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Shaina & Neal
Kate Stahl | Photo: Durling Photography | June 12, 2013
A meant-to-be couple exchange vows in contemporary style at the MCA.
In many ways, it’s amazing that Shaina Johnson and Neal Gram didn’t meet before 2010. The couple grew up just 40 minutes from each other in Michigan and both now work in wealth management at JP Morgan. But in the summer of 2010, Shaina was living in New York starting her career in finance, while Neal was doing the same in Chicago.
“My brother, some girlfriends and I decided to plan a trip to Chicago in August, and I messaged some of my high school friends to see if they wanted to meet us out on Friday,” says Shaina. “They brought their friend from college, Neal.”
While Shaina returned to New York just two days later, love was already in the air for the couple. “On Sunday, Neal looked at me and said, ‘Are we going to do this?’ We started flying back and forth immediately.”
“We became so close that it didn’t feel that we were living in different cities,” says Neal. “It was clear that she was the one, and I talked her into moving to Chicago in December.” And eight months later, on their one-year anniversary, he proposed during a trip to Napa.
The betrothed returned to Chicago and immediately started planning their wedding, quickly deciding on the Museum of Contemporary Art for its mix of a modern setting, a beautiful outdoor space and its blank-canvas feel.
“I always had this dream of getting married at a museum,” Shaina says. “I always knew I wanted the wedding to be a mixture of romantic and vintage glamour with a modern twist, and the MCA was perfect for that. Plus, Wolfgang Puck is the in-house caterer.”
On Sept. 8, 2012, Shaina and Neal exchanged vows in front of 200 guests, all decked out in their black-tie best, in the MCA’s Sculpture Garden. “Before the ceremony, I had to walk up the stairs in front of everybody, and I was extremely nervous about it,” says Shaina, who stunned in an Enzoani gown with a dramatic crystal belt. “But the minute I saw Neal, I didn’t care if I tripped and fell flat on my face; I was going down that aisle.”
After the ceremony, the bride and groom joined their guests and two Spanish guitarists for a cocktail hour on the outdoor terrace; then the party entered the museum’s main atrium for dinner and dancing. The room was a mix of modern whites—including gorgeous bouquets of hydrangea, orchids, roses and lilies from Studio AG—textured silvers, delicate crystals and lots of candlelight. Guests enjoyed a Sinatra singer and jazz band while devouring their Wolfgang Puck-made dinner (“I’ve never seen wedding guests scrape their plates before,” Shaina says), which included a farmers market salad and a choice of a duo of fillet and braised short ribs or roasted black sea bass.
After dancing to David Rothstein’s 11-piece orchestra and enjoying toasts from friends and family (“the perfect balance of sentiment and humor,” Shaina says), guests departed the MCA with one last treat: chocolate chip cookies and milk cartons. “They baked them during dinner, so they were still warm,” Shaina says. “That was a huge hit!”