Editor’s note:

Weddings are meant to be fun and magical. They can often be expensive, stressful and full of surprises. And planning for them can cause the happiest couple to contemplate divorce before even tying the knot.

Over the next year, the Sun Journal will run a monthly feature involving local weddings. The brides and grooms, the photographers and caterers, the dressmakers and venues, the families and customs — information you can use, stories you don’t usually hear, and glimpses into The Big Day and its planning you don’t often see. 

Today, we start the series.

For a long time, Tomi Chipman did not like Sam Ricker.

When they were about 7, he’d abandoned her at the top of Sugarloaf, taking off to go ski back to his family’s cabin. Alone at the top of the mountain, she felt lost and scared and not at all inclined to forgive the boy whose parents were friends with her parents.

For his part, Sam didn’t think much about Tomi at all. Except to pick on her.

By the time they were in college, the children of two old Maine farm families had become friends. Then came a casual relationship.

Then a romance.

Last Thanksgiving, Ricker proposed at the top of a mountain in Colorado.

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“I was so surprised and it was so perfect,” Chipman said.

On July 22, 2017, they will get married.

The wedding will unite two of the area’s most well-known farm families — owners of Ricker Hill Orchards in Turner and Chipman Farms in Poland. Chipman, 23, is the eighth generation on her farm and Ricker, 24, is the ninth generation on his. 

They’re often asked if their wedding means a family farm merger.

“Definitely not a merger,” Chipman said. “But more of a partnering.”

Although their families are from different towns, Chipman and Ricker grew up together. Their fathers were friends. Their mothers met when they were pregnant with them. The two families bonded over ski racing and farming.

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In college, Chipman and Ricker did too.

They went to different schools — Bates College in Lewiston for her, the University of Maine at Farmington for him — but they raced in the same division and got to talking.

“It was just nice to talk with someone that was also from a family farm,” Chipman said. “I was just trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. We had a lot of the same opinions. That was when, I guess, we started liking each other.”

Chipman had planned to become a physical therapist, but she desperately missed the farm. She was initially afraid to tell her parents about it — they were paying a lot for her college education — but she wasn’t afraid to tell Ricker. 

“He said, ‘All I know is farming and I can’t picture myself anywhere else.’ That was exactly how I was feeling, I just hadn’t said it out loud yet,” Chipman said.

During their sophomore year, their friendship turned into a romantic relationship. Eventually, they each transferred to Penn State, where they could both ski and indulge their love of farming in agriculture classes.

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“They had a good mixture of vegetables, which was good for her, and tree fruit stuff that’s good for me,” Ricker said.

At some point around their senior year, Chipman realized their relationship was serious. Potentially marriage-level serious.

“I figured we could be really good together,” she said.

Last November, Ricker bought an engagement ring and tucked it away. They were driving from Maine to Colorado, where they would spend the winter teaching skiing.

“We stopped at Penn State to go to a football game and I was just looking for the opportunity to propose and it just like didn’t really come up,” Ricker said. “Then we were on top of (the ski resort) Vail on Thanksgiving overlooking the back holes and I was like, ‘Aha! This is good enough!'” 

Both families were excited to hear about the engagement. At least most members of the family.

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“I’m not sure your dad warmed up to the idea yet,” Ricker joked.

The couple chose July 22 for the wedding, a date that avoids the busiest times on the farms and falls between strawberry season and corn season. And it’s one day before her parents’ 28th wedding anniversary.

They’ve also chosen to get married on Ricker Hill’s new property in Greene, an orchard and wedding venue with views of Sabattus Lake, Mount Washington and Lewiston.

They haven’t quite figured out how many people to invite. She’d like 200 or so. He’d like closer to 400.

But life after the wedding? That they have figured out.

They plan to live in Turner. She will work on her family farm and he will work on his. 

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“And then maybe in the future we’ll start our own farm,” Chipman said.

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Sharing stories

Every wedding is different . . . and every wedding has a story. For the next year, we’d like to write about yours. But it’s only fair we share a couple from our staff first:

Casual bliss

The Austins have a unique version of fancy. Before heading down the aisle — actually, to the big boulder in the garden behind the Freeport Town Office — I spit out my gum and Paul took off his hat. The Justice of the Peace and our witnesses were strangers, and our photographer was a local reporter who happened to stop by the office seeking spot news: Alex Lear, who now writes for The Forecaster. I wore shorts and flip-flops. Paul was the one who wore white. Well, grey, actually, except for the stain by his belly button, a civilian outfit he borrowed from his dad. For those two weeks, his fatigues stayed in his ruck sack, and Iraq was “over there.”

— Abby Austin, Hartford

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A hot, rocky start

My husband and I got married when I was young and, clearly, impractical. (He was 24, I was 22.) I’d insisted on planning the honeymoon. For Orlando. In June.

When we arrived around midnight after a long day and a 10 a.m. wedding ceremony, the temperature was in the 90s and the humidity was in the 90th-percentile. So hot, so miserable, so tired. From the look on his face, I was nervous just for a moment that we’d be divorced right there on the tarmac.

I should have expected that. What we couldn’t have expected: Turning on the local news over the next few days to hear alternating stories about the raging summer wildfires and the latest animal death at Disney’s newly opened Animal Kingdom theme park.

Nothing says love like fire and a departed hippo.

By day three, when Jaws lunged out at us at the Universal theme park, we’d found our wedded bliss.

— Kathryn Skelton, Litchfield

Have a wedding story? Contact Lindsay Tice at [email protected] or 207-689-2854.


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