Wedding Inspiration

After COVID-19 Postponed Their Wedding, This Fun-Loving Couple Said “I Do” on the Boston Harbor

Their friends surrounded them aboard other vessels to watch the socially distanced ceremony.


Photo by Anne Lee Photography

When Sarah Kaiser and Sam Parker got engaged in March of 2019, the Marblehead-based pair began planning their dream wedding: a backyard celebration at the bride’s parents’ home in Mattapoisett. They set a date (June 20, 2020), put 250 people on their guest list, hired vendors (including a seven-piece band), and planned out logistics (a ceremony in a neighbor’s yard with a reception to follow at Sarah’s parents). About a year after Sam popped the question, though, the two were faced with a very different scenario as the coronavirus put a stop to large gatherings around the globe. Instead of waiting another year to make their marriage official, however, the couple decided to tie the knot anyway on their original date, and do so in an unexpected fashion: on the water. Here, the bride and groom share their story in their own words.

Sam: Things started to spiral out of control while we were on vacation sailing in the British Virgin Islands, so as that was happening, we started to think about a plan B. In early March we were really hopeful, but I think in our minds we kind of knew that something needed to be changed. Then with more and more restrictions by mid-April we said, “We have to make some sort of compromise.” At first we got it down to a 50 to 70 person wedding at the same venue, but even that was too much for what was going on. So the semi-planned 50 person wedding couldn’t happen either.

Our original rehearsal dinner plan was to bring a boat from the Charles Riverboat Company down to Mattapoisett, so we thought maybe we could do that in the Boston Harbor for our wedding day instead. Our friend Cecily Cushman, whose family owns Charles Riverboat Company, called and she was like, “I have a crazy idea. You could all go on Carousel,” the boat of a close friend of ours, “and have your parents there and then just bring friends along on their own boats from Marblehead Harbor to Boston Harbor. They could huddle around and turn off their engines for the ceremony, and then do a big parade around the harbor after.” We thought it was so cool. So we made it happen.

Photo by Anne Lee Photography

Sarah: I ordered about six white dresses off of a few different websites. When I put this dress from Revolve on, it fit perfectly and I literally didn’t have to do any alterations. It was kind of meant to be and it’s very different from my other wedding dress.

Our really good friend Keelia Otten owns Helios, a local floral design company. She is so talented and I was really excited to have her make my bouquet for this wedding. I love sunflowers, so she grabbed some grapefruit-colored sunflowers and some peonies too. I am obsessed with the bouquet.

The morning of the wedding, it was just the girls at our house, and Sam stayed at his brother’s house. My mom came over and Sam’s mom came over and we had my hairdresser Kayla Capone come and do our hair too. Then [Jeannie Vincent] came and did my makeup. It was such a good time.

boston harbor boat wedding

Photo by Anne Lee Photography

Photo by Anne Lee Photography

We switched up [the first look] a little and did it with Sam and my dad. We met up at Fan Pier Marina and they stood at the end of the dock and I walked over to them.

Sam: Sarah was already crying. She was supposed to tap me on the shoulder but she was crying too hard. I was absolutely blown away when I saw her. Afterward I texted one of my buddies, who was supposed to be my groomsman and I was like, “She looks incredible.”

Sarah’s best family friend growing up, [Will], was originally supposed to marry us down in Mattapoisett, but he works in the Boston Harbor on a big tug boat, and unfortunately due to the coronavirus he couldn’t split his team so he couldn’t come. We were pretty bummed. Sarah’s dad officiated the ceremony instead, which was amazing, but right before the ceremony Will showed up on his tug and said hi to everyone, which was super special and a touching little moment.

boston harbor boat wedding

Photo by Anne Lee Photography

Photo by Anne Lee Photography

Sarah: For the ceremony, my parents, Sam’s parents, my two maids of honor, our photographer, and a captain, were on Carousel with us. And on the other boat tied up next to us were my grandparents, Sam’s brother and his fiancé, and my brother and his wife.

Throughout the ceremony my dad kept asking everyone to honk their horns so we were interacting with all the people on other boats a lot. So it wasn’t as traditional as other ceremonies; people were yelling, cheering, and honking their horns. It was honestly way more our style than a traditional wedding ceremony would have been.

My dad didn’t tell us anything he was going to say beforehand, and he blew the ceremony out of the water. Sam and I also read our own vows and my grandmother read a poem. The weather was so perfect, and we had a small PA system, so everyone could hear us perfectly even from boats that were pretty far away.

Photo by Anne Lee Photography

boston harbor boat wedding

Photo by Anne Lee Photography

Sam: When the ceremony ended, we did a parade with all the other boats around the harbor and we took photos. Then we dropped some family members off at the pier and Sarah, myself, my brother, his fiancé, and a bunch of other friends went back to Marblehead. We just tied up to a dock and had a relaxing night of drinking and listening to music. It was nice to keep the party going for a little while and not just go home right after.

Sarah: We’re going to do our original wedding plan on June 26 of next year. I still want to walk down the aisle and wear my dress and do all that stuff. I don’t think we’re going to do traditional vows that day, but everything else—dinner, dancing, speeches—will happen. In a weird way I’m more excited now because we got the scary part out of the way and we’ll be able to see all of our friends who weren’t able to be with us this year. I’m so excited to do it at my parents’ house too, because it’s so special to us.

boston harbor boat wedding

Photo by Anne Lee Photography

boston harbor boat wedding

Photo by Anne Lee Photography

Everyone keeps asking us how we planned such a cool day, and  I think the best part about it was that we didn’t plan much. We just wanted to get to do it, and for the situation we were in I think it was perfectly executed. We kept things socially [distanced], which we weren’t sure in the beginning we’d be able to do. A Coast Guard boat even came by and gave us a little honk of approval.

My advice for other couples would definitely be to get married on your original date. Even if you don’t think it’s going to be special, it will end up being such a perfect day and your close family and friends will absolutely come and support you.

Sam: Right now people want to be out and about celebrating and be responsible doing it. It’s really cool seeing what opportunities are out there that you wouldn’t normally think of for a wedding.

Photo by Anne Lee Photography

boston harbor boat wedding

Photo by Anne Lee Photography

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