Planning a sustainable Martha’s Vineyard wedding

A picturesque Island beach wedding. Photo by David Welch

So far, Kristen Gosselin, owner of KG Events and Design, has had only one request she wasn’t able to accommodate over the course of 13 years in the wedding and event planning business. “The groom wanted there to be a pen of golden retriever puppies at the ceremony,” says Ms. Gosselin. “We tried, but there are no breeders on Island.”

Although dog breeders may be in short supply on Martha’s Vineyard, virtually every other ingredient for the perfect wedding can be found here, and Ms. Gosselin encourages her clients to source locally whenever possible.

KG Events and Design was recently certified as a Green Event Company. “With every decision we make with our clients, we’re trying to be as responsible and the least wasteful possible,” says Ms. Gosselin. “Things like using local products, using vendors and services from the Island. You can get almost anything here. You can get local honey. You can source a menu that’s entirely from the Island. What truly makes an event a Vineyard wedding is using the bounty and resources here.”

Celebrating your nuptials on the Island also, of course, presents some challenges — everything from travel and accommodations to the weather and the differing town restrictions.

Ms. Gosselin has been creating luxury weddings and events for more than a decade. Her firm specializes in destination events throughout the Northeast. It has been featured in a number of publications including Vogue, Allure, Boston Magazine, and Well Wed.

KG Events and Design can handle everything, from the pre- and postwedding events and activities to the small details and Island idiosyncrasies that may be overlooked when considering plans for the big event.

“Probably 90 percent of our clients are self-service,” says Ms. Gosselin. “They usually call right when they get engaged so we can help them decide a date and a venue. Most weddings are planned a year to a year and a half out.”

The first step is selecting time of year and location. “The guest count can dictate cost and availability,” says Ms. Gosselin. “We help our clients work out a budget and secure hotel rooms. We work pretty closely with Point B Realty. They have a rooming concierge.”

The pre- and postsummer seasons are generally the most popular for Vineyard weddings. “May, June, September, and October are our busiest months,” says Ms. Gosselin. “Although now even August is really busy. The nice thing about the shoulder season is you’re not forcing your guests to take a $500 or $600 hotel room, and flights are more affordable. It can be a nicer overall experience when the Island is less crowded.”

Getting the guests to the Vineyard can present unique challenges. “We alert all of our groups in January when the car lottery opens up,” says Ms. Gosselin. “I also recommend that guests fly. Even for people driving from New York, D.C., or Boston, we recommend Island car rentals.”

Ms. Gosselin notes that some hotels and inns won’t book wedding parties in the summer. “For July and August events, we often recommend using a private estate,” she says, although she cautions that most private properties won’t book more than a year ahead.

Once the venue is in place, Ms. Gosselin helps her clients arrange for services. Although there are areas where a couple can cut costs if necessary, as an experienced wedding planner, Ms. Gosselin has some advice on where not to cut corners: “I would never skimp on service staff or catering. That’s the labor force, the moving part that keep things going. That’s the area that the guests notice. You want your guests to be taken care of.

“Another thing not to skimp on is transportation. Sometimes the event locations are remote. We always require that our groups have organized transit. It makes them feel like they’re taken care of. They’ve come a long way. They shouldn’t have to deal with more transportation.”

There are a few things a soon-to-be-wed couple may not think about, where Ms. Gosselin’s extensive experience in Vineyard events comes in handy. “One thing we require for outdoor weddings is that the property gets treated for bugs and ticks,” she says. “Insects at a wedding are never fun. We just like to eliminate that. During hurricane season we like our clients to plan on a secure structure just in case. The Beach Plum or Harbor View are great because you have the infrastructure as a backup. We can help coordinate transportation, valet or parking lot attendants, child care, pet sitting, or elder care.”

The logistics can sometimes be tricky. “Knowing the ins and outs of the towns and the different sections of the towns is crucial,” says Ms. Gosselin. “There are different bylaws and noise and tent restrictions, and interesting quirks depending on where you are.”

The Island can provide for virtually all of your wedding needs, including some of the smaller details that make for a special event — like lounge furniture and bars for outdoor weddings, a dedicated coffee bar featuring Chilmark Coffee Roasters products, special Vineyard guest favors like Island honey or locally made candles (Check out mvtimes.com/made-on-mvy for our curated collection of locally made products and goods.)

There are many ways in which the Green-Certified KG Events strives for sustainability. “We don’t use plastic for anything,” says Ms. Gosselin. “We’ve switched to glass water bottles and bamboo disposable wear. We try to use types of linens that are naturally plant dyed. When working with caterers, we like to know if they are sourcing from local farms and if they compost. We recommend supporting local flower fields. You know the flowers are grown and treated using best practices. We find out whether access lighting is solar or not. I feel like with everything we do there’s an option for being more responsible that doesn’t cost much, if any, more.”

Ms. Gosselin often recommends being aware of even little things like using alternatives to plastic water bottles in gift bags (boxed water or reusable water bottles). One thing she suggests is replacing guest favors with a donation to a nonprofit. Some couples ask for donations as wedding gifts as well.

Although it may seem ideal for a Vineyard setting, getting married on the beach can be problematic. “Beach weddings are tricky,” says Ms. Gosselin, pointing out difficulties like access to electricity, unpredictable winds, whether or not chairs are allowed, and the absence of bathroom facilities. If you must tie the knot with the sounds of the surf in the background, Ms. Gosselin recommends, “Keep it short and keep it simple. You can always slip off and take photos on a beach.”

There are plenty of other options for typical Vineyard scenery. Farm and private estate weddings are popular. For rustic nuptials, Ms. Gosselin steers her clients away from some of the more elaborate trappings.

“Having an event on the Vineyard means it’s naturally going to be a little more relaxed,” she says. “A little more rustic, a little more of a natural wedding. There are types of furniture and linens that we don’t use here. Things that are a little too contemporary or cosmopolitan don’t really go with the aesthetic of the Island.”

Instead, some couples choose to really go the country route by bringing in livestock for atmosphere. Although golden retrievers may be in short supply, there are sheep and goats for hire who are happy to munch away on a scenic field and provide an appropriate backdrop. The horses at the Captain Flanders Inn can even be cued to gallop behind the wedding party.

Ms. Gosselin believes that keeping things as natural as possible is paramount for hosting a truly Vineyard wedding, and that doesn’t mean making any sacrifices aesthetically. Last year, she and her team planned a wedding for the Knot Magazine that was 98 percent sustainable: “It illustrated that a wedding can be beautiful and elegant as well as responsible.”

Keeping the environment in mind, Ms. Gosselin still finds plenty of room to individualize each event. “The creative side is the fun part,” she says. “And getting to know our clients. It really is an honor to have the chance to be so close to them and work with them on such an important part of their lives. The best part is getting to know the clients after working with them for a year and a half and just getting to experience their joy.”