You’re newly engaged and have decided to take your wedding on the road: you’re coming to Downeast Maine! Congratulations! With the breathtaking scenery, friendly people and fantastic wedding options, it’s no secret why more and more people are coming to our beloved state to marry their beloved. While this is a most exciting time for newly engaged couples, it also can prove to be a very stressful one. Planning a wedding close to home can be a taxing part time job, planning one from afar, often from halfway across the country or more can have you contemplating a courthouse elopement before you’ve booked your first vendor.
Having planned hundreds of weddings, many of which are with couples that do not live in Maine, our team at Bar Harbor Catering Company certainly have had a unique perspective on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to planning from afar. There have been tears of joy and tears of other sorts, but we’re here to share some of what we’ve learned to help you create the magical Maine wedding you’ve been dreaming of.
Make a budget and Prioritize
As with any wedding, it’s important to discuss which facets of the day are the most important to you individually and as a couple. Make a list of “must -haves” and allot the budget accordingly. (Yes, you should also have a budget. Sigh.) Are you a big foodie who wants to lavish their guests with a five course sit down meal? A music fan who needs a peppy live band? Been dreaming of an island wedding and the location is set in stone? Whatever your non-negotiables are, be sure to write a list to refer to throughout these initial planning stages. (Keep it handy — you’ll need it later!)
With the growing popularity of Maine as a wedding destination, it’s important to have some degree of flexibility as you are starting to piece together your dream day. If your date is firm, it is helpful to be flexible on some of your vendors, and alternatively, if you are set on your venue (or other high priority vendors), it is helpful to be flexible on dates.
When you are ready to start reaching out to vendors, you are essentially “interviewing" companies for a coveted spot on your wedding’s “A” team. Don’t disregard things like the time it takes a vendor to respond (this sets the stage for how long you’ll be waiting during your entire planning process), the clarity with which they are able to answer your questions and how well they align with your priorities list and budget. Ask about total (or hidden costs), the timeframe within which you are allowed to make changes and if there are fees for doing so. For more detailed look at the total potential costs of your venue, read more here.
Don’t overlook the obvious — be sure to ask about whether or not the vendor is available on your date and how they handle bookings. You are not officially booked with most vendors unless they have a signed contract and deposit in hand, no matter how many times you’ve chatted. Don’t be afraid to ask if there are other clients that have inquired about your date, or if they are willing to give you first refusal on the date. To help avoid disappointment, when you know you’d like to book, let them know ASAP.
Your event is coming together, you’ve hired your dream team and you’re getting ready to officially invite your guests. We know what Maine is: beautiful, unique, one-of-kind, and often very, very remote. The very reasons why you wanted your wedding in Maine in the first place, can also become some of the most unwelcome surprises for your guests if they aren’t properly informed on what to expect.
What to Wear:
Many Maine weddings are in remote, outdoor locations. This means walking on uneven surfaces like grass or beach pebbles. Advise your guests to bring sensible shoes (sorry stiletto lovers), and layers. Be practical about the weather your guests are used to, families coming from Miami for instance, will undoubtedly be cold, even in the summer, in Maine. If you are planning excursions for the wedding day or otherwise, be sure to clearly communicate the activities your guests can expect and the proper attire for each. A wedding website is the perfect place to convey such information.
Can’t get there from here.
We highly recommend that hosts provide transportation as part of any successful event, especially in less populated areas of the state or anytime alcohol is being served. If you are unable to provide transport for all of your guests, be sure to do your research before hand — many of the areas we serve do not have public transport, taxis or Uber.. Imagine the last image your friends have of your wedding is trying to hitch rides back to their hotels with your photographer!
The way life should be…
Maine is called vacationland for a reason. We’ve found that with very rare exception, RSVP rates for Downeast Maine weddings can be 80-90% or higher. Plan your event for your full invite list.
Can’t make it to Maine? Adopt a Mainer.
As a vendor, we always find it helpful to have an in state contact for a couple that isn’t going to be in the area at all during the wedding planning process. This person should ideally should be a trusted friend, family member, or planner. This person can attend a tasting, or act as a host during a site visit for an event held at a private property (this isn’t necessary for popular venues).
Consider hiring a planner
If you have an over scheduled life (you know who you are), with a busy job, are pursuing a higher level degree, have a baby on the way, are planning a house purchase or major move, or all of the above, please for the love of all that is holy, hire a planner. You don’t have time enough to tie your shoes as it is, and you (and everyone in your life), will thank you later.
Give yourself a pat on the back; you’ve made a budget, a prioritized list of vendors and perhaps hired a planner. You’ve made some calls, chatted with some of the fine folks in Maine (they’re so nice!), and booked your must-have vendors. Stay tuned for the next installment of wedding tips from Bar Harbor Company and don’t hesitate to reach out directly with any questions you may have regarding your Downeast Maine Wedding. Cheers!
Mandy Fountaine is the owner of Bar Harbor Catering Company, lifelong Mainer and lover of all things food and travel related.