When we ask newlyweds to think back on what they wanted most for their big day — and we’ve interviewed hundreds of them over the years — the most common response is “For it not to feel like a wedding!” But in a monsoon of flower crowns and macaron towers, how do you see beyond the usual tropes and actually pull off a non-cookie-cutter affair? For the answer, we decided to interrogate the cool couples whose weddings we would actually want to steal — right down to the tiger-shaped cake toppers.
Katie Stout is a multimedia artist known for her bright, almost childlike furniture, which often uses female figures and which she herself has called “slightly deranged.” Her wedding ceremony in September to lawyer Jeff Kinkle took place in a deserted parking lot in the Rockaways, with “room for mischief, and the bride wearing a gown made of shredded christening dresses. In this special edition of The Wedding Files, we spoke not only with the newlyweds but also with some of the exceptionally talented friends who helped bring the day together. They add their perspectives throughout.
Jeff: Her Tinder profile, I don’t remember what it said, but I remember the photo. She was at the beach and she was wearing sort of a tiara, but it was made of garbage, like a smashed beer can and other things. I wrote, “Shame that trash tiara doesn’t have a brim,” or something like that.
Katie: I had just broken up with someone and I was like, “Oh God, I finally get to try online dating.”
Jeff: I officially proposed about a year and a half after our first date, but we had discussed it before. We picked out a ring in Hudson because there’s a jewelry designer she really liked, Karl Fritsch.
Katie: It looks like a caricature of an engagement ring, like a child made it — it’s kind of crude and rough. I love it so much. A lot of my ideas around marriage and getting married are a reaction to watching other people get married, and this unnecessary hype. We gave ourselves three months to plan it.
Jeff: I had been out to Jacob Riis Park in the Rockaways — there had been a restaurant out there in the off season a few years back, and it was just a really unique experience going there, because it’s just like, a parking lot, and in the off season it would be dark and empty, then the beach is right outside. We were just trying to think of places that were near or close to New York that wouldn’t feel like they were in New York.
Katie: So many wedding venues say, “Okay, you have to use our caterer,” all these rules. But I wanted to really transform it, I wanted there to be room for mischief. I wanted a place where guests could go explore, and Jacob Riis — which cost $2,500 for the space rental — is perfect for that because there’s the whole beach. Like there’s this clock tower that a few guests obsessed over, which might have been shroom-induced.
Jeff: We rented a ferry to take people from the Wall Street seaport to Riis Landing. Renting a ferry was a lot harder than I thought it would be. We called many different ferry operators and none would do it until I found American Princess. It cost $3,000. 150 of our 200 guests took the ferry, and the rest drove.
Katie: I had a ferry look and a ceremony look. For the ferry, I wore a Maison Margiela dress that I got on sale at Opening Ceremony; it was so wrinkled and dirty and I was like, ‘This is great for my ferry look. My brother had made me an appointment with Glam Squad ($150) for hair and makeup and I immediately wiped the makeup off but I thought my hair looked fine. Then on the ferry I was in the front and got blast head-on by a wave. I was drenched, but it was so fun.
Jeff: Because it was about a 20-minute walk from the ferry to where we had the reception, an Uber picked Katie and her friends and brother up and took them to the venue, where I had my suit and Katie had her wedding dress. When I tried on this Issey Miyake tuxedo, I liked that it was really loose. The pants are flowing, and it felt informal and just much less stiff than what I had been considering wearing. I knew Katie was making her own dress and that it would be something spectacular.
Katie: I got dressed in the bathhouse. I wanted a dress made out of other wedding dresses. So I ordered a bunch on eBay and Etsy. Etsy had better dresses and prices than eBay, weirdly. Then a few friends gave me their dresses, like my friend Grace had been a debutante and had an Oscar de la Renta dress in consignment for five years not selling. She said, “Use this dress,” and I said, “Gladly!” It inspired the rest of the dress, which is not a dress — it’s a jumpsuit gown. I needed a shift in scale so I started getting children’s first communion or baptismal dresses, anything white. I was going to sew them all together, but then I met Ashley Liemer [founder and creative director of Tailor House, Noble Uniforms, and Billie Blooms], who has a tailoring shop in the design district of Miami. I was telling her about this and she said, “I want to make this for you,” so I went to Miami for five days. Basically, Ashley made a canvas and then we decorated it. Then the train was like 16’ long and just covered in all these other wedding dresses. It was 14 dresses, including the baby dresses. They were shredded and cut open, and the idea was that while we were dancing, the thing would get taken apart and other people would wear the dress. So everyone was a bride.
Ashley Liemer: Katie said, “Oh, I want to combine all of these old dresses that will become interactive and other people will take off and put on throughout the night,” and I said, “But we need to make your outfit move.” Then we came up with the idea to put all of the old dresses on this train that she pulled behind her, and that became the interactive piece. The top is made from silk — I literally drafted the pattern on her body — then one half had a sleeve and there was an appliqué dress on top. We used really beautiful silk wool in two colors of white and ivory, so the front was white, all pristine, and the back was ivory. The pants were created from an Oscar de la Renta ball gown. We built the frame of the train from new fabric and then on top of it, built it with all the thrifted dresses. After the ceremony and after dinner, we brought it into the middle of the dance floor, and that’s what people started tearing pieces off and ripping it to shreds. I think people just wanted to have a scrap of it on their wrist or in their hair. As much time as we spent cautiously placing each dress, the end result was just craziness.
Jeff: The first time I saw her was coming out of the U-Haul. We had the U-Hauls to move the chairs and bring stuff to the ceremony, and we couldn’t think of another way to make a semi-grand entrance in the middle of the parking lot — there was nothing to come out of. The general idea for me was that I was going to walk a really long distance, because we wanted it to feel like a desert and I was walking this expansive desert to get to the ceremony, alone. We wanted to use a drummer because there’s this film, The Warriors: In the scene where these two motorcycle gangs are meeting to fight under the Manhattan Bridge, there’s this guy playing the drums for no narrative reason. We wanted someone somewhere between the ferry drop-off and the ceremony just randomly drumming in the middle of nowhere. Then we had a throat singer, like the pre-orgy scene in Eyes Wide Shut. It sort of sounds like a Gregorian monk, really overly dramatic. They really exceeded all of my expectations, like with the sun and the wind and everything it was just totally perfect.
Katie: We wanted it to feel like a de Chirico painting. One of my assistants drove the U-Haul up the ceremony and my brother and I just toppled out, then he walked down and I walked. It was the most surreal experience of my life.
Jeff: Our officiant was Alice Liechtenstein, the princess of Liechtenstein. She’s a patron of design [curator, and founder of Schloß Hollenegg for Design], and Katie met her at Art Basel and did a residency for a month at her castle outside of Graz in Austria. Alice was asking us about the wedding and who was going to officiate. I was just joking and I said, “Well, we want royalty to do it.” But I honestly was totally kidding!
Princess Alice Liechtenstein: At first I could not quite believe Katie and Jeff when they asked me — it was so out of the blue. I had been following Katie’s work and wanted to work with her. We hit it off immediately, as if we had known each other from a previous life. I had never officiated a wedding before and did not even know I could do it! To prepare we did a few calls and Skype, and we made small changes right to the end. But the whole process was very natural and easy. I flew in on the same day from Austria and arrived 15 minutes before the ceremony and they were absolutely chilled!
Katie: It was actually a fairly traditionally structured ceremony with sort of off-kilter readings, including one from an essay called The Big Toe, by Georges Bataille. Alice welcomed everybody and said how she thinks about marriage. I really didn’t know what she was going to say. It was really important for me that everyone who was involved not feel like we were telling them exactly what to do. I just feel like that’s when the most beauty happens.
Alice Liechtenstein: The setting was insane — I think everyone agrees that it felt like we were in an indie movie. Everyone was crazily themselves.
Jeff: Once the ceremony ended, everyone went over to the reception area. Katie had this woman, Jen Monroe, who goes by Bad Taste Biz, she did this crudités after doing a similar thing at one of Katie’s shows.
Katie: She takes four different color dips and spreads them over Plexiglass, and then vegetables are dropped in and it makes this landscape. You take a vegetable, smear spread on, and it makes all the dips look like a painting.
Jen Monroe: The fastest way for me to explain what I do is that I’m an artist and a chef. I make food that focuses really heavily on visual extremes. When I’m working with someone like Katie, what I’m really trying to do is kind of make food that exists in the same world as Katie’s art. Maybe six months ago, she brought me on to do food for an event at the gallery that represents her. They wanted thematically appropriate foods. Right after, she said, “I want you to do the food for my wedding.” The base of the platter was a couple of dips and hummuses, but they’re all different colors, and those get spread on the Plexiglass and swirled together in fun sloppy patterns. From there, you’re vertically orienting veggies and snacks and flowers. I did beet-pickled quail eggs, smaller Persian cucumbers, the really tiny Mexican gherkins, which look like baby watermelons. They’re really cute and a more sour than a typical cucumber. A bunch of different radishes — the super little mini teeny tiny baby radishes, French breakfast radishes, watermelon radishes. There was white asparagus, carrots of different colors that give you really beautiful cross sections when you cut them at a diagonal. They look almost tie-dye. Red endive, Romanesco cauliflower — which is the green sort of psychedelic broccoli thing — hibiscus flowers. What else? Baby tomatoes, wax beans, candy-stripe beets, baby peppers. The idea is that once they’re all together in this hypercolorful environment, they start to look like these alien forests. For me, it really feels very Rugrats, like Nickelodeon, those sort of bright, smeary, childish colors. There’s something very mid-’90s about those color swirls for me.
Jeff: The reception catering was Pizza Moto. They came out with this wood-fired oven and we had a kale salad, an heirloom tomato salad, and then they just made pizza, three or four kinds — for $11,000. We had five tables of 40, and Katie made plates for everyone, so there were 200 unique plates.
Dave Sclarow, executive chef of Pizza Moto: I built all these ovens over the years myself and they’re meant to be super road-friendly. We have the ability to hook them up to our van, so we can bring them anywhere and basically build a real kitchen on site. Like the oven used to be up at summer stage in Central Park, where there’s no plumbing or anything like that. Our mission is to challenge people to raise their expectations for what they can have for food at an event like that. For Katie and Jeff, it was like, “Oh shit — you guys are in a really great time of year for vegetables.” We did giant bowls of heirloom tomato salad with shredded fennel, some sesame seeds, and delicious grapes. Then the other one was roasted kale and snapdragon, apple, cheddar, candied walnuts and an apple cider miso vinaigrette. Everyone gets a Margherita pizza, standard crowd-pleaser, and then they had a mushroom pizza — roasted mushrooms and garlic and smoked mozzarella, some ricotta. Then we did a verde, Mexican style, with a tomatillo sauce that comes out really green with lots of jalapeños and cilantro. They had a handful of vegans and that was easy to make vegan, just swap out the mozzarella for avocado. It still tastes super satisfying without the cheese.
Katie: I thought it would be cute for everyone to take home a plate. It took probably two and a half weeks for me to make them, not super long. It’s just clay, and you have to fire it twice and glaze. Laura Currie from Prospect NY made all the napkins. We had a tent, and my friend Misha Kahn lent me all of his inflatables that he had used for a design event in Miami last year. He hung them all over the tent and it was amazing. So Misha saved the day with the tent decor, and then my friend Ester of Sounds in Park Slope did all of the flowers. I didn’t give any instructions to her either. She asked, “What color?” And I said, “All of them.” She mixed dried flowers with fake flowers, and some of them looked totally alien. They made me want to cry. I was so moved by them.
Laura Currie: I’m not an artist at all, but we work with artists to help them create livable objects and items with their artwork — like making a series of coasters that are used and sold in hotels and retail stores. I’ve been really anxious to work with Katie, I’m a huge admirer, and just this past summer she had a show of hand-painted plates. She had shared a few different sketches, and I said, “Hey, we have to do something with these. Can we do something for your wedding?” They’re her designs, we just took them and had them manufactured on napkins.
Ester Kislin: Katie and I attended RISD together. Her direction was simple: “Do whatever, I trust you!” I started by sending some inspiration imagery and drawings, to which she responded: “stop omg.” I took that as a sign I was heading in the right direction. Her bridal arrangement was composed of special freckly anthurium, roses, dyed orchids, dried and bleached amaranthus, and dyed bunny tail grass. The concept was organic and relatively free-form, based on an idea of “Rainbow/Monochrome” — diametric opposites which somehow offered the perfect template for the arrangements. For the tables, we used a special variety of gerbera daisies, anthurium, roses, dyed and natural orchids, pomegranates on stems, marigolds, reflexed tulips, carnations, feathers, dyed pampas grass, alliums, banksia, and more. We even snuck in some fake stems. My assistant creative director and operations manager, Amanda Lucia Cote, hand-painted some fake leaves and anthuriums. Glitter also played a supporting role.
Jeff: We actually, unfortunately had a bit of a plate sitch where people were hoarding plates. But we didn’t really find out about it until the next day.
Katie: We dubbed it Plate Gate. I was like, I’m flattered. Jeff and I were entirely amused by it.
Ashley Liemer: My plate came home with me, but my husband’s did not because somebody came up to us and was like, “That’s my plate.” I was like, “Oh okay! I’m sorry!” And then we got into the Uber and were looking at the pictures and I was like, “That was your plate. They totally lied to me.”
Laura Currie: Oh my gosh. People were going crazy over the plates. Someone asked if they could have my plate at the end of the night. I was like, “Oh, okay, but do I get yours?” I have to say, I was actually a little bit shocked.
Jeff: A few of my Swedish friends spoke — I have Swedish citizenship, but I grew up in New Jersey, it’s a long story — along with my father, and then Katie’s brother, two of her best friends, and her uncle figure. Then we had friends DJ, and a playlist administrator. We decided our first dance song like 20 minutes before because we couldn’t decide. Eventually we went with “Fernando” by ABBA. We thought it was an appropriate song, the fact that it starts slow and then builds so everyone could join in.
Katie: Misha brought his fog machine and it was so fun! My friend Taylor was DJ-ing and playing “Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba so loud and the manager of Camp Rockaway came over and said, “Can you please turn the music down?” And Taylor said, “I can’t.” Then the manager of the bathhouse and the wedding planner came over and said, “You have to turn the music down,” and Taylor said, “I can’t do that.” After “Tubthumping,” we weren’t allowed to play music loudly anymore.
Jeff: Bad Taste Biz, who did the crudite, also did the cake. Only part of it was edible — Katie’s assistant Mira Putnam made these toppers, a big ceramic bride and groom. And we had a vegan cake too, from Clementine Bakery.
Katie: I gave free rein over the cake, which she obviously really enjoyed. Except we wanted chocolate and she said, “I love that you chose chocolate because everyone else always chooses a very white flavor for wedding cake.”
Jen Monroe: Katie had told me that her wedding dress was different wedding dresses all stuck together. I thought, “What if it’s the same concept for the cake?” What if it’s ten different cakes all cut together that don’t necessarily match, but they’re all just sort of jammed together in a Frankenstein cake kind of way. I can let them clash loudly with each other and let it look towering and ridiculous.
I tested a couple different chocolate cakes and I found a recipe that wasn’t super sturdy, but was sturdy enough to hold up in a wedding cake format, and I also just thought tasted really good. It’s an L.A. Times recipe. That was the base, and then from there I wanted a more playful filling. After a little bit of testing, I landed a quince raspberry sauce between the layers. For the frosting, I really don’t care for fondant; I wanted this to be more tactile. So the frosting was just buttercream, and I toned down the sugar a little bit from what is typical for a buttercream ratio, and I added in some rosewater and hojicha, a roasted Japanese green tea.
On the top, just to make things even more strange, are these two massive ceramic bride and grooms. They were created by Katie’s team. I did not know how huge they were going to be, or super heavy and ceramic. I won’t bore you with the details, but getting that cake to hold together and not collapse was a big structural nightmare. There had to be a lot of dowels running through it and support pieces and blah blah blah. But they worked out okay.
As a surprise, I made the top layer which they were cutting into kind of look like a piñata by covering it with a bunch of different segments of really colorful coconut, and then I filled the center with candy. Katie makes a lot of piñatas in her art practice. So when they cut into it, it exploded and a bunch of candy fell out on them.
Jeff: We didn’t have an organized afterparty. We rented school buses [Scholastic Transportation, $1,200] that picked people up at 9:30, 10:30, and the last one at 11:30, and some drove or took Lyft and Uber.
Katie: They took people to Atlantic Terminal in downtown Brooklyn. We wanted everyone to feel well taken care of the whole time.
Jeff: Katie and I went home and crashed — I fell asleep on the floor.
Katie: I wanted to make sure this wasn’t the most important day of our lives. It was never going to be a ballroom thing. No. Never. It’s just the beginning of something.
More From The Wedding Files
- The Design-Minded Couple Who Didn’t Want to Try Too Hard
- A Costa Rica Wedding During the Rainy Season
- A San Francisco Wedding at a Big, Empty Pier