Oscar Brann says he and Jessica Collins have been a couple for 13 years, and engaged for the last 11. And throughout that time, Jessica has asked a certain question many times.
“When are we going to get married?”
Brann said he always had a good answer — an answer that Collins, also an avid angler, understood.
“I’d go, ‘Well, we’re going fishing this weekend. We can’t do that,'” Brann said.
For 11 years, that excuse worked. But this year, with an annual fishing vacation to Moosehead Lake with three other couples looming, Collins made Brann a deal he couldn’t refuse.
“She said, ‘Let’s just get married on Moosehead,'” Brann said. “I was still reluctant. But when she told me it was a leap year on [Feb.] 29 and that I wouldn’t have to buy her anything for our anniversary [except for] every four years, I kind of grabbed onto that.”
And that’s how the Skowhegan couple ended up tying the knot on Saturday, out on the ice of Moosehead Lake. Officiating was their friend, Joe Grant, who was in on the secret. The other couples didn’t know what they were about to witness.
“I put our wedding rings in my fishing tackle box. So as we were all fishing out there, I looked at the girls and said, ‘Geez, look what I found in my tackle box,'” Brann said.
Their fishing friends — Collins calls them their “chosen family” — didn’t immediately realize what Brann was saying.
“So I had to tell ’em: ‘We’re gonna have a wedding, right here, right now,” he said.
Collins said she’d long thought that the “muss and fuss” that some couples put into weddings made little sense, and she said she didn’t want any part of an event like that.
“What some people spend on a wedding is like what we paid for our house, for god’s sakes,” she said. “We’ve been together for 13 years. At this point, [a wedding] is just a matter of paperwork.”
Paperwork … and fishing.
And make no mistake, Collins had her priorities in order, with fishing atop the list. Before they sprung the surprise on their friends, all the holes were drilled and all the traps were set up.
“We discussed with everyone before we started the whole ceremony: If a flag goes up while this whole thing is going down, it’s time out, and we’re going to catch the fish,” Collins — now Collins Brann — said. “And then, we’ll come back and start over again.”
The bride wasn’t wearing your typical gown, although Brann did take to calling her new ski pants a “wedding dress.”
They were, after all, a new purchase, after Brann forgot to pack her other snow pants before leaving Skowhegan. The couple had to head over to the Indian Hill Trading Post in Greenville, which stocks nearly everything, it seems, in order to come up with some pants suitable for fishing (and a wedding).
“Everybody teased her, ‘That’s your wedding dress. You’ll be able to use [the pants] over and over again,'” Brann said. “I mean, she’d never be able to use a wedding dress over and over again. Right?”
Brann and Collins Brann said their wedding was perfect for them. It was low key, and held in a place they love.
“I didn’t want the typical VFW Hall and egg salad rolls. We didn’t want the white wedding dress and all that,” Brann said. “There’s a lot of pluses. I mean, the anniversary is every four years, and if we do decide to celebrate it, we can go back to Moosehead.”
Collins Brann said she’s content to let Brann think he got the better end of the deal. But she said that’s not really the case.
She loves to fish, too.
“It’s a win-win for me, too, because I love Moosehead just as much as he does,” Collins Brann said. “He likes to tell everyone else, ‘Yeah, I’m the winner in this whole deal.’ But it’s really a win-win for me, too.”
Collins Brann said she grew up fishing with her family, and was lucky enough to find a man who enjoys the same pastime.
“It just kind of worked out that he likes fishing and I like fishing, and he’s my fishing partner for life now,” she said. “He’s stuck with me.”
All of which is fine with Brann. He did, however, have one complaint about his wedding day: For the first time ever, his fishing party got skunked on Moosehead Lake, and didn’t catch a single fish.
“I’d rather be in your newspaper for a big fish,” he said with a laugh.
John Holyoke can be reached at email@example.com or 207-990-8214.