Countryside Chic

Two Chicagoans with Naples ties say I Do at a picture-perfect Wisconsin estate

Nearly four years ago, Brittany Wagner and Daniel Scalia began building their life together at a hardware store—of sorts. “It sounds crazy, but we actually met at a Restoration Hardware,” she says of the home furnishings company, “and we realized when we looked at some of our pictures that that was the inspiration for our wedding. The Restoration Hardware in Chicago is awesome, like a conservatory, and I was there having brunch with my friends. One of them knew Dan through work, and when he came over to say hi, she introduced us.”

Bob & Dawn Davis Photography

The daughter of Shelly and Ralph Stayer of Naples, who works in marketing for the family’s Johnsonville sausage business, and the Boston-raised sports media executive wed September 1 in Kohler, Wisconsin, about two hours from Chicago where the couple lives.

“We got married at Riverbend, an estate about 15 minutes from where I grew up—I’m a Wisconsin girl, born and raised—and what’s funny is that I’d dreamed of getting married at Riverbend my entire life,” Brittany recalls. “It’s this incredibly special place, and I couldn’t picture anywhere but there, and then we found out that they typically had only 100 to 150 people for a wedding. We didn’t want to exclude anyone because of a capacity limit, so I was devastated. Kohler is a small town, and there was only one venue—
inside a ballroom at The American Club—that would work for around 400 people, but it wasn’t what I had in mind. My sister, Brooke, suggested that that we just drive over to Riverbend and take a look, and I refused. I thought, this is the most beautiful place in the world to me, and I don’t want to be reminded of that and be told no.”

As luck would have it, the property’s general manager saw the pair cruising around and asked them to come inside—“he talked us off the ledge,” Brittany jokes—and Riverbend was able to partner with The American Club resort, which had a kitchen large enough to accommodate the couple’s guest list. She and Dan also wanted the ceremony, cocktails, and reception to be at the same location “so people could have different experiences without having to go somewhere else,” she explains.

Bob & Dawn Davis Photography

At Riverbend, a former governor’s mansion built in 1923 and designed in part by the world-renowned Olmsted Brothers, who created Central Park in New York City, guests could roam in and out of the sprawling private club and onto the meticulously landscaped grounds.

“That’s how we ended up with a big tent with a clear, hard-top roof because we wanted a venue that held everyone for the ceremony, and we also wanted people to be able to see the trees and the river, and then we were like, ‘Oh, my gosh! This looks like Restoration Hardware in Chicago!’” The retailer had just opened its RH Chicago location, in a historic brick building with a glass- and steel-enclosed garden courtyard café and rooftop park, when the couple met in 2015. They got engaged about two years later and contacted Naples-based wedding planner Milda Vaivada and Chicago event designer Vince Hart of Kehoe Designs for advice.

“One thing I loved about Vince is at the first meeting, he said, ‘Let’s not even talk about the wedding or your vision. I just want to talk to you and feel you out. Once I get to know you outside of the wedding world, then we can introduce all of the wedding craziness,’” Brittany recalls. “We knew that we had a big group coming up from Naples, and we knew we were going to have a ton of friends and family from Wisconsin, plus Dan’s side from the south side of Boston, and the most important thing was making everyone feel comfortable.”

Bob & Dawn Davis Photography

In keeping with that, the couple included contrasting elements that were both casual (a vintage Ford Ranchero pickup that Brittany’s parents found for sale on a Wisconsin country road that they turned into a Prosecco truck) and formal (Dan’s white-jacket tuxedo at the reception, which he changed into after wearing a suit during the ceremony). They also wanted the wedding party’s attire to be something the participants could wear later, so Brittany chose navy Hayley Paige chiffon jumpsuits for her bridesmaids, and Dan selected custom suits for his groomsmen. “It’s great because we get texts and pictures all the time from our friends saying, ‘I wore the suit again!’ or ‘I wore the jumpsuit again!’ and it’s so fun,” she says.

Brittany, meanwhile, wore a gown from Israeli designer Berta Balilti that was only the third dress she’d tried on. “There’s a funny story to that, too, because it was like Riverbend. It was meant to be. My mother was going to meet my sister and me in New York, and I felt this huge pressure to find a dress during that trip. So I started getting super nervous, and Brooke and I were talking about it and having a couple of mimosas in Chicago, and she said, ‘Let’s walk across the street [to a bridal shop] and try a few on.’ I remember coming out in the dress and thinking, ‘Oh, no! This isn’t supposed to happen like this!’ It was a total accident that we found ‘the one,’ and we decided not to say anything to Mom.”

Bob & Dawn Davis Photography

Shelly Stayer and her two daughters met in Manhattan a few weeks later, and it was in the third boutique, L’Fay, that the bride tried on the same gown from Berta Bridal that she’d worn in Chicago. “It was it!” she recalls. “So that’s when we had to tell Mom that I’d tried on the dress before. I hadn’t wanted a sweetheart, strapless, half-trumpet, half-mermaid-type dress—I was determined to do something different—but that’s exactly what I got.”

Brittany paired the gown with heels from family friend and wedding guest Salvatore Ferragamo and carried a bouquet with a locket that contained a picture of her late father, Larry Wagner. For the after-party, she sported a sparkly Gatsby-era cocktail dress by Naeem Khan that reflected the 1920s vibe of the Riverbend estate—arched windows, ivy-covered walls, and an English countryside feel in the comfort of her Wisconsin roots. “Everything came together exactly the way it was supposed to, and I got to get married in the place I’d dreamed about since I was a little girl,” she says. “It was an absolutely perfect day.”

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