MOUNT DESERT ISLAND — With most couples opting to postpone saying “I do” in 2020, many are now hosting intimate affairs through the week or going all out on the weekends.
“The trend has changed from large, elaborate events to very intimate, small destination weddings,” said Adam Babbitt, who owns and operates MDI Weddings. “The majority of them are not on the weekends.”
Last year was not the best year to have a wedding because of the pandemic. Those that took place were small ceremonies or elopements. Many couples who decided to reschedule their weddings to this year are hosting multi-day events with the ceremony taking place in the middle of the week. On top of that, there are those who had originally scheduled their special day for 2021, which is making this one of the busiest seasons yet for florists, officiates, hairdressers, venues that are open for ceremonies and cake makers, among others in the industry.
“We entered this season with the highest number of weddings we’ve ever had,” said Jeremy Dougherty, general manager of the Bar Harbor Inn. “The backlog of canceled weddings plus those for newly engaged couples have created a huge demand for weddings… We have stopped taking new events and weddings for 2021 as our event spaces were fully booked,” adding that they are now working on weddings as far out as 2022 and 2023.
Echo Salon owner, Alyssa Bushey, is seeing more brides this year than in years before the pandemic.
“This year I have over 80 brides,” she said. “They are getting married on Tuesday and Wednesday; it does not matter the day of the week. The ones during the week are just small elopements. The parties are definitely larger on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.”
When she asks brides why they have chosen a weekday for their ceremony, the answer is often the same.
“The most common answer I get is they are getting married in the park and they want to avoid the crowds.”
According to Babbitt, getting married in Acadia National Park with a party of 10 or more requires a permit. Cadillac Mountain and Otter Cliffs are popular wedding locations where the weather can dictate the bride’s hair choice.
“It can be a little windy there; it deters them away from having it down,” said Bushey, explaining that the updo is still the most popular wedding look. “We had a lot of reschedules from last year… We have like 35 rescheduled to this year. We usually do about 70 weddings but we’re definitely up this year to about 84.”
That means the staff at Echo Salon is busy every weekend through October with many weddings scheduled during the week. Requests are still coming in but many are getting turned away.
“We’re still getting constant emails for fall weddings in September,” said Bushey. “I got two this week. Both are Wednesday weddings.”
Last year, with many weddings canceled or postponed, Cottage Flowers owner Laurie Riddell says she was able to get through because people were giving flowers as gifts more than in any previous years. Flowers, which were a no-contact gift, were sent to people who could not host funerals, to family who could not be visited and as a gift to brighten people’s day during the pandemic. This year, Riddell’s season is full of weddings again.
“It’s definitely a much busier season,” she said. “A lot of my weddings that were supposed to happen last year are happening this year.”
In the past, orders for weddings were more predictable than this year. Because people are still a bit skeptical about traveling, orders for flowers can fluctuate if the party shrinks.
“A lot of last-minute bookings. They’ll make the call two weeks in advance,” said Riddell, who has also seen plenty of midweek weddings. “I’ve had so many Tuesday weddings this year. They sort of make a week of it and have their wedding in the middle.”
For many florists, sourcing flowers has been tough this year. When the pandemic hit, many farms folded because they could not sell their product, according to Riddell. “We’re working with half the farms but even more demand than ever.”
Burke’s Hollow Florist on the Westside lost one of its wholesale sellers based in Bangor last year when the owners decided to retire and close the business.
“We’re seeing the snowball effect of COVID with flowers right now,” said Rhoda Burke, who is having a busy season. “Sometimes we’re literally out there bidding to get flowers in… I ask brides to give me a second choice. They have to have a second choice.”
One trend Burke has seen is couples who had a small ceremony in 2020 are doing it again this year with a bigger shindig.
“The standard right now, I’m finding, is seven to nine bridesmaids and a maid of honor,” she said, explaining that servicing a wedding includes table centerpieces, boutonnieres and bouquets. “Everything imaginable these people are getting… That’s what they say. They’ve waited long enough and they are going to have it the way they want it. I don’t blame them.”
Popular colors of this year’s weddings are navy blue, blush and light pink, according to Burke. “Peonies have been the top flower this season.”
Burke, Babbitt, Bushey and Cakes Downeast baker Dawn Closson all were getting calls as early as January for this year’s wedding season. “I even had some during Valentine’s week,” said Burke.
“I had booked up early on and had to turn away people,” said Closson, whose season started in May and is scheduled through October. “This year, people started calling early and they said, we’re done waiting… It seems like for business, June has fewer weddings and September and October have picked up more.”
More of the events this year have been smaller affairs for cakes.
“Brides are older now and I think that has contributed to having smaller weddings,” said Closson, who gets orders online from people. “I have brides I never even meet.”
White cake still is the most popular wedding cake flavor for couples, with many opting to have cupcakes in addition to the main dessert.
“Some people like the look of large cakes,” said Closson, who has been baking for special occasions for the last 40 years. “Some people like the ease of serving cupcakes. For the cupcakes, they usually have more flavors.”
This wedding season is expected to keep Closson and others in the industry busy, some into December.
“This year I’m probably up about 60 to 70 percent in officiating weddings,” said Babbitt. “Right now I’m probably doing seven or eight a week versus four or five in the past… Bar Harbor’s already booked this year through October.”
For the most part, if a wedding isn’t already on the books, those in the business say it likely won’t happen this year.
“Trying to get a wedding, I don’t think you can do that at all this year,” said Babbitt. “Planning a wedding would be next to impossible because there’s no hotel space. On average, I was probably doing 25 to 35 weddings a year. Now, I’m doing well over 50 lined up and I’m still getting calls… The majority of my weddings are in September and October – a lot of fall weddings.”
Next year may see a lot of the same.
“I imagine 2022 will be just as busy and we’ll maintain this high volume of demand for some time as we catch up on what was missed in 2020,” said Dougherty.