Kennebunkport’s Laura Plaisted and Nolan Hood are winners of the first Real Maine Wedding of the Year contest. The prize: a wedding valued up to $100,000. The announcement was made Sunday at the Maine Wedding Association Bridal Show at the Harraseeket Inn in Freeport.

“I feel absolutely gracious … so thankful … so excited,” Plaisted said shortly after the announcement, according to a press release. “For months now, people have been asking me when I’m going to get married and I haven’t been able to tell them because I’ve been waiting to find out [about this contest]. I’m absolutely incredibly thankful. I’m so excited to be able to marry [Nolan] in October.”

Hood, a staff sergeant in the Army National Guard, has served for the past 12 years and now serves with the Army Infantry’s Provencal Reconstruction Team, currently stationed in Afghanistan. He is due home in July.

“My fiance is the bravest, strongest, most handsome, beautiful inside and out man that I know,” Plaisted said in the video she submitted for the contest. “He’s my best friend in the entire world.”

She called Hood to tell him the good news Sunday evening.

“I told him that we won, and he was so excited for us,” she said in a phone interview Monday. “He asked me if I was still upright. I was, I held it together pretty well. It was really a dream come true.”

The Real Maine Wedding of the Year  contest was announced in January. After receiving video entries about engaged couples from all over the state and the country, a panel of six judges and voting from the public narrowed the field of finalists to four. Finalist voting took place for about a week and a half, and more than 6,000 votes were cast for the four finalists.

“[Laura and Nolan] had a lot of support, friends and family,” said Melanie Brooks of Real Maine Weddings magazine, the publication that put on the contest, “and I think people love the fact that she wanted to do something great for her husband in military.”

While Plaisted created their submission video and spread the word about the contest at home, Hood asked people in the Army in Afghanistan for support — and votes.

The wedding package includes a wedding dress, up to four bridesmaids’ dresses, hair styling and makeup, wedding rings and accessories, flowers, photography, videography, a reception at the Harraseeket for up to 120 guests, wedding cake, a wedding planner, entertainment, food, a limousine and a honeymoon. The prize also would include tuxedos, but the groom and groomsmen will wear their military uniforms.

Each couple in the contest agreed to let the public assist them in planning their wedding if they won.

Public voting, which begins in a month, will determine some aspects of the wedding, including the dress, the cake and the honeymoon location. The reception table design will be the first piece of the celebration to be posted online for voting. Maine Real Weddings will post three photos of table designs chosen by Plaisted with the assistance of wedding designers Amber Small and Kathryn Ravenscraft of Sweetest Thing Weddings in Bangor. The public will vote on the final design.

“I trust the opinion of the Real Maine Wedding staff, and the fact that the public has an opinion and will support us for the whole thing is great,” said Plaisted. “They can take credit for how the whole thing comes out. I’m flattered. It’s an honor for me.”

Hood is excited to attend a workshop with Plaisted at Brown Goldsmiths in Freeport to craft each other’s wedding rings, an experience that is included in their prize.

All aspects of the wedding have been donated by various businesses, many in the Freeport area.

“The fact that the wedding is in Freeport is one the the best aspects of the whole thing for me,” said Plaisted. “My family and friends coming from away get to spend their vacation and the wedding in the coastal town of Freeport with all of the neat shops. We may not have been able to afford such a great place.”

Plaisted and Hood’s wedding will be held Oct. 21, with the reception to be held at the Harraseeket Inn. If the couple hadn’t won the contest, Plaisted says, she and Hood wouldn’t have been able to get married until summer of 2012. They want to get married as soon as possible, but they would have needed time to save money and plan.

The wedding will be featured in the next issue of Real Maine Weddings magazine, published in December.

The other finalists, Lindsey Plummer and Sam Hancock of South Portland; Nancy Ames and Chris MacMahon of Poland; and Kala Hardacker and Ben Hamilton of Concord, Mass., received trips to Florida for making it to the finalist round.

“It has truly been a pleasure to hear stories from the exciting brides- and grooms-to-be and to hear the genuine love and creativity that occurs every day among happy couples,” Brooks said in a press release. “I want to thank everyone who entered and wish all of the couples the best as they begin the next stage of their lives together.”

Plaisted and Hood’s contest video submission may be viewed at For information visit,


Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn Sarnacki is the BDN Act Out editor, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter: @1minhikegirl, and Instagram:...