Rebecca and Trevor Lewis, who recently moved to Portland, had planned to get married in Hudson, New York, but, because of the coronavirus outbreak, got married in this field on Portland’s Eastern Promenade on April 11 – the same day they had planned – by a justice of the peace, attended by two witnesses they didn’t know.  Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

They are newlyweds now, but Rebecca and Trevor Lewis weren’t so sure they’d reach that milestone after the coronavirus wiped out months of wedding planning.

They became engaged last September, choosing April 11 as the wedding date and Rebecca’s hometown of Hudson, New York, as the location. Three weeks ago, they moved to Portland from Boston, quickly settling into their new home on Munjoy Hill while preparing for a life together, she in physical therapy at Maine Medical Center and he as a nursing student at the University of New England.

Rebecca and Trevor Lewis show off their wedding rings in a selfie after getting married in a small, impromptu ceremony on Portland’s Eastern Prom instead of her hometown of Hudson, N.Y., as planned. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Lewis

The fast-spreading contagion forced the couple to improvise. They snagged a marriage license from City Hall, lined up an officiant and witnesses in the last hour, and wed during a brief ceremony on Portland’s Eastern Prom. They celebrated with friends and family over Zoom, and instead of spending their honeymoon driving across the American Southwest as they had planned, they’re isolating in Portland, a city they hardly know, and getting ready for work and school in careers that somehow feel more dangerous and heroic than they did a few weeks ago.

Couples across Maine and those planning to be married in Maine are scrambling as the wedding plans they have spent months and sometimes years perfecting are thrown into disarray. Some are postponing, some are waiting and seeing, and others, like the newlywed Lewises, are moving boldly forward, adjusting their plans on the fly.

One couple from Northeast Harbor, Teresa and Bradley Gray, got married last week in the drive-thru lane of a local bank, convincing the bank manager to perform the ceremony from inside while they stood on the other side of the glass outside. They had planned a destination wedding in Florida.

Maine’s lucrative wedding industry is taking a hit, with waves of postponements affecting venues, bands, caterers, florists, photographers and, most of all, couples and their guests. Wedding planners are urging couples with summer and fall weddings to hold onto their plans as long as possible, and encouraging those who have had to postpone to scale back or otherwise adjust their plans and find open dates on nontraditional weddings days – weekdays or Sundays – in the summer or fall. Most couples are following that advice, but the uncertainty has created emotional and financial anxiety among brides, grooms and planners.

“It’s so difficult and so disappointing,” said bride-to-be Lauren Gadeberg, 31, who rescheduled an Ogunquit wedding from a Saturday in May to a Sunday in September. “A wedding is something I have dreamed of my whole life.” She grew up in Corinna, lives in Charlestown with her fiance, Michael Langdon, and has always dreamed of a coastal wedding, which she will still get.

Meredith Hurley of Bedford, New Hampshire, is still planning to get married on June 13, but at her family home in New Hampshire instead of Caswell Farm and Wedding Barn in Gray. She and her fiance, Carl Manders, are trying to schedule a celebration for their guests this fall at Caswell Farm, but it’s looking like it might be on a Monday in September, when some guests won’t be able to make it. “We will look back at having one really intimate, small wedding and a larger ceremony later, and it will be beautiful and amazing. But it’s a difficult situation right now,” Hurley said.

It’s also costly. They are paying for a Saturday wedding in June – “the high season  in Maine,” Hurley said – and will get a Monday in September. “The fall is beautiful,” she said. “But.”

Couples interviewed for this story said the change in plans would cost from about $1,000 up to $25,000 if they moved the ceremony to 2021 and risk sacrificing the deposits they’ve already paid. According to the Maine Center for Business and Economic Research, direct spending on weddings at Maine businesses and organizations totaled $205.9 million in 2017 and added $72 million in state and local taxes. Weddings attract 1 million visitors to the state each year and support more than 13,000 jobs, according to the report, with a total economic impact of $937 million.

Nearly all of that activity occurs between May and October. This year, large May weddings are off, June weddings are in doubt and July weddings are iffy at best. Many couples are postponing now to take away the guessing game, especially for guests who have to travel. But it’s nearly impossible to find open Saturdays in the fall. And who’s to say fall weddings will be permissible, and when they will know?

The uncertainty has led to angst.

“I wish the best to all the brides out there who are struggling,” said Bob Smith, a member of the management team at Sebasco Harbor Resort in Phippsburg, which canceled a handful of May weddings. “We can’t do anything for the next three to five weeks, but let’s play this out and let’s hope that you will still have that very special day. I think it’s way too early be worried about a September wedding and canceling now.”

Rebecca and Trevor Lewis dance during their Zoom wedding reception, with family and friends looking on. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Lewis

Maria Northcott, an officiant and owner of Maine Wedding Network, which connects wedding vendors in the state, said couples and planners are struggling together. “It’s nobody’s fault, and we’re all trying to do the best we can in terms of addressing the needs of our clients. And we are also needing to balance empathy and compassion for wedding couples with sustaining our businesses and keeping our businesses alive. This is unprecedented and painful for many couples, and equally challenging for us, who are looking at maybe half of our income for the year disappearing,” she said.

One enterprising planner has put together a wedding package for couples who want to move forward with certainty and safety. For $3,500, Gwenyth Weitkamp, owner of Fiddleheads & Finery Events Planning of Bangor, will plan a midweek “elopement package” between May 1 and Aug. 15 that includes a coastal location for the ceremony, photography and officiating, as well as a cake, flowers, hair, makeup and, when possible, assistance with hotel and dinner reservations. Guests will be limited to five, for a total of no more than 10 people involved in the ceremony, including the wedding couple.

She is targeting couples in limbo, and so far has had one inquiry. “It’s mostly a waiting game at this point. It’s been a lot of discussing and waiting and discussing and waiting. We don’t know how this is going to turn out,” she said. “I wanted to create something for people stuck in that situation.”

The Lewises, the Portland couple who wed on the Eastern Prom, didn’t want to wait. They moved to town knowing no one, disappointed they had to cancel their ceremony and honeymoon but still hopeful of getting married – somehow, somewhere – on April 11. As soon as they got to Portland, they applied for a marriage license by mail, because City Hall was closed. When their license failed to arrive, they assumed their application was languishing.

They resigned themselves to the disappointment of not being married on April 11 and decided to stage a symbolic ceremony and save the legal proceedings for later. “It would make us feel good. That felt like a good consolation, and we could get our families on Zoom,” Rebecca reasoned. “That was our plan.”

A few hours before that was going to happen, the mail arrived with their marriage license. “I was bouncing off the walls,” Rebecca said.

On impossibly short notice, they lined up an officiant, who brought along two witnesses. They staged an impromptu ceremony on the Eastern Prom, and that afternoon, back inside their new home, they got dressed up and staged the ring ceremony for their friends and family on Zoom.

“I have never done it the other way, but this felt much more intimate and special,” Rebecca said.

Her husband concurred. “It felt very unique and very intimate and personal. It was so full of love, and it just felt very much like the real thing.”


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