Couples from out of state come to Maine each year to be married, but with concerns about COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders in place, many local wedding vendors are having to work with clients through uncertainty. Katelyn Mallett Photography

SOUTH PORTLAND — Maine is a destination wedding spot for both in-state and out-of-state couples, but with social distancing regulations potentially extending into the summer, plans to marry in 2020 may have to change.

A University of Southern Maine study in May of 2019 reported that over $900 million is contributed to Maine’s economy through weddings and wedding tourism. The industry also supported over 13,000 Maine jobs in 2017.

As the virus continues to keep people from getting together, Maine wedding photographers, planners, and other vendors remain unsure of what will come in the year ahead, with peak season, June through September, approaching.

Sarah Goodwin, owner and creative director of event planning, design, and coordinating company Daisies & Pearls Merrymaking, based in South Portland, said she would describe the current situation in one word — “uncertain,” usually not an adjective that bodes well for an event planner.

Staying on top of the media, both local and national, has been helping Goodwin manage, she said.

While she had no events scheduled in March or April, she said that if social distancing continues into summer, her postponement and cancellation policies highlighted in her contract will remain.

“I think what has changed is that there was always the question of ‘what if,'” she said. “Usually that question was ‘What if it rains?’ Now it’s ‘What if we can’t together, can’t leave our homes, families and friends have to quarantine if they’re coming from out of state?’ Regardless of your profession, you should have a clause in your contract that deals with cancellations and postponements.”

Most wedding businesses in Maine are now revamping their contracts to include cancellations and rescheduling during worldwide events, like a pandemic, that are out of anyone’s control, said Connie Mills, owner of All In One Weddings.

Having to reschedule four April ceremonies, the Portland-based company is trying to give clients as many options as possible, said Mills. All In One Weddings gives clients a year and a half to find a new date.

Fiddleheads & Finery Event Planning, based in Bangor, had five weddings scheduled for June, and that list is now down to two, said owner Gwenyth Weitkamp.

“It is important to communicate (to couples) even when you don’t have all the answers available,” she said. “Communicate the best you can with the information you have available. Sometimes it’s hard to send an email, saying, ‘Hey, I still don’t know what’s going on, but do you need anything?’ But it’s important to be understanding.”

Elopements are catching the attention of many in the wedding business, said Katelyn Mallett of Katelyn Mallett Photography. The option to “get married now and have a party later” may appeal to engaged couples who had dreamed of marrying in 2020.

“The textbook definition of elopement is not the modern definition,” she said. “Elopement used to mean to run away and get secretly married, but it’s a day that’s completely focused around the two of you and your love. You take out all of the fluff. It’s just completely and authentically you and your love.”

Wedding photographer Katelyn Mallett said that she has been expanding into the elopement side of the business. Courtesy of Katelyn Mallett Photography

Even though Mallett said she can’t photograph right now, she is looking into working for more eloping couples.

“It’s something I’ve been pursuing before COVID-19, but now is a great time,” she said. “If we’re not allowed to have weddings of more than (a certain number of guests), if we want to keep working, we’ll have to accommodate for that. It’s a great option for couples who want a more low-maintenance wedding. They pick a few options, like what kind of flowers they like, what kind of cake, and where it will be, and then the rest is finished for them.”

“When we take the money out of it, I just want the couple to be happy,” Mallett added.

Fiddleheads & Finery will offer limited-time elopement packages this summer, which Weitkamp described as a more “streamlined” package.

“Of course, it’s all dependent on the stay-at-home order,” she said.

Not every aspect of the wedding industry is utilized in elopements, said Weitkamp, using wedding bands as an example, but being creative and looking at alternative ideas is important now more than ever.

“I would encourage everyone to work well together,” she said. “We all want Maine’s economy to grow. I want us all to be collaborative.”

If couples don’t want something smaller, Mills said that All In One Weddings has been relocating some events that were scheduled for the summer into the winter season, as the company also offers destination weddings in Florida.

The precariousness of the situation means that staying flexible is necessary, she added.

“I’ve learned to have a calm demeanor, and trying to remain calm is my main job,” Mills said. “After we all go through this, I can’t imagine there’d be anything else that would create this much havoc again. This would be something to add to our experience. Onward and upwards.”

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