When Tom Clukey and Rachel Gordon first met in the high school band room at Newport’s Nokomis High School in 2004, they didn’t necessarily think it was love at first sight. Rachel, who played flute, was a freshman. Tom was a junior trumpet player, who just happened to have space in his schedule – and the freshman band was the only class with enough room for an extra. As it turned out, that quirk of scheduling turned out to be the beginning of a lifelong commitment.
Rachel and Tom dated throughout high school, marking each month of their relationship with a special dinner of penne alfredo with shrimp, breadsticks and sparkling cider – a tradition they continued through their college years. After graduating from Nokomis in 2006, Tom moved south to attend the University of Southern Maine. Over the next two years, before Rachel finished high school and joined Tom in southern Maine, they spanned the two-hour distance by spending many hours on the phone. Tom said, “Neither one of us had a cell phone at the time, so I used calling cards to call her from the dorm phone. We used a lot of calling cards.”
In fact, they did so much talking that it soon became clear that they would be married after finishing college. During her last year at USM, Rachel started researching possible venues for their wedding,
even before Tom had proposed. She found the perfect place – Cliffside Lodge in Poland – and it was only as they were signing the contract for their October 2011 wedding that they realized, as Rachel said, “that we’re really making it official.”
While some grooms create elaborate proposal scenarios complete with skywriting, flash mobs or television cameras, when Tom presented Rachel with an engagement ring in the summer of 2010, it was in the same low-key, casual style that defines their relationship – and set the tone for their wedding.
“We were on a camping trip,” he said, “and Rachel was stressed out, trying to decide what clothes to wear.”
“He gave me the ring,” Rachel continued, “and told me it was something I could wear no matter what else I was wearing.” Because they had discussed the possibility of marriage
for years, Tom knew exactly what Rachel wanted in a ring: a simple diamond solitaire.
Rachel didn’t only have a definite idea of the ring she wanted, though. A natural-born planner, she did extensive research on every aspect of the wedding, from the location, to the dress, to the photographer. “I looked at nearly every wedding venue in the state,” she laughed, pointing out that she didn’t share all of her findings with Tom until she had the possibilities narrowed down to a few. “I had it narrowed down to eight sites, and then three, but when we looked at Cliffside, it was just perfect.”
Perched on a hillside overlooking Worthley Pond in Poland, Cliffside Lodge evokes a rustic mountain retreat, complete with exposed beams and a towering stone fireplace. “It was exactly what we wanted,” Rachel said, adding that she always knew she wanted a fall wedding, as the season is a favorite for both of them. “With the beautiful post-and-beam interior, it was like a blank canvas, not predecorated like other places that we looked at. Plus, there were cabins and rooms where everyone could stay.”
Against the natural backdrop of towering pines and fall foliage, Rachel and Tom kept their wedding décor simple and elegant. The bridal bouquets, designed by Laurie Ouellette of Sweet Pea Designs, featured orchids, roses and gerbera daisies in autumn shades of burgundy, orange and yellow – colors that coordinated perfectly with the five bridesmaids’ mocha-colored dresses.
“When I began looking for dresses,” Rachel said, “I had a certain shade of orange in mind, but I just didn’t like anything I found.” That was until she came upon what she calls the “magic dress” at Andrea’s Bridal in Portland. Initially, she didn’t care for the simple satin dress with a V-neck and draped waist, but once the bridesmaids (which included Tom’s sister) tried on the dress, Rachel was sold. “The bridesmaids are all different, in terms of coloring and body type, and this dress looked amazing on all of them.”
Rachel’s own dress was also not quite what she had initially envisioned, but it turned out to be perfect. “I didn’t think I wanted strapless,” she said, but after trying on multiple gowns, she eventually settled on a strapless, fishtail gown with delicate overlay of pearls and lace – and just a touch of sparkle. Her veil was finished with the same lace that adorned the gown, painstakingly sewn on by hand. The final effect stunned Tom. “I can’t remember any moment before I saw her,” he said.
In fact, Tom and Rachel broke one more tradition when they got together before the ceremony to take photos with photographer René Minnis. In the shadow of their photo, which served as the
centerpiece of their reception décor, they had an “unveiling” ceremony, giving them the chance to take some photos together before the outdoor ceremony and whirlwind of the reception. “We wanted to respect our guests, too,” said Tom, “and not make them wait for us to take a million photos after the ceremony.”
At the reception, where they hosted nearly 90 friends and family members, they enjoyed a plated dinner from Lori Kinkade’s Belle Fete Events & Catering from Brunswick and a dual-flavor cake made by Brianne Doyle of La Bella Torta in L/A. The centerpieces included the same selection of autumn-hued blooms as the bouquets, surrounding woodland-themed lanterns – and the favors hearkened back to the couple’s tradition of monthly dinners. “We gave everyone a small personalized bottle of sparkling cider,” Rachel said, as a nod to the drink they enjoyed as a young couple.
Even beyond the beauty and quality of the food and décor, though, Rachel and Tom praised the professionalism of their vendors. “They really helped everything run perfectly,” Rachel said. “I did so much research, and not only did I find the best options in terms of what I wanted, but their personalities all worked well together, and they all worked together to make things go smoothly.”
Things went so smoothly, as a matter of fact, Rachel wondered if things went almost too well. “We were a little nervous during the rehearsal that the rain wouldn’t clear,” Rachel said. “And I did forget to wear the earrings I picked out, but otherwise, everything ran perfectly.”
After the wedding, Rachel and Tom moved into their first home together in Westbrook rather than go away on a honeymoon. “We had never lived together before the wedding,” Rachel said, “so we were happy to just save the money and go home!”