Wedding Bells . . . at a Distance
Planning a Destination Wedding
by Robin Bonner
A Favorite Place
Amie and her boyfriend were engaged that summer, and Todd was along on the trip. So, it was no big surprise when, near the end of the week, Amie blurted out, "Mom, wouldn’t this be a great place for a destination wedding?!" They had attended such a wedding in Vail, Colorado, just the month before and were impressed with the whole idea. My heart sank. A destination wedding? We live near Philadelphia and Amie near Los Angeles. In my mind, Philly, LA, and Bar Harbor, Maine, formed almost a perfect triangle—you couldn’t get much further away from one another on the continental U.S. And, we all were very busy people. It sounded impossible.
The Information Age
Amie used Google Maps to locate venues on the island. Some hotels and inns offered "Wedding Links" on their sites to other related vendors. My husband Gary and I also did some checking around, and we all discussed our findings. In fact, throughout the entire process, we were in touch by email and telephone almost daily.
Before long, Amie had planned a fall reconnaissance mission in Maine by web, email, and phone. We had appointments to view reception sites and a date with a wedding planner. (We planned to pick her brain clean.) We needed ceremony and reception sites, flowers, a photographer, music, a cake, transportation, tuxes, hotels, and restaurants. Our work was cut out for us.
In addition to the wedding, Amie and Todd wanted to offer their guests a fun-filled weekend: A brunch, a hike, popovers, and lobster were all in their plans. Most destination weddings are held in a particular location because it is beautiful. This beautiful place was special to our family, and Amie wanted to share it with her wedding guests. The rocky cliffs, crashing waves, and sleepy mast-dotted harbors would serve as a backdrop for Amie and Todd’s special day.
It was mid-October. We picked Amie and Todd up in Boston after their overnight flight from LA and did the 5+ hour drive to Mount Desert Island. We checked into our B&B, just in time to meet with the wedding planner at 3:00 p.m. Judie Noonan of Eden Weddings had a Downeast friendliness and a knowledge of just about everything on the island related to a wedding. She also seemed to know everyone on the island! (Most Mount Desert Island weddings, she told us, were destination weddings—there were too few year-round residents to provide the business.)
Judie gave us tips on what to expect (and what not to expect) at various venues. Off the top of her head, she named florists, photographers, and musicians. (We later confirmed these as "tops" with the venues we visited.) We told her where we already had appointments, and she told us what she knew about them. In the decade she had been in business, she had planned weddings at every venue we mentioned. We talked about our budget, and she made a lot of suggestions, from holding a catered dinner at a community center to having a full sit-down dinner at one of the island’s nicest resorts. I finally had the comfort level I needed to feel that maybe we weren’t completely crazy to go this route.
Amie and Todd wanted to have their wedding ceremony outdoors—on the rocks overlooking Frenchman’s Bay. Judie was a great help here. She showed us several outdoor sites within Acadia National Park where she had organized weddings successfully. Because of the park’s one-way Loop Road, which can be confusing to out-of-towners, she suggested hiring "Oli's Trolleys" of Bar Harbor to shuttle everyone from the reception site to the wedding site, then back again. That way, there would be little chance of anyone missing the wedding because of misconstrued directions. And, the trolleys would add a little Downeast flair to the event. We would also secure an indoor venue, as a bad-weather backup.
We also interviewed and selected other Mount Desert Island wedding vendors. Janice Strout would make the cake. (You wouldn’t believe the delicacies this woman puts together for weddings, and all the reputable places use her.) Photographer Donna Just would take very good care to record the special day. She’s a former social worker, in the wedding photography business for more than a decade now. Who better to work with a nervous bride and groom, and two families just getting to know one another? Laurie of Cottage Flowers works out of her barn studio, a stone’s throw from her home. She grows her own flowers and specializes in unique and stunning seasonal arrangements. She won us over immediately with her friendly manner and portfolio of beautiful floral creations.
Home and on a Roll
Amie and Todd put together an information sheet with travel info and a website. Wedding websites, in vogue at the moment, can provide the couple’s "story," an intro about their families, details on wedding travel and booking lodging, and bridal registries—ideas for gift giving. And, they can be updated with new or further information as it becomes available.
One drawback to sending a Save the Date Card is that a guest list needs to be pretty well set at that point, a lot earlier than you would need to do it otherwise. But, that does get everyone thinking. And, it also necessitates getting a mailing database done—which will be needed later, to mail the actual invitations. Gary took care of printing mailing labels: He created a database of guests in Microsoft Access from Amie’s Excel guest spreadsheet. He also dealt with getting everything printed, which was no small feat.
continued in part two...
© 2007 Spring Mount Publications