Brian and Julie Sullivan have owned the Bear Mountain Inn in Waterford for five years, rehabbing it from a “standard bed and breakfast” into an all-inclusive wedding venue. The inn has 35 weddings booked in 2022, starting in mid-April and going through Thanksgiving, and 2023 dates are 75% filled. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

If you’re hoping to get married this year and you haven’t booked your vendors, forget about it.

The wedding rebound from COVID-19 postponements is in full swing in Maine. Many vendors are booked far into 2023. Bear Mountain Inn in Waterford has already filled its wedding quota for next year by 75%, co-owner Brian Sullivan said in a recent phone interview.

The rebound started last year, he said.

“2020 was a year we don’t want to remember,” he said. “It was supposed to be the best year ever. We had 23 weddings booked and then of course the world got canceled.”

In 2021, things improved. The inn hosted 38 weddings that year. With 26 weekends in the traditional wedding season — May through October — that meant multiple weddings on the same day, Sullivan said.

And couples still worried about 2021 began eyeing 2022. Sullivan said the inn was almost fully booked last spring for 2022.


“Couples were getting nervous,” he said. “They knew there would be a surge and wanted to find a venue so they could get on with planning.”

He has 35 weddings booked for this year, he said, including some small “intimate” gatherings and weekday dates, especially during the summer.

“Maine is a beautiful state and people plan their vacations around (weddings),” he said.

Which is why those in the Maine wedding industry hope COVID-19 stays in the rear-view mirror. During the wedding season of 2020, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines restricted indoor gatherings to 50 or fewer people. That meant people had to get creative, Sullivan said.

One couple who had planned a big wedding in Boston decided to get married on a smaller scale at the inn in Maine.

“We did a Zoom ceremony so the family in India could watch,” he said. “The family was there on a big projection screen for the whole thing.” The reception was held later that year.


So-called “micro weddings,” attended by 40 or fewer people, were the go-to in 2020, but that is turning around this year.

Nearly 2.5 million weddings are expected to be held nationwide this year, the most since 1984, according to the Wedding Report, a trade group that gathers data by surveying vendors and customers. By comparison, 1.3 million weddings were held in 2020 and 1.9 million in 2021.

But don’t call this surge a boom, said Maria Northcott of Bath, a wedding officiant who founded the Maine Wedding Network.

It’s simply a catch-up for vendors who lost income over the past two years, she said.

“More weddings might seem like a wonderful thing, but it’s very challenging for those of us who booked in advance,” she said. “This has actually been the most difficult year for me in 11 years.”

The difficulty is that she has been booked for this year since August 2021. Clients pay in advance, so she has had no cash flow this winter, she said.


She typically performs 20 ceremonies per season. Last year she officiated at 30 weddings, of which 16 were rescheduled from 2020. That meant she only got new income from four of the 16, she said.

It will take another two years for her and other vendors to see a return of income, she said.

Wedding photographer Emily Delamater of Bridgton, who took this photo and many more for a recent wedding, said the past two years have been a “crazy time for everyone” as couples and providers have “worked together to find new dates” for COVID-delayed weddings. “The puzzle pieces that needed to come together were really challenging.”


Nick Orgo, owner of M.A.I.N.E. Catering in Bridgton, agreed that the surge is not a boom but a rebound. “It’s a recouping of money lost during the pandemic,” he said.

He still has some bookings from 2019 that have been rescheduled to this year, he said.

He said he typically caters 100 weddings per year. Last year, it was 140, with 32 of those dates falling on weekdays.


“It’s a very busy time, definitely a hectic time, a very hectic time for the business,” he said. “It’s also hard to find staffing.”

Orgo is vice president of the Maine chapter of the National Association of Caterers and Event Planners. He said many Maine vendors decided to downsize this year to 90-100 weddings instead of the 130 or more they took on last year.

“It was just too stressful,” he said.

This year, Orgo has weddings booked for every weekend from the second week of April to the end of November.

And most couples are splurging on grand affairs, he said, because they saved money during the pandemic by not going out much.

“It’s a blessing,” he said. “I can’t complain.”


Weddings are a $1.2 billion industry in Maine, with most clients coming from other states, Orgo said.

“Maine is typically in the top five states in the country for weddings,” he said. “This past year, it was No. 2, behind Hawaii, for destination weddings.”

Nationwide, a majority of this year’s weddings were rescheduled from the past two years, with 20% rescheduled from 2021, according to the Wedding Report.

Its recent survey showed more small weddings, but also some “huge, elaborate” affairs.

That rings true for wedding planner Meagan Gilpatrick of Maine Seasons Events in Brunswick. She said that even though people are still aware of the risks of COVID-19 (many are requiring pre-event testing and proof of vaccination), big weddings are all the rage this year.

“Surprisingly, most of our 2022 clients are opting for big celebrations with more extravagant extras,” she said. “The look and feel, the design of the event is even more important now to our clients and they want to create interactive, fun weekend celebrations with their guests’ experience carefully considered.”


After two years of social distancing, “our clients are very ready to spend time together and celebrate,” Gilpatrick said.

Couples are less willing than in the past to trim guest lists to reduce costs, and are opting to spend more money for the details they want, she said.

She said wedding date inquiries from clients who wanted to get married this year increased by 85% over 2020. Couples now are booking two years in advance.

“This has created a challenge in finding venues and wedding vendor teams for many key dates, and many clients are not aware of this situation,” she said. “Pushing out to a 2023 wedding date may be necessary at this point.”

Another thing to keep in mind: Pandemic supply-chain delays have limited the availability of certain materials, and food, flowers and rentals, Gilpatrick said, which in turn has caused costs to rise.

“Delivery vehicles and adequate staffing have also caused an impact on weddings. Planning early, flexibility, both in budget and event vision, as well as patience, are required more than ever when planning a wedding in these current times,” she said.


“Clients are very surprised at how much costs have increased,” Gilpatrick said, “and we do a lot of education about the realistic cost to have the wedding they envision for the guest count they prefer.”

The average cost of a Maine wedding is about $25,000, according to WeddingWire, an online trend tracker. That’s a bit lower than the national average of $27,000.

“The biggest chunk of your wedding budget should be reserved for your venue and catering, which will set you back an average of $12,200 if you’re getting married in Maine,” according to Wedding Wire.

The overall cost nationwide increased from about $22,000 in 2021, according to the Wedding Report.

Increases can be blamed on inflation and continuing supply chain kinks — “even paper for invitations is hard to come by” — Tara Melvin of Perfect Planning Events told the New York Times last month.

Wedding guests also can expect to pay more, an average of $430, to attend a wedding, according to WeddingWire. This includes gifts, attire and transportation.


Billie Jo Brito, the owner of Blais Flower Shop in Lewiston, helps her bridal bouquet artist assemble a bridal bouquet on a recent Friday. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal


Florists also are feeling the stress of the surge.

“Last year, 2021, we did more weddings . . . than in the previous four years combined,” said Billie Jo Brito, owner of Blais Flower and Garden Center in Lewiston.

The florist is providing bridal bouquets, boutonnieres and floral arrangements for 14 weekends of weddings, she said. The most popular combination is sunflowers and roses. More brides are asking for peonies, which are difficult to find, she said.

Brito said she always has fresh flowers for the “impromptu brides who come in and want a bouquet and a boutonniere” because the couple is eloping. She’s seeing a lot of that, she said.

She’s also seeing bigger weddings — seven bridesmaids and 50 guest tables — than last year.


And brides know what they want.

“More and more brides are coming in knowing exactly what they want because of Pinterest and other websites,” Brito said. “That part makes our job that much easier.”

Business is booming too at Riverside Greenhouses and Florist in Farmington.

“Not so much as just weddings, but everything floral,” owner Garrett Reynolds said. Sales are up by 40%.

Riverside offers bridal bouquets, arbor pieces, boutonnieres, centerpieces, garland. The size of the orders, for weddings and all other occasions, has increased this year, Reynolds said.

He said flowers for a big wedding would cost about $5,000. A simple bridal bouquet for the impromptu wedding would cost $100, he said.


And then there’s the photographer, which costs anywhere from $2,500 to $5,200, according to WeddingWire.

Wedding photographers are just as busy as other vendors. Emily Delamater of Bridgton called the surge “a forward roll.”

She and her husband, Matt Delamater (a banker and part-time actor who shoots with her), took on 50% more bookings than usual last year because they “just felt so bad for people who were trying to reschedule,” she said.

The past two years have been a “crazy time for everyone,” she said.

“We worked together (with clients) to find new dates,” she said. “The puzzle pieces that needed to come together were really challenging.”

She is seeing changes this year, such as more weekday weddings, smaller weddings and micro weddings (20-40 people).


People also are breaking from tradition, she said.

“They very much are making it their own, especially young people,” she said. That means fewer rules, and more interesting and less traditional venues.

For example, “Some people don’t want to dance, they just want to have a big dinner party,” she said.

Wedding photography is “in its very nature an intimate thing,” Delamater said. “You’re probably the only vendors there with the family the whole, entire day. We are very much in the thick of it and with them the whole day.”

It’s “really amazing” and special to see people coming back together with families they haven’t seen in two years, she said.

“It’s such an honor to be there during such a stressful time,” she said.

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