Photography by Alisha Tova

Published on November 6, 2020

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Like many couples, Megan Carty and Dustin Musgrave met in their early 20s through mutual friends. Unlike most couples, they got engaged over a seafood tower in one of their favorite Chicago restaurants, Maude’s Liquor Bar. “It was intimate, candlelit, and romantic,” Megan recalls of the October night Dustin proposed. 

A year later, they once again found themselves in a beloved local eatery—this time for their wedding. With Megan being an art director and designer for a small design agency and Dustin serving as executive chef of Soho House Chicago, aesthetics and food are huge parts of their daily lives. They made it easy on themselves by choosing Elske, a spot close to their home in the West Loop neighborhood, which also happens to be a stunning, clean-lined space and Michelin-star rated. And they did it all their way, starting with a ceremony in front of a fireplace witnessed only by family and close friends, before the rest of their 70-person guest list joined them for an indoor-outdoor reception.

Here’s how the couple pulled off a fun celebration that was completely void of “stuff and fluff.”

It’s Never Too Early to Get Inspired

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Years before she even met Dustin, Megan started a wedding Pinterest board. “I knew I wouldn’t want things to be standard, so over the years, whenever I saw something unique, I was sure to throw it on my board,” she recalls. Fast-forward to after their engagement: “I did the same thing with Instagram,” says Megan, who planned the wedding without a planner (but with the help of Dustin). “I looked a lot toward general fashion and interior inspiration that didn’t necessarily have to do with weddings.”

Strategize Your Budget

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The restaurant buyout, which included the entire space, all of the food, and an open bar, was their first and largest purchase for the wedding. “We spent a total of $30,000, thanks to our amazing parents, who didn’t want us to spend a dime,” says Megan. 

From there, they had an idea of how much was left and where their priorities landed. (Megan put together a lot of lists and spreadsheets—and by making them shareable, their families could see where the money was going.) At the top of the list: a photographer to help them remember the day, who also vibed with them on a personal level. “Alisha Tova absolutely delivered,” says Megan. 

Let the Venue Speak for Itself

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“The first time we dined at Elske, we joked with the owners that we wanted to live in their restaurant,” says Megan. “It was the only venue we ever considered. The feeling of the space felt so right.”

They worked with Bottle & Branch, which does the restaurant’s florals, to craft a soft, romantic focal point on the ceremony fireplace and more minimal arrangements inside, all in a textured white palette that didn’t overwhelm the space—like this grouping (above) of pieces that combined simple baby’s breath with taper candles arranged in candlesticks already overflowing with wax.

Make It Personal

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Since the couple also owns and operates Wolf Bone Candles, the decision to give candles as favors just made sense. Luckily, the bride and groom have similar fragrance preferences, agreeing on warm, woody notes that captured the fall season and overall vibe of the venue.

The pair also looked to people they knew to provide things like hairstyling and makeup, ceremony music, and even officiating. “All of these people, of course, were compensated for their time and services, but it was more cost- effective (and meant more to us) than having strangers help on such a personal day,” says Megan.

Skip the Fussy Plated Dinner

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Never fans of formal seated receptions, Megan and Dustin opted for a more casual meal with passed plates and a buffet. “If people just want to party and drink, why stop them with a strict dinner schedule?” Megan points out. And when the party continues into the wee hours, why not serve up a late-night staple? “Jet’s Pizza is our go-to ’za,” says Dustin, “because it’s consistently perfect and without a doubt one of the best things to eat after 14 glasses of wine.” 

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