After Billy Gaines recovered from open-heart surgery in 2015, he wanted to propose to his girlfriend, Kate Hibbard, at the California observatory that was visible from his hospital room.
A year later, they hiked to the observatory, but there were too many people there, so Gaines improvised and decided to pop the question on the beach instead. “There happened to be a big harvest moon that night,” 33-year-old Hibbard said. “I had just jumped out of the shower…I remember my hair being wet and being cold. He said, ‘Well, do you want to go to dinner engaged or unengaged?’ I looked at him and I kind of laughed, but I could tell by the look on his face he wasn’t joking.”
The next big question: where to have the wedding?
Nantucket floated as an idea. “Just being outside was something that we preferred, being by the water,” said Hibbard, a fund-raiser for Three Square, a Nevada food bank. “For me, being in Massachusetts — my home state — was important. I always just enjoyed Nantucket. When I get there, there’s this feeling of calmness and detachment from hustle and bustle.” She brought Gaines to the island several years prior, and the 37-year-old founder and CEO of BPong.com and the World Series of Beer Pong fell in love with it.
The Las Vegas-based couple was drawn to Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star White Elephant for its harborside location and lovely lawn. “There is a lot of natural beauty in the architecture and a relaxed atmosphere of the property that we really liked,” she said.
The twosome decided that the Harborview Lawn would be the picturesque setting for their September 2017 nuptials.
Rebecca Love, of Nantucket-based Rebecca Love Photography, who shot the wedding, said the waterfront lawn is the most photogenic area of White Elephant. “You have gorgeous hydrangeas and gardens, a perfectly manicured grassy area for the ceremony, cocktail hour and later in the evening lawn games. The docks are the perfect area for bridal portraits as it offers gorgeous panoramic harbor scenes with sailboats and almost always the most jaw-dropping sunset.”
On the morning of the big day, Hibbard’s grandfather asked her to teach him how to take photos with his iPad. She said one of her favorite wedding moments was walking down the red-brick aisle and seeing her “pop-pop” behind the officiant. “I remember laughing so hard because it was just so sweet to have him right there with his giant iPad.”
There, Hibbard and Gaines said “I do” under an archway of fresh roses and other white flowers that framed the water. After the ceremony, the newlyweds lingered on the lawn to sip Charles de Fère champagne with their 40 guests during the cocktail hour.
For dinner, the party moved to the Sun Deck, an 870-square-foot private terrace that accommodates up to 60. The menu included roasted halibut with baby leeks, saffron mashed potatoes, lobster and grilled corn vinaigrette as well as roasted beef tenderloin with potato gratin, haricots verts, baby carrots, onion compote and red wine jus (“The food was just great,” Hibbard added).
The wedding cake came from The Nantucket Bake Shop and was topped with gold his-and-hers swim trophy figurines, a nod to how the two swimmers met at a U.S. Masters meet in Richmond, Virginia, after college.
When it came time for photos, Hibbard and Gaines went back to the water and posed at the pier. “It’s the perfect spot for sunset photos as the sky turns beautiful shades of pink, purple and blue,” Love said. “There are always some boats in the harbor and it has a lovely nautical feel.”
“When I think of a quintessential Nantucket wedding, I see the couple walking the docks or through the sand with boats or a lighthouse in the background,” Love said. “Friends and family are always in awe of the beauty surrounding them. I see hydrangeas and a pink-sky sunset to finish off the day.”
Overall, Hibbard was happy with the wedding. She said White Elephant delivered simplicity and charm. “The hospitality and service all around was phenomenal.” While the newlyweds didn’t take an official honeymoon yet, they followed up their nuptials by staying put with a weekend at the property.
But of course, what made the day was that the happy couple was surrounded by loved ones. “It was a very intimate wedding with Kate and Billy’s closest friends and family,” Love said. “It was a relaxed day with time to enjoy every moment.”