A Family Affair
Liz & Nate

It took decades for these childhood family friends to connect romantically, but once sparks flew they knew they were meant to be.

By Molly F. McGill
Photography by Fidelio Photography   

When Nate Smith first laid eyes on Liz Berle, he was a toddler standing on the wharf at Cliff Island, Maine, watching her arrive as a swaddled four-and-a-half day-old infant. Their two families both lived on the remote island in Casco Bay, and were connected by a strong bond formed by Nate’s uncle and Liz’s father while attending college in the 1960s. Although Nate and Liz grew up together and saw each other at joint family functions, they never really connected romantically (Nate is three years older) and they both ultimately went their separate ways—he to Portland, Maine, and she to San Diego, California.

The two were reunited over the Fourth of July weekend in 2007 and sparks flew. “He kissed me and that was it. I knew,” Liz says. The two carried on a long distance relationship that lasted all of three weeks before they each found themselves with an opportunity to relocate. Packing up both sets of belongings in little under a month, the couple embarked on a new life together in San Francisco. “I’ve known her for a long time and when we had the opportunity for the relationship to turn toward the romantic, I knew she was who I wanted to be with for the rest of my life,” Nate says. Just over a year after they had moved in together, Nate proposed to her on a rocky point in San Francisco Bay overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.

When it came time to decide where the wedding would be, the answer was obvious. “We both grew up on the Maine coast, and although neither of us have lived there for a while, it’s still really important to our lives,” Liz says. “We really wanted to try to bring all of the fun and beauty of our childhood together for our wedding.”

Instead of a one-day event, the couple invited the 130 guests to arrive at the reception venue, Sebasco Harbor Resort, on Friday for a family-friendly weekend of events leading up to the Sunday wedding. The couple and their families hosted lobster dinners, Wiffle ball games, trips to the beach, golfing excursions with the groom, and kayaking with the bride. “A lot of our friends had never been to Maine,” Nate says. “So to be able to share a weekend with them and to show them the Maine coast in the summer was really special.”

For the wedding itself, the couple wanted a playful and dramatic affair that reflected their coastal heritage. The ceremony was held within the granite walls of historic Fort Popham, a defense post during the Civil War situated on the mouth of the Kennebec River. The choice reflected Nate’s geology background, Liz’s love of all things oceanic, and both of their wishes to be married outdoors. “It was really perfect,” Liz says. “It was stunning and beautiful and had all of the elements we were looking for.”

Playing off the spectacular, the bride and her bridesmaids arrived at the ceremony in true Maine style—aboard Liz’s father’s lobster boat. Forgetting to reserve a slip to dock during the busy Labor Day holiday, the bridal party had to hitch up their gowns and climb over several accommodating local fishermen’s boats to dismount. “I remember waiting in the wings of Fort Popham with the groomsmen, looking out the little windows,” Nate recalls. “When the boat finally arrived, all I could think was, ‘It’s about time!’”

The couple was wed under sunny skies by a family friend whom Liz described as having “a real zest for life,” and the two families that had been so close for so long were finally united as one.

To celebrate, the party returned to the Sebasco Harbor Resort and dined on a locally-produced Maine-themed dinner of “something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.” Guests were seated at tables numbered for significant numerals in the couple’s life, and mussel shells from their native island held place cards. Family and friends danced the night away enjoying the crisp Maine sea breeze, and the couple made their departure through an arch of flickering sparklers to a honeymoon in the Virgin Islands.    

In Her Words
We asked the bride more about their special day. Here’s what Liz says . . .

I wish . . . the band could have played all night long.  They were fantastic!  BOSS came up from Boston and even embraced longtime family friend Heath MacVane as an added member!

I really liked . . . the weekend full of planned activities.  It was a great way to have all of our friends and family meet and make ridiculous memories together!  

I didn’t realize . . . that the carabiner we used to attach the wedding rings to the lobster buoy (instead of a pillow) would slice open the best man's finger!  

My advice to other brides 
is . . .  absolutely, no question, if you're planning a wedding from afar, no matter how creative and organized you are (perhaps especially so), hire a wedding planner!