Michelle White was in college when she first heard about the Real Maine Wedding of the Year contest. She loved wedding planning and design, and followed the journey of the first few winning couples. She used Pinterest to plan the wedding she wanted to have—someday—when she met the right man.
Justin Perry walked into Michelle’s life the summer after she graduated from the University of New Hampshire
. She was waitressing and saw Justin and his friends enter the restaurant. She secretly wondered who he was, but didn’t find out until October. They ran into each other at another restaurant, and he took the opportunity to introduce himself. They hit it off instantly.
“We talked so long on our first date that Justin’s truck battery died and I had to jump his truck with my car,” Michelle says. “I knew there was something special about Justin when I met him.”
Michelle and Justin spent a lot of time at home during their first three months of dating. Justin was frequently sick, and Michelle ended up making him a lot of chicken soup. But what Justin had couldn’t be cured by soup alone. “He went to the doctor and, after many tests, received his lung cancer diagnosis on February 18, 2014,” Michelle says. “I never thought to end the relationship. I truly feel that we met and fell in love when we did for a reason. We were meant to be doing this together.”
Justin began clinical trials through Dana Farber and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston while Michelle began a graduate program at UNH. They moved in with Justin’s parents in Wells, Maine so he would have multiple people watching over him.
Michelle traveled to Boston with Justin for his treatments as often as she could, and they’d sometimes take in a Red Sox game. “We enjoyed having some really fun times in a place that had a negative feeling for us,” Michelle says. When Justin decided to propose in July, 2016, he knew Fenway Park was the place to do it. He got down on one knee and asked Michelle to marry him in front of thousands of fans. She said, “Yes!”
The couple had originally planned for a 2017 wedding, but when Michelle realized that the 2016 Real Maine Wedding of the Year was going to be held in York, plans changed. “Justin and I were elated that this contest was in York, a town we love and have so many ties to,” Michelle says. They created a video and the voting began.
As one of the three finalists, Michelle and Justin were invited to the Maine Wedding Association
’s Freeport Wedding Show, where the winners were announced. Even though Michelle says that Justin was the nervous one, she couldn’t help but break down crying into his arms when they found out they were the winning couple. “’We did it!’ I said in Justin’s ear, as I blacked-out in that moment. What a rush!” Michelle says.
Planning for the big day started immediately. The couple worked with Amber Small from Sweetest Thing Weddings
to create a theme for their celebration. Since their wedding was going to be held on the coast, and Justin is an avid fisherman, the trio created a nautical theme with navy hues, driftwood, and shells.
Their first planning trip
centered around attire. Michelle, Justin, and their wedding party headed to Bangor to choose gowns and tuxes. The groomsmen and bridesmaids chose navy blue tuxes and dresses at The Henry’s Bridal Boutique & Formal Wear
. “Dave and Molly Lincoln, who own Henry’s Bridal, were incredibly gracious and helpful,” Michelle says. “We all loved working with them!”
The couple also met with Beth Doan from the Maine Wedding Artist
to talk about wedding favors. Beth created hand-painted lighthouse buoy ornaments for all of Michelle and Justin’s wedding guests. “Beth was so creative and open-minded to our ideas,” Michelle says. “We were completely blown away by her talent!”
Justin and his friends headed back to southern Maine while Michelle and her friends and family headed over to Blush Bridal & Formal
to pick out Michelle’s wedding gown. “I had never tried on wedding gowns before,” Michelle says. “The associates at Blush did everything to make sure that I was comfortable and felt beautiful.”
Michelle and Justin’s second wedding planning trip
kept them close to home. They started their day with Owen Dyer and James Lacey from ConfectionArt
. “Owen is an incredible artist and the cakes he makes are truly masterpieces!” Michelle says. They enjoyed a cake tasting while discussing unique designs for their wedding cake.
The next stop was a meeting with Michelle Rose from Minka Fine Flowers
. “I knew I would love her ideas as soon as I met her,” Michelle says. “She knows exactly how to make a vision come to life.” The team talked about how to create a nautical feel for the wedding day floral design. From the boutonnieres to the bouquets to the ceremony site to the reception, Michelle Rose used her creative energy to create a masterpiece.
The couple ended their day on a high note—with a visit to Auntie’s House Bakery
in Kennebunk! Tracey and Bob Hart had Michelle and Justin sample different flavors of their delicious whoopie pie balls. These decadent treats were given as favors to the wedding guests. “We knew our guests were going to love the chocolaty goodness of the whoopie pie balls,” Michelle says.
Their third planning day
was jam-packed. It started at A+ Party Rental
in Scarborough. Owner Mark Tibbetts told Michelle and Justin he would be building their reception tables himself, and had them choose the place settings and linens to go on top of them! “We had no clue Mark would be building us tables!” Michelle says. “We can’t thank them enough!”
Next, Michelle and Justin met with Tenley Wilder from Lobster Designs
. They chose gifts for their wedding party from her beautiful line of jewelry and money clips. “Tenley makes her jewelry from lobster, mussel, and oyster shells straight from the Maine waters! We loved her passion for her work; her designs are unique and beautiful,” Michelle says.
Michelle and Justin met with Terry Carpentier from Dube Travel
and Katy Kennedy from the Aruba Tourism Authority
to discuss their honeymoon at the Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino
. The public got to vote on their excursion during their trip! “We were so impressed at the work that these ladies put into scheduling amazing vacations. We couldn’t have planned something so special without them!” Michelle says.
From the island of Aruba to Portland’s Custom Wharf Pier—the next visit was with Sea Bags
. “I have always loved Sea Bags,” Michelle says. “I could barely handle the excitement of choosing designs for gifts for the wedding party, our bag guest book, and bucket bags!”
Now that the wedding party had been decked out in attire, jewelry, and clutches, it was time for Michelle and Justin to choose their special wedding day jewelry. For that they headed to Day’s Jewelers
in South Portland. There the couple chose their wedding bands and Michelle chose some special bridal jewelry. “The associates at Day’s Jewelers were essential in helping us find the perfect wedding bands and bridal jewelry for the big day,” Michelle says. “I loved all of the sparkles and bling!”
Michelle and Justin ended the day picking out invitation designs with Jessica Thibodeau, owner of Zula Bell
. “Jess has a brilliant mind for design,” Michelle says. “She knows how to make impressions and set the bar high for an event with invitations.” The couple chose three nautical designs for the public to vote on, and Michelle and Justin loved the finished product.
In June, Real Maine Weddings hosted the 2016 Real Maine Wedding of the Year Kick Off Party
at the York Harbor Inn
. All of the partnering businesses were invited to attend, as were Justin, Michelle, and their family and friends. “It was so nice to see some vendors again and meet some others for the first time,” Michelle says. “Our families were just blown away by the York Harbor Inn, their hospitality, and the amazing food!”
The following day the team toured the venues
for the 2016 Real Maine Wedding of the Year. Michelle and Justin started at the Union Bluff Meeting House
. Darlene Yankura walked them through the property and had them pick out a wide array of hors d’oeuvres for their October Welcome Party. “We knew from this meeting that our friends and family were going to love celebrating the beginning of the wedding festivities at Union Bluff,“ Michelle says. “We knew that the Union Bluff was going to knock their socks-off!
The next stop was at the Stage Neck Inn
with Dawn Whittemore. Michelle and Justin chose hors d’oeuvres to serve at their cocktail hour, which immediately followed their outside ceremony overlooking the ocean. “We knew we were so lucky to share our first moments as husband and wife at the Stage Neck Inn,” Michelle says. “It’s breathtaking!”
The reception site, Foster’s Clambakes & Catering
, is right down the road from Stage Neck Inn. Owner Kevin Tacy and his crew met with the design team to discuss transforming their space for Michelle and Justin’s big day. Amber Small along with Cherie Herne from Salty Girl & the Long Dog
were there to discuss options. “This team of incredible vendors planned to transform Foster’s into a venue that felt vintage nautical with a romantic twist,” Michelle says. From lighting to food to layout specifics, the team nailed down a vision. Cherie, a driftwood artist, dreamed up sailboat table numbers and offered to make an arbor for the ceremony. Michelle and Justin were delighted!
The last visit of the day was with Phil Lusty at the Dockside Restaurant
, the site of Michelle and Justin’s rehearsal dinner. “Talk about great views! We met with Phil and discussed an awesome menu for the rehearsal dinner.” Autumn Poulin from Flour! Flowers & Sweets
was also there to discuss decor. “She easily dreamt up nautical ideas for the rehearsal centerpieces,” Michelle says.
After this meeting wedding planning took a back seat for the summer while Real Maine Weddings focused on the voting aspect of the contest. The public had a chance to weigh in on many aspects of Michelle and Justin’s wedding, and they had fun waiting to see what was picked. Everyone reconvened a few weeks before the big day to tie up some loose ends before the three-day wedding extravaganza!
The 2016 event kicked off with some pampering. Michelle and her crew gathered to try products from Seacret
and relax before the Welcome Party later that night. “We loved the Seacret party!” Michelle says. “In fact, my mother-in-law is planning on hosting a party with the consultant, Jessica Quattrone, at her house so we can try more products!”
The Welcome Party kicked off at 5 p.m. at the Union Bluff Meeting House
. “The Union Bluff is really the best of the best,” Michelle says. “We loved standing on the patio overlooking the gorgeous sunset.”
Laura Kennedy from the York Flower Shop
created stunning centerpieces for the Union Bluff ballroom. “They were incredible!” Michelle says. “The colors were bold and beautiful!” Guests sipped on drinks as they enjoyed passed hors d’oeuvres as well as stations strategically placed around the ballroom. “The food was the best! People couldn’t stop talking about it!” Michelle says. “My favorite was the mashed potato bar and the s’mores station. Justin loved the French fry and cheeseburger bar.”
On Thursday morning, Justin and his groomsmen headed to The Red Barn at Outlook Farm
for a round of golf. “The course was beautiful and all of the guys had a great time,” Justin says. After playing nine holes, the crew gathered for a delicious lunch. “It was a perfect way to relax with my buddies before the big day.”
Later that afternoon, everyone met up at the Stage Neck Inn
to run through the rehearsal with Amber Small from Sweetest Thing Weddings
. “Amber is such a stellar person,” Michelle says. “She is so fun to work with! Wedding planning seems to come easy to her and it is clearly her passion!”
The rehearsal dinner was hosted just across the way at the Dockside Restaurant
. Guests enjoyed appetizers and drinks before sitting down for a delicious meal. “Our guests were so impressed by the Dockside, and the views were stunning!” Michelle says.
Michelle and Justin loved the centerpieces created by Autumn Poulin from Flour!
“I loved the pops of yellow and the mussel shells in the vases,” Michelle says. Justin agreed. “Autumn really killed it with her design.”
The couple used their rehearsal dinner as an opportunity to thank their family and friends with some special gifts. Their parents received wine bags from Sea Bags
while the bridesmaids were gifted clutches and the groomsmen travel kits. “The Sea Bags gifts were a hit with everyone!” Michelle says.
Michelle and Justin also gave the oyster shell earrings and mussel shell money clips chosen from Lobster Designs
. “Tenley is an excellent artist!” Michelle says. “People liked that they were made in Maine from local shells.”
The last gift given were mugs made by E+H Creates
, imprinted with “Love is the Maine ingredient.” “These mugs were a stellar idea!” Michelle says. “My bridesmaids were swooning over them!”
Michelle also had a special gift for Justin. She had been working with Owen Dyer from ConfectionArt
in creating a special groom’s cake. What Owen and James created was nothing short of amazing. Michelle had given them a photo of a large fish Justin had caught that summer, and the cake perfectly fit the description. Justin and Michelle were astonished with the result. “I was in complete awe,” Michelle says. “It actually looked just like the fish and tasted even better than it looked!” Justin says.
After all the cake had been eaten and the gifts given, the group retired for the evening, knowing the next day was going to be a whirlwind of activity.
Michelle and her bridesmaids were up early on Friday, getting glamorous for the day ahead. “The bridesmaid dresses from The Henry’s Bridal Boutique
were elegant and just what I had pictured,” Michelle says. “They were classy and beautiful!”
“Dave from Henry’s was more than accommodating, making sure each of our tuxes fit to a tee,” Justin says. “We all cleaned up pretty nice with his help!”
Michelle was excited to put on her wedding gown from Blush Bridal & Formal
. “I couldn’t have imagined a more beautiful gown and veil,” she says. “I felt beautiful in the dress, thanks to the staff at Blush who helped me pick a dress that fit my personality and vision.”
The ladies carried their lobster clutches from Sea Bags
and beautiful bouquets, created by Michelle Rose at Minka Fine Flowers
. “When the flowers were dropped off to our hotel everyone’s jaws dropped because they were so beautiful,” Michelle says. “They really popped against the bridesmaids’ gowns.”
Michelle’s bridal jewelry from Day’s Jewelers
perfectly complemented and completed her look. “I chose drop pearl earrings from Crislu because they had sparkle and pearls,” Michelle says. “I also chose a sapphire ring to wear on my right hand, which matches my sapphire and diamond wedding band. The tennis bracelet chosen by the public was a great finishing touch!” Justin chose a wedding band from Day’s Jewelers, with the help from the public. “For someone who didn’t ever wear jewelry, I was very picky about my wedding band,” he says. “Now I feel lost if I don’t have it on.”
Drivers from the Maine Limousine Service
picked up Michelle and her bridesmaids at their hotel and Justin and his groomsmen from the private residence where they were getting ready for the big day. Michelle Rose from Minka Fine Flowers created artistic boutonnieres for the groom and his groomsmen. “I thought it was very cool that they were magnetic so we didn’t have to poke a hole in our suits,” Justin says. “I really liked that she incorporated a sea urchin into the design. They added a manly, nautical hint to our attire.”
Everyone enjoyed drinks in the limos on the way to Michelle and Justin’s first look by the Stage Neck Inn. “The limos were great!” Michelle says. “The drivers were kind and professional. We all enjoyed the ride!”
The bridal party stayed in the limos while Michelle and Justin has their first look alone. Justin stood at the end of a pier while Michelle walked toward him and tapped him on the shoulder. “I was really anxious to just see him,” Michelle says. “Patrick McNamara
, one of our photographers, had to remind me a few times not to turn around,” Justin says. “I think that might have been the longest five minutes of my life!” But the wait was worth it. “When I turned around I didn’t know whether to cry, smile, or kiss her. She looked absolutely beautiful.”
The couple’s dog, Camo, joined them for a few photos on the pier. “Camo is a huge part of our life,” Michelle says. “It was always a must to have him part of our day in some way. He brings so much joy and laughter to our days.”
Michelle and Justin soon joined their wedding party for some photos on the beach. “Thanks to having a first look, we were able to take a bunch of photos before the ceremony and could join our guests for most of the cocktail hour,” Michelle says.
The rain held off for their outdoor ceremony at the Stage Neck Inn
, and everything went off without a hitch! “The rocky coast and beautiful grounds at the Stage Neck Inn made for a great place to tie the knot,” Michelle says. “Our ceremony was exactly what we wanted,” Justin says.
The couple were married under a driftwood arbor, built by Cherie from The Salty Girl & the Long Dog,
and decorated by Michelle at Minka Fine Flowers.
“The arbor was very special to me,” Michelle says. “I think Cherie and Michelle were able to translate our vision in to real life. The arbor now lives in our yard. It’s a sweet reminder of our wedding day!”
Justin’s friend Tom officiated the ceremony. “He’s always been like a second father to me,” Justin says. “We were so happy he married us.” The couple wrote their own vows for their intimate and heartfelt ceremony. “I always found it special when couples vow to love each other endlessly in their own words,” Michelle says. “We didn’t share them with each other until the ceremony.”
Luke Lanigan from Revolution DJ
provided the soundtrack to the coastal ceremony. “Luke was so cooperative with my music concerns,” Michelle says. The processional included a song by Jason Mraz and an instrumental version of “God Gave Me You.”
Michelle and Justin were adamant in having an unplugged ceremony. “It was very important to us because we wanted everyone to be in the moment with us,” Justin says. “We didn’t want our wedding pictures to be filled with cell phones in the air,” Michelle adds. “I wanted to look out at our friends and family and see their faces looking back at us.”
The couple asked Shane Corcoran from Shane’s Wedding Photography
to get a group shot following the ceremony. It was the perfect ending to a happy and intimate celebration before the cocktail hour.
Knowing that her 90-year-old grandmother would not be able to attend the reception, Michelle requested a special song to be played at the cocktail hour so that she could dance with her Nana. “She has always loved to dance, especially with me to “In the Mood” by the Glenn Miller Band,” Michelle says. While she danced with Nana, Justin danced with his grandmother. “Both of our grandmothers love Justin and I immensely, and I knew they would love to dance with us!”
Guests enjoyed cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at the Stage Neck Inn
. “The food was all wonderful, but the big hit was the flatbread pizza!” Michelle says. Michelle and Justin snuck out before the cocktail hour ended to head over to Foster’s Clambakes and Catering
and view their reception site. When they entered, they couldn’t believe their eyes. “I had few words to actually express how gorgeous Foster’s was,” Michelle says. “The room was elegant and looked like a dream!”
Luke Lanigan from ELC (Event Lighting Concepts)
hung Edison bulbs give Foster’s a more romantic glow. He also created a wall of sheer drapes to make the space smaller and more intimate. “These things transformed the space into an elegant setting,” Michelle says. The farm tables, made by A+ Party Rental
, were topped with runners and sea foam green napkins. “It was all exactly as I had pictured it!” Michelle says.
The tables were decorated with a nod to nautical, without going overboard. “The driftwood accents and boat table numbers by Salty Girl & the Long Dog
were a subtle way to add nautical hints that were beautiful, unique, and simple,” Michelle says. The floral decor was a mixture of bouquets, sea grass, floating candles, and illuminated Sea Bags
. “The flowers and sea grass from Minka Fine Flowers
tied everything together perfectly.”
Each setting held gifts for the guests. The lighthouse buoys from the Maine Wedding Artist
were a big hit. “Our guests loved them!” Michelle says. “We were so happy with these favors!” Each guest also got a decadent whoopie pie ball from Auntie’s House Bakery
. “They were so nicely wrapped,” Michelle says. “We were able to take a couple home to enjoy after the party. We’ll be frequent customers at Auntie’s House!”
After their preview, they hopped into the back of the Maine Limousine Service
’s classic Bentley for some more photos with Patrick McNamara and Shane Corcoran.
Their guests were transported to and from the ceremony on trolleys from the York Trolley Company
. “Trolleys have always reminded me of Maine, and I loved that we had York Trolley Company transport our guests,” Michelle says. “The trolleys were a big part in making our day run smoothly, as no one had to worry about finding a parking space.”
After all the guests had arrived and the wedding party announced, guests sat down to enjoy a delicious meal prepared by Foster’s Clambakes and Catering.
“It’s not easy to cook for a large amount of people, but Foster’s has it down,” Michelle says. “The beef melted in your mouth and the lobster was perfectly cooked!” Justin agreed completely. “The service that we got from the wait staff was awesome,” he says. “They were always checking in with us to make sure we had everything we needed. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.”
Dancing started after dinner, and Luke from Revolution DJ
kept the party hopping. “Luke is unbelievable!” Michelle says. “He is not the typical DJ that plays the playlist and sits back all night. He kept everyone on their feet!”
Guests were also able to hop in the photo booth from Maine to Boston Photo Booth
.” I think a photo booth is a must-have for a wedding,” Michelle says. “Jim gives his couples a book full of the fun pictures taken all night. It’s a book I’ll always have on our coffee table!”
Cutting the cake was one of the highlights of the night. “The cake was displayed under a spotlight for most of the evening,” Michelle says. And for good reason! “We told ConfectionArt
to use their imagination and artistry to create a cake. It was more than we could have imagined!”
The night eventually died down, and the party headed elsewhere. Justin and Michelle were already looking forward to their sunny honeymoon in Aruba as they left their reception under umbrellas, trying to avoid the downpour!
“After the wedding was over I found out why people go on honeymoons,” Justin says. “We were really glad to get out of town and enjoy our first week as husband and wife!” The couple headed to the Hilton Caribbean Resort & Casino
for some much needed R&R. “I would recommend Aruba as a top honeymoon destination,” Michelle says. “It’s clean, safe, and the people are generous and friendly! Our sunset sail excursion from DePalm Tours
When they returned home, Michelle brought her dress to Angela Emery at Pratt Abbott
. They steamed and preserved her beautiful wedding gown. “It was so great to have it professionally taken care of,” Michelle says. “My dress was a disaster after the rainy wedding night!”
“I don’t know how they do it, but Patrick and Shane have a great eye for finding beauty around them,” Michelle says. “Their pictures are clear, full of color, and show emotion. We have really loved working with both of these guys who go above and beyond to get great shots. They are passionate about their work and it shows in the quality of their photos. We couldn’t have asked for a better team of photographers!”