We at Maine Women Magazine were wondering what it was like being a wedding planner, in winter, in the pandemic. Lisa Sturgeon graciously shared her time to help give a sense of the joys and challenges. My takeaway point (and not for the first time): People in Maine are resourceful.
Mary: Are you originally from Maine?
Lisa: Born, raised, and decided to stay.
Mary: Is it true you hold several demanding jobs at the same time?
Lisa: Yes, I work for an advertising agency, I teach business courses part-time at Husson University, and I am a wedding planner and officiant.
Mary: That is an unusual combination! Would you describe yourself as both artistic and business-oriented?
Lisa: I include beauty in all of the things that I do, yes. In customer service, hospitality is at the core of what we do—helping others achieve their goals. Whether the goal is to have a beautiful wedding, or to get an education in business, or to grow your company through marketing, I try to be a conduit of how we can [harmoniously] work together.
Mary: How did you get involved in wedding planning? And what effect has COVID had on your wedding planning company?
Lisa: Well, I had been making events happen for the past 10 years, unofficially, doing the planning and design. Then COVID happened. One of my best friends was getting married, and we had been planning her wedding. They had been going to have a destination wedding in Jamaica, but obviously when COVID hit, that plan was canceled. Soon, I went from being a wedding planner, to my friend asking me to officiate the wedding. That way, there would be one less person involved, without having to cut the guest list.
I became a notary so I could marry this couple, and they got married this past summer here in Maine. I realized that I actually had a good opportunity to diversify what we were offering as a company. I was now able to offer officiating services, in addition to planning and design. I had never thought about putting the three things together. Planning and design are obviously two separate activities, but then adding that trifecta of officiating gave us the opportunity to be able to pivot and offer a full service. We like to call it integrated services for couples. We can do everything from planning an elopement to a full-service event, to design, to actually showing up at the wedding and making it legal. So COVID, in a way, helped to bring about these interesting developments.
Mary: Your company just does weddings and events related to weddings, is that right?
Lisa: In terms of Getting Married in Maine, we focus on strictly weddings, including related events. The whole wedding celebration could include engagement parties, showers, rehearsal dinners, the ceremony, the reception, and Sunday morning brunch. Those are all Getting Married in Maine activities.
Then let’s say you have a company event, a family event, a Bar Mitzvah, or a First Communion, that you need help with the planning and designing—I wouldn’t necessarily have our regular wedding staff do that. While they’re focusing on the weddings, I would probably handle the other events directly myself.
Mary: Do you have a lot of employees, or do you hire them as events come available?
Lisa: We have our core group. They’re all independent contractors.
Mary: What do you do about the flowers?
Lisa: We coordinate the flowers, working with vendors across the States. We’ll work with our clients on conceptualizing what the design of the tablescapes should look like, if there are pieces, arbors, arches, and so on.
Mary: You’re married with a family as well?
Lisa: Yes. I only have one child. He’s three, and he’s perfect. That’s the saving grace of being able to do and juggle a lot of things. Probably the most interesting thing with COVID is that I’ve been working from home. We’re suddenly inside a lot on lockdown, he’s home with us, and for a part of the day, his mom’s in her office, working, being a wedding planner. He’s, like, “What is she doing in there? I want to play, or go on a picnic just with me. Mom’s always working.” So that’s a lot of change—a challenge. But he’s great.
Mary: You’re also an agent for an advertising company. How did that happen?
Lisa: I got both my undergrad and my master’s degree from Husson in business, with a concentration on hospitality. My first job out of school was working in the marketing department at Bangor International Airport. I had never really thought of marketing in the scheme of hospitality and how marketing would fit in with what I just learned.
But in that job, I got to travel across the country planning what we call concert events, working with travel agents and travel writers on features and stories for Maine. The idea was to try to convince people to either vacation in Maine or to start a business in Maine. I did not have to pretend to love Maine—I do love Maine. I think it is a very wonderful place not only to grow up, but also to get married, especially with all the state’s beauty, to raise a family, to grow older, and to just be. In this past year, I’ve never been more grateful to be here.
So, I worked at the airport for a number of years and fell in love with marketing and advertising. Then the military flights decreased, and there were layoffs. I survived three rounds of layoffs that the airport had, but it was extremely stressful. That was the year my husband and I were getting married. I started reaching out to my contacts and connections in the community, to find what I would want to do next if I did get laid off. Geaghan’s Pub, the Geaghan Brothers, were a 45-year-old Irish pub located in Bangor. And I fit in perfectly from the start. They were about to expand in to the brewing industry at the time and were looking for somebody to elevate their marketing efforts and serve as a communications manager between the restaurant brand and the brewery brand, internally and externally. My husband had been with the company for four years, at that time. And so for the next five years, the two of us worked together pretty much every day. We were both working a lot of weekends doing beer festivals, events across the State, a lot of traveling.
Then we had our son. One of us needed to make a change. And right at this time, I got a phone call asking me if I would ever consider leading Geaghan’s. The next thing I knew, I was working in an agency, which is very different from marketing for a company. But I’ve loved every minute of it.
Mary: In your wedding planning business, do you find that you get a lot of customers coming in from out of state, to Maine as a destination?
Lisa: Yes. People who have been here and had a good time camping, sailing, or vacationing often want to come back, if they are planning a wedding. Everyone gets this wonderful affinity to the state. And in talking to them, I get to share the beauty that it has all four seasons. Even spring, in mud season in Maine, it can be beautiful, right?
Mary: What are your final thoughts on your career path so far?
Lisa: I feel very lucky to be a wedding planner. There’s nothing more beautiful than a couple getting married in Maine and celebrating that love they have for each other and the place. You see the whole plan and effort that you all put together. You see the parts of the plan come together. You’ve made their lives easier, and they’re happy with the experience. And some of the work that we worked on will be shared for generations and generations in their wedding photos, that will form a memento. That’s something to be really proud of.
And I think COVID has taught us to have a little grace, and more grace, and we just keep going.
For more information on Getting Married in Maine, located in Bangor, Maine, please call 207-949-4637 or visit https://gettingmarriedmaine.com/about/.