The Kennebunks have been a wedding destination since the 1870s, when city dwellers to our south, desperate to escape the urban heat, smells and diseases, discovered coastal Maine.

They spent their first summers in rustic farm houses near the shore. Local promoters soon built hotels and developed former pasture land along the coast, dreaming that prominent New England families would build Newport-like cottages and spend the season in the Kennebunks.

Most, during the earlier years, arrived at the Kennebunk Depot, where they and their steamer trunks were met by hotel coaches and buggies.

Local boasters, wanting a more mystic allure, fabricated romantic tales. A sentimental yarn was spun that a newly-married captain on his wedding day had to rush to sea where he lovingly carved gingerbread trim. Returning, he turned their home into a confectionary wedding cake. Now, 150 years later, couples, many of them in their wedding attire, pose for pictures in front of the Wedding Cake House.

The Kennebunks soon became synonymous with romance and weddings. Beginning with those first important families, each season, marriages followed which united families and great fortunes. Some of their descendants continue to summer in the Kennebunks. One summer colony family gave us U.S. presidents 41 and 43. The back lawn of the the Nonantum Resort in Kennebunkport, a popular wedding destination in southern Maine. Joel Page photo/Press Herald

We’ve always smiled when we catch a glimpse of a bride and groom posing at the beach for their wedding pictures. We get to share in their big day and their hopes for a new beginning. These sightings are pretty non-existent this year because of COVID-19 and the governor’s group-size cap and unworkable lodging restrictions.

A wedding in the Kennebunks is not a-spur-of-the-moment event. It’s planning by a mother and daughter can rival a D-Day landing. The law of supply and demand means that the church, reception venue, and caterer must be booked the year before. Some young women have been rumored to have done the bookings before they’ve even met the man of their dreams.

Previous summers, local churches ran Saturday schedules — April through late October, that rivaled New York’s Grand Central. Weddings ran on two-hour shifts with florists, musicians, and photographers securing in and out for each. A few years back, a florist friend, while she was setting up her arrangements for a wedding only minutes away told us it was her second of seven weddings that day.

This short wedding season provides the revenue stream which enables our local businesses and services to survive another year. It takes a whole village to carry off a memorable wedding and the dollars are spread far and wide. Over the years with the extravagance and costs of weddings, adding in the honeymoon, some are rumored to be over the $100,000 price tag.

Local beneficiaries include restaurants, inns, and B&Bs, wedding planners, printers, nail techs, limo drivers, florists, spas, photographers, wedding singers and ceremony musicians.

After the ceremony, the prosperity ripples broaden with the reception venues, equipment rentals — tents, silverware, glasses, […]