NORWAY — Atop a 1,000-foot mountain in western Maine, Granite Ridge Estate & Barn is booked for 26 weddings this year, 19 next year and three so far in 2021.

Weddings average 150 guests, all of whom arrive by limousine or bus. They use local florists, catering, makeup artists and bakeries.

“We probably have 20 to 25 Maine vendors that are servicing (each one),” said co-owner and co-founder Jill Fratianne DiSaverio. “There are so many that are touched by the revenue.”

On Monday, the University of Southern Maine released “Marry ME,” a first-ever study measuring the impact of the wedding industry on Maine. It pegged direct and indirect spending at $937 million in 2017.

Laura Yeitz, a research analyst at the Maine Center for Business and Economic Research who authored the report with Ryan Wallace, called that a conservative estimate. The nearly $1 billion figure does not include spending on related events, such as honeymoons, bachelor or bachelorette parties.

While some tourism-related industries, such as cruises and breweries, have been well tracked for statewide impact, the same has not been true of weddings, Yeitz said.

“The economic contribution and the number of people that are coming into the state for weddings was just really surprising,” she said.

Among the report’s findings:

• The wedding industry supported more than 13,600 jobs in 2017.

• Nearly one-third of the 9,697 weddings here in 2017 were nonresident, destination weddings.

• Weddings drew 931,000 overnight visitors, who stayed an average 3.3 nights.

• Direct spending was estimated at $205.9 million. The rest came from measures, such as wages, spending by those overnight guests and multiplier effects.

Nationally, weddings are a $78 billion industry and growing, according to market researchers IBISWorld.

Yeitz said they spent several months looking at national wedding data, regional modeling and tourism data, among other information.

Nadra Edgerley and Heidi Curry, who co-founded the Maine Wedding Report, commissioned USM for the study.

Curry, who owns the William Allen Farm, with a wedding barn venue in Pownal, said the hope is more public and private marketing dollars can be spent on boosting the industry in Maine.

“When guests are coming into towns for weddings, they’re buying gas, they’re doing a little shopping, they’re eating out, they’re doing all the things that someone who booked a vacation is doing while they are here, and hopefully they’re coming back,” Curry said.

She hosts 25 weddings a year, and about 80% are people from other states.

“We’ve had a groom whose family was from Chile. We had a groom whose family was from Greece,” she said. “Lots of West Coast folks traveling here. Maine tends to be on people’s bucket lists, so when they get an invitation to a wedding here, they make it happen.”

At Granite Ridge Estate & Barn in Norway are, from left: Jill Fratianne DiSaverio, co-owner; Gabe DiSaverio, general manager and co-founder; Michelle Fratianne, on-site operations manager; and Anthony Fratianne, co-owner.

Fratianne’s parents built Granite Ridge Estate, and after she and her husband, Gabe DiSaverio, got married there in 2013, they were inspired, along with her brother, Anthony, to build a wedding barn there and make it a business.

Similarly, 75% to 80% of their wedding couples are from outside Maine, with a lot of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey.

“There’s typically a tie to Maine,” said DiSaverio, who is now general manager. “Our first wedding of the year, they live in California now but the husband’s from northern New Hampshire.

“We’ve had a couple people who are from away but went to college in Maine, went back away but fell in love with Maine during their four years here and they wanted to have their wedding here.”

Jill Fratianne DiSaverio said couples report being drawn by the privacy and being able to unplug.

“Maine is never going to go out of style,” she said. “Mountains and earth and nature — there’s a big resurgence back to that.”

The ripple effect of wedding-related spending is not limited to cakes and caterers and vendors.

When she and her brother wanted more off-site space for guests, they bought a dilapidated townhouse downtown two years ago and turned it around.

“Now it’s a gorgeous part of Main Street,” she said.


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