By Haleigh Couture
Restrictions are lifted and yet COVID-19 has made a lasting imprint on the Maine wedding industry. Having to plan a wedding by complying with state restrictions has left couples feeling uncertain about what their future wedding may look like.
The dynamic of wedding planning has shifted. Newly engaged couples are opting for simplicity rather than grand, lavish weddings. More sustainable options such as do-it-yourself (DIY) wedding trends are expected to stay.
Tricia Sherman and Brendon Tolman of Greenville, have been engaged since May of 2019. The couple had originally planned to marry in August of 2020, but due to heavy state restrictions which called to cut guest lists at no more than 50 people, they decided to postpone the wedding.
“We initially didn’t suspect the pandemic to last as long as it has,” said Sherman. “When we began planning again after canceling the first time, we didn’t want to have to comply with any mandates.”
In April of 2021, the couple decided to make a few major changes. Originally, planning for a wedding with a guestlist of 250 people, has now been cut to roughly 100 people. The couple said at the time of having to make the call to cut, it was the wisest decision because mandates were not yet lifted.
“Back in April, we decided to cut because we knew we wanted to get married and not have to keep pushing back our date to comply with restrictions,” said Tolman. “It was better to cut and pray that the mandates would eventually lift than have to cancel for a second time.”
Under current lifted restrictions, the couple is still opting to keep their smaller guestlist. The ceremony will take place in the couple’s backyard, with a smaller reception held indoors at their local tavern.
“Backyard weddings I think are really becoming a popular choice, because people are able to not worry as much about social distance outdoors,” said Sherman. “Maine is certainly becoming more popular this year for outdoor weddings because of the pandemic.”
David Jaffe and Alex Lutch have been engaged for over a year. The two planned early on to get married at Lutch’s family home in Biddeford Pool. After just two months into the planning process, the couple decided to cancel the wedding. Like most couples, the restrictions were too much to have a fully functioning wedding.
“We planned to have our wedding in the summer of 2020, but once we decided to cancel, we just talked about switching it to August of 2021,” said Jaffe. “We only told the immediate family of our decision at first, because we didn’t want to risk having to cancel again.”
Contracts and deposits for the photographer, musicians, and catering were able to be switched over to this year without penalty, according to the couple. Once the state announced on May 24 the lifting of social distancing, masks wearing, and total number for gatherings both indoors and outdoors, the couple began to notify all their guests.
“In the grand scheme of things, Alex and I both agreed to have our wedding whenever it was the safest time,” said Jaffe. “Fortunately, we will still be able to have 150 people without having to cut any.”
The wedding ceremony will take place outside Lutch’s family home in their backyard. Both Jaffe and Lutch said that choosing to be married in Maine has worked out because Maine is accommodating for ceremonies opting to be outdoors.
“Maine is where we always planned to get married,” said Jaffe. “I think as far as weddings in the state of Maine go, people just need to keep getting vaccinated and that will tell a lot for the future of Maine’s wedding industry.”
Couples from all over are starting to craft new wedding traditions. Micro weddings are not going to be a thing of the past. Couples are increasingly gravitating towards more intimate, private sized weddings. This is a trend that is predicted to continue for years as a post-pandemic tradition.
People are showing caution by opting for smaller weddings due to the fact that there’s still a likelihood of having restrictions imposed once again. COVID-19 and the Delta variant are still posing a major threat to the wedding industry.
Nature-focused weddings are becoming a major trend which Maine is seeing as a positive. The pandemic has driven people to seek outdoor venues for their weddings. Hospitality of Maine Director of Government Affairs, Greg Dugal said lodging sales for April were up 554% over the last year. He said, weddings account for at least 15% of the overall hospitality industry, a large portion attributing to lodging percentages.
Having a minimalist-styled wedding has also become a predicted post-pandemic trend. Sherman and Tolman, are planning a very basic backyard, minimalist-style wedding. Instead of having a caterer, the couple is having a close friend do all the cooking.
Having a minimalist mindset is going with the “less is more” mentality. Backyard weddings are a major contributor to the minimalist mindset. Couples can ensure a safe location by opting for more intimate, closed wedding areas.
Virtual weddings are a great way to ensure the safety of each of the guests. Not everyone feels comfortable attending a wedding currently. Not to mention, many couples have strict expectations for their guests to adhere to; vaccinations are one of those crucial expectations. By having a virtual wedding, couples don’t have to worry about everyone’s vaccination status.
Travel restrictions have been a major issue for destination weddings. Now, instead of couples opting for international travel, they are looking more so for domestic venues. This is a trend that has tremendously aided in the Maine hospitality industry and wedding industry.
Couples living in metropolitan areas are looking for venues more so in the Maine area. Greg Dugal is optimistic stating that Maine has become a beacon for destination weddings.
Although July has proven to be one of the wettest months in recent history for the state of Maine, New Englanders are sticking with the saying, “If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.”