Mary Kate Miller and Steve Clay's love story is far from traditional—and the duo made that their focus when it came time to plan their big day. The couple met on St. Patrick's Day in 2015—("Arguably the worst day to meet someone, but it worked for us," says Mary Kate)—and got engaged on Super Bowl Sunday in 2018, while ice skating in the snow. For their wedding, Mary Kate and Steve sought to maintain their playful personalities and sense of humor throughout all of the wedding pomp and circumstance.
"A few years ago, my parents bought a house on Fox Lake in Illinois, and the second I saw it, I knew I wanted to get married there," says Mary Kate. "It has the best, most calming energy, and I love the history of the 100-year-old property." Of course, it wasn't that easy. "There were a few structural issues that needed to be repaired, and one thing led to another and the construction project expanded," she says. "It made planning our wedding feel like Father of the Bride!"
On September 29, 2018, there may have been hanging wires and blue tape here and there, but Mary Kate and Steve saw it as part of the charm, focusing on their joy and the love of their family and friends instead. "Steve and I had a very specific vision for our wedding, so we did a lot of the planning ourselves," says Mary Kate. The bride is a writer and comedian, so she wrote everything from the website to the invitation wording, while Steve (a cinematographer) vetted the photography options, ultimately choosing Olivia Leigh Photographie.
"Everything from the flowers to the signage to the hot sauce we ate during our ceremony was a DIY project," Mary Kate says. "It meant that, on our wedding day, we could really say that it felt like us."
The result of the couple's handiwork? "An Edwardian-meets-Americana aesthetic, lots of floral prints, and a shameless sense of humor," describes the bride. Keep reading to see how Steve and Mary Kate said "I do" in a fun loving lakefront wedding in Illinois.
Mary Kate got ready with her mother and sister, whom she knew would keep the moment lighthearted. Fittingly, the bride surprised her mom with a novelty handkerchief—that said "Keep your shit together"—for the occasion! "After our hair and makeup was done, we decided to go down to the lake to 'christen' ourselves for the day," she says. "We had our toes in the water, and I decided I was going in!" The bride hiked up her slip and half-skinny dipped—in full hair and makeup!—before changing into her wedding dress.
Mary Kate never set foot in a bridal salon. "My mom, sister and I were in the kitchen scrolling through Net-a-Porter, and my sister spotted this Giambattista Valli dress," says the bride. "She was immediately drawn to the cape, which she said was like a veil but for arms!" The floral frock was a little bit Edwardian, a little bit modern, and totally feminine. Mary Kate paired it with pink Gucci pumps and a veil made with lace from her late grandmother's mantilla.
Steve wore a Bonobos tux that he'd purchased earlier in the year for a friend's wedding. "It meant no more shopping, another wear for his tux, and made it feel like a freebie," says Mary Kate. Because the wedding was outdoors, the couple knew they would also need shades. Steve wore classic Ray Bans, while Mary Kate donned pearl-edged Chanel glasses.
Instead of a larger wedding party, the couple opted to have just a maid of honor and a best man, then invited friends to share readings during the ceremony. Mary Kate's sister acted as her MOH and wore a floral Jenny Yoo dress and a lace cape to coordinate with her sis.
Steve and Mary Kate collaborated to design all of the day's signage, using a floral motif and modern calligraphy.
Every moment of the ceremony was purely personal. "Before we walked down the aisle, we had a playlist of breakup songs to symbolize all of the heartbreak we'd endured to get to this moment," says the bride. Their friend Paul, who introduced the couple back in 2015, served as officiant. Even the ceremony readings had a sense of humor. Says Mary Kate, "Each reading sounded pretty and sentimental out of context, but they were pretty silly if you knew where they came from!" For example, their third reading was a song verse taken from the Anastasia soundtrack.
To cap off their traditional vows, the officiant called up Mary Kate and Steve's "wing woman" and "wing man"—with actual hot wings! "We made our own mango and Carolina reaper hot sauce, which we called 'Til Death Do We Part,' and had to eat super hot wings while repeating our vows a second time, all to prove that we meant the 'for worse' part," Mary Kate says with a laugh.
Immediately after the ceremony, guests enjoyed a "cake reception" before heading to cocktail hour. "We went straight from the ceremony to the cake cutting so everyone could grab a slice and really enjoy it," Mary Kate says. "My worst nightmare was flying in a Milk Bar cake and having everyone be too drunk to eat it!" So guests nibbled on Milk Bar's apple pie cake and sipped Champagne, then made their way to the tent for dinner.
Inside the tent, peach buffalo check linens created an upscale picnic vibe, while floral napkins added a pop of color to contrast with the all-white carnation centerpieces. "Simple flowers and statement linens were perfect for our outdoor celebration," says the bride.
To continue the Americana picnic vibe, dinner included fried chicken and mac and cheese. "We had a selection of hot sauces, including the one Steve and I made so guests could 'sample our commitment,'" Mary Kate says with a laugh.
The couple's friend is a choreographer so she helped them put together a fully choreographed waltz that Mary Kate says was even better than something in a period drama. "We danced to Blue Danube and practiced so much," she says. "We got our full 19th century ball moment that was so romantic and perfectly goofy!"
Looking back on planning their personalized lakefront wedding picnic, Mary Kate had one final tip to share: "If you have the perfect wedding hashtag, make the most of it," she says. "We emailed all of our guests the week before the wedding encouraging them to use the hashtag, and reminded them on our own social media accounts. We really wanted everyone to use it, and this quick reminder made a huge difference!"
Month-of Coordinator: Estera Events || Venue: Private Home || Bride's Dress: Giambattista Valli, from Net-A-Porter || Bride's Veil: Veiled by Cha Cha || Bride's Shoes: Gucci || Bride's Sunglasses: Chanel || Hair: Kelly Miller Hair || Makeup: CD Artistry Chicago || Maid of Honor's Dress: Jenny Yoo, from BHLDN || Groom's Attire: Bonobos || Best Man and Officiant's Attire: The Black Tux || Catering: Big Delicious Planet || Cake: Milk Bar || Macarons: Sweet Cute || Music: Kuhl Entertainment || Photography: Olivia Leigh Photographie