Conversations with friends, family, colleagues, and strangers have followed a pretty tight script for the past two years that my fiancé, Joe, and I have been engaged. It usually starts with: "You're engaged! Congrats! When is the wedding?" Once that's out of the way, it's: "Where are you planning to have it?" When we say Portland, Maine, like clockwork, we get: "Oh ... why Maine?"
Why I'm Getting Married in Portland, Maine
Neither of us are from Maine, so it's a valid question. Joe is from New Jersey, I am from Massachusetts, and we have both lived in New York for basically our entire adult lives. Yet, we didn't look at a single venue in any of those states when we began this wedding planning adventure. We chose Maine from the get-go because I spent many summer vacations in the southern part of the state, close to where I grew up in North Andover, Massachusetts, and we loved the idea of a mini destination that was coastal and quaint.
As we scanned the coast, we quickly fell head over heels for Portland as the center of one of the most important days of our lives. It's because the city has a way of getting into your heart — slowly and casually at first. The boats on the waterfront and the cobblestone streets are what give you the initial warm-fuzzies and then each and every time you return that feeling blossoms. The people you befriend, the little shops and restaurants you discover, the painfully cute neighborhoods you stumble upon, and suddenly you can't imagine any other place you'd ever want to get married.
And those little restaurants, as well as those little cafes and bars, aren't just any ol' spots — they're as delicious as those you'd find in much bigger cities. The people of Portland care deeply about food, making it an easy sell for a food editor like myself, but really for anyone who enjoys eating — period.
Pop into Tandem for a just a coffee and walk out with a biscuit egg sandwich and a thick slice of black sesame banana bread because that was as much self-control as you could manage. Indulge in a date night-worthy dinner at Fore Street and quickly learn you've been eating mussels wrong your entire life — they are far superior wood oven-roasted and dripping with garlic almond butter.
Our Italy-by-Way-of Maine Wedding Plan
Having decided on this charming and food-centric town as the destination for our wedding, we still needed to figure out the specifics. Joe and I dreamed our wedding would be a giant dinner party with our closest family and friends. Given I've spent a good deal of time in Italy, I also envisioned this giant dinner party to be slanted in that direction, ideally while still respecting Maine's summer abundance. Call it Italy-by-way-of-Maine? Or maybe Maine-by-Way-of-Italy?
We picked a picturesque venue just outside of Portland's city center and then went to work gathering our vendors. We knew we were going to get exactly what we wanted when we first came across Piccolo. It was like Portland carved out this adorable restaurant that also happened to cater weddings just for us. The owners, Ilma and Damien, quickly declared absolutely anything could be possible, and they weren't kidding.
When we mentioned that it could be neat to pour the rosé at the bar that Joe and I were drinking the night he proposed, they made a few calls, got us a good price, and the cases were at their door. When I envisioned our wedding cake to be olive oil cake rather than something more traditional, Ilma became even more enthusiastic about it than I was. And when I questioned if it would really be possible for them to churn out enough of their incredible homemade pasta to serve family-style for our second course at dinner, they didn't blink.
That's the thing about getting married in Portland: Anything really is possible because everyone's rooting for you. All of our vendors are basically already friends with one another, given that it's all small-town vibes, and through the planning process, they all have become our friends too. It's what has made Portland more than just a location to get married in, but a place that has become a part of us — which is more than we both could have ever asked for and something we couldn't be more excited to share with our closest family and friends.
Are you thinking about a destination wedding? Where's your dream location?