Katie Hunckler and Jim Slater “met the old fashioned way,” she says. “On Bumble!” For their first date, in January 2017, Jim took Katie to a Chicago institution, Marge’s Still. “It was one of those dates where the conversation flowed,” Katie remembers. “We realized we had been several places at the exact same time—at concerts, in particular.” Their first date was so good that they planned their second date then and there. It was an app match made in heaven.
“We got engaged on our rooftop in June 2020, just us and our tomato plants,” Katie shares. They had just grabbed a casual dinner on the patio at one of their favorite neighborhood spots. “It was one of those wonderful Chicago summer nights, a perfect date night. We walked home hand in hand and went for a nightcap on our roof deck.” She continues: “Jim headed upstairs first. He had lit up the space with twinkly lights and was playing my favorite Bruce Springsteen song. There was chilled Champagne hidden in the corner. I opened the door to find him on one knee.”
In wedding planning, “Jim and I were aligned from the start,” Katie says. “We wanted to throw a really fun late-summer party that we would both want to go to even if it wasn’t our wedding.” They picked Shoreacres, a private golf club just north of Chicago, as their venue. “It is such a beautiful setting—it feels like you’re at a destination wedding because it’s right on Lake Michigan,” Katie says. “It meant so much to us to be able to have the ceremony and wedding almost entirely outside, with an open-sided tent. Part of this was for COVID safety reasons, but also because late summer in Chicago is one of our favorite times of year.”
The couple pegged Bianca Hall of Estera Events to bring their vision to life. “Bianca understood the vibe Jim and I were going for, and was such a great creative partner,” Katie says. “The questions she asked us to get an understanding of our taste were not run-of-the-mill but poignant, and if I made an obscure reference to a certain fabric or hotel design, she always knew exactly what I was talking about.” (Fabric, as it turns out, would become an essential element to their design.)
They wanted “a quintessential Chicago weekend,” Katie says. So, they kicked things off with a rehearsal dinner and welcome party at dive bar and music venue The Hideout Friday night, complete with a pizza truck and live band. “They played lots of danceable classic rock, and it was such a fun start to the weekend,” Katie says. “Why not dance at both events?”
The next morning, September 11, 2021, they kicked off their wedding by unearthing a bottle of bourbon Katie’s mother had buried a month earlier. The Southern tradition is meant to bring good weather on the wedding day, and good fortune to the married couple. “We are not Southern, but some friends and family are,” Katie admits. “But, we all like bourbon, and we didn’t want to take any chances!” It worked: The sun shone for their perfect wedding day.
Read on to see all the gorgeous details, planned by Estera Events and photographed by Studio This Is.
Katie and Jim’s vision diverged on just one thing: “I overruled him on the need for paper invitations and save the dates versus sending out email calendar invites,” Katie says. “Not sorry!” She dove headfirst into the creative process of choosing papers, textures, and fonts. “We worked with Happy Menocal Studio to create a whimsical yet elegant emblem that represented us and defined the colors, look, and feel we’d carry throughout the planning and design process,” Katie says. “It included ivy to represent Wrigley Field and Jim’s Cubs super-fandom, and my favorite flower, the dahlia. The shape of the emblem was from the focal point of a beautiful rug Jim and I found while traveling in Egypt.”
“I am a researcher, and I also know my body proportions well,” Katie says. “I knew I wanted off the shoulder, an interesting but not trendy lace, and an A-line silhouette.” She saw the “Lovely” gown from Monique Lhuillier’s spring 2020 collection online and went on the hunt. “I loved the low back and lace of this dress. When I tried it on during the Monique trunk show at Ultimate Bride, I was already pretty sure.” She completed her look with a simple tulle veil, her mother’s diamond earrings, and a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes she could walk through grass in.
“Because there were just two bridesmaids, we could really have fun with their looks,” Katie says. “I am a big Ulla Johnson fan, and I thought several of her designs that year jived with the look and feel of the wedding. We chose two different Ulla dresses that were not the same, but went together. Liz’s dress had small pops of the same primary color of Lindsay’s dress. Lindsay also came up with the idea to use a leftover piece of fabric from alterations in her hair.” Monobotanical bouquets of yellow garden roses popped against the patterned frocks.
Jim paired his navy Tom James suit with a green polka-dot tie from Tie Bar, and socks featuring the famed Grateful Dead dancing bears. He wore his grandfather’s engraved cufflinks.
I still get butterflies in my stomach when I think about our first look.
The duo decided early on that they wanted to do a first look. “We liked the idea of having a moment to ourselves to fully grasp the gravity of that moment,” Katie says. “It’s such a nice way to kick off the day, and you go into the ceremony already feeling like a unit.” That said, in the moment she felt faint. “I was simultaneously so excited to see him, and so overwhelmed by the love and intensity of it all—I still get butterflies in my stomach when I think about it.”
A simple, delphinium-lined platform served as the altar, and the wide vista of Lake Michigan as a backdrop. “The most important parts of the ceremony decor were the beautiful ombre floral arches guiding the guests to the seats and framing the aisle,” Katie says. “Bianca and Life in Bloom came up with sketches of these beautiful arches. They instantly felt special even in sketch form, and I was completely blown away on the day of by how beautiful they looked.” Flower petals lined the walkway, and a live bluegrass band played as the 200 guests took their seats.
A family friend officiated the ceremony, which paid homage to the couple’s love of music. “We had readings by our favorite musical artists, mine being Bruce Springsteen—my childhood friend read ‘If I Should Fall Behind,’” Katie says. “Jim’s best friend read Grateful Dead’s ‘Standing on the Moon.’ Both artists and songs are significant to us.” After “I do,” the band took up The Beatles’ “I’ve Just Seen a Face” as the couple recessed down the aisle.
Like the ceremony, cocktail hour overlooked the lake. “We had hightop tables with beautiful linen cloths embroidered with butter-yellow designs and a hefty coral tassel to tie them together,” Katie describes. Guests noshed on mini lobster rolls, vegetarian flatbread, and lamb lollipops and indulged at a raw bar.
“Perhaps one of my favorite elements of the cocktail area was the name card presentation,” Katie says. “A hugely important part of the look and feel of the reception was fabric and texture. Our friend Melinda Marquardt is a textile designer and artist who owns The Vale London. It meant a lot to incorporate her designs in key places like the name card display and pillows in the sitting area.”
The ceremony arches were repurposed to create the pathway from cocktail hour to the reception tent. “They somehow looked even more magical lit up at dusk,” Katie says.
“We wanted the decor to feel fun and unique, but still elegant and seasonal. The textile and textural elements were important personal touches,” Katie says. “One of my favorite places we incorporated texture was in the form of the large fringed lanterns over the dance floor, hung among disco balls and chandeliers covered with greenery. The amazing combination was hard to look away from—I wish I could have taken each element home.”
“We had three tablescapes and types of place settings that were each unique, but went together like a great outfit,” Katie says. Long rectangular tables had tall arrangements of greenery that mirrored the branches coiling up the tent poles. Circular tables had green and white florals with pops of coral dahlia. “I also loved the mixture of ginger jars—having both green and blue and different patterns felt playful and elegant.” The couple’s custom emblem was also featured on the bar.
The newlyweds made their grand entrance and went straight to the dance floor, swaying to “In Spite of Ourselves” by John Prine. There was a brief pause for dinner—a late-summer Midwestern menu of grilled peaches, heirloom tomato burrata, steak with chimichurri sauce, and key lime pie for dessert—but mostly, “we barely left the dance floor,” the bride says.
“With help from my interior designer best friend and maid of honor, Lindsay Baker of Sarah Vaile Design, we chose some of my favorite classic textile patterns to create screens that served as a focal point and backdrop behind the band,” Katie says. “Bianca and Life in Bloom also utilized elements of our emblem to create a repeating pattern we could use on the screens and custom matchbooks.”
They wove in some meaningful moments like speeches, but nixed others—such as cake cutting—in favor of more time spent on the dance floor. “Jim and I are both extroverts and had the goal of throwing a fantastic party, so optimizing dance floor time was important,” Katie says. “You just want the night to go on forever.” Of course, it eventually had to come to an end, leading to another one of Katie’s most memorable moments: “Snagging a Chicago hot dog in the nick of time before getting in the car to go back to the city.” Not long after, the newlyweds headed to Hawaii for a blissful honeymoon.