A Nautical Summer Wedding on the Shores of Lake Erie

Real Weddings

Location, location, location: It's not just an adage for real estate anymore! Rachael Novak and James Koenig first met when they became neighbors in the same duplex home in 2009 and quickly struck up a relationship. Five years later in May of 2014, James popped the question on the last night of vacation in Key West. "We were sitting on the beach with a backpack full of beer. It was pitch black outside and nobody was around," Rachael remembers. "It began to drizzle and when the rain really picked up but he blew me off when I asked if we should go inside. Before I knew it, Jim was pulling a ring out of the backpack and I was raining tears."

Drawing from the site of their proposal, the couple knew they wanted a waterside wedding, but this time traded Florida's tropical beaches for Lake Erie's shore. Rachael and Jim chose the Clifton Club in Lakewood, Ohio, for their August 22, 2015, wedding and invited 90 guests to take in the beautiful view while celebrating in the very same neighborhood where the couple met and fell in love. "We felt right at home," Rachael says. "We wanted our guests to feel the same." With the lakeshore as their backdrop and a summery, nautical vibe as their inspiration, this pair planned a bash their guests won't soon forget. And we won't either, thanks to the stunning photos captured by Kayla Coleman Photography, all seen below.

Shore Society created the couple's metallic gold invitation suite, which was complete with a fitting nautical vibe. The anchor design used at the top of Rachael and Jim's invite was carried over into several other elements of their day, including the welcome sign.

Rachael decided to try on a wide range of different wedding dress styles when she first started shopping, so when she put on this A-line silhouette from Watters, the bride-to-be knew it was the one. "Every dress I tried after this one was incomparable," says Rachael. "It was classic with a boho sensibility, and I loved the plunging neckline." Another plus? The non-white hue, which was something she had been open to all along, thanks to a silky bronze slip and sheer illusion bodice. "It was light as air and super comfortable for a summer day!"

She kept her accessories simple, choosing to wear studded Valentino pumps, drop earrings, and a stack of rose gold bracelets.

Jim went summer-casual for his attire, selecting a chambray linen suit jacket that he paired with navy pants.

For a coordinated look, his groomsmen all wore navy suits with matching chambray ties. "We didn't want them too dressed up and this look fit the vibe of our outdoor wedding," the bride says.

While the groom's boutonniere featured a peach garden roses and olive branch, his groomsmen and the couple's father's all wore a subtle mix of astilbe, berries, and greenery on their lapels.

"I wanted my bridesmaids to wear a mix of different fabrics, necklines, and textures to create depth while sticking to an overall palette of pale peach and neutrals," Rachael says of dressing her attendants. "It was important to me to give each woman a choice, so I picked a variety of styles so they would all have options. It was a ton of work but I loved how they all looked together!"

Rachael carried a textural bouquet comprised of dahlias, garden roses, ranunculus, astilbe, olive branch, rosemary, and privet berries while her 'maids toted smaller version of the same mix.

As guests gathered in the lawn for the couple's ceremony, programs with the same anchor detailing offered insight into Rachael and Jim's nuptials.

In the spirit of pre-wedding DIY projects, the bride and groom worked together to build their ceremony arch. "It was made of birch branches and tied with rope, adorned with dahlias, roses, and pink passion vine," Rachael says. There, the two exchanged heartfelt but humorous vows they wrote themselves. "I loved when Jim said that we would 'travel through life, hand in hand, just like otters do.' I appreciated the laugh to break up the nerves and tears!"

Following the ceremony, the newlyweds snuck off for a little alone time and to pose for a few sunset portraits on the beach.

During cocktail hour, guests sipped on the couple's signature cocktail, a blueberry Moscow mule. Instead of escort cards, the couple used calligraphed mussel shell to designate everyone's reception seats.

Centerpieces and reception décor was inspired by the couple's coastal aesthetic, with the main table arrangements made from a mix of different bud vases with dahlias and roses, ornamental driftwood, and copper lanterns.

Instead of a traditional guestbook, friends and family left messages in a bottle for the bride and groom to read after the wedding.

Rachael and James chose a four-tiered vanilla and salted caramel wedding cake that was decorated with textured buttercream and rose gold accents. "I made our flag cake topper myself," the bride says.

As favors, the bride and groom brought in a selection of sweets from their favorite local bakeries and candy shops. "I love to bake and have a major sweet tooth, so I wanted a dessert table with take-home boxes for our guests to take home," Rachael says. "We had macarons, mini cupcakes, pecan tarts, cake pops, and sugar cookies with the same anchor design on our invitations."

The night closed out with a joyous sparkler exit — the perfect way to send the newlyweds off for 10 days in sunny Turks and Caicos. "Stay true to yourself and your vision," Rachael advises future couples. "Your wedding day is about your love and future as a couple, not about fitting a mold."

Venue & Catering: The Clifton Club || Day-of Coordinator: At Last Event Planning || Bride's Wedding Dress: Watters, purchased at Something White || Veil: Jennifer Leigh || Jewelry: Alexis Bittar; Loren Hope || Shoes: Valentino || Hair: Lather || Makeup: Ashley Matho || Bridesmaids' Dresses: Bella Bridesmaids || Groom's Attire: Nordstrom || Groomsmen's Attire: American Commodore Tuxedo || Engagement Ring & Wedding Bands: Lauren B Jewelry || Florist: Twig Florals || Invitations: Shore Society || Cake: Hummingbird Bake Shop || Rentals: Borrow Rentals || Videographer: JFray Productions || Photographer: Kayla Coleman Photography

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Can't get enough of this couple's summer celebration? Then checkout another bride and groom's beachside nuptials in the video below.

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