Love was quite literally in the air when Gray MacDonald and Tate Huffard met at their best friends' wedding. She was a bridesmaid, he was a groomsman, and they totally hit it off. But there was one problem: He lived in San Francisco, and she was all the way in New York City. But that all changed a year later when Gray moved cross-country for a new job. Once on the same coast, they reconnected at a Halloween party and their bond was so instantaneous that they adopted a black Lab, Mudge, on their very first date!
(Yes, really.) They got engaged the following September—on a hike, with Mudge, of course—and started planning a summer wedding.
And since Gray and Tate's relationship started as a cross-country affair, it was only fitting that they met in the middle for their big day. On July 22, 2017, they invited 278 guests to join them in Minnesota, where they married at St. Martin's by the Lake and celebrated at Woodhill Country Club. "Because most of our guests were coming from out of town, we really wanted to show them everything we love about Minnesota, and especially wanted our wedding to have that summertime, lake feel," says the bride.
With the help of Mother of the Bride (with planning) and Melissa Oholendt (with photography), they showed their guests a great time—complete with trolley tours, a boat reception entrance, and surprise fireworks—so keep reading to see how Gray and Tate brought a bit of home in San Francisco to the shores of Lake Minnetonka.
The bride found her Lela Rose dress while shopping at L'Atelier Couture in Minneapolis. "I loved how simple it was," she says. "One of my style icons is Carolyn Bessette, and I loved everything about her wedding, especially her simple, gorgeous dress."
Gray's sapphire engagement ring was originally her mother-in-law's earring that Tate had made into a ring. "I feel so honored to wear it because it was a gift to his mother from his late father, Flip Huffard," she says. "I love it so much and was intent on wearing it on my wedding day." And since it's a sapphire, it also served as her "something blue."
The bride's cream Valentino shoes matched her clean, natural aesthetic—and the block heel was perfect for the country club's grassy terrain.
As her "something borrowed," Gray wore the same Vera Wang veil that her older sister wore on her own wedding day. She also accessorized with her great-grandmother’s bracelets as her "something old," and an Edie Parker clutch—personalized with "Mrs. Huffard"—and diamond earrings as her "something new."
The groom wore a suit by his favorite tailor in San Francisco, which he accessorized with a pale blue tie. He also wore his late father’s cufflinks and carried his late brother Wick’s silver belt buckle in his pocket. "He wanted to feel like they were with him on the wedding day," Gray says.
The couple's lab, Mudge, made the trip to Minnesota for Gray and Tate's big day.
Gray had 12 bridesmaids, while Tate had 16 (yes, 16!) groomsmen. "I’m not kidding...there was a laugh about it when they all piled into our tiny church," says the bride, with a laugh. The ladies wore silk dresses (in various hues) by Joanna August, and the guys wore navy suits paired with the same tie as the groom. Tate also gave each friend a handkerchief embroidered with their wedding date.
The bride and her ’maids took a trolley to the ceremony venue, which was the perfect time for even more pics!
The couple married at St. Martin's by the Lake, a church that holds many memories for the bride, as it's in walking distance from her lake house, where her great-grandparents said "I do."
There, inside the gorgeous wooden church that was accented with green eucalyptus, Tate and Gray exchanged traditional vows. They personalized the service with readings by Tate’s brother’s best friend ("So Much Happiness" by Naomi Shihab Nye) and Gray’s longtime childhood babysitter (an excerpt from "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" by Louis de Bernieres).
"Our exit was the best," Gray says. "We left the church, which was on the lake, in my family's old wooden boat, the Sea Jet. Our friends and families waved us off for a little alone time before we met back up with them at cocktail hour."
The newlyweds also took a moment alone to take in their handiwork inside the reception space at Woodhill Country Club.
The couple kept their decor elegant and spare with white linens and white flowers paired with lots of candlelight. "We wanted it to feel like the wedding our grandparents had, with tall silver candelabras and simple, beautiful arrangements," says the bride. "We wanted to transform the room, so our florist, Martha of Martha’s Gardens, added tons of fragrant greens to drip from the ceiling."
The groom's only request? A single baguette on each place setting.
The formal, sit-down dinner was filled with plenty of toasts—by Gray’s three siblings and Tate’s brother (also named Gray!) along with Gray’s dad and, finally, Tate. As a wedding gift, Tate gave Gray the keys to a small boat (left back home in Sausalito) that he'd been fixing up for months. He named it “Lady Gray.”
The couple decorated their classic buttercream cake with rings of greenery and fresh flowers. They also added a traditional touch in the form of a bride and groom cake topper.
Gray and Tate enlisted the help of their favorite band in San Francisco, the California Honeydrops, to keep the dance floor packed all night. At the end of the night, the band pushed the party outside onto the balconies, which is where everyone—including the bride and groom!—was surprised by a fireworks show (organized by their parents). "It was magical and kind of took people’s breath away," says Gray. "It was the best time to stop and really enjoy the moment with each other!"
Ceremony Venue: St. Martin's by the Lake || Reception Venue & Catering: Woodhill Country Club || Wedding Planner: Mother of the Bride Weddings || Bride's Dress: Lela Rose || Bride's Veil: Vera Wang || Bride's Shoes: Valentino || Bridesmaids' Dresses: Joanna August || Hair & Makeup: Julie Phaxay Hair and Makeup || Floral Design: Martha's Gardens || Rentals: Apres Party and Tent Rentals, Linen Effects, Rudy's Event Rentals || Paper Products: Letter Perfect || Cake: Country Cake Cupboard || Ceremony Music: Dr. Melanie Ohnstad of Westminster Presbyterian Church || Reception Music: California Honeydrops || Fireworks: Hollywood Pyrotechnics || Photography: Melissa Oholendt Photography