Andrea Gillespie, left, and Taylor Poro at their wedding in the wedding chapel in Kittery. Photo courtesy of Taylor Poro

Taylor Poro and Andrea Gillespie originally planned to exchange vows far from Maine – in Las Vegas.

The couple became engaged in 2014, but decided to postpone a wedding until their careers were more settled and involved less travel. Poro and Gillespie also felt overwhelmed by the idea of planning a big to-do, they said. The pandemic later prompted them to search for a venue close to their home in Rochester, New Hampshire.

Then Gillespie heard about the Firefly Wedding Chapel in Kittery. “It was just what we were looking for,” she said.

Firefly Wedding Chapel caters to couples who want more than a courthouse ceremony but don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on their big day. The average cost of a wedding in Maine is more than $29,000, according to wedding website The Knot, making the state pricier than most. Firefly’s four packages range from $950 to $2,100.

Owners Tara Price and Joaquin Gonzalez Pallares opened the secular venue in May at the Kittery Outlets strip mall, inside a former specialty sock store.

“I’m a firm believer that you shouldn’t go into debt for your wedding,” said Price.


She and Gonzalez Pallares hope to fill a niche that has expanded during the pandemic.

Joaquin Gonzalez Pallares and Tara Price opened Firefly Wedding Chapel in a former specialty sock store at the Kittery Outlets. The chapel caters to couples who want something more than a courthouse ceremony but don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on their big day. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Reuben Bell, editor of Real Maine Weddings and owner of Blue Elephant Events and Catering in Saco, said people are throwing big celebrations again. But concerns continue about travel and event costs. In his catering business, for example, Bell said he has been getting more inquiries for weekday weddings or events with fewer than 75 guests.

“The traditional ways of doing things are going like gangbusters post-pandemic, and I don’t think there’s been a decline,” he said. “But I think people are a little more budget-conscious and thinking a little more critically about where their dollars are going.”

Firefly Wedding Chapel isn’t the drive-thru you might be picturing. Couples schedule their ceremonies in advance, even if only by hours or days. The guest list can be as small as two witnesses (the minimum required in Maine) or as large as 30 people. There’s no kitsch, or at least it’s optional.

“Everybody says, ‘Like Elvis?’ ” said Gonzalez Pallares.

Price added, “We would be happy to bring in an Elvis impersonator if someone really wanted one. But that’s not really what we’re doing.”



Firefly’s owners were inspired by their own experience.

They met while living in Los Angeles. He is originally from Spain and has a professional background in tiling, design, and construction. She is originally from New Hampshire and works in TV production. In 2018, they married at a bed-and-breakfast in southern California with just five guests. The owners navigated every hiccup and made the day feel special, and the newlyweds were so impressed by the experience that they thought about trying to do the same.

“People who have big weddings, they hire coordinators,” said Price. “But people who don’t have big weddings, they need help too.”

The idea lingered until they moved to Maine just as the pandemic hit. The couple liked Kittery Outlets because of its free parking and convenience, but wanted the inside to feel miles away from the shoppers on the sidewalk.

The former sock store was painted black and yellow, but Gonzalez Pallares built a wall to create a foyer that separates the chapel from the storefront and creates a sense of privacy. The inside is now white with brick and dark wood accents. The décor is simple – white flowers in the arbor at the front, candles lining the aisle, chandeliers catching the light, and rows of chairs – not overwhelming.


The Firefly Wedding Chapel is located in a strip mall at the Kittery Outlets. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Ben Gamache has owned Kittery Outlets for about five years. All the spaces were vacant when he bought it except one (the DXL clothing store that is still there), and he has slowly leased other spaces to a barbershop, a marijuana dispensary and, now, a wedding chapel. He liked the idea when he first met his tenants and said he sees a growing demand for service businesses in these retail centers.

“Retail just generally around the country is taking a huge hit on the larger properties, but when you’re dealing with these outlet centers, I think service is part of the new market,” he said.

Couples can bring in a photographer or pick their own song, but the packages at Firefly include music and keepsake pictures. In one of the two private dressing rooms, there’s a small sign: “Forgot your bouquet? Don’t dismay.” The chapel’s borrow-a-bouquet option has three arrangements of fabric daisies, in white, pink and orange, to use if needed. The white one was Price’s.

“I felt silly when I wrote this,” said Price of the rhyme. “And then, lo and behold, someone forgot their bouquet.”

So far, the chapel has hosted only a handful of weddings. The owners said they know who their target audience is, but they’re still figuring out the best way to advertise to them. Firefly’s couples might not attend a big wedding expo, for example.

“Most of them have found us just by googling ‘micro weddings’ or ‘small affordable weddings,’ ” said Price.

Poro and Gillespie, both 35, met at a bingo game while they were both students at the University of South Dakota. Now, they both work at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard; Poro is an assistant planner and Gillespie is a chemist. They commute to work together and have two cats, Higgins and Grizzles.

After going over some basics about the wedding in a call with the Firefly owners, Poro and Gillespie married on Oct. 8. They had a few guests and went out for a seafood dinner with Gillespie’s parents. The only stressful moment came in the middle of the ceremony when Poro suddenly wondered if he and his about-to-become wife were supposed to have written their own vows. (You can, but you don’t have to.) Price, as the officiant, guided them through the rough spot.

“There was no stress at all,” said Gillespie. “All I remember feeling is happy.”

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