We’re Meant to Be

“I handed her a deck of cards that, unbeknownst to her, had a blank face upon which I had written 52 times I knew I loved her.” — Mary Jane

Photos by Leigh Photography

Many believe that the greatest romances begin with friendship. Emily Nicklies and Mary Jane McInnis are two such individuals who found each other as friends and eventually fell in love. On Oct. 6 of last year, the pair began their happily ever after in front of family and friends at the Brown Hotel. We recently spoke with Mary Jane to learn more about their love story and how she and Emily pulled off the perfect day.

When and how did you two meet?

We met as freshmen in 2004 at the University of Dayton. We both joined the crew team on somewhat of a whim. It wasn’t too long before we were best friends, spending the bulk of our free time together and writing each other letters on yellow legal pad paper over the summers and breaks as “pen pals.” After a few years of what we had both assumed was just a close friendship, we realized our feelings were deeper than that and we began dating our senior year of college.

When and how did you get engaged?

We had the pleasure of enjoying two proposals. We moved to Chicago from our respective hometowns (Emily from Louisville and me from Stamford, Connecticut) in the summer of 2016. We had talked about getting engaged, and we knew we were both ready in the spring of 2017. We also both knew that we wanted to propose to the other, and we claimed we did not care who went first and did not want to plan the order (though I did secretly want to go first).

As soon as Emily told me she was ready to get married, I reached out to her family for permission and started planning. On Aug. 18, 2017, I told Emily I wanted to play Peanuts, a card game we frequently play with her family. I handed her a deck of cards that, unbeknownst to her, had a blank face upon which I had written 52 times I knew I loved her. After she read through them (I hadn’t thought through how long that would take – the anxiety was killing me!), I got down on my knee and proposed.

A few months later, Emily brought in the mail at our home and handed it to me. In the pile was a letter addressed to me in handwriting I did not recognize. I opened it up and saw two sheets of yellow legal pad paper with Emily’s handwriting on them. I read the contents – the most beautiful, thoughtful letter – and when I finished, Emily was on her knee and she proposed. It was so touching and so full-circle given our many years of writing letters to each other on that same paper.

Who assisted with planning the big day?

Our biggest support was without a doubt our mothers. We called them the “dream team.” They were very helpful, patient and organized – they each had an adorable binder of handwritten notes, to-do lists, important documents, etc. We would have been completely lost without their help. Living in Chicago, it was difficult to manage all the things that needed to get done in Louisville, so it was very helpful to have Jan, Emily’s mom, local.

On the weekend of the wedding, we had the help of Jeannie Smith and Ashley McDonald from Ashby Wedding and Event Planning. They were absolutely amazing and took care of all the little details and moving parts so we all could enjoy the time celebrating. It was incredible how much stress they took away from us, and how perfectly on-time they kept us all day.

What was your favorite part of the planning process?

We will admit we weren’t the best planners – the options and decisions quickly became pretty overwhelming. One thing we did both thoroughly enjoy though was the food tasting at The Brown. We went with our mothers and had so much fun trying all of the delicious food. Each plate was better than the last. It was also a time for us to walk around the venue again with more details solidified and really begin picturing our wedding day. It was so exciting, and we left very full.

What moment from the wedding stands out most in your mind when you look back on the day?

Two moments really stick out: We did our first look at Oxmoor Farm, a special place for Emily’s family given her grandparents grew up and met there. After seeing each other outside in the garden, we headed into the library for what I thought was a meet-up with the bridal party. As soon as we walked in, I saw that the room was empty except for our videographers, photographers and two of Emily’s friends sitting at the piano. Emily had arranged the most beautiful surprise – she had her incredibly talented friends (a married pianist and singer) prepare a cover of a song that was very special to us.

As they played the song, the two of us danced. It was so touching, romantic and intimate, being able to share that moment between the two of us before the hustle of the rest of the day began. The second moment was from the reception when our amazing band, The Company Band, brought us on stage and performed Beyonce and Jay-Z’s “Drunk in Love.” It was such a blast being on that stage, dancing and singing, while all of our favorite people danced and celebrated on the floor. We felt like rockstars. It was hilarious and so much fun.

Where did you go on your honeymoon?

We went on a mini-moon right after the wedding, heading down to Emily’s parents’ condo in Sarasota, Florida. We wanted to go somewhere really relaxing to just recoup and enjoy quality time without the pressure of sightseeing, substantial travel, etc. It was definitely the right call because we were so tired and just wanted to chill.

We are going on our actual honeymoon this June to Spain. We are first going to San Sebastian, a beautiful city on the water in Northern Spain near the French border. That is a special place for us because it is where I studied abroad for a semester during college, which was when we both started to realize how much we truly cared for each other. After San Sebastian, we are heading down to Marbella to enjoy the beaches of Southern Spain.

“It goes by quickly, so remember to pause and check-in with yourself and soak up all the happiness you are feeling.” — Mary Jane

What advice would you give to couples who are in the middle of planning their wedding?

We heard a (significant) piece of advice from someone soon after getting engaged: find and own the things and decisions that really matter to you about the wedding and, if you have people helping like we did with our mothers, delegate the rest. It’s exhausting and incredibly difficult to agonize over and analyze every decision, so at some point, you have to just trust others and let them take control. Not everything will go exactly as you planned, but you will also be more blown away than you’re expecting by all the love and joy you will feel from your friends and family throughout the journey. It goes by quickly, so remember to pause and check-in with yourself and soak up all of the happiness you are feeling. Make it a priority to focus on that and not the anxiety over the weather or fitting into a dress. V