Cynthia Riggs and Howard Attebery were married Saturday before a crowd of family, friends and well-wishers in the West Tisbury Congregational Church, adding a long-awaited chapter to a love story that has captured hearts and imaginations around the country.
Ms. Riggs is 81; Mr. Attebery is 91.
They reconnected a year and a half ago, 60 years after they first met, fell in love again and decided to marry.
The story has been told in the Gazette, on National Public Radio's Moth Radio hour and other media outlets.
On Saturday the couple exchanged vows before the Rev. Arlene Bodge in the classic spired New England church that sits in the heart of the village that has been home to Ms. Riggs's family for more than two centuries.
“They say the marriage of two lives overcomes whatever obstacles life may bring,” Reverend Bodge said in a ceremony marked by laughter and light moments. “I would love to say this is a perfect testimony to that.”
The bride wore a blush lilac beaded dress with matching jacket that was bought at a second hand store in Falmouth for the occasion. She was given away in marriage by her son Robert Harris-Stoertz. The matron of honor was her daughter Ann Ricchiazzi; granddaughter Skye Willow Harris-Stoertz was the flower girl. Members of the bridal party wore floral crowns.
The bridegroom's best man was his son Mark Attebery.
The bride read a poem written by her late mother Dionis Coffin Riggs titled Silver Anniversary.
Her sister Ann Fielder played a solo on the cello. Frank and Peter Dunkl played the French horn and Ed Rogers played trumpet.
The church was decorated with lilacs, wisteria and rhododendrun, arranged by Dionis Montrowl. A linoleum block print of the church carved by the bride’s late father Dr. Sidney Riggs in 1930 decorated the cover of the program.
The couple first met in the summer of 1950 while working at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego. Ms. Riggs was 18; Mr. Attebery was 28. Working at the laboratory sorting and counting plankton, they became friends and passed secret messages to each other through cryptograms.
Ms. Riggs returned to Antioch College in Ohio that fall and the two fell out of touch for the next 60 years. Both married and had children. Ms. Riggs later divorced and returned to the Vineyard to live at the Cleaveland House, her family homestead. Mr. Attebery stayed in the San Diego area; his wife later died.
They reconnected in January 2012 when Ms. Riggs received a package in the mail with no return address. Inside was a stack of the secret messages they used to pass to one another. There was also a new message.
“I have never stopped loving you,” it said.
The story first came to light at a summer storytelling performance held at Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs for the Moth Radio Hour last year. At the time, Ms. Riggs had bought her tickets to California but had not yet met Mr. Attebery in person. The two told their completed story together in New York city this year on Valentine’s Day.
Crews from CBS filmed the wedding Saturday for a segment that will air next Friday.
In a 2012 interview with the Gazette, Ms. Riggs offered her personal lesson from the heart:
“Oh man, life is just amazing. Don’t give up hope. This is not what I expected at all. I’m 81 years old and he’s going to be 91 when he gets here. Really, how much time do we have? But you know, it really makes that amount of time precious.”
Following the wedding Saturday under gray and drizzly skies a reception was held at the Cleaveland House, Ms. Riggs's family home where they will live.
The couple plans to host a reception for the whole Island in July at their home.
For more photos of the ceremony and reception, see our gallery Love Story for Ages Celebrated in West Tisbury.