Out in the Open

It had been raining for days in Massachusetts, and local weather forecasters weren’t calling for the showers to stop anytime soon. Despite those predictions, the sun fought its way through the clouds and cast an ethereal late-afternoon light over Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, where Mandy Taft and Leti Pearman were married in front of 130 close friends and family members.

IT HAD BEEN RAINING FOR DAYS IN MASSACHUSETTS, and local weather forecasters weren’t calling for the showers to stop anytime soon. Despite those predictions, though, on the afternoon of August 26, 2006, the sun fought its way through the clouds and cast an ethereal late-afternoon light over Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, where Mandy Taft and Leti Pearman were married in front of 130 close friends and family members. And they were able to do it outside, in the open, under a breathtaking sky.

A few years ago, rain or no rain, they wouldn’t have been able to do that. But in Massachusetts, it is now legal for same-sex couples to marry in an official
ceremony sanctioned by the commonwealth. And that’s just what Mandy and Leti did.

Writing on the Wall

MANDY AND LETI MET IN THE FALL OF 2001 IN Chicago, where they were both studying for their MBAs at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Friendship soon blossomed into a relationship, and when they graduated they were named one of the “cutest couples” as part of the class superlative awards.

They both took jobs in Boston, and moved into an apartment together in Jamaica Plain. Already feeling as though it was time to take their relationship to the next level and start a family, an official union became possible when same-sex marriage was legalized in Massachusetts in May 2004. Soon the couple bought their first home in Jamaica Plain. They painted the place themselves, and one night in December of 2005, Mandy called Leti into a room where they kept the paint supplies to “help her find a tool.”

What Leti really found, though, was a proposal: Mandy had painted “Will you marry me?” on one of the unfinished walls. The answer was yes. As soon as the holidays were over, they started planning.

Fruits of Labor

THE COUPLE HAD ONLY VISITED ONE other venue when they went to see Fruitlands Museum, an indoor and outdoor museum on more than 200 acres of rolling hills and farmland. “We loved it,” Mandy says. The catch? There was one—and only one—Saturday available in 2006, and then no availability at all until 2008. So they reserved August 26 and then got busy. “Planning a wedding is a ton of work, and we had only eight months,” Leti says. “But we paced ourselves, and we were lucky to have a great set of vendors and helpful friends and family.”

“We totally tag-teamed,” Mandy adds. “It was really a joint effort—for periods one or the other of us would be taking the lead, but it was very even over time. We also had some complementary interests. I was excited about the photographer and spent a lot of time researching options, whereas Leti was more excited about the flowers and music and spent a lot of time working on those details.”

Leti and Mandy worked with Fruitlands’ event manager Mark Martin, who’s also the owner of their in-house food and beverage company, Seasonal Specialties Distinctive Catering, to plan their menu. “They wanted a simple, healthy menu,” says Martin, “with the feel of an elegant garden party.” A cocktail hour took place on the patio and in an open-air tent. The tables for dinner and the dance floor were under that same tent—situated to offer spectacular views of the surrounding countryside, the sunset and, later, as dusk fell, the stars.

The brides chose four passed hors d’oeuvres: classic bruschetta, vegetable spring rolls with sweet chili dipping sauce, grilled chicken skewers with peanut dipping sauce, and spinach-and-cheese-filled mini red bliss potatoes. Dinner began with a seated salad course of mesclun greens with sliced strawberries, sugared pecans and herbed goat cheese with lemon poppy seed dressing—then guests were invited to choose their main courses from a pasta station and entree station. The pasta station included cheese-filled ravioli, penne and two sauces, while the entree station featured romano-crusted, herb-stuffed chicken breasts with white beans, tomatoes and arugula as well as grilled asparagus, summer squash, zucchini and bell peppers.

Dinner was followed by wedding cake (more on that later), a birthday cake for Leti’s mom, and coffee and tea service. Guests sipped beer, two kinds of white wine (pinot grigio and chardonnay), two kinds of red wine (shiraz and cabernet) and, of course, champagne.

Among Friends

THE BRIDES’ FOUR-TIER CAKE CAME COURtesy of Linsey Herman, a close friend of the couple who trained at the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont and worked as a pastry chef at the Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta before meeting the couple at business school. It included five distinctive cake flavors (each tier contained two flavors of cake layered on top of each other): lemon cake with white-chocolate mousse, candied pistachios and white-chocolate ganache; coffee-flavored cake with chocolate ganache, coffee buttercream and chocolate buttercream; coconut cake with mango curd, lime curd and mango buttercream; milk-chocolate cake with passion fruit curd, milk-chocolate ganache and chocolate buttercream; and “Grandma’s Chocolate Cake”—the largest layer. “It’s a simple chocolate cake with chocolate icing. I got the recipe when I worked at the Four Seasons,” Herman says. “Leti and Mandy requested that for the top layer, too, so it will be their anniversary cake.”

All tiers of the cake were covered in a cream cheese icing and decorated with real, edible flowers. “I don’t believe anything inedible should be included on something you eat, and edible flowers look great,” says Herman. The brides asked her to use brightly colored flowers (but no pink) to coordinate with the whole look of the wedding—especially the wedding flowers, which were designed by another friend.

“Leti and Mandy wanted a very summery, bright, casual feel for their wedding,” says Leah O’Connor, a friend from Ithaca, New York, who Leti met while she was attending college at Cornell University. O’Connor isn’t a professional florist, but she has a long history of experience in floral design that allows her to design arrangements as gorgeous as any pro’s. “My mother owned a flower shop while I was growing up and I started working for her at a young age. I often do flowers for my good friends’ weddings,” she says. “I feel like it is a very personal and unique gift that I can give them.”

For the tables, O’Connor arranged bright summer flowers such as zinnias, dahlias, delphiniums and lisianthus in mason jars, with slices of lemon and lime surrounding the stems. The brides’ bouquets included sunflowers, echoing the motif on their save-the-date cards and invitations, and the parents’ boutonnieres featured roses—neither roses nor sunflowers were used elsewhere, making these arrangements standouts.

Another friend, New York City artist Olen Hsu, who knew Mandy from her undergraduate days at Yale University, spoke during the ceremony and introduced guests to the concept of the jar of stones—each guest was asked to select a stone and place it into a jar for Mandy and Leti. The stones represented good wishes, and each guest wrote their wishes for the couple on a post card. Mandy’s mom planned to mail the cards to the couple throughout their first year of marriage. As Hsu explained the concept, he presented Mandy and Leti with his “stone”—a stunningly hand-painted porcelain bowl. Several other friends read and spoke during the ceremony as well. Readings included the Apache Wedding Blessing and an adaptation of the children’s book I Like You by Sandol Stoddard.

And the ceremony itself was led by someone very close to the brides—Mandy’s aunt, Cindy Tafy, who got permission from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to officiate. “We all agreed that when the ceremony began, I would focus on welcoming everyone and setting the stage for their wedding—with the understanding that I would make some mention of the right to marry in Massachusetts.” After the readings, Tafy spoke personally about Mandy and Leti. Finally, she oversaw their vows, which the brides wrote themselves and expressed to each other under the sun-streaked sky.

“I loved the readings and the presentation of stones and wishes, but I was most moved by Mandy and Leti’s vows,” Tafy says. “I was so struck by the love that brought Mandy and Leti’s friends together for this ceremony.”