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The Most Eggscellent Month of the Year

When’s the last time you’ve stopped to hail the almighty egg? These nutritious and delicious capsules of goodness are Island Grown School’s (IGS) Harvest of the Month for March and they’re personally one of my favorites. I start each day with a farm fresh egg that has been laid by my very own chickens. Here on Martha’s Vineyard keeping chickens is almost as common as keeping a dog or cat as a pet. It’s a way of life and one I’m grateful for–the difference in quality between a store bought egg and a local egg is exceptional.

First off a store bought egg might be months old! It’s pretty alarming but true. Eggs can have a long shelf life and may still be safe to eat but it’s not too appetizing to think about how long ago they were laid. Farm fresh eggs on the other hand are usually only days old when sold to you, meaning their more nutritious, as they lose some of their value as time passes by.

When it comes to food shopping some items are created equal, but eggs are one of those foods that’s worth paying extra for. Locally grown farm eggs can cost about $6 a dozen, but at about 50 cents per egg they are one of the most affordable sources of Island grown food, not to mention one of the most protein rich.

In fact eggs have 6 grams of high-quality protein, making them a protein packed breakfast that can help sustain your mental and physical energy throughout the day.  Unlike other breakfast foods like cereal or yogurt, eggs only contain one ingredient – “eggs.” They don’t contain sugar or carbs either. That means you can eat a well-rounded breakfast during the week without feeling too round yourself..

On top of the benefits that protein and choline provide, eggs are also packed with omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin a, riboflavin, vitamin B12, phosphorus and selenium. Eggs are considered a ‘complete’ source of protein as they contain all nine essential amino acids; the ones we can’t synthesize in our bodies and must get from our diet.

Remember not to skip the yolk! Over the years many people have shied away from eating egg yolks for fear of their high cholesterol. We now know that the cholesterol found in food has much less of an effect on our blood cholesterol than the amount of saturated fat we eat–so embrace the yolk!

Egg yolks also contain choline, which promotes normal cell activity, liver function and the transportation of nutrients throughout the body. It’s also key in the development of infant’s memory functions, so moms shouldn’t miss out on its vital nourishments when pregnant or breastfeeding. You’ll find that the yolk of a farm fresh egg is typically richer in color and taste while store bought egg yolks are usually a medium yellow. Not only do farm egg yolks have a deeper color, their yolk is creamier and doesn’t break as easily when cooked. 

Hungry for eggs yet? If you’re on Martha’s Vineyard you can buy fresh pasture-raised eggs from your local farm stand or at Cronig’s Market and the Scottish Bakery. In season you can also find eggs at one of our local farms including the Farm Institute, Morning Glory Farm, Black Water Farm, Ghost Island Farm, The Grey Barn, Mermaid Farm, North Tabor Farm and more. Check out this interactive map of local farms on Martha’s Vineyard and their offerings.

If you’re in need of some recipe inspiration read below for some tasty recipes from some of couple of our talented local chefs and friends. Remember, you don’t need to  limit your eggs to just breakfast, eggs make a great lunch or dinner option as well. 

Try this Shakshuka recipe from local chef Jamie Hamlin of V. Jaime Hamlin Catering and Party Design. She recommends it as a great for brunch option.  

 

*Makes 4 generous portions

Ingredients:

1/2 tsp cumin seeds( NOT powdered cumin)

1/4 cup olive oil

2 sliced onions

2 red peppers, sliced into strips

2 yellow peppers, sliced into strips

4 tsp sugar

2  fresh bay leaves

1 can crushed tomatoes

1/2 tsp saffron threads (reconstitute in a little hot water first)

pinch of cayenne

2 tbsp chopped parsley & 2 tbsp chopped cilantro (save some for garnish)

Salt & Pepper to taste

1 or so cups of water ( to keep the consistency saucy)

8 eggs (organic are best)

 

Method:

In a large frying pan dry toast the cumin seeds until fragrant, 1–2 minutes.

Add olive oil and onions, saute 5 minutes or so.

Add both red & yellow pepper strips, sugar and chopped herbs, saute another 5 minutes.

Add  tomatoes, cayenne, saffron, salt and pepper.

Cook all together for 5–8 minutes adding water to keep the consistency “saucy” and remove bay leaves before adding eggs. Taste for seasoning.

 

Make 8 indentations in the sauce – break the eggs into them, cover and cook on simmer for 10 minutes or so or until the eggs are just set. Sprinkle with cilantro to serve.

 

Have fun with this Spinach, Mushroom and Onion Frittata from private chef Gavin Smith of Food Minded Fellow. He recommends eating it for any meal of the day (or even a late night snack). He loves frittatas for their versatility, plus they can be prepared for immediate consumption the days before for an easy meal on the go.

 

Ingredients:

8-10 Large farm fresh eggs

1/2 cup red bell pepper (julienned)

1/2 cup onion (julienned)

1/2 cup mushrooms (sliced)

2-3 cups raw spinach

3 Tablespoons whole milk

1/2 Cup cheddar sliced thin or grated

1 tbsp olive oil

Pinch salt

 

Method:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F).

Beat eggs and milk together.

Add dd oil to a large deep skillet.

Soften onions and red pepper over medium heat, 2 minutes.

Add mushrooms and stir until softened.

Add spinach and salt and stir until spinach is wilted.

Pour egg and milk mixture over all ingredients evenly (do not mix or stir).

Evenly distribute cheese over the top of the egg mixture.

Place in the oven and cook until edges of the frittata start to brown, 10–12 minutes.

 

Let cool slightly then cut and serve.

 

Hungry for more? Check out this simple Avocado Egg Salad recipe from IGS’s chef Gabrielle Chronister.

There’s something to be said about those magical beans

These cold winter days are ideal for spending more time inside preparing meals and perfecting recipes. One of the most versatile foods to experiment with is beans. Dry beans store well and canned beans can be quickly added in a pinch to many of our favorite dishes.

It’s only fitting that our friends at Island Grown Schools (IGS) have selected beans as their featured food for February’s Harvest of the Month. Beans can be incorporated into just about anything, yielding creative comfort foods for now, and light and fresh options for the warmer months.

Beans may sound like an afterthought or a filler food to some, but their actually one of our most diverse forms of food, not to mention affordable. Did you know that there are more than 18,000 species of legume plants that yield the vibrant, edible seeds we call beans? On Martha’s Vineyard Morning Glory Farm pumps out some pretty tasty and pleasing varieties. This year they grew Kenearly Yellow Eye, a traditional choice for baked beans, and Cranberry Beans, a beautiful tan bean with scarlet freckles famous for storing well. Next year, they’re planning to grow Black Turtle Beans, too.

When you think about it, beans have actually been providing us with nourishment since the beginning of time. We also use them to feed to our animals, so in essence they’re responsible for even more of our diet than we think about. Plus they have a nitrogen fixing growth cycle which means they have the unique ability to “fix” nitrogen in the soil, making soil more fertile once the plants are tilled under. Sounds pretty magical, right? They’re also relatively easy to grow since they’re self pollinating, they’re resilient since they can hold up to drought and have a long-term shelf life, and they’re health benefits are lengthy.

“Beans, beans, the magical fruit…” we’ve all heard the catchy nursery rhyme. Even though beans are not the kind of fruit you’re used to, they are the fruits (or seeds) of a family of plants called Fabaceae, and your body loves them. The magical power of beans means they’re high in fiber, folate, protein, iron, potassium, zinc and manganese. They’re packed with antioxidants which could reduce the risk of cancer and inflammation. They’re also good for your heart health and can contribute to lower cholesterol too. Beans are actually somewhat of a superfood which is why they have been integrated into virtually every cuisine in the world.

With so many variations and benefits adding beans to your diet is a no brainer. Start by picking up some dry beans and adding them to your favorite dishes. As a reminder dry beans need to be soaked and then boiled. The practice of soaking beans overnight has been debated but you can do a quick soak in boiling water for just a few minutes. Alternatively, canned beans are dried beans that have already been cooked so they’re more convenient but the canning process can omit starches, proteins, and plant solids, which often results in a less potent flavor and texture. If you can cook them yourself we recommend it, the rewards are worth it. Look for these varieties of dry beans: garbanzo (chickpeas), black eyed peas (cowpeas), lentils, navy, lima, pinto, kidney, and black beans. Choose loose, dry beans that have similar size and color and store dry beans in an airtight container in a cool, dry, and dark place.

In my cookbook Simple Green Suppers with author Susie Middleton, she expresses her love  of dried lentils–especially black beluga lentils and green-blue French or du Puy lentils. According to Susie, these little jewels cook up quickly, maintain their shape well, and offer a firm texture and pleasing peppery flavor that marries beautifully with citrusy vinaigrettes, leafy greens and tangy cheeses. Susie also raves about home-cooked chickpeas, and swears by having them around the house to add to your favorite dishes. Plus, unlike other beans, chickpeas can be sautéed and roasted until brown and crisp.

When you’re shopping for canned beans look for ones that are organic with no preservatives, and those that are low in sodium or and in BPA-free cans. While not as robust as dried beans, canned beans are great to have around the pantry. Eden and Westbrae Natural canned brands check all the boxes, and as a reminder always rinse canned beans before using.

When it comes to cooking with beans your options are endless. The most obvious ways to incorporate them into your diet is to add them to your soup, salads, dips and sauces (we recommend curry!). Next time you make a casserole consider using lentil as a meat substitute, or add black beans to your pizza for an unexpected fiber rich topping. One of the easiest and tastiest ways to get your bean benefits is to make homemade hummus with chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, salt and herbs.

In Simple Green Suppers Susie devoted a whole chapter to beans, and she offers some pretty simple yet savory recipes including: Sugar Snap, Spring Onion and Chickpea Stir-Fry with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce; White Beans and Artichoke Hearts with Chard, Lemon, Thyme, and Bread Crumbs; Baby Potato, Greens, Garlic and Chickpea Hash; Layered Black Bean, Zucchini, Corn and Avocado Salad; Grill-Roasted Bell Peppers with Lentil Salad and Goat Cheese; Indian Curry with Chickpeas, Cauliflower, Spinach, Tomatoes, and Coconut Milk, and many more. Needless to say there’s no excuse for leaving them off your plate!

Get started experimenting with the wonderful world of beans with this sweet chickpea recipe from Harvest of the Month chef Gabrielle Chronister.

 

Chickpea Flour Cinnamon Maple Crackers

1 cup chickpea  flour, sifted

*See below on how to make your own

3 tbsp olive oil

(or avocado oil / melted coconut oil)

4.5 tbsp maple syrup

1.5 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp vanilla

Pinch of salt

 

Preheat oven to 350F. Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix together with a spatula or your hands until well combined and you can form into a dough ball. Dough should be sticky and wet.

Planning a Martha’s Vineyard wedding? There’s a coordinator for that

We’re no stranger to the ins and outs of planning a Martha’s Vineyard wedding. With over twenty years of Island experience we’ve contributed to hundreds, possibly thousands of them. While each one is special and unique in its own right, we all know weddings share a common thread–they can get stressful. Couple the typical stress of wedding planning with the nuances of hosting the big day on an island with limited resources, and things can get really complicated, and extra expensive.

There’s no question a Martha’s Vineyard wedding is worth the extra headaches (and costs) that may arise. Where else can you find beautiful beaches, classic New England architecture, and breathtaking remote locations to add to the charm and allure of your special day? The Island makes a perfect backdrop for the most formal to the most casual of weddings, but there’s a lot of things to consider. So how can you best navigate the wedding planning process on Martha’s Vineyard? Enlist a professional of course!

First and foremost the benefits of hiring a wedding planner on Martha’s Vineyard are even greater than they might be off-Island, quite simply because they get it. Our Island can be hard to navigate–geographically, politically, and socially. Just getting here requires extra work so you better believe what happens here does too.

That’s where the help of our local wedding planners really comes into play. They are knowledgeable, well connected and quite literally make it their job to master the ins and outs of executing flawless events on Martha’s Vineyard.

We’ve rounded up some of the best tips from our local wedding planners on how to ensure a seamless event and what they can do to help. Take it from us, if you’re planning a wedding on Martha’s Vineyard their services are worth budgeting. Whether you can spring for a full planning package or a more affordable day of coordinator, their expertise, and connections, are worth it.

KG Events & Design is a Martha’s Vineyard based boutique planning and design firm specializing in private, corporate and destination events throughout the Northeast, and available worldwide. Planning a green wedding? KG Events & Design is also a Certified Green Event company.

Weddings can be challenging to plan, let alone when they are on an island. The bride and groom have to manage a budget, two families (who sometimes have opposing views and traditions), vendors, and the list goes on… Many wedding venues are without power, running water, and bathrooms. A coordinator can help navigate the complexity of the venue and quickly assess its needs. This can allow for a quicker response time, especially in the off-season.

–Meghan Gosselin, Meeting and Events Manager, KG Events & Design

Timeless Event Planning, serves both California and Martha’s Vineyard, creating beautiful event and weddings for the modern bride.

Planning a destination wedding can be tricky as there are so many factors that come into play.

When you have a planner that knows everyone on the Island it will put your mind at ease, as they know who will be the best option for your budget.

In general, planning a wedding on an island is also very different then on the mainland. Transportation isn’t as easy and having music past a certain time isn’t permitted. Having these little insights and tips will help ensure you have smooth sailing throughout the process.

If having a full planner isn’t in your budget it’s so important to hire a day of coordinator. On the big day you are not going to want to worry about little details such as who will be folding your napkins or setting up your escort cards.

You may have family that offer to help out, but remember they are also paying top dollar to attend your wedding. You want to ensure that your guests get to enjoy the day as well and their mini-vacation here on Martha’s Vineyard.

A planner can also spring into action when something goes wrong. What happens when it shows rain in the forecast or when one of your vendors suddenly can’t attend the wedding? Having a professional oversee the event will calm your nerves, as they will be the one handling these difficult situations. Remember–they know everyone on the Island and have plenty of resources they can call for backup.

–Sandy Brooks, owner, Timeless Weddings

Julie Hatt, Martha’s Vineyard based wedding coordinator

I do a large amount of day-of wedding packages. This means the bride and groom hire the vendors themselves, but on the actual day they can enjoy being with family and friends while I help set up the venue, and work with the vendors to make sure everyone is where they are supposed to be.  It takes a lot of the pressure off the couple and their families to know it’s all being taken care of.

It’s nice to have a person they can connect with that knows all the venues on the Island and all the vendors. A planner that has a personal connection with everyone is crucial, several of us have worked together for many years.

Hiring a wedding planner on the Island is even more important than hiring one for an event off-Island. We know the ins and outs of the island, like which roads buses can not get down. What location buses can drop guests off and where they can’t–we know what works and what doesn’t here on the Island.

–Julie Hatt

With Grace is and event coordination and consultation service based on Martha’s Vineyard.

Owner Patrie Grace offers “experience, assurance, excellent vendor rapport, long lasting beauty, personal care, attention, and forever memories.” Personally I’ve worked with Patrie on many events and she’s truly the coolest cat. You wouldn’t even know if the musicians or the chef didn’t show, or if all the lights went out because she would fix it in the calmest way.

Plan It Martha’s Vineyard + Nantucket is a Vineyard based wedding coordination company specializing in local island weddings.

We got started in this industry by working events from the ground up, and before we knew it we were building a business. With over 30 years of combined experience and knowledge-sharing, we have fostered valuable relationships with Island vendors and venues.

During the planning process, we help clients make the best choices based on their needs and budget. On the day of the wedding, we make sure everything goes off without a hitch, just as planned! Surprises always pop up, but it’s a matter of being able to manage and troubleshoot on the fly. We love working with Island vendors; we promote them 100%. We know we can count on them. It can be just a phone call and they will come through to rectify problems for you. Part of being a wedding coordinator is about being resourceful.

–Doriana Klumick & Kate Conde Foster, owners, Plan It Martha’s Vineyard + Nantucket

More than anything hiring a wedding planner on Martha’s Vineyard guarantees peace of mind, and that’s priceless. You’ll stress less and enjoy more of the process, with the help of our local pros.

If you’re currently planning a Martha’s Vineyard wedding make sure to read through our other helpful blog posts on the subject, including It’s all in the details: Special considerations for planning a wedding on Martha’s Vineyard and Making a list and checking it twice: Wedding planning on Martha’s Vineyard. For additional resources on planning a Martha’s Vineyard wedding visit mvy.com, mvislandweddings.com, mvpreservation.org, or mvol.com.

 

The science behind fermented foods, and why we love them

It’s a brand New Year and our friends at Island Grown Schools (IGS) are back with another round of picks for their Harvest of the Month program. Each month, they highlight another locally available crop to feature in Martha’s Vineyard’s local schools, restaurants and grocery stores. This month they’ve set their eyes on fermented foods–and so have we. There’s been a lot of chatter about their health benefits lately, but what exactly are fermented foods and how do they help us? Allow us to divulge.

Fermented foods are just that–fermented. They’re made through the process of natural fermentation which converts carbohydrates to alcohol or organic acids using microbes—like yeasts or bacteria. Fermentation might sound like a jazzy new buzzword, but it’s a process that’s been around forever. Ideally, the helpful bacteria from local food and our natural surroundings would make its way to our digestive tract and help us live our best lives. Sadly, a lot of the good stuff is killed off through other cultural habits like antibiotics, pasteurization and sanitization–meaning we can benefit from fermented foods foods now more than ever.

Fermented foods contain the beneficial byproducts of fermentation and create live microbes that boost your gut diversity and support better mental and physical performance. The health benefits of fermented foods are pretty impressive, they can basically improve the function of almost every system in the body.

Have you ever noticed the label on the side of your yogurt that reads “live and active cultures?” It might sound weird but that refers to the living organisms that convert milk to yogurt during fermentation. And that probiotic bacteria that is created is what makes yogurt so good for you. Not only does it improve the health of your digestive system, but it also allows critical nutrients to be more easily utilized by your body. And yogurt isn’t the only winner. Other fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, and even sourdough bread can share the same love.

Generally speaking the additional health benefits of fermented foods include strengthening your overall immune system, detoxifying your body from dangerous chemicals and reducing inflammation throughout the body (a common issue often created by many of the sodium rich foods our culture’s diet is so reliant on).

So long story short, eat more fermented foods! On Martha’s Vineyard we’re lucky, yet again, to have access to some truly incredible ones. Make a quick stop at The Larder in Vineyard Haven and you’ll have access to a whole host of locally prepared fermented foods, including sauerkraut, kimchi, and other seasonal specialties prepared by Zephir Plume of Bakehouse Farm. Zephir’s favorite ferment is non-dairy drinking yogurt, which she started bottling herself this year. Look for it under the label Ediblewellness.

Another probiotic rich local favorite is Kulture Club Kombucha, the brainchild of Nina Gordon. Nina uses ethically sourced, locally farmed and foraged organic ingredients whenever possible to create a delicious and nutritious line of kombuchas. Asked how she first started selling it she said “I don’t try to sell the kombucha…I like to share it because kombucha brings me joy, and I’d love it if it brought you joy too. They say there is a gut-brain connection, so maybe all those probiotics are firing off all these good neurotransmitters in me so that I’ll replicate them!” We’ll drink to that.

Maybe you’ve tried kombucha and loved it, or maybe you couldn’t get a taste for it. To that we say, try another flavor. Nina adds “people who are sensitive to acid in general will have trouble with vinegary kombucha, also if you are sensitive to caffeine or have an alcohol allergy you may have trouble. Despite the fact that caffeine levels in kombucha are about one quarter as much as tea, and that there is more alcohol in an overripe banana than in a bottle of kombucha.” If you’re new to drinking kombucha you may want to ease yourself into it, as it effects can be be felt. Nina recommends starting with 2-4oz/day, and increase when you’re more tolerant. She adds “basically listen to your body.”

Need another way to enjoy the benefits of fermented foods? Sink your teeth into a loaf of bread, that’s right–bread. Of course not all breads are created equal, but the fermented sourdough loaves of local baker extraordinaire Olivia Patterson of Cinnamon Starship will do you a lot of favors (while packing a ton of flavor). For starters, Olivia uses local Island grains, from her friend Dan Sternbach of Lost and Found Grain. We asked her, and she explains “there are many benefits to fresh milled wheat, especially the flavor, but because it is so much closer to the source (and minimally processed) it also has more wild yeast present in the grain, providing much more nutrition than commercial flour.” Makes sense, right?

Olivia also uses sourdough starter only and no commercial yeast. Again her method is enlightening. “This means the dough is fermenting with a combination of wild yeast and bacteria, such as lactobacillus (which most people are familiar with as the key ingredient in yogurt). These microscopic friends are found in the air, the flour and on the bakers’ hands. Biodiversity is always beneficial, on farms, in forests and even in bread. Not only does the sourdough make the bread taste better, more complex and rich, but it also has more vitamins than standard bread, a benefit of the digestive process of the starter. The longer fermentation process of sourdough bread also makes in easier to digest because more of the gluten is broken down.” Hungry yet? Olivia’s bread is available at Scottish Bakehouse and Ghost Island Farm every Saturday this time of year. You can also find her at the West Tisbury Farmer’s Market in season.

If you’re inspired and want to get started with more fermented foods in your diet right away look in the refrigerated section of your local grocer for pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir. Check labels for any of the following terms including live, cultured, raw, probiotic, or active. You can also prepare many fermented foods quite easily at home by yourself. IGI recommends checking out Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz as a good DIY reference book for your own creations. Here’s a recipe to get you started.

 

Creamy Miso Dressing

3.5 tbsp white miso paste

3.5 tbsp fresh lemon juice

3 cloves of garlic

1/2 inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled

A few pinches of black pepper

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup avocado oil or regular olive oil

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator.

You’re engaged, now what? Next steps after a holiday proposal

‘Tis the season for engagements! With so much love and good cheer in the air, it’s no surprise that the holidays make for a popular time to pop the question. In fact, more proposals happen between Thanksgiving and New Year’s–making it truly the most wonderful time of the year for thousands of newly engaged couples. If you’re ringing in the New Year with a new ‘ring on it’ congratulations! Next comes planning, preparation and (above all) patience. As soon as people are done congratulating you they’ll want to know the what and when of your wedding plans. Whether you’re thinking about going big or keeping it small, you’ll want to get started with some of the basics. With over thirty years in the wedding business, here’s our tips for getting you on your way to planning your big day.

Insure your engagement ring. First and foremost you need to protect your new sparkler, and with great rings come great responsibilities. It’s likely your ring is now your most prized possession, and should be treated as such. Protect yourself from theft, loss or damage. If you have homeowners’ or renters’ insurance, you can purchase an extension (a.k.a. “rider”) that covers your engagement ring specifically. If you don’t, you can take out a policy through a company that specializes in jewelry insurance, like some of the ones recommended here.

Set a budget. This can get complicated and we’ve all heard how expensive weddings can be. Before you get lost in the fantasy of something you can’t afford, set an overall number that is realistic and comfortable for you and your partner. If your family is contributing to the cost have those conversations now so there are no surprises later. Think about what elements of your event carry the most weight and where you expect to invest most of your money. Here Comes the Guide offers some helpful tips around establishing your wedding budget.

Choose a few possible dates. Whether you plan on having a long engagement or a short one, you’ll want to backup your planning tasks from your prospective wedding date. Depending on your time frame you may want to confer with those closest to you to ensure your immediate family and best friends are available.

Decide on your location. This may also inform your wedding date, given the time of year or seasonality of your location. For example, on Martha’s Vineyard the spring and the fall are typically the most popular times for weddings. It’s easier to navigate around the Island without the heavy crowds and higher prices of the summer, however the weather can be more unpredictable and can create more unforeseen logistical concerns. Do your research on the location you had in mind and what factors may affect the place throughout the year.

Decide on your wedding style or theme. This may be something you’ve thought about over the years, or not. Maybe it’s the ‘vision’ you’ve had since you were a kid or maybe you’re completely lost and overwhelmed with the limitless options. A search on Pinterest is great for inspiration but you need to have a starting point. Your location and time of year may also help inform this. For example you’re not going to host a rustic beach wedding on Martha’s Vineyard in December (at least we wouldn’t recommend it!). Whether you’re thinking more vintage, whimsical, romantic or modern you want to have a theme in mind to help inform the overall look of your day and the choices you make to help curate it. We love this list of wedding themes from BRIDES magazine for every bridal style.

Think about your wedding dress style. This may also be something you’ve envisioned over the years or something that makes your palms sweat. The options are never-ending and there’s a good chance the dress you choose is something you may have never imagined yourself in. Your dress should fit the theme of your wedding and be appropriate for the destination and time of year, but above all you should be comfortable in it and feel amazing when you put it on. Start by researching dresses and finding examples of those you like so you have a better idea once you start shopping. Here’s some helpful tips from Martha Stewart Weddings on how to get started.

Set a planning timetable. Set yourself up for success by staying organized and ahead of the game (or at least start by trying, we know things don’t always go as planned!). A wedding timeline will help you prioritize things and keep your tasks digestible. Trying to do everything all at once is daunting and unrealistic. Plus, as stressful as the process can be it should also be fun, and a wedding timetable can help ease a lot of your anxiety. The Knot has a great timetable tool that you can customize based on the the type of event you are organizing.

Start your guest list. Fair warning, this one can be extremely challenging. Start by thinking big and creating a ‘dream list’ that you can pare down throughout the process. Segment the list based on ‘have to haves’ and ‘nice to haves’ and be realistic about your guest list count. After all, your budget and venue location will dictate how many people you can actually invite. If your family is involved in the process and contributing financially they may have expectations of who they get to invite, so be sure to clearly communicate with them along the way.

Think about your wedding party. Your wedding party (if you’re having one) is intended to be made up of those closest to you. Whether family or best friends, these are the people you hold nearest and dearest. The number of people you select should be proportional to your total number of guests. Don’t worry about ‘being even’ it’s OK if you don’t have the same amount of groomsmen and bridesmaids, you’re pictures will still look great. A lot more couples are mixing it up, and putting men and women on both sides of the altar, so feel free to keep it fluid. It’s all about surrounding yourself with those that will help ease the stress of your day and those you are proud to have stand beside you.

Research venues and vendors in the area. Once you’ve selected your location you’ll want to start researching your local options. If you’re not too familiar with the location we recommend enlisting the help of a local wedding planner that can help you best navigate through vendors and utilize their connections and resources. On Martha’s Vineyard there is a high demand for wedding services and a limited number of vendors so planning ahead is key. Our friends at KG Events & Design, With Grace, and Julie Hatt of Island Weddings can help you make sense of your options here. Check out our recommendations for other wedding vendors on Martha’s Vineyard.

Share your proposal story. This is a fun one, and sharing is caring! You’ve probably already retold your story a hundred times by now and we hope your face still lights up at each one. Take the time to savor your story and share it with everyone you know. The Knot offers you the opportunity to submit your romantic proposal tale and they generate a link that you can share with your family and friends. Plus, you’ll be one step ahead when you get to creating your wedding website, and if it’s an extra good story they’ll even share it on their homepage.

This is all just the beginning and we wish you the best in the wedding planning process. Keep calm, carry on, and remember–the best is yet to come! If you’re planning a Martha’s Vineyard wedding be sure to read through our insider tips, and please be in touch, we’d love to be of service for your big day.