2012 Real Maine Wedding of the Year
Alyssa & Nick
Alyssa and Nick won our 2012 Real Maine Wedding of the Year contest and had a dream wedding in Portland, Maine. Follow their story from the first time they met to their first dance as husband and wife.

By Melanie Brooks
Nick Planeta from Westwood, Massachusetts met Alyssa Kavanagh from Waterville, Maine in the sweetest place possible—a Gifford’s Ice Cream stand. 
It was the spring of 2006 and Nick was in his second semester at nearby Colby College and Alyssa had just been accepted to the small liberal arts college. They were on a double date—with other people—but hit it off immediately. They stayed in touch throughout the summer and eventually became close friends. It didn’t take long for them to fall in love.
In the summer of 2009, Nick’s father, Steve, was diagnosed with stage-4 pancreatic cancer. 
“It was the most difficult time of my life,” Nick says. He had graduated from Colby and was living in Massachusetts while Alyssa was finishing up her senior year. “We were unable to see each other when I needed the support the most,” Nick says. “The only time we were able to see each other is when we would meet halfway in Portland for lunch. Those afternoons were absolutely priceless.”
Shortly before Steve passed away, he told Nick how much he loved Alyssa. “I know he was smiling down on me when I proposed,” Nick says. 
That proposal took place in New York City in December 2011. A few weeks later, during a trip to Waterville to visit Alyssa’s mother, Nancy, the couple heard of the Real Maine Wedding of the Year contest, which was created with the help of the Greater Portland Convention and Visitors Bureau. They decided to enter and put a lot of thought into their video. Ultimately, their story won over the public as well as our panel of judges. 

The Wedding Planning Begins
As one of three finalists, they were invited to the Freeport Bridal Show on April 1 for the announcement of the winning couple.
“My nerves really started to kick in after the public voting closed and I realized that there was nothing more we could do! All we could do was wait,” Alyssa says. “When Melanie announced our names as the winners of the 2012 Real Maine Wedding of the Year, it was pure elation. After that, it was a whirlwind of screams and crying, hugging and laughing. Just amazing. It is a moment I will never forget for the rest of my life.”
After the screaming, laughing, and crying died down and the television cameras dispersed, Alyssa and Nick were introduced to Amber Small and Kathryn Ravenscraft, the duo behind Sweetest Thing Weddings • Floral Design • Events. 
“Working with the ladies from Sweetest Thing Weddings was by far one of the best parts of winning the 2012 Real Maine Wedding of the Year,” Alyssa says. “I had seen photos of their spectacular wedding and floral designs in the 2012 issue of Real Maine Weddings magazine and I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would have the opportunity to work with them on my wedding.” 
It was incredibly important to Alyssa and Nick that Steve Planeta was part of their big day. Amber and Kathryn came up with many ways to weave Steve’s spirit into various aspects of the couple’s wedding day through the use of the color purple, which Alyssa and Nick chose because it symbolizes pancreatic cancer awareness. 
“Having Amber and Kathryn behind us every step of the wedding planning process truly gave me peace of mind,” Alyssa says. “I had complete confidence that everything would be flawless, and it was. The wedding they designed was even more stunning than I could have ever imagined.”
By mid-April, the couple made their first visit to Portland to start picking out the important details of their wedding—their invitations, their honeymoon destination, and their wedding bands. 
Their first stop? Papier Maine.
Alyssa and Nick will be the first to admit they knew next to nothing about wedding stationery before their meeting with Pamela Foster Albert and Valerie Kyros at Papier Gourmet. But with their help, the couple was able to narrow down hundreds of designs from William Arthur Fine Stationery to three choices. 
“Pamela and Valerie were so wonderful to work with. They are both incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about their work,” Alyssa says. “They made a seemingly intimidating process fun and easy!” 
The next stop of the day was at Hurley Travel Experts to meet with Beth Skypek to pick out three destinations in Jamaica for their Sandals Luxury Resort honeymoon. 
“Beth helped us choose the best Sandals resorts for the type of vacation we wanted, one that was filled with relaxation,” Alyssa says. 
The couple then headed over to Cross Jewelers to pick out three wedding bands for the public to vote on. 
“Cross Jewelers is such a lovely place, and the staff creates such a welcoming environment for brides and grooms,” Alyssa says. “I just love the history of the store; they have been helping couples choose their wedding bands for over 100 years! We are honored to be a part of that history.” 
To end the very busy wedding planning day on a high note, Real Maine Weddings hosted a cocktail party at the Grace and invited all the participating vendors to come out and meet the winning couple. 
“This was the part of the day I had been looking forward to most,” Alyssa says. “Nick and I absolutely could not wait to see the wedding venue and meet all of the vendors who are making our dream a reality! When I walked in the door and saw Grace for the very first time, I was completely in awe.” 
In the beginning of May, the couple made another planning trip to Portland to make some big decisions—including what Alyssa would be wearing on one of the biggest days of her life. 
“Since I was little girl, I dreamed of the day I would go shopping for my wedding dress with my mom,” Alyssa says. “I knew that this would be such an extraordinary time for the two of us.” 
The very first dress the bride-to-be tried on ended up being “The One.” 
“I just knew. It sang to me. It was the very first dress and it was perfect. I could not believe it! I will always remember the looks on everyone’s faces when I walked out of the dressing room for the first time,” Alyssa says.
Of course everyone made Alyssa try on a bunch of other dresses—and she liked some of them, too—but not as much as that first one. “You don’t have to go to Kleinfeld’s in New York City to find a gorgeous designer dress and superb bridal consultants,” she says. “You can find it all right in Maine at Spoil Me!”
The next stop at Nothing Bakes Like a Parrott made Nick’s list of favorite wedding planning moments. “I loved trying all—and I mean all—of Jessica’s creations,” he says. 
Jessica Parrott, who owns the South Portland bakery, had dozens of different flavored cupcakes for the couple to try, as well as a sampling of her other pastries. “We were in heaven,” Alyssa says. “It was honestly harder to choose our wedding cake flavors than it was to choose a wedding dress!” 
Nick and Alyssa invited their wedding party to join them in helping choose the bridesmaid dresses and groomsmen’s attire for their November wedding. The girls, along with Nancy Kavanagh and Nick’s mother, Kathy Planeta, headed to Andrea’s Bridal and Formal Wear for a veritable fashion show.
“I was so nervous that we would have a hard time finding a dress everyone would love! That was not the case at all,” Alyssa says. “Julia Irace, owner of Andrea’s Bridal, made the entire process fun and easy!” 
After trying on dresses it was the guys’ turn. It was a good thing Nick brought his buddies along to Classic Tuxedo in South Portland—he’s so tall that none of the samples in the store fit him properly! He had to rely on how his friends looked in order to pick out the three suits the public would vote on. 
Throughout the entire planning process, Alyssa and Nick were shadowed by one of the best wedding photographers in the state, Emilie Sommer, owner of Emilie Inc. Photography. “Nick and I felt incredibly fortunate to have Emilie photograph our entire wedding planning process, documenting every laugh and tear on the way to the altar,” Alyssa says. “This is an opportunity most couples never have and we are beyond grateful.”

The Maine Event
After seven quick months of planning and preparation, it was time to get the show on the road. Real Maine Weddings planned a three-day event for Alyssa, Nick, their friends, and families to showcase the beautiful city of Portland. 
On Wednesday, October 31, with the help of DiMillio’s and The Maine Brew Bus, the entire wedding party had a combined bachelor/bachelorette party in the Old Port. In true Halloween fashion, the entire crew hit the town dressed up as Disney characters.
“It was a perfect way to kick off our wedding,” Alyssa says.
The Maine Brew Bus took the party to several different locations that night, which was a real Maine treat. “Zach Poole was an entertaining guide and the samples at each stop were all wonderful,” Alyssa says. “Nick and I are definitely looking forward to doing the tour again in the future!” 
The day before the wedding, Alyssa, Nancy, Kathy, and the bridal party spent some quality time together at The Spa at the Portland Regency Hotel. The staff pampered the group from head to toe, and planned a schedule that enabled each person to have their own ideal spa experience. 
“I loved having a day to relax with my favorite ladies before the big day,” Alyssa says. “I felt completely calm and relaxed going into our wedding day, thanks to my marvelous massage therapist!”
After their rehearsal at the Grace, the entire crew returned to the Portland Regency Hotel for their rehearsal dinner. Sweetest Thing Weddings created an event design that incorporated bucket bags from Sea Bags as centerpieces. Sea Bags also gave every guest one of their wonderful wine bags as a gift. “Beth Shissler from Sea Bags was incredibly thoughtful and brought Sea Bags that fit my taste perfectly,” Alyssa says. “I love metallic colors and the wine bags had silver and gold stars on them!”
Cindy Miner from the Portland Regency Hotel helped Alyssa and Nick plan out a delicious buffet with options like salmon, roast sirloin, sesame chicken, and some amazing salads. “Our rehearsal dinner guests were raving about the food; in fact, one of our wedding guests came up to me the next night and said she wished she could have been at the rehearsal dinner because she heard such wonderful things about the menu,” Alyssa says.
After a day of relaxation and fun with their closest friends and family, Alyssa and Nick were calm and excited for their wedding day. “I had been looking forward to the big day for so long and I was ready to finally marry my best friend,” Alyssa says.
The morning of their wedding day, the entire bridal party headed over to CoCo Cheveux to get glamorous. “I could not imagine a better place to spend the morning of my wedding day than CoCo Cheveux,” Alyssa says. “Team CoCo made my ladies look absolutely gorgeous and we will definitely be heading back in the near future to check out their blow dry bar!”
After careful consideration, Nick and Alyssa decided to have a First Look session with Emilie Inc. Photography before the wedding ceremony. 
A “First Look” is a photo shoot where the couple chooses to see each other before the long walk down the aisle. The photographers planned to have Nick and Alyssa meet on Wharf Street, a cobblestone pedestrian path just two blocks from the harbor. Nick waited patiently for Alyssa to tap him on the shoulder, telling him to turn around. Finally, Nick could see the wedding dress everyone had been talking about for months!
“Just as our amazing wedding planners told us, that “First Look” was the only time it was going to be just the two of us that day,” Alyssa says. “I absolutely loved having those few moments alone together before everything began to take it all in—we were about to get married! The “First Look” also seemed to relax our entire wedding party as we all loosened 
up and had fun taking photos together.” 
The entire wedding party and the team from Emilie Inc. Photography went to a few different Portland locations to take photos aboard a Portland Discovery Tours trolley. The trolley was also used to shuttle wedding guests between the Holiday Inn by the Bay and the Grace.
“We loved that our wedding party and guests were transported via trolley,” Alyssa says. “People traditionally use limos, but a trolley is so much more fun and fitting for a Maine wedding.”
After the fun photo session, it was finally time to make it official. Nick and Alyssa wanted their wedding ceremony to be personal and intimate, and that’s just how they planned it. 
Nancy Kavanagh and Kathy Planeta, so instrumental in their children’s lives, were asked to read during their children’s wedding ceremony. Alyssa’s favorite part of the ceremony was the exchanging of the vows, which they each wrote themselves.
“Hearing Nick’s vows to me was definitely one of the most extraordinary moments of my life,” Alyssa says. “I will be the first to admit that I am not a hopeless romantic, and I promised my friends that I would not cry during the ceremony. However, when Nick’s eyes started to well up while he was making his promises to me, I lost it. After that, I was very emotional as I read my vows aloud. There were not many dry eyes in the room. One of the wonderful things about having just over 100 guests was that every single person in the room knew us well and loved us, and I really felt that warmth throughout the ceremony.”
After the ceremony, Alyssa and Nick took some time to notice some of the details that they weren’t aware of during the whirlwind of the wedding ceremony—especially the floral arrangements by Harmon’s and Barton’s. “The floral arrangements at the Grace were absolutely gorgeous! They complimented the ceremony and cocktail hour spaces perfectly, creating the romantic vibe we hoped for,” Alyssa says.
The couple joined all of their guests upstairs at the Grace for a cocktail hour. “I was dying to sample all of the hors d’oeuvres we selected,” Alyssa says. “When Nick and I had to leave before we ate, an exceptionally kind waitress brought over a tray with each hors d’oeuvre so we could have a bite of everything—I was one happy bride!”
When Nick and Alyssa arrived at the Holiday Inn by the Bay and finally got the chance to check out their reception in the State of Maine Grand Ballroom, they were beyond elated. Gorgeous draping, designed by Maine Event Design and Decor, hung from the chandeliers, giving the room a dreamy, ethereal vibe.
“It looked like a wedding straight out of a movie, and it was for us! As sappy as it sounds, it was my dream come true,” Alyssa says. “I know just how much work went into creating our dream reception and I felt an incredible amount of love and appreciation in those moments.” 
The purple uplighting, provided by Northeast Event Design, was a highlight for Alyssa in particular. “Northeast Event Design did an amazing job with the uplighting—it was an essential component in creating the wedding of my dreams! I also loved the lounge area they created with the slide show of photographs from our childhood playing off to the side in the ballroom. I had never heard of that at a wedding reception and thought it was such a great idea.”
The table design was one of Alyssa and Nick’s favorite aspects of the reception design. They loved the vintage-inspired centerpieces, which were gorgeous and functional, as they were low enough that everyone at the table could see each other and talk, Alyssa says. “The gorgeous linens were the perfect backdrop to the floral arrangements, rose petals, and candles. The gorgeous draping from the chandeliers around the room was truly transformational. It was so elegant and greatly enhanced our romantic theme.”
As guests entered the ballroom, they picked up their escort card created by Papier Gourmet, which was paired with a colorful cake pop made by Cadeau. Guests also took home a special favor from Cadeau—a personalized soap created exclusively for Nick and Alyssa’s wedding based on fragrances the couple liked most.
The tables were named after Gifford’s Ice Cream flavors—a nod to where Nick and Alyssa first met. Gifford’s also provided an ice cream bar with the couple’s favorite flavors—Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip and Moose Tracks. 
“It was so special to have Gifford’s Ice Cream as a part of our wedding because it is such an important part of our love story,” Alyssa says.
Their guests were treated to a scrumptious meal, thanks to the Holiday Inn by the Bay. “I really enjoyed the tasting we had at the Holiday Inn by the Bay—the food was incredible,” Nick says. “Along with our moms, Alyssa and I probably tried about seven or eight different meals!” 
“It was so hard to decide on entrees during our tasting because everything was absolutely magnificent,” Alyssa says. “I think we made the right choice with the blue cheese encrusted sirloin and cranberry and brie stuffed chicken because our guests were raving about how delectable their meals were!” 
After dinner came desert—and Jessica Parrott from Nothing Bakes Like a Parrott created a jaw dropping five-layer wedding cake that was beyond compare. She also created a bunch of other goodies for a colossal dessert buffet that looked almost too good to eat—almost.
“I seriously have never had anything that compares to Jessica’s Red Velvet and Chocolate Caramel Coconut—the two flavors we chose for our wedding cake,” Alyssa says. “The cake and our dessert buffet were two of the most complimented aspects of our reception.”
During the wedding planning process, Alyssa and Nick thought that five hours of reception time would be more than enough—but, as almost every bride and groom says, the night flew by!  “I did not want to leave the dance floor at the end of the last song because we just had so much fun all night,” Alyssa says. “At one point, Nick picked me up and swung me around as everyone cheered—I will never forget that moment!”
And the reason their reception was such a blast has a lot to do with their entertainment. “Simply put, the Time Pilots rock!” Nick says.
“When Nick and I first got engaged, we came up with a list of priorities for our wedding, and a live band was number one on the list,” Alyssa says. “For our first dance, Nick and I chose the song “Marry Me.” We had used it in our contest video and it was special to us. Since the song was not part of the band’s repertoire, and we chose it a week before our wedding, we were planning on just playing the song on a CD. Jon Goodman from the band said they could learn the song, and they did a phenomenal job!”
The Time Pilots played a variety of music, which appealed to their guests of every age, Alyssa says. “When Nick and I were trying to go around to greet people at their table after dinner, there were hardly any people sitting!” Alyssa says. “The Time Pilots were the most loved aspect of our wedding reception by far—we’re still getting compliments from our family and friends!”
Throughout the entire day, Josh Swan from Media Northeast followed the couple around to capture all of the excitement through the lens of his video camera. 
“Nick and I absolutely adored the amazing video he created for last year’s Real Maine Wedding couple, Laura and Nolan,” Alyssa says. “I cried the first time I watched it. On our wedding day, Josh was so sweet and wonderful to work with. He was totally unobtrusive, but I can tell that he captured all of the precious moments.”
After the wedding the couple spent the night at the Holiday Inn by the Bay and then headed to Cape Elizabeth to spend Saturday night at The Inn by the Sea.
“The Inn by the Sea was wonderful, it was absolutely beautiful,” Alyssa says. “The room was gorgeous and the food at the Sea Glass restaurant was delicious.” This mini-Maine honeymoon was the perfect way for the couple to wind down after their wedding. On Monday morning, the couple flew to Jamaica for their honeymoon at the Sandals Royal Caribbean Resort.
“The resort the voters chose was absolutely perfect for us,” Alyssa says. “It was a smaller, more intimate resort, which was perfect for a honeymoon. Our very favorite part of the resort was the offshore island, which is where we spent most of our time! There were many activities each day and wonderful Jamaican entertainment each night.”
The couple is now settling into married life back in Massachusetts, but will be able to relive their Real Maine Wedding memories thanks to all of the images taken by the incredible staff at Emilie Inc. Photography.
“After we got engaged, Nick and I felt that choosing the right photographer was the most critical part of the wedding planning process,” Alyssa says. “We never dreamed we would have the opportunity to work with such an extraordinary team like Emilie Inc. Photography. Working with them has been one of the absolute best parts of winning the Real Maine Wedding of the Year contest.”