On Sunday morning as sunlight glinted off the newly fallen snow adding an air of magic to the day, Windemere nursing home was all a-twitter, filled with excitement as something unusual was about to happen.
When Jade Bennett and Joseph Rock began planning their wedding there was one special person Jade was determined to have present: her grandmother. But Edith Bennett, nearly 93, had recently moved to Windemere nursing home and was unable to go out.
“That drove the whole decision,” recalled Joe. The wedding would be at Windemere.
Staff members were gracious, welcoming, and helpful, said Jade. “They told me that this is my grandmother’s home, and that they would love to have the wedding there.”
After a nine-year relationship, a five-year engagement, and two daughters, the couple wanted to plan a wedding their way, emphasizing those things most important to them. Family tops the list for bride and groom alike.
It was only natural to plan a small wedding with Grandma Edith an honored guest.
“The wedding is a way for Joe and I to express our gratitude to her,” said Jade. “To thank her for everything she has done for us. Without family, we are nothing, and to me, Grandma means family.”
The couple also dedicated the wedding to Joe’s mother, Ann Elizabeth Rock-Theroux, who recently died. Even the glass cake plate was meaningful, having belonged to her.
“I don’t remember ever having a wedding here,” mused staff member Diane Jackson, as intrigued residents watched preparations. ‘We’ve had a lot of things, but we haven’t had a wedding. It’s so nice they can do that!”
Madison and Grace Edith Bennett-Rock, Jade and Joe’s little daughters, ran up and down the corridor in red patent leather Mary Janes. Rosie Levesque, six, daughter of bridesmaid Sarah Levesque, joined them, all in red dresses, sparkling sequins, frothy tulle.
Bride and bridesmaid took over the beauty salon for last-minute primping, assisted by Sarah’s daughter, Shannon. The beaming groom greeted guests and kept an eye on the little girls.
Friends and family arrived breathless and rosy-cheeked from the snow, many wearing boots with their wedding finery. Several babies attended, watching from their parents’ arms with bright-eyed fascination.
Windemere’s recreation room was transformed into a wedding chapel. White bows and flowers adorned the chairs; a rose-covered arbor sparkled with white lights.
Madison, seven, strewed red and white petals, followed by Sarah in Valentine’s red. Tom Bennett, Jade’s uncle, escorted her down the aisle as Pachelbel played, shutters clicked. Elegant and poised in flowing white gown and veil, Jade was attended by Grace and Rose.
“Doesn’t she look beautiful?” said the proud uncle to the admiring crowd.
Bride and groom faced one another before the arbor, children beside them, Grandma Edith in a place of honor nearby.
A big part of Jade’s life since childhood, Mr. Bennett received a one-day commission to perform the ceremony.
“Love is in the air here among our families and friends, and nothing could be better,” Mr. Bennett began.
“Life without love is like a tree without fruit…” he said, quoting Kahlil Gibran, then shared the couple’s thoughts: “A good marriage must be created…It is remembering to say ‘I love you’…standing together and facing the world…not looking for perfection in each other…It is not marrying the right partner; it is being the right partner.”
The vows were short, sweet, and heartfelt. Rings were exchanged, Joe and Jade pronounced man and wife.
Grace, six, stood straight and confident to sing “You are My Sunshine.” The guests broke into joyful applause.
“And now, wedding cake for all…coming up!” announced Mr. Bennett, as Doreen Grant prepared to serve her home-baked Boston Cream Pie.
“Grandma has a sweet tooth, so that is why we are having cake right after the ceremony,” Jade said.
Edith Bennett sat enjoying cake, coffee, and the attention of many well-wishers. She proclaimed the wedding “Beautiful!”
“She’s a wonderful girl. I’m so glad she’s got Joe,” said Ms. Bennett. “They seem to be very good together, they seem so compatible. That’s why they love each other. That’s how it should be.”
Born in Stoughton in 1921, Edith Drake Bennett came to Martha’s Vineyard as a child with her eight siblings when her father got a job working for George Flynn at his Edgartown farm. She attended Edgartown High School, raised four sons and a nephew in a tiny home, waitressed for years at the Harbor View Hotel, the Edgartown Yacht Club, and elsewhere. She held big family dinners, took in relatives or friends down on their luck. The Episcopal Church was a mainstay; she sang in St. Andrew’s choir.
“She was always singing, she knew how to tap dance, and had a great sense of humor,” recalled Tom. “She was always trying to keep her spirits up, and everyone else’s spirits up.”
Jade grew up on the Vineyard. For a time, she and her brother, Nathan, lived with aunt and uncle Carol and Tom Bennett, who were like parents to the siblings. Their three sons “treated her like a sister,” she said appreciatively. Graduating from the regional high school, Jade met Springfield native Joe Rock while she was attending Westfield State College. On their first date they attended the Eastern States Exposition — “and the rest is history,” said Jade.
“Weddings can be expensive and splashy,” commented Joe later, “but we decided to just do what makes us happy.”
Along with gathering cherished family together, part of that was planning a low-key wedding night. The two were looking forward to a quiet evening at home alone while their daughters had a sleepover with Joe’s sisters. This week they begin building a modular home on property acquired from Jade’s grandmother.
Their more glamorous honeymoon is next month, a 10-day Caribbean cruise, thanks to the Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank where Joe works. He won the generous travel voucher in a drawing, after having successfully lost weight to qualify.
There were photos after photos, plenty of cake, hugs and congratulations all around.
“Everyone was relaxed,” commented Carol Bennett, gazing fondly at her niece. “That makes it so much nicer.
“I think the best part is when they kissed,” said Madison, “and when my sister Gracie sang.”
Then newlyweds and guests were off to a reception at the Square Rigger restaurant where Jade and Sarah work, hosted by family friends Tony and Doreen Rezendes, the restaurant’s owners. Edith Bennett remained at Windemere, relaxing after the busy festivities.
But she wouldn’t miss out on all the fun.
“Grandma has always loved the food at the Rigger,” said Jade. “She made me swear to bring her back some of their famous stuffed mushrooms.”