So, what can prospective newlyweds do if they don’t relish the idea of dumping nearly an entire year’s income into their nuptials? Well, if they happen to be Tom and Lori Merrill of Wiscasset, they throw themselves a “redneck wedding.”

Lori, 54, works in the medical department at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles in Augusta, where she processes license restrictions. A self-described “Maine girl,” she enjoys camping, hunting, fishing, four-wheeling and snowmobiling. In that regard, she met her soul mate of sorts four years ago when introduced by friends to Tim, who works for N.A. Construction in Boothbay.

“Tim and I are pretty much easy going,” said Lori in a recent interview, soon after returning from a Florida honeymoon. “We do everything together, even to tearing down the four-wheeler and fixing it together.”

“We’re just down-to-home people who don’t care what people say about us,” agreed Tim, citing such social nonchalance as his definition of “redneck.”

That attitude of not standing on airs typifies the Merrills’ relationship. Last summer, while Tim and his brother Michael were working on the hand pump to the well at the family camp site, the question arose of when Tim was finally going to make an “honest woman” of his longtime girlfriend.

“Well,” Tim said, pulling a ring from the Moen faucet, “if this fits her finger, I guess we’re engaged.”

It did, and Lori proudly wore the faucet ring for almost four months, until Christmastime, when Tim replaced it with a more traditional diamond.

For Lori, the engagement capped a return to form, after having suffered a series of personal losses, including the unexpected death of her first husband, as well as both of her parents, and the loss of a daughter.

“During this time, she was a curmudgeon, short-fused and obviously depressed,” said Eric Bellavance of Lewiston, who has worked alongside Lori at the BMV for more than 15 years and calls her “a rough-and-tumble lady with a heart of gold.”

But meeting Tim, 46, was a sea change in Lori’s life.

“From then on we had the old Lori back,” said Bellavance. “She seemed very happy and started wearing colors other than black. One day, she even showed up to work with a dress on — we were all shocked!”

The only other time Bellavance has seen Lori in a dress, he said, was on her wedding day, although that was a gown made of camouflage material. In keeping with the “redneck” theme, Lori’s veil was attached to a baseball cap, also in camo, which was decorated with birds, butterflies and moss.

At the wedding, held in the dooryard of the Merrill’s Wiscasset home, Lori’s maid-of honor, her sister Cynthia Craig, and her bridesmaid, stepdaughter Ashlee Merrill, wore similar camo-couture. Tim and his best man, brother Michael, as well as Lori’s son James Ezzell, who gave the bride away, and her grandson Isaac, who served as ring bearer, also wore “redneck tuxedos.” These included white shirts with camo vests, hats and shorts, along with work boots and ties of hunter orange.

Lori’s bouquet was made by another of her co-workers, Leslie Ryan, as were boutonnieres worn by the men. All featured shotgun shells mixed in with the flowers.

The ring-bearer’s pillow, made like the veil, by Lori’s BMV boss Anne Turgeon, had camo material on one side and a big ol’ fish on the other. The rings themselves came attached to the pillow by carabiner clips (these clips are often used in keychains).

“We put the rings right on the clips so Isaac couldn’t lose them, because, being three, who knows where they were going to end up,” explained Lori, with a laugh.

The audience, nearly 100 strong, dressed similarly, having been clued in to the theme by wedding invitations that featured Tim and Lori atop their four-wheelers.

“It was funny to see,” said Bellavance. “One lady had a skirt and blouse on while wearing knee-high rubber muck boots.”

“It was hard for me at first because they didn’t let me dress up,” said longtime friend Pam Chandler of Woolwich, who, as a justice of the peace, officiated at the ceremony. A notary pubic for nearly 20 years, Chandler performed her first wedding ceremony while dressed in shorts and a T-shirt.

“They wanted me to wear boots, too,” she said, “but I did finally get them to let me where a pair of nice sandals.”

Sandals, however, made getting in place for the ceremony a challenging proposition. After she was escorted in on a golf cart — accompanied by the song, “Pontoon,” by Little Big Town — Lori, Tim, and the entire wedding party clamored inside the Merrills’ pontoon boat, which sat on a trailer attached to a truck parked in the yard. Blue turf grass was laid around the boat to give it the illusion of being out on the lake.

The July 19 ceremony was also, said Chandler, her first time marrying a couple from inside a boat, on or off the water.

“We could certainly see the entire crowd from up there,” she said. “Still, I was not surprised. They do a lot of four-wheeling and camping and going out on the boat, so it all made sense.”

Chandler helped the Merrills write their vows, specially crafted to fit the redneck theme. Along with loving and honoring, Tim promised to “always lift the lid” on the toilet seat and to replace the toilet paper roll when empty. Lori, meanwhile, promised to always follow Tim with the push mower, an inside joke referencing the couple’s side job mowing lawns.

“After each of us works a full day, we come home and do it all together,” said Tim. “We don’t always get much done around our house, but we sure get others’ yards cleaned up and looking nice.”

“People did laugh, because Tim is notorious for taking off on the best mower, the ‘zero-turn’ riding mower, and leaving Lori behind with the old push mower,” said Chandler.

After the ceremony, the Merrill’s saluted their guests to the tune of Toby Keith’s “Red Solo Cup,” a specially printed beer cozy to mark the occasion being the gift to all attendees.

Red Solo cups also featured in the decorations at the Merrills’ potluck reception, affixed to shooting targets on birch bases as table centerpieces. Meanwhile, beer cans were pressed into duty as wind chimes and, cut up, as decorative whirligigs, while hubcaps served as flower cases.

Four wedding cakes on multi-tiered, 14-inch birch log bases featured different themes: Camping, hunting, fishing and four-wheeling. On one cake, the bride and groom appeared to be shooting at wild game placed atop another cake.

Finally, as guests boogied to country music by Boothbay Harbor band Murky Water, the Merrills’ big day ended with a bonfire, newly legal fireworks, and blasts from a genuine cannon, borrowed from a friend.

“I didn’t stay for the bonfire or fireworks,” said Bellavance, ”but I did get to hear the cannon go off a few times during my drive home.”

The Merrills’ wedding “was not traditional by any sort,” said Lori, but that’s just the way she wanted it.

“We wanted to have a wedding that was stress-free and relaxing,” she said. “We didn’t want to be pressured with anything that had to be done like this, or like that. We just wanted to have fun and for everyone to have a good time.”

In that, the couple apparently succeeded. Lori said that on a scale of one to 10, her wedding was “at least a 15 or a 20.”

“Everybody’s still talking about it,” she said. “They want to know what we’re doing for an encore next year, on our first anniversary.”

Perhaps one reason the wedding went over so well, said Chandler, is that the Merrills never lost sight of what was at the heart of the ceremony, the purpose of all the merriment. Anyone who plans a themed wedding, redneck or otherwise, would do well to keep the same focus, she said.

“People should do what they want to do, but a wedding ceremony is a serious venue, so you can’t really make light of it too much. With Tim and Lori, even though it was ‘redneck,’ and even with the funny vows and everything, there was still a lot of respect for the ceremony itself. There was a lot of heart to it. It was still very, very nice,” said Chandler.

“The way we did it was the best way to go. That’s the way I feel about it anyhow,” said Tim, of the wedding that ended up being low cost and high value. “It all came together pretty easy because we worked on it together, like we do everything.

“But just getting married to Lori,” he said, “that was the best part of it.”


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