The bride and groom were running late, and my knees were starting to buckle as I waited for the ceremony to start. Since I couldn’t spy on the wedding from the comfort of my bed, unless I rearranged the furniture, I had to frog-crouch by the window in my guest room at the Inn at Sugar Hill.
From my secret lookout tower, I watched the entire event unfold. He took her, she took him. They kissed and walked up the aisle hand in hand. Then they disappeared beneath the eaves. I leaned out the open window for a better look but quickly drew back: I didn’t want to be that kind of crasher.
The five-room property in Mays Landing, N.J., is romantic even without a wedding in progress. Built in 1846, the former estate of lawmaker William Moore lords over gently sloping land that unfurls like an emerald green carpet toward the Great Egg Harbor River. A white gazebo and stone benches provide contemplative pit stops en route to the Dockside Grill, a gathering place on the river’s edge. Tied to the dock, a cutter-rigged sailboat named Grace rests between outings. (Capt. Larry Boylan, the innkeeper, offers sunshine and sunset sails for $149 per duo.)
During the summer, the shoreline scene ramps up with music, cocktails and good cheer — the ultimate backyard party. The inn also hosts countless big days, reeling in the betrothed-to-bes with its bucolic setting and wedding bell accouterments, including catering, lodging, tents and 14-mile proximity to Atlantic City.
The married proprietors of 25 years do not segregate wedding guests from hotel guests. The public areas remain open, including the spirited tavern, where locals, visitors and wedding partiers commingle over drinks and hearty dishes (venison sausage, for instance). I bumped into the beaming brother of the groom at the polished wood bar, our second run-in of the day. Bro and I shared a brief history: We first met when I was on Bride Watch in the hallway outside my door and he was trying to corral the pint-size ring bearer.
Despite the amore perfume in the air, the rooms avoid Poconos-style decor and instead highlight the town’s past. My room, for example, honored 19th-century shipbuilder George Wheaton, who ran a yard in Mays Landing. Next door, the Minni Moore Room refers to the politician’s wife and the author of a letter (dated 1895) to their college-age son that the Boylans discovered behind the fireplace mantel. The Babcock of third-floor-room fame was a sea captain who worked on Moore’s boats. The Senator’s Suite pays tribute to the former man of the house.
My quarters were as bright and cheery as a rococo landscape. Busy floral paper covered the walls like a spray of wind-swept bouquets. On the starboard side of the shiny brass bed, a model boat docked on the mantelpiece of a brick fireplace. A tiny TV sat on a dresser, though the reality show outside the window trumped any canned sitcom.
Breakfast is included, although the amount of calories depends on the rate. I booked the business traveler’s special, which caters to get-up-and-goers who vacuum up their coffee, fruit salad and pastries. The guests around me, however, were in no rush. This was the first day of married life; they needed their protein.
While Donna, the sole employee during the morning shift, cooked and delivered the food, the diners swapped stories and adages. A doe-eyed pair in the back corner replayed their wedding from the previous morning. The husband of a seasoned couple offered advice that involved a cow and milk. I sat beside the twosome from the evening vows and sheepishly admitted that I’d been the little moon face hovering over their nuptials.
Young and in love, they were more amused than upset. In fact, they hadn’t even noticed the uninvited plus-one in the window.
Inn at Sugar Hill
5704 Mays Landing-Somers Point Rd., Mays Landing, N.J.