ABOARD THE 6:40 P.M. FERRY TO HULL —
“Friends, family . . . and fellow commuters,” said their friend, Ian Wells, welcoming both invited guests and the bemused strangers looking on from the ferry’s second floor.
The couple had never been entirely sold on marriage, let alone an extravagant wedding. So when they finally decided to exchange vows — a practicality that would make it easier to buy a house — they chose one of the most low-key venues they could think of: the MBTA’s ferry from Boston’s Long Wharf to Hull.
At first, family and friends were caught by surprise, McGill said, but in time, it made perfect sense. “It’s just so us,” she said.
The couple moved to Hull two years ago, and quickly came to love their ferry commute to Boston. The close-knit community of passengers chat over coffee in the morning, and over a glass of wine in hand in the evening — the city skyline receding in the distance as they head home.
On clear days, crowds gather on benches on the upper deck, relishing the sun and wind on their face. It’s a far sight from a crowded subway, faces buried in phones.
“The first time someone started talking to me, I was thinking, ‘What’s this guy’s deal?’ ” said MacElhiney, who sometimes bikes to the ferry on nice days. “But then I just realized he wanted to talk.”
In short, the boat seemed the perfect venue for a wedding.
MacElhiney and McGill are no-frills Massachusetts natives who met on the OKCupid dating site in 2008, bonding over their affinity for travel, dogs, and ties to public transportation.
On their first date at Boston Beer Works near Fenway Park, MacElhiney told McGill he worked for the MBTA as a trainer for mechanics. McGill, an immigration attorney who grew up in Easton, had MBTA ties, too. Her dad had worked there as an electrician for nearly his entire career. (He didn’t know him, to her relief).
The first date lasted for hours. By the second, MacElhiney “knew this was really something.”
They traveled together, far and near, and eventually moved in together in the South End, sharing a cramped 600-square-foot apartment with their two large rescue dogs: Moxie, a black labrador-hound mix, and Charlie, a chocolate labrador mix.
But like everyone else in Greater Boston, the record-breaking winter of 2015 tested their patience with the MBTA, which shut down portions of the subway and commuter rail for days. MacElhiney couldn’t telecommute, and grew sick of shoveling out parking spaces in the South End.
“We need a driveway,” he announced after one particularly bad snowfall.
After weeks of looking at maps of the area, their sights turned to Hull. McGill had heard that the ferry had run all through the terrible winter, even when ice had canceled the boat to Hingham. They checked out apartments there, happily noting the wind turbines that provide electricity to municipal buildings, the cheaper rents, and most of all, the ferry rides to Boston. On Memorial Day weekend in 2015, they left Boston for the coastal suburb.
On the ferry, they made fast friends, such as Jill Clemmer, who also lived in Hull. As she chatted with McGill on the ride one day, Clemmer suggested a “pop-up wedding” on the ferry they held so dear.
The two had laughed, thinking it was just a joke. But weeks later, Clemmer and their other “boat friends” received a cryptic text message. They had better be on the 6:40 p.m. ferry the next night, McGill wrote. Jill had “called it a long time ago.”
On May 5, the couple took the day off and spent about $350 on roundtrip tickets for their 20 or so guests. The couple had asked permission from the MBTA and its contractor, Boston Harbor Cruises, but many of the workers didn’t even know about the ceremony until they saw the guests streaming up to the second floor.
It rained the whole day, so they packed a bag full of towels. They wiped off the metal seats on the second floor for the guests, including the commuters who had wandered upstairs.
MacElhiney, 41, wore a gray suit, with a blue shirt and yellow tie. They were “Hull colors,” he quipped. McGill, 35, wore a white dress she had bought for the occasion.
Despite the downpour, Wells followed his script, calling it a beautiful day, drawing laughter from the huddled crowd. The couple didn’t seem to mind at all.
“It was a monsoon, and they were just beaming,” Clemmer said.
As the ferry sped up, the two clutched each other by the forearms, so they wouldn’t fall. In their vows, they pledged their commitment to each other, a bond “as powerful and endless as the sea,” and sealed their marriage with a kiss. As the crowd cheered, the captain took his cue.
He blew the horn, and the cheers grew even louder.Nicole Dungca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @ndungca.