By Laura Schmidt
June is wedding month, and getting engaged is one of the most exciting moments in a couple’s journey. However, planning the dream wedding can be rather stressful. They must find the perfect rings, know where the ceremony and reception will be held, what kind of food to serve and where their guests will stay, among other specific tasks. Thankfully, Fire Island is filled with businesses that are committed to making your wedding experience run as smoothly as possible, and South Shore stores are available to help along the way.
While some couples planning a wedding on Fire Island might opt for a beachfront ceremony, traditional ceremonies are still available in Ocean Beach and Seaview at the Free Union Church and Fire Island Synagogue, respectively.
Free Union Church, the oldest house of worship on Fire Island, holds several weddings throughout the summer and early fall. The church is interdenominational, which means anyone is welcome to be married in the church whether you’re a member of the congregation or not. Couples can get connected with local ministers through the church or have their own minister perform the ceremony. Built in 1918, the only renovation the church has undergone is installing its gorgeous new stained glass, thus maintaining its architectural integrity. For more information about the church, contact Trustee Ted Caccia at 631-595-5698.
The Fire Island Synagogue, founded in 1954, is open and accessible across denominations and offers a relaxed, joyful atmosphere. The temple has a capacity of nearly 225 people, about 175 inside and 50 on the deck. Because the synagogue holds services Fridays and Saturdays and offers adult education classes Sunday mornings, weddings can take place only late Saturday evenings or Sunday afternoons. Couples can speak with the clergy or a rabbi to arrange the ceremony but most people independently seek out their own rabbis. Weddings typically take place throughout June and later in the season around Labor Day, but, if asked, they are certainly willing to schedule a wedding any time.
Maguire’s in Ocean Beach can be your full-service wedding venue. Operating for 24 years, Maguire’s has hosted close to 100 weddings and does so with great care. Their beautiful bayfront deck offers unobstructed views of the sunset for a picture perfect evening. With a capacity of up to 200 people, Maguire’s offers various passed hors d’oeuvres, display stations, buffet style (including a clambake dinner), and full course banquet style dinners (full menus can be found on Maguire’s website). The evening includes top shelf spirits, beer, wine by the glass and nonalcoholic drinks. Couples also have the option to pay extra for premium, cordial, frozen drink or a “kiddie” bar. Owners Jim Betz, general manager, and Drew Becker, executive chef, will help with every step of the process to ensure your wedding day is an event everyone will remember. For more information, call 631-583-8800.
Hurricane’s Bar and Grill in Ocean Bay Park can accommodate up to 300 people under a tent just steps away from the beach. The on-premises chef and event planner, Melissa, will work with couples to plan the event and make the day as easygoing as possible. Hurricane’s five-hour reception package offers a cocktail reception, customizable menus and a top shelf bar. With a full catering staff and menu, guests can enjoy passed or stationed hors d’oeuvres, buffet stations or sit-down dinner service followed by delectable desserts. A welcome barbecue is included as well as brunch the next morning. Attached to the Fire Island Hotel, guests can feel at ease knowing their room is right around the corner. For more information, call 631-583-8000.
Of course for waterfront receptions, The Hideaway offers a secluded garden side location that is second to none (631-583-5929), Island Mermaid’s private marina is just one of many features that makes it appealing (631-583-8088), and Matthew’s Seafood House still has the vibe of Fire Island from a bygone era (631-583-8016). Of course for that post reception cocktail, a Rocket Fuel at CJ’s is an absolute must to make it an authentic Fire Island wedding.
Where To Stay
The Palms Hotel offers a truly unique experience for couples and guests getting ready for the wedding. General Manager Laura Mercogliano gives her undivided attention to guests in order to create a perfect day. “I think the most important thing a bride wants is a unique experience,” Mercogliano said. The Palms Hotel Fire Island focuses on the wedding from start to finish and has a preferred list of vendor options for couples to consider for music, photography, hair and makeup, spa services and florists.
Wedding party packages are available for the entire wedding party. The morning of the wedding, the bride and her bridesmaids will get ready in the Palms’ Bridal Suite and will be given champagne cocktails, cucumber slices to ensure bright eyes and a menu specifically catered toward helping you feel your best including lemon water, turkey wraps and salad platters. Extra mirrors are supplied for makeup and hair.
The groomsmen are placed at the opposite end of the island and are offered a more casual menu including buckets of beer and snacks. Photographers will arrive when parties are getting ready for beautiful, candid photos.
A preferred rate is given to guests as long as the couple holds a minimum of one venue at the hotel, whether it be the rehearsal dinner, ceremony or one of their dinner options. Substantial price reductions are available for standard rooms and suites depending on the bridal package selected. The Honeymoon Suite comes with a complimentary bottle of champagne and rose petals scattered on the bed.
A farewell breakfast the morning after, with pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausage and bacon, provides guests and newlyweds with an opportunity to catch their breath and reminisce about the night before over mimosas and an optional Bloody Mary bar where guests can make their own.
A year after the wedding, The Palms offers newlyweds a complimentary evening at the hotel as a way to say thank you. Visit palmshotelfireisland.com or call 631-583-8870 to learn more.
Cake and Dessert
Rachel’s Bakery in Ocean Beach has been satisfying the island’s sweet tooth since 1975. The family-owned bakery offers a plethora of dessert options when catering a reception, from raspberry jam tarts to double chocolate brownies to house made gelato and mini cupcakes. But, of course, the wedding cake should be the real showstopper. Co-owner Joe Doering said Rachel’s takes a more traditional route for wedding cakes by using buttercream frosting rather than fondant. “No fancy stuff,” Doering said. Serving sizes range from 6 inches all the way up to half sheet cake that can feed 55 to 60 people. Chocolate with vanilla frosting is a popular choice but they can accommodate any preference from strawberry shortcake to sour cream marble cake and other recipes. And just in case you didn’t get enough treats at the reception, don’t worry, Rachel’s is open until 4 a.m. daily! Call 631-583-9552 for more details.
Family-owned Gemaginations Jewelry in Brightwaters will work tirelessly with couples to ensure absolute satisfaction when it comes to engagement rings and wedding bands. With highly skilled craftsmen on staff and over 25 years of experience, owner Vita Mazza and her associates will sit down with clients and discuss their exact wants and needs to create their perfect ring or band. With your own personal preferences, along with great attention to detail, Gemaginations will produce a one-of-a-kind ring bound to make your special day as unique as your relationship. To discuss creating your dream ring, call 631-666-4181.
Willy Nilly Trading Company in Bay Shore is filled with quirky items to purchase as a wedding gift. However, their table entirely devoted to wedding gifts is a must-see. If the newlyweds are in the process of decorating a new home together, Willy Nilly is the place to visit for tableware and knickknacks made to make you feel at home. They sell throw pillows that say “Mrs. and Mr. Established 2019,” wine glasses with painted beach scenes, photo albums, little house plants, paintings on canvas and signs that say “Home Sweet Home,” “You Are My Sunshine” and “Welcome Home.” For more information, call 631-666-4488.
If you’re looking for a perfect gift for your wedding party, Kline’s of Ocean Beach has dozens of items to remember the special occasion. Couples can browse the store to find the right shirt, sweatshirt, dress or T-shirt that captures the essence of Fire Island and their day. Fire Island-themed mugs, shell candles and ornaments are popular and can be sold in bulk upon request. These adorable items can also be given to guests as they sit down at the reception. For information about ordering specific items, call 631-583-5333.
Shuttling wedding guests on and off this island can be challenging, so depending on the size of your wedding, chartering ferry or water taxi transport might be an option worth looking into, and why not travel in style? Call Fire Island Ferries at 631-665-3600 to discuss your wedding travel needs.
Keep in mind that June is not the only month to get married on Fire Island. High season ceremonies in July and August offer a vibrant nightlife that can make your special occasion that much more memorable. In addition many people agree that autumn weddings on Fire Island are the most magical.
The Palms Hotel and CJ’s Restaurant and Bar are both owned by the same parent company as this publication.
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