Together in holly matrimony

At Gatchell’s holiday display, Christmas came early for one couple.


At 148 County Road in Oak Bluffs, lyrics from Tim McGraw’s country song “My Best Friend” played and cars hummed by, while a small crowd of guests watched Garrett Rice and Nichole Wilson, now Nichole Rice, stand before Rob Gatchell, the Santa Claus gifting marriage for the evening. 

Gatchell received a one-day designation certificate from the state to perform the marriage for the couple. The Saturday evening ceremony was a year in the making. 

“The couple got engaged Christmas Eve of last year, while I was playing Santa Claus out there, as I usually do on Christmas Eve,” Gatchell said. The couple is friends with Gatchell’s son, who videotaped the engagement ceremony. After the ceremony, Gatchell offered to marry Garrett and Nichole as Santa on Christmas Eve. A few days later, Nichole’s mother, Kelly Wilson, called to ask whether Gatchell could marry the couple a few weeks earlier than Christmas Eve. 

That call led to Saturday’s small wedding ceremony, surrounded by Christmas decorations and twinkling lights. The couple’s wedding was held in “the perfect venue.”

“I’m excited. Today has been such a great day, spending time with friends and family and just getting to see everyone again. Especially because it’s so close to Christmas, it’s nice to be a family,” Nichole said. 

“It’s great. I got to marry my best friend. I have no complaints in the world,” Garrett said. “This is the best venue we could have tried to get.”

The joyous feelings were shared by the couple’s families. 

“I’m just so happy,” Greg Rice, Garrett’s father, said. 

“This was great. Nichole loves Christmas,” Linda Rice, Garrett’s mother, said. “When they told me they were going to have a wedding outside in winter, I thought they were crazy. But Mr. Gatchell has been wonderful.” 

“It brings so much joy. The two of them make a great couple, and I love the feelings they have for each other. They’re made for each other,” Jim Wilson, Nichole’s father, said. 

“They’ve been together for six years, and I love how they still look at each other,” Kelly Wilson said. 

Gatchell said this was the first time he has ever performed a wedding at his house. “I think this is probably, to the best of my knowledge, the first time on Martha’s Vineyard that Santa has married a couple … I don’t know if it’s happened before; I just know when Easter comes around I will not be wearing an Easter Bunny suit and performing a wedding then. You’ve got to draw a line,” Gatchell said with a chortle. 

Gatchell’s generosity will certainly be remembered by the newlyweds. 

“Mr. Gatchell has been amazing this whole time, from the day Garrett proposed to today, and I’m sure we’re going to remain friends and see each other regularly to hang out and have coffee,” Nichole said. 

A reception was held afterward at Isabelle’s on Seaview Avenue. 



  1. This is in itself such a feel good story , but then you add in what Robert Gatchell does each and every Christmas Season bringing unshelfish joy into so
    Many young and young at heart with his amazing display while collecting food for our island food bank. To that Santa Splinter I say. THANK YOU

  2. Congratulations to Garrett and his new wife. Garrett was a former student whom I remember fondly and I knew his parents. So nice to read such a heart warming story!

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