2011 Real Maine Wedding of the Year
Laura & Nolan

Laura and Nolan won our 2011 Real Maine Wedding of the Year contest in Freeport, Maine. Follow their story from their first glimpse of each other to their first dance as husband and wife.

By Melanie Brooks
Photography by Nadra Photography, Michelle Turner PhotographyAudra Photography, & Anne Schmidt Photography

Laura Plaisted spotted Nolan Hood from across the room at Three Dollar Deweys—a local bar in Portland’s Old Port. “I saw him and said to my girlfriends, ‘See girls? That’s the type of guy I’m looking for!’ And I actually got him,” Laura says.
 
Nolan, a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army, proposed to Laura while he was home from Afghanistan on his mid-tour leave. He took her on a trip to California to show her the house he grew up in before his father, a retired Navy Lieutenant, took a job at Bath Iron Works and moved the family to Maine.
 
Nolan took Laura to some of his favorite places on the west coast, including Coronado Island where he popped the question. When he headed back to finish his tour of duty in Afghanistan, Laura started surfing the net for online wedding tools when she came across the Real Maine Wedding of the Year contest. 
 
“I have always dreamed about my wedding day,” Laura says. “When I was 4-years-old and my mother asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I told her I wanted to be a bride. She had my grandmother make me a little wedding dress and I wore it until it was bursting at the seams!”
 
When Laura found the contest, she knew that her and Nolan had a shot at winning. “Nolan and I are a real Maine couple,” she says. “We had all of our dates in Maine, we fell in love here, and it’s where we wanted to get married.”
 
Laura created a video and submitted it to Real Maine Weddings on behalf of her and Nolan. In the video she says, “My fiancé is the bravest, strongest, most handsome, beautiful inside and out man that I know. And he’s my best friend in the entire world.”
 
Laura and Nolan’s video got thousands of votes. It was a fan favorite as well as a favorite of the Real Maine Weddings team. When the finalists were narrowed down to four, Laura and Nolan’s video got the most votes from the public and was the overall winner. 
 
The four finalist couples were invited to the Harraseeket Inn on April 3, 2010 for the announcement of the winning couple. Nolan was still in Afghanistan, so Laura brought her family and friends along for support. When it was announced that Laura and Nolan were the winning couple, Laura burst into tears. “This contest has made Nolan’s deployment so much easier,” she says. “It has given me and my family something fun and positive to focus on.”
 
Nolan was waiting by the computer in Afghanistan for the news. Many of his Army buddies had been going online to vote for the couple’s video for months, and Nolan was excited and thankful when Laura reached him with the good news.
“Winning the contest gave Nolan and I our dream wedding,” Laura says. “We got to meet with some of Maine’s best vendors and the Harraseeket Inn is the most elegant venue. It deserves every bit of its amazing reputation. After meeting with Melissa Brady, sales director for the Harraseeket Inn, I knew everything was going to run like clockwork.”
 
Every wedding the Harraseeket Inn hosts is unique, but Melissa knew this one was particularly special. “We couldn't have chosen a better, more fitting couple to win this wedding,” she says. “It was wonderful to be able to give this gift of a dream wedding to such a deserving couple.”
 
Let the Planning Begin
 
Once Laura and Nolan were announced as the winners of the very first Real Maine Wedding of the Year contest, the planning process kicked into high gear. Amber Small and Kathryn Ravenscraft from Sweetest Thing Weddings • Floral Design • Events walked Laura through every aspect of the planning process. “Amber and Kathryn work absolute magic. I have never met two women with more spunk, style, professionalism, and taste,” Laura says. 
 
“It was so nice knowing that by helping Laura plan and prepare for her wedding, we were helping Laura get through Nolan’s deployment,” says Amber from Sweetest Thing Weddings. “Finally seeing them together was a real treat for us,” Kathryn says. 
 
“The best part of having a wedding planner is the security and assurance that everything is going to turn out beautifully,” Laura says. “People would ask me if I was nervous, or if I had a lot to do, and I could smile and say, ‘I’m not nervous at all, I know it’s going to be perfect.’”
 
Laura was completely willing to follow the guidelines of the contest and was eager to allow the public to vote on the major wedding decisions for her. 
The wedding planning process, much like Nolan’s deployment, brought Laura and Nolan’s families together. While Nolan was away, both Laura’s mother, Ellen, and Nolan’s mother, Beth, attended wedding-related events. “I never felt alone,” Laura says. 
 
Kathryn from Sweetest Things Weddings says one of the greatest things about working with Laura on her wedding was the added bonus of working with the moms—Ellen and Beth. “They were so excited to be involved,” Kathryn says. “We really looked forward to all of our ‘Team Laura’ meetings!”
 
One of the very first things on ‘Team Laura’s’ wedding to-do list was wedding dress shopping at Bridals by Sandy—one of Laura’s favorite pre-wedding memories. “During my appointment, Sandy was so helpful and I loved all of the dresses she pulled for me to try on. In just a few moments talking with me she knew exactly what I was looking for! The Alfred Angelo gown I wore on our wedding day made me feel like a princess.” 
 
Laura’s bridesmaids also wore Alfred Angelo dresses from Bridals by Sandy. To help complete her bridesmaids’ look, Laura picked out beautiful pearl necklaces with intricate gold clasps at Rapid River Company. “It was a tough decision—the boutique is full of beautiful scarves, handbags, hair accessories, and jewelry,” Laura says. “I was honored to be able to offer my friends such a beautiful gift.”
 
Laura was also adorned with jewelry for her wedding day. R.D. Allen Freeport Jewelers created a special pair of earrings for Laura made from white sapphires and yellow beryl gemstones. “The owner, Annette, has such wonderful taste and a plethora of knowledge,” Laura says. “We discussed my wedding colors, what type of jewelry would look best with my dress, and after several conversations, Annette came up with the perfect custom made earrings.”
 
Another one of the first things Laura had to take care of for her dream wedding was the invitations. “Thank goodness that Marcy, at Hullabaloo Studios, is a wedding literature goddess,” Laura says. “I had such a hard time trying to figure out the right wording, paper, and designs for the wedding invitations, programs, menu, and thank you notes!” Marcy handmade every single invitation for Laura and Nolan's wedding. “Marcy also designed a beautiful seating chart for us that is a true piece of art. It’s currently framed and hanging on our wall.”
 
Laura planned most of the wedding while Nolan was deployed in Afghanistan. Things like the dress, invitations, menu choices, and floral design couldn’t wait for him to come home. Laura admits that it was difficult for her to make wedding related decisions while Nolan was overseas. She wanted him to feel involved, and wanted him to like the decisions she had to make without him. “When Nolan and I got the chance to talk, I could ask him some questions, but I didn’t want to overwhelm him,” Laura says. “All I really wanted him to focus on was coming home safe.” Luckily for Laura, Nolan’s go-to planning advice was, “Whatever you want, sweetheart. I just want to show up and have fun.”
 
Choosing the menu at the Harraseeket Inn was one of the hardest things for Laura to do without Nolan. She had the option to sit down with Chef Eric Flynn and design any sort of menu she wanted. Nolan isn’t a fan of seafood, but Laura wanted to offer her guests the best—filet mignon with a lobster tail—and worried Nolan wouldn’t love it. “Nolan is a man’s man—he likes meat and potatoes,” Laura says. In brainstorming what would make Nolan happy, Chef Eric came up with the idea of creating an entire hors d’oeuvres station featuring Nolan’s favorite foods. “This table had chicken wings, spring rolls, tortilla chips and guacamole, and more,” Laura says. “It was a huge hit with many of our guests!”
 
Halfway through the wedding planning process, Nolan finally returned home. Linda Bean’s Topside Tavern played host to Nolan’s welcome home party as well as Laura and Nolan’s rehearsal dinner. “Linda Bean’s Topside Tavern holds a special place in our hearts,” Laura says. “Linda’s generosity is tremendous. Her restaurant was the perfect place for us to celebrate Nolan’s homecoming and our rehearsal. The atmosphere is warm and inviting, the food is great, and you can’t beat the location—right across from L.L. Bean! Our out-of-town guests loved it.” Shipyard Brewery pitched in and offered free Shipyard beer for both of the occasions, which Nolan and his groomsmen greatly appreciated.
 
Gelato Fiasco was on hand at Linda Bean’s Topside Tavern for Nolan’s welcome home party. They scooped two seasonal flavors of gelato for the guests and even set up a gelato bar at Laura and Nolan’s reception at the Harraseeket Inn. “I’m still receiving comments on how awesome the gelato bar was at our wedding,” Laura says. “It was the best idea ever! Our guests loved it!” 
 
Once Nolan was back stateside, they had a very important appointment to keep—making their wedding bands at Brown Goldsmith. 
 
The public had three choices to vote on for Laura and Nolan’s wedding bands. Two of the options were premade rings and the third option was for the couple to make their rings themselves with the help of Deane Frank at Brown Goldsmiths in Freeport.
 
“Nolan and I spent four hours with goldsmith extraordinaire, Deane, in our wedding band workshop and created the most beautiful rings and the most beautiful memories,” Laura says. “Their wonderful staff photographed the whole day for us, gave us bride and groom aprons, and took the time to help us create flawless rings.” Nolan, a veritable handyman, loves using tools of all kinds to build and create while Laura, a hopeless romantic, finds sentiment in everything. “Spending the day together making rings that we will wear for the rest of our lives was an amazing experience.”
 
Nolan and a few of his groomsmen planned on wearing their dress uniforms for the big day, but there were still a few men (including Laura’s father) who took advantage of Strictly Formal’s tuxedos. In just one visit, the sizes were confirmed and the colors picked out. “Strictly Formal was extremely helpful and the men wearing the tuxedos looked strikingly handsome,” Laura says. 
 
The last thing on Laura’s to-do list was the cake tasting at The European Bakery. “I thought I had died and gone to heaven,” Laura says. “At the tasting we tried flavors like amaretto, peanut butter, and Kahlua.” The couple ended up choosing layers of white cake with apple cinnamon cream cheese filling and chocolate cake with chocolate filling. Their guests loved the cake and it looked as amazing as it tasted!
 
The Big Day
 
Laura and Nolan’s wedding day started early for all parties involved. Amber and Kathryn from Sweetest Thing Wedding put the finishing touches on the bridal and bridesmaid’s bouquets as well as the centerpieces. The women hand-decoupaged each vase with yellow fabric and white lace to work seamlessly with Laura’s wedding theme. They used roses, spider mums, calla lilies, and dusty miller for a soft, romantic look. 
 
“The biggest surprise on our wedding day was my bouquet, made by Sweetest Thing Weddings,” Laura says. “The stems were wrapped in lace from my mother’s and grandmother’s wedding gowns and there was a small, two-sided pendant attached to my bouquet with photos of my parents and grandparents on their wedding day. I was blown away!”
 
Ruby McDermott, the Harraseeket Inn’s florist and decorator, created floral arrangements for the tables that were piled high with food for the cocktail hour. The arbor under which Laura and Nolan said their vows was covered in a beautiful garland, and multicolored rose petals lined the aisle. Pots of yellow mums were placed throughout the Harraseeket’s back garden to compliment the turning leaves on the trees.
 
Laura and her bridesmaids had spent the previous night at a friend’s house having spa treatments from I Do Spas. The girls were pampered from head to toe with massages, manicures, and pedicures. “We all wrapped ourselves up in the fluffy bathrobes and slippers for the evening,” Laura says. “I attribute the fact that I slept right through the night to the amazing massage therapist who helped me completely relax.”
 
On the day of the wedding, the girls headed over to Salon Freeport to have their hair and make up done. They brought mimosas and spent the whole morning lounging on the couches in the warm and inviting salon. “The stylists were so fun and friendly,” Laura says. “They took the time to listen to each of us and give us beautiful hair. My make up application looked great. Every one of us looked and felt beautiful at the wedding thanks to our morning at Salon Freeport.”
 
The girls were accompanied by two of the four wedding photographers at the salon. Anne Schmidt and Nadra Edgerley took photos of the girls getting ready while Michelle Turner and Audra Medunitza were back at the Harraseeket Inn, taking photos during its transformation into Laura and Nolan's dream wedding destination. “Nolan and I were so lucky to have not one but four amazing photographers—all of whom are sweet, professional, and amazing artists,” Laura says.
 
Amber and Kathryn of Sweetest Thing Weddings took control of the Casco Bay Ballroom, turning it into Laura’s picture perfect wedding reception. The tables were draped in white and yellow linens from Wallace Tent and Rental and topped with table numbers and menus from Hullabaloo Studios. Individually wrapped favors from Robin’s Chocolate Sauce were placed at each place setting. Each jar of delectable fudge was wrapped with a yellow ribbon and a personalized tag. “Robin worked with us to pick the flavors, wrapping, and design,” Laura says. “The favors looked great on the tables and were a huge hit!”
 
Laura’s mom, Ellen, watched the Harraseeket Inn transform thoughout the day. “In the blink of an eye the chairs for the ceremony were lined up, the arbor was decorated, and more flowers than I thought was possible were placed around the Harraseeket Inn,” Ellen says. “The wonderful staff acted like wedding guests—they were truly excited for us! It was magical.”
 
Laura saw the Casco Bay Room right before walking down the aisle and started to cry. “It was more beautiful than I could have imagined, and I knew how much work had gone into every detail,” Laura says. “The thought that I was surrounded by my closest friends and family and about to celebrate my marriage to the love of my life in the most beautiful setting was overwhelming. I had to assure my flower girls that I was OK—that they were happy tears.”
 
Right before Laura and her dad, Ron, walked down the aisle, Ron tripped on his gators. Even though he’s is an avid hiker, Laura couldn’t believe her dad was wearing gators on her wedding day. “I looked down at his shoes and asked him if he was really wearing those down the aisle,” Laura says. “He said, ‘Of course! It’s the biggest hike of your life!’” 
 
Nolan’s mother, Beth, officiated their ceremony. “When Nolan and Laura asked me to officiate their wedding, I felt it was Nolan’s way of affirming my educational path,” Beth says. “I was honored to be asked.”
 
Beth has been working towards her goal of becoming a licensed minister and is finishing up her degree. She also became a notary to make sure Laura and Nolan’s wedding was absolutely legal. “Marrying Nolan and Laura was one of the great joys of my life,” Beth says.
 
The couple opted to write their own vows, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd as they read them aloud to each other. “Nolan and I had a lot of practice writing to each other while he was overseas, so writing our vows and lifelong promises to each other was a piece of cake!”
 
Bob Charest showed up at the Harraseeket Inn early to set up the dance floor, lights, and equipment for his band. “It’s impossible for me to describe how incredible The Bob Charest Band was,” Laura says. “It was the most talked-about aspect of the wedding and I still get compliments about them. My flower girls, my friends, my parents, and my grandparents danced all night long. Their playlist was perfect and there wasn’t a single outdated cheesy wedding song!” The band sang songs by Frank Sinatra to Phil Collins to Adele. “My favorite memory of the reception when the band invited Nolan and I out on the floor for a slow dance. They had everyone circle around us while they picked up the tempo. We stood there surrounded by our loved ones who were dancing and singing and in that moment, Nolan and I felt like the luckiest people in the world.”
 
One of the other highlights of their wedding was the photo booth provided by the Maine Photo Booth Company. “Our guest book is full of crazy photo booth pictures and is so fun to look through,” Laura says. “People loved it!”
 
After their dream wedding, the new Mr. and Mrs. Hood headed north to Bar Harbor for a Maine honeymoon at the Bar Harbor Inn, courtesy of Jane Grant at Dragonfly Travel. Laura admits that it was nice to be on their own schedule and not have to catch a plane. “As soon as we checked in, a staff member from the Bar Harbor Inn knocked on our door with a bottle of champagne and a beautiful framed picture of the inn for us to keep,” Laura says. They spent their vacation hiking, strolling around town, and eating at fantastic local restaurants. “We loved everything about our Bar Harbor honeymoon and we can’t wait to go back!”
 
Laura and Nolan have since settled into married life in Springfield, Massachusetts, where Nolan is stationed. “Our guests are still telling us how much fun they had and how happy we looked,” Laura says. “Our Maine wedding was truly the happiest day of our lives. If we hadn’t won the Real Maine Wedding of the Year contest, we would have waited to get married—and it would have looked much different. Nolan and I still talk about how incredible it was to be surrounded by all of our loved ones at once, and that we were able to celebrate our marriage in such an extraordinary way.”