having a completely outdoor wedding on an island, yet as time passed, we couldn’t get Cow Island out of our minds. It just felt right—we are both such nature-loving people, and after weighing the risk of bad weather vs. the possibility of having our wedding on this very special island, we knew we had to book it. Originally we had been thinking about an August/September wedding, but considering the weather, we decided to pick a wedding date in the peak of summer—July 21. We knew that sometimes in late August, the weather can be iffy, and usually it seems to rain around the fourth of July, so July 21 seemed to be a good bet, and the number 21 also has a nice ring to it. After making that decision, the rest of the wedding planning seemed to fall into place relatively easily.

Our goal was to keep things simple and natural… and luckily a lot was already included in the Rippleffect package—food for our guests, transportation to and from the mainland, the event tents, tables, linens, and place settings.

One thing that was a tricky decision for me was the cake. I am a big dessert person and having a cake that tasted delicious was important to me! I’ve tried a lot of wedding cakes that look beautiful but are lacking in flavor. After trying two different local vendors, I decided to take a gamble and asked a friend if she would be interested in baking our wedding cake—I had a specific recipe in mind—Ruth Reichl’s “Big Chocolate Cake”, referenced in the book Comfort Me With Apples. I had seen my friend bake amazing cupcakes and cookies before, and I just had a hunch that she would be interested in doing this. Turns out she had never baked a wedding cake before, but had always wanted to, and was up to the challenge. (She did an amazing job!)

Through a friend’s recommendation, I decided to get my dress at Kimera in Brooklyn—a wonderful boutique that specializes in simple designs and natural fabrics. The dresses are custom-made to order—and choosing my dress was one of the easiest things I did.  I chose just to have a maid of honor and she also got her dress from Kimera.

Isaac’s suit was a bit tricky, but we literally ended up buying a linen suit/outfit straight from the page of a JCREW print catalog. They have a nice youthful cut, and the combination of the green shirt and chambray tie had a nice summery feel.

Other details: I designed and letterpress printed the invitations myself, asked friends to collect mussel shells as placecard weights and table decorations, and ordered flower arrangements from Broadturn Farm, a local flower and veggie CSA in Scarborough.

But let’s fast forward to the wedding day. I could go on about wedding planning for hours!

The day of our wedding, in fact, the whole weekend, we hit the jackpot on the weather. It was perfectly sunny, blue skies, no clouds, no humidity, in the mid-70s. Unbelievable. We totally lucked out. It was perfect. And I don’t like using the word “perfect”, but it was.

Isaac and I saw each other the morning of our wedding and worked on our vows. We had written them ourselves, memorized them, and planned on saying them together in unison.  I got my hair done in town at 11:30AM, then around 2PM we headed over to the boats that would take us to the island.  It was a bit chaotic getting to the island that day. Picture 16 people, clothes on hangers, and two boats that only fit 6 people each, plus our photographers, videographers… it was a lot trying to figure out who would go on what boat, and asking people to be patient for getting on the second trip, etc.

When I got to the island, and to my “bridal yurt”, I had my first mini-meltdown. This was it! Today was the day! And I just felt completely overwhelmed from the boat trip craziness. Thank goodness my maid-of-honor Liz was there to calm me down. She forced me to take 3-minutes to just sit and take a breather. I needed that. After a few tears, I felt better. I had cried out the emotion and was feeling more clear-headed.

Honestly, the next few hours went quickly! Isaac and I saw each other (it wasn’t a formal or dramatic “first look”, but rather bumping into Isaac as he came to the yurt to fix his tie—there was no mirror anywhere else!), we then took family formals before the ceremony. I wanted to do this beforehand so we didn’t miss too much of the cocktail hour. We signed the ketubah, then before I knew it, the ferry full of our guests was spotted making its way to the Cow Island dock. It all happened faster than I expected! We had to go hide while the guests seated themselves, and about five minutes later, the Rippleffect staff were asking “Are you ready? It’s time!” And down the aisle we went.

Walking down the aisle was definitely the most emotional experience of the wedding for me—seeing everyone from different parts of my life smiling at me as I walked elbow and elbow with my parents—I nearly lost it! My college roommate, my friends from an old job, friends from grad school—every one was gathered there for us. I fought back the “waterworks” of tears and tried to keep smiling.

My favorite parts of the ceremony were probably having my mother and Isaac’s brothers play two songs on guitar and ukulele—George Harrison’s “If Not For You” and later Bob Marley’s “Is This Love.”  The songs were a perfect mix of joy and emotion, and they actually provided a nice break in the seriousness of the ceremony, where we could look out on our guests and take it all in. I also loved our chuppah—the four poles came from trees on Isaac’s family’s property in Norwich, Vermont, and the canopy was Isaac’s bar mitzvah tallis. Our four brothers held the poles, and it was meaningful to have them standing up there with us.

Cocktail hour was a bit of a blur, trying to get photos taken with this person or that person, chatting briefly with people who caught my eye. I was actually still a little too nervous to eat any food at this point, and was just so thirsty, all I wanted was water! The Jerks of Grass, a local Portland band, played bluegrass during our cocktail hour and it was nice to have the live music in the background. People started ziplining over the crowd which was great fun, and everyone who ziplined had their own style. Even though the zipline was a major draw for us to have our wedding on Cow Island, I hadn’t decided if I would actually zipline myself on my wedding day. Towards the end of cocktail hour, I had a moment where I said to myself, “Who am I kidding, OF COURSE I am going to zipline!” So I literally ran up there, signed my life away on a waiver, and suited up with the harness. They cocked the helmet to the side of the flower in my hair, and all was good to go. Isaac found his way up to the tower and got in line next. Down I went! Wheeeeeeee! It was great—a  little scary, but I am so glad I did it. Isaac came next and it was great for me to see him coasting along. No regrets, and my hair and dressed remained unscathed.

Following the zipline, Isaac and I did a little portrait session down on the private beach behind our bridal yurt. It was a beautiful time of early evening sunlight and actually it was nice to have some time with just the two of us.  From there we made our way back across the island and down to the dinner site. Dinner was ready and we were the guests of honor who had first dibs on the amazing buffet line. The food was fantastic as promised. We sat at our sweetheart table (a great decision for us) and chowed down while other tables passed us by to the buffet line. Next came speeches, cake cutting, first dance, father-daughter dance, mother-son dance… then just time for dancing and chatting and eating more dessert.  The dance floor was perfect—the silk Asian lanterns we had hung looked perfect, and the last-minute addition of a few strands of white “bistro” lights across the dance floor really brought it all together. My brother surprised me by bringing extra-long sparklers and a few “wish lanterns” that we lit and sent off into the night sky.

Our guests had to head back to Portland on a 10PM ferry, but 35 of our friends and family stayed overnight on the island and camped out, either in a yurt, or in the little “tent city” that sprung up. One of my favorite parts of the wedding, I have to say, was the “after-hours” dance party that ensued. Our DJ was willing to stay longer than we had originally allotted, and after we paid him off for a few more hours, he declared that he would play as long as we wanted! This, to me, was a dream come true—dancing under the stars with my closest friends, finally getting to really relax and let loose and celebrate the day. The night ended with s’mores by the campfire and Isaac and his brothers playing songs on their acoustic guitars.

During the day, many times, I said to myself, “remember this, enjoy this, savor this”, but when you are the bride or the groom, there’s a lot going on! (This is an understatement.) Even though I had the best time at our wedding, I wish I could come back and enjoy it all over again as a guest. I would have had that Dark and Stormy at cocktail hour, or that second crabcake at dinner. Nevertheless, I have no regrets, and our risk of getting married outdoors on an island in Maine was worth the gamble. Every other beautiful day we had this summer, when the sun was shining and the sky was blue, I would say to Isaac, “It’s still not as nice a day as it was the day we got married!” How about that?!

Ferry ticket<br><a href= target=_blank>emilie inc. photography</a>

Sara boards a boat to the island<br><a href= target=_blank>emilie inc. photography</a>

Arriving at Cow Island<br><a href= target=_blank>emilie inc. photography</a>

Arriving at Cow Island<br><a href= target=_blank>emilie inc. photography</a>

Ceremony musicians<br><a href= target=_blank>emilie inc. photography</a>

Cow Island wedding ceremony<br><a href= target=_blank>emilie inc. photography</a>

Cow Island wedding ceremony<br><a href= target=_blank>emilie inc. photography</a>

Cow Island wedding ceremony<br><a href= target=_blank>emilie inc. photography</a>

Cow Island wedding ceremony<br><a href= target=_blank>emilie inc. photography</a>

Cow Island wedding ceremony<br><a href= target=_blank>emilie inc. photography</a>

Reception details<br><a href= target=_blank>emilie inc. photography</a>

Jerks of Grass<br><a href= target=_blank>emilie inc. photography</a>

Cocktail hour ziplining<br><a href= target=_blank>emilie inc. photography</a>

Cocktail hour ziplining<br><a href= target=_blank>emilie inc. photography</a>

Cow Island wedding<br><a href= target=_blank>emilie inc. photography</a>

Cow Island wedding buffet<br><a href= target=_blank>emilie inc. photography</a>

Father/daughter dance<br><a href= target=_blank>emilie inc. photography</a>

Cow Island wedding reception<br><a href= target=_blank>emilie inc. photography</a>

photographers: Denise and Megan, emilie inc. photography
venue: Cow Island Casco Bay, Maine
officiant: Gary Berenson
caterer: Rippleeffect
florist: Broadturn Farm
cocktail musicians: Jerks of Grass
dj: Bryan Poor, DJ U4EA
cake: family friend
videography: Josh Swan, Media Northeast
hair: Tasha Zwickerhill, O2 Salon and Spa
paper lanterns:
transportation: Portland Discovery’s Bay View Lady
gown: Kimera Design, Brooklyn
Ketubah calligraphy: Peggy Davis Calligraphy
invitations: designed and printed by Sara
mini-moon: Bear Mountain Inn and Linekin Bay Resort

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