CARIBOU, Maine — U.S. Sen. Susan Collins married longtime Senate senior staff member and consultant Thomas A. Daffron in a small ceremony attended by about 50 people on Saturday.
The Rev. Dr. Thomas Bentum performed the ceremony at 11 a.m. at Gray Memorial United Methodist Church, the church long attended by Collins’ father, Donald.
The bride wore an off-white, sleeveless, full-length gown that observers admired for its class and simplicity, while the groom, escorted by University of Maine athletic director and former Collins chief of staff Steve Abbott, wore a navy blue suit.
“I’m so happy to be married in my hometown,” Collins said as she exited the church at about 12:15 on her way to Caribou Inn and Convention Center, where the wedding reception will be held.
Abbott said that the bride was more nervous after the wedding rehearsal dinner than she was Saturday morning, while the opposite was true of the groom. Both are scheduled to leave for a honeymoon today at an undisclosed location
Though U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted Collins’ engagement party and all 17 female senators and former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor attended the women-only bash, only family and some longtime family friends attended the nuptials. That’s about 60 people, said the Republican senator’s spokesman, Kevin Kelley.
The 59-year-old Collins told the Bangor Daily News when the couple announced the engagement in February that she was debating holding the ceremony in Bangor, where she lives now, or her hometown.
“What matters the most to me is to have my family there and Tom’s family there,” Collins said in February.
Mainers have made her wedding plans a constant topic of conversation with Collins since she and Daffron announced their wedding plans in February, Kelley said.
“She is incredibly appreciative of the outpouring of support she has received from all over the state from people who are very happy for her,” Kelley said Friday.
“It means a lot to her to have her wedding in her hometown and to share this day with those whom she loves the most,” Kelley added. “It has also been incredibly challenging for her to plan a wedding while carrying out her day-to-day duties as a United States senator.”
The 73-year-old Daffron is the chief operating officer of Jefferson Consulting Group, a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm, where he oversees day-to-day operations. Before joining that business, Daffron held several senior management positions in government and the private sector.
Originally from New York City, Daffron has served as chief of staff to former Sens. Bill Cohen of Maine and Fred Thompson of Tennessee. He also served as chief of staff to Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and was the national campaign manager for the presidential campaign of Elizabeth Dole.
He met Collins when both worked for Cohen in the late 1970s, but they didn’t develop a more personal relationship until the last few years, Collins has said.
Collins’ sisters, Kathleen Wiesendanger and Nancy Collins, served as matron of honor and bridesmaid, respectively. They wore un-identical blue dresses.
The senator carried a bouquet of ivory wedding tea roses and discovery blue iris. Her sisters carried the same bouquet, but smaller — and those colors were echoed in the decor of the church and reception hall.
This is Collins’ first marriage and Daffron’s second. They held the wedding rehearsal dinner on Friday night at Eureka Hall Restaurant in Stockholm.