Planning The Dream Maine Wedding From Afar
by Kaley Noonan for Weddings Down East

Only several years ago, planning a wedding from a different state (or even several towns away) was a logistical nightmare (as you sifted through grainy pamphlets, trying to envision what a reception hall looked like over the phone, or had to take the cake decorator’s word that her cakes “were really good, trust me.”)

With women leading men in terms of using the Internet as a research tool, it’s no wonder that brides have more power at their fingertips (and keyboard) than ever before. But even with stunning websites depicting dreamy landscapes and soft-focus brides and grooms by the ocean, you are going to need some insider’ tips to planning a Maine wedding from afar.

Let’s say you spent summers in Maine, and have childhood memories of picturesque days on the rocky coast. You know in your heart this is the place you want to get married, but you haven’t yet nailed down a location. Check out the Listings Page to widen your perspective and to see a surprising number of spectacular venues and hidden gems not listed on any other wedding website.

Even if you already have the advantage of knowing the landscape because you’ve either lived or traveled here, we need to give you the skinny on the vendors. Maine’s economy has undertaken a vast amount of changes since the 1990s. It’s no longer that sleepy, backwater state. And general stores that advertise bait n’ tackle, wedding dresses and shotguns are a dying breed, it’s safe to say. Sophisticated vendors have developed statewide to meet the need for top-notch services, particularly in the southern and mid-coast areas. Regardless, you must do your homework; research WDE’s vendor listings and use local forums to get the “bride’s eye view” on who they do (or don’t) recommend.

Traveling Maine Style

If financially possible, it’s not a bad idea to “suss” out the locale in person as the Australians say. You will discover when your guests fly into either Bangor or Portland airport, just how challenging it is to get to your destination. [Link here to airports] Ed note: there are other smaller airports too—see Maine living http://www.meliving.com/airports/index.shtml]

Take it from experience, you do not want to rely on the idea of “oh, Uncle Bob will pick you up.” Traveling anywhere in Maine takes a good chunk of time and appointing a friend as the airport runner is a major strain on what little time he or she will have to enjoy the festivities before the wedding.

If you need to go anywhere else beyond Portland, you will be wise to either hire a limo service (and by that we mean a van service that provides daily trips to and from airports to any destination)—or you may rent a car. The upshot of the van or limo service is the elimination of stress in having your guests try to navigate Route 1-- particularly in the summertime. (Case in point, when I first moved to Maine, I thought you had to get off the main highway at Kittery to get to the midcoast. Five million Winnebegos and six hours later...)

There’s a reason people flock to here—to get away from it all. If you must drive from out of state, treat it as a fun car trip, put on your fave tunes and use the uninterrupted time to talk about anything EXCEPT the wedding. In fact, treat your Maine Wedding Recon Trip as a mini-vacation in itself. If you have a weekend, try staying in two different hotels or bed n’ breakfasts as you begin to assimilate your notes. If staying with friends, spread your time out luxuriously. A little breakfast, followed by a meeting, a little lobster roll seaside, followed by a fitting. A little cocktail followed by an appetizer sampling. You’re getting the idea. Wedding planning is stressful enough and you need to take time out from all the planning to actually enjoy each other.

Calling All Brides

One of the best parts of Maine is not seeing a Burger King or a cell phone tower every 50 feet. It is why people make Maine a destination wedding because Maine doesn’t look like everywhere else. So keeping that in mind, when you feel like smashing your cell phone against a tree because you can’t get service, the locals feel your pain. If you thought you’d pop into the local coffee shop and get instant wifi, this state is still years away from having the same technological overhaul that other states currently enjoy. And to be honest—a lot of people like it that way. Almost every library has Internet access and some of the bigger towns (Portland, Bangor, Augusta, Rockland) have Internet cafes. I’m not saying don’t bring your cell phone because there IS access here, just have a backup option. Be sure to bring a phone card with you and perhaps even provide phone cards as mini-gifts for your bridal party or special wedding guests.

The Best Months

To paraphrase Mr. Gump: “Maine’s weather is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.” It can go from sunny to stormy, hot to chilly. Summer weddings naturally are the most popular. May is just plain cold and in the last vestiges of Mud Season. June can be a really iffy rain-or-shine month and July, August and September have been typically steady with sunny days in the low 80s or 70s. If you’re getting married by the ocean, don’t wear the strapless gown, or think about a wrap for you and your bridesmaids as an accessory. You can still pull off an outdoor fall wedding in October, if it’s early enough. After the first week, it’s probably best to have the wedding indoors as the frost can hit and hit the freezing mark. To have a winter wedding in Maine is still your best bet for no crowds and discounted rates, but be prepared to wear layers. The coast tends to see milder weather conditions than inland or downeast. Be sure to ask your wedding planner or resort wedding coordinator about weather at the time of year you’ve chosen your wedding and discuss sunset times with your photographer.

Your Papers: Applying In Person

To make it official, you’re going to have to show up together in Maine to apply for and receive a Maine marriage license. There is no phoning or mailing this one in—which is another good reason for doing a weekend “suss out” ahead of time. When you decide on a location in Maine, check with the city or town office, and apply for the license no less than a month prior to the ceremony. (Go here for specifics on where to apply: http://www.maine.gov/portal/living/marriage.html
) What else to bring when you sign the application? Proof of ID and age (driver’s licenses/birth certificates) and a certified copy of divorce or death certificate--if one of you had been married previously are the standard requirements, but check with the municipal clerk where you are filing before you make the trip. The good news is: blood tests are not required in Maine. Oh yes, once you get that official piece of paper in the mail—you are not yet Mr. And Mrs. You need to bring it with you so that the officiant can sign it and send it in after the ceremony. Then, you’re official.

Take Off Your Coat, Stay Awhile

The best part of a Maine wedding is that once the ceremony is over, you don’t have to schlep back to the airport—even if all the guests do. You’re here, in one of the most understated, unforgettable places for a dramatic honeymoon. Picture renting a convertible and cruising up the coast to B & Bs or remote camping spots. Picture kayaking or canoeing on lakes so quiet, it feels pre-historic or hiking through verdant carpets of the vast trail systems in Maine. Or picture renting a log cabin for two, a fire in the fireplace and listening to the loons outside the screened in porch as the sun settles behind the silhouetted mountains across the lake. Maine is so big, so uncrowded, and a playground for the imaginative, that you’ll be glad you didn’t go that boring, predictable route to the Caribbean. A first anniversary trip back to the resort where you were married is a fun idea. Talk to a Maine travel agent or ask your wedding planner for other suggestions.

Lastly, Ladies, deep breaths, this is the journey, remember? Not the journey to Maine, the journey of exploring possibilities, the joy of envisioning a big day in your life—which is half the pleasure of researching the details for your wedding in the first place. So...a little research, a little cocoa, maybe a couple of calls, maybe a nap. You get the idea.