A Shelter Island Wedding Inspired by Nature
Katie and Samuel
There's a certain magic that occurs at the intersection of art and science. When the two meet, wondrous things are created—architectural marvels, groundbreaking installations, even great love. Samuel Crane, a data scientist and self-professed "insect obsessive," met Catherine "Katie" Covington, then a jewelry designer and now the senior style editor at Martha Stewart Weddings, on a winter day in 2011. The pair had a drink at his favorite Brooklyn cocktail bar; she charmed him with her creativity and wit, and he impressed her with his logical nature, his sense of humor . . . and his special access to the Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems at the American Museum of Natural History, where he was doing Ph.D. studies. Drinks led to dinner, and "I promptly set up the next date," says Samuel.
Four years later, after asking Katie's father for his blessing, Samuel proposed during a romantic trip to New Orleans. They decided on a destination wedding to Shelter Island, nestled between the two forks of Long Island, New York, where they rented out the Ram's Head Inn—a quaint family-owned-and-operated property on the island's east side. "We love how wild the island is and wanted a botanical theme for the wedding," says Katie. No stranger to research, Samuel uncovered a book on the local flora and fauna and then scoured the online Biodiversity Heritage Library for images of native animals and plants that would be in season in late summer. Katie then used them to design elements that appeared throughout the celebration, beginning with the save-the-dates. "Everything featured was actually on the island, with the exception of the blue cranes, a nod to Samuel's last name," she says. The pair also created a local field guide, which was tucked into welcome bags along with binoculars "so everyone could be their own naturalist," says Katie.
All those details set the scene for their outdoor ceremony, held on September 10, 2016, overlooking Coecles Harbor. During cocktail hour, guests found their seats for the alfresco dinner via another collaborative creation: a table of escort cards featuring colorful preserved insects, which also doubled as favors. Samuel had spent months gathering them from collectors, and they were a huge hit—inspiring guests to think creatively about nature-as-décor, too. "They all have them displayed in clever ways in their homes," says Katie. "Now, whenever we go over, they're like, 'Want to see my bug?'"
Invitations Designed by the Bride
Katie designed the save-the-date, introducing the couple's crest and color palette. The postcard-style card was printed by Wedding Paper Divas, and sent with the basic details on the back.
Working with letterpress company Bella Figura, Katie also designed the invitation suite, which featured plants and animals found on Shelter Island, sent in envelopes calligraphed by her mom, Mary. In total, 8 species of plants and animals were featured on the invite.
One of the largest sources of inspiration for the couple was A Nature Journal: A Naturalist's Year on Long Island, which includes 155 paintings of the region's plants and wildlife by Dennis Puleston, an area naturalist who also cofounded the Environmental Defense Fund.
Welcome to Shelter Island
Welcome bags included a field guide to the native wildlife, binoculars for bird-watching, and a bottled "Sapsucker" cocktail, a bitter Cappelletti-and vermouth-based drink named for the local yellow-bellied sapsucker that has been known to become intoxicated from the fermented sap it eats. Samuel tested five recipes before deciding upon the perfect blend.
Katie and Samuel spent the day of the wedding getting ready at the nearly 90-year-old inn—he upstairs and she downstairs.
The bride's mother helped her get ready.
A Special Touch
A few weeks before the wedding, Katie's maid-of-honor returned from a trip to Portugal with a gift of vintage silk-embroidered flower patches. "I thought they would be pretty 'something blues' so I pinned them inside my dress," she says.
Bejeweled bug rings, on loan from designer Daniela Villegas, served as Katie's "something borrowed."
"He is generous, calm, logical, thoughtful and fun. I've never had to guess how he feels about me, because he has always shown me with his actions," Katie says about Samuel.
The Wedding Party
The couple's close friends from college and New York made up the wedding party.
Gifts for the Guys
Gifts for the groomsmen included a cigar and cigar cutter, as well as vintage pocketknives.
Presents for the Gals
Katie gave each of the women on her mother's side of the family a handkerchief that had once belonged to her maternal grandmother.
All in the Family
The bride and groom posed on the inn's lawn with their parents pre-ceremony.
Twins Hudson and Milo, sons of the couple's friends, served as ring bearers.
With These Rings
An antique tin originally meant to hold scientific specimens was transformed into a ring box with the addition of velvet cushioning. Katie designed both of the wedding bands herself.
"I never doubted it was the right step," Samuel says about his decision to propose—but with Katie's background in jewelry design, his biggest worry was finding a ring she'd love. After a bit of snooping on her social-media accounts, he found Erie Basin, a local jewelry shop she liked that specializes in one-of-a-kind designs. "They put a photo of a new ring up on Instagram, and I hopped on my bike during lunch break and paid for it that day," he says of the east-west diamond and yellow-gold design. The proposal in New Orleans soon followed, and Katie loved the ring. "In fact, I think the first thing she said was, 'You got a good one!'" says Samuel.
The sweet, funny ceremony included stories from Katie and Samuel's time together, lyrics from Justin Timberlake's "Mirrors," as well as thoughts the couple had shared about one another. Katie's mom read "Union" by Robert Fulghum: "The symbolic vows you are about to make are a way of saying to one another, 'You know all these things we've promised, and hope, and dreamed—well, I meant it all, every word.'"
A DJ played classical pieces selected by Samuel. "The songs really communicate happiness and set a sunny, uplifting tone," he says. For the recessional, the couple chose a more recent hit, setting the mood for the reception—"Wouldn't It Be Nice," by the Beach Boys.
Katie's bouquet, created by Martha Stewart Weddings style director Naomi deMañana, included wildflowers picked fresh from the island and a selection of blooms sourced from FiftyFlowers.
Fun and Games
The bride played bocce with Charlotte, the couple's niece, who served as flower girl.
The escort-card table featured 54 different insect species, held in place with pins.
Guests found their names and table numbers on the front of the cards, and the taxonomic name, common name, and place of origin for each bug on the back.
54 different species of beetles, true bugs, and butterflies were used on the escort cards. Boxes were provided to guests to help transport their bugs home.
The newlyweds share a kiss on the venue's tennis court.
Centerpieces featured gomphrena, scabiosa, garden roses, lilies, yarrow, delphiniums, clematis, and bachelor buttons.
The Place Settings
Place settings included napkins Katie hand-dyed as well as menus she designed.
Guests dined beneath the Ram's Head Inn's canopy of trees, then moved inside for dancing. "Since our friends stayed at the inn, we kept the party going late, and people just drifted off to bed when they were ready," says Katie.
Martha Stewart Weddings contributor Jason Schreiber created a fondant-covered cake decorated with flowers, butterflies, and bugs for the couple to cut (they also served a lemon sheet cake).
Katie and Samuel performed their first dance to "I Will," by the Beatles. One of the things the bride loved best about her dress was that "the fabric made it perfect for twirling," she says.
Dancing with Mom
Samuel and his mother, Lavina, danced to Tim McGraw's "Humble and Kind."
Location and catering, The Ram's Head Inn
Wholesale flowers, FiftyFlowers
Photography, Thayer Allyson Gowdy
Officiant, Bettina Yiannakourou
Cake, Jason Schreiber
Music, DJ Kernsy
Rentals, Party Rental Ltd.
Hair, Melisande Page for Beauty Exchange NYC
Makeup, Moani Lee for Beauty Exchange NYC
Bridesmaid's dress, Zimmermann
Flower-girl dresses, Señorita Lemoniez
Groom's suit and shirt, Indochino
Cake knife, Duna by Cutipol matte black pie server
Cocktail napkins, ForYourParty.com
Ribbons on bouquet, East Coast Trimming
Table-runner fabric, Gray Lines Linen