More Than Just a Summer Crush

As far as Brendon Maxwell Whalen knows, only two marriages have taken place between “Creekers” and “Islanders.” He does not consider his Sept. 4 wedding to Megan Goetsch, in the open waters of Connecticut’s Thimble Islands one of them, despite the origins of their relationship.

Ms. Goetsch, 33, and Mr. Whalen, 35, entered each other’s teenage orbits in the late 1990s during the summers Ms. Goetsch spent on the Thimble Islands with her parents and brother, Ben. For Mr. Whalen, a “Creeker” who was a native of Stony Creek, the seaside village that is part of Branford, Conn., just off the coast, these summers were spent working at the general store. He catered lobster bakes for “Islanders” and delivered gas to their boats in the marina.

“Creekers and Islanders don’t mix much,” Mr. Whalen said. But Ms. Goetsch, who grew up in Woodbridge, Conn., caught his eye. “I remember seeing this cute blond girl always driving around with her cousin in a Boston Whaler,” he said.

Ms. Goetsch noticed Mr. Whalen around the same time. “I would see him from a distance and think, ‘Who is that cute person over there,’” she said. In 2008, they were finally introduced by Ben, who had become friendly with Mr. Whalen. For a first date that summer, they met for espresso martinis at Pasta Cosi in Branford. Their mutual crush deepened into a real relationship before summer was over. But then life got in the way.

In 2005, Ms. Goetsch’s parents divorced; her father moved to Branford, and her mother to nearby Guilford. Ms. Goetsch was no longer an Islander, technically. But her dream after graduating from Brown had been to move to New York and land a job in the media industry. Mr. Whalen, who had graduated from N.Y.U. in 2006 and working at Fabrique USA, a Branford company that makes computer carrying cases and accessories ended things. “I didn’t want to hold her back,” he said.

They reconnected in 2013, after Ms. Goetsch moved to Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and went to work for MongoDB, a technology company. “We started talking over text, flirting a little,” she said. That May, she met Mr. Whalen for a dinner date at Barcelona, a wine bar in New Haven, Conn.

“We had grown up a bunch,” he said. “Everything snapped back together.” For a while, anyway. In September 2015, Ms. Goetsch entered an M.B.A. program at Yale while continuing to work full time in New York. Her obligations left her little time for a relationship. This time, she ended things. “It was devastating,” Mr. Whalen said. “I blocked her number like an immature child.”

By the end of 2016, he was feeling less spurned than sad that she was no longer in his life. He unblocked her number and texted her. “I said, ‘I miss you,’” he said. They got back together a second time. In 2017, he moved to Greenpoint to be with her and work remotely for Fabrique; she is now a business operations manager for Amazon Web Services.

On Oct. 25, 2018, during a trip to Italy’s Amalfi Coast, Mr. Whalen proposed. A June 20, 2020, wedding for 150 in Old Lyme, Conn., had to be postponed because of the pandemic. So did a second date of Aug. 8. Then, inspiration struck. In May, the couple moved, temporarily, to Guilford. “It’s always so beautiful around here in the summer,” Ms. Goetsch said. A lot of their Creeker and Islander friends with boats were still in the area. “So we came up with this flotilla wedding idea,” she said.

Half a mile from shore, on Sept. 4, they were married aboard a Thimble Islands charter boat, the Volsunga IV, by their friend Melissa Nelson, who was ordained through American Marriage Ministries. “We had 13 boats in a flotilla formation, plus a P.A. system and a livestream,” Mr. Whalen said. When they said their “I do’s,” 40 guests above and below deck saluted them.

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