Who knew a discussion about hot dog toppings could lead to wedding bells? Such is the case for Shana and Joe, who met in Chicago’s Rockit Bar and Grill during the fall of 2013. And since Chicagoans take their hot dog toppings quite seriously, that initial conversation brought about a first date at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba, which ultimately led them to an engagement at Shana’s happy place: the dock at her family’s lake house in Glen Arbor, MI.
Launching into wedding plans for a ceremony and reception in Nashville, where they now live, this longtime couple exchanged their vows at Saint Elle in front of around 150 of their closest family and friends. The details are beautiful from top to bottom — but we can’t stop talking about her dress. Take a look!
The planning process got rolling once Shana and Joe enlisted the help of a wedding planner (Alexandrea Cantrell of The New Eclectic), which Shana highly recommends if your budget allows for it. And fortunately for Alex, Shana had done plenty of preparation work to find inspiration for her aesthetic. “Because I am such a visual learner, I started finding inspo images and making my own mood and style boards to see our ideas come together collectively,” says Shana. Though the couple initially thought about having their wedding in northern Michigan, where Joe proposed, they went a different route once they began searching for a venue. “Once we searched venues and [saw] their capacities with COVID, it became more apparent that we needed to regroup and look at venues in Tennessee unless we wanted an outdoor ceremony,” the bride explains.
Thankfully, Saint Elle was a shoo-in, and the couple knew they’d found their ideal venue the moment they arrived. In fact, Shana goes so far as to say they didn’t pick the venue — the venue picked them. “We knew from the moment we both stepped foot inside that this was it!” she explains. “When we got in the car after our tour, I said to Joe, ‘Ok, you go first,’ and his immediate response was, ‘I can picture you walking down the aisle to me in this room.’ We booked the venue that week.”
With a venue secured, Shana began her search for the perfect dress. And boy, did she find one! After visiting eight different boutiques and coming up empty-handed, the bride-to-be felt somewhat defeated. “I was not feeling confident in the dress-searching process because the traditional lace and beading was not my style,” she tells us. But a dress at Beloved Bridal stopped her in her tracks. “Once I put it on, it was the first time I felt beautiful trying on a dress,” she tells us.
Additionally, the bride embraced one of this year’s wedding trends — dresses with evolving features. Her particular dress allowed her to swap out sleeve options throughout the evening. “I was slightly nervous about the large puffy sleeves, which is where my design of the veil and shawl came into play,” says Shana. “I wanted something softer for the actual ceremony, and then I slipped on my puffy sleeves for a more energetic look at the reception.”
On the morning of the wedding, Shana and her bridesmaids gathered for hair and makeup in the hotel, then headed to the bridal suite at Saint Elle for the finishing touches. “I may or may not have forgotten to write my vows in our vow books before the day of,” the bride admits, “so I ended up spending a bit of time copying those down as well. Oops!” Meanwhile, Joe and his groomsmen had a stress-free morning listening to music and indulging in a bit of relaxation.
A mixture of family and friends from childhood through college, the bridal party was a large one, including the sweetest little flower girl you’ve ever seen — Shana’s niece, Lyla. The eight groomsmen sported black suits with bowties that boasted a muted floral design, while the nine bridesmaids wore slip dresses with draping over one shoulder. “Their dress color was named ‘Sienna,’” says the bride, “which was a mix of deep rose and toffee, depending on the lighting.” The color picked up the florals perfectly — bouquets that featured Queen Anne’s lace, baby’s breath, and dried hydrangea. “We liked the organic textures and colors,” says Shana of her wedding aesthetic, “so we kept it simple with white and toffee florals.” The bride’s bouquet consisted of a dozen white long-stemmed roses, which she describes as “simple with a dramatic twist.”
With eager anticipation, Joe and Shana met up for their first looks outside at Saint Elle, setting the tone. “I’m so glad we did [first looks] because it helped our nerves to have one another for support for the remainder of the day,” Shana offers. The couple also spent some time reading vows from one another. “We wanted to keep our vows private,” explains Shana, “so we wrote those in vow books and read each other’s [words] during our first look. We each created eight promises for the ceremony that we shared out loud in front of our family and friends.”
After first looks, laughter, and plenty of sweet photo ops, the couple made their way to the ceremony, where they exchanged their promises, then headed to the reception for a night of fun festivities that began with a cocktail hour featuring signature drinks. Given the groom’s affinity for bourbon, the bar served Manhattan cocktails. The bride’s love of sweets led to a signature, “Dirty Shirley.” Additionally, Southern-inspired hors d’oeuvres were passed around, including Nashville hot chicken sliders, pimento cheese bites, and buttermilk biscuits with country ham and preserves.
As the cocktail hour transitioned into the reception, guests took their seats for a dinner featuring a fall salad with butternut squash, dried tart cherries, toasted pecans, and local honey-cider vinaigrette. The first course was followed by entrée selections such as chimichurri steak, rosemary-garlic chicken, and roasted cauliflower steak. Roasted Brussels sprouts agrodolce with toasted pumpkin seeds added a touch of green, while patatas bravas completed the meal and brought in a sentimental element. “The patatas bravas tied into our favorite dish from the restaurant where we had our first date,” says Shana of the nod to Chicago’s Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba. For dessert, a two-tiered vanilla-almond cake decorated with fresh flowers wowed the guests.
The elegant dining tables were adorned with floral arrangements that matched Shana and Joe’s aesthetic, fondly referred to as “wild organic romance,” and the reception was a celebration that went on into the night. “The reception was everything we wanted and more,” exclaims Shana. “Our band, Young Hearts, knocked it out of the park and kept the dance floor alive all night long. We had such a blast mingling and dancing with everyone. And, a crowd favorite, there was no line at the bar!” Another crowd favorite, a late-night snack of “Happily Ever After Meals” was served mid-party. Resembling McDonald’s Happy Meals, the specialty boxes included miniature cheeseburger sliders and french fries. As the newlyweds departed, the reception band launched into “Home Sweet” by Russell Dickerson. “Everyone was on the dance floor circling around and singing along with us!” laughs the bride.
Ceremony & reception: Saint Elle
Coordinator: Alexandrea Cantrell with The New Eclectic
Photographer: Glenai Gilbert Photography
Videographer: LaDage Films
Flowers: Alexandrea Cantrell with The New Eclectic
Bride’s hair: Katie Cartwright with Nine Zero One Salon
Bride’s makeup: Shawna Vassallo of Parlour 3
Bride’s gown: Martina Liana Bridal via Beloved Bridal
Bride’s shoes: Badgley Mischka
Bride’s jewelry: Olive + Piper
Bridesmaid dresses: The Dessy Group via Bella Bridesmaids
Groom’s custom suit: Richards Bespoke
Invitations: Ivory Invitations
Catering: South Fork Catering Co.
Cake: Baked on 8th
Entertainment: Young Hearts
Transportation: Signature Transportation and Matchless Transportation
Thank you for sharing your special day with us, Shana and Joe! And thanks to Glenai Gilbert Photography for the stunning images.
For more jaw-dropping weddings and inspiration, visit our wedding archives HERE!