While most people who love the beach mostly tolerate the sand, Katlin Burks loves it. When the Louisville native-turned-New Yorker goes to the beach in Southampton, N.Y., her job is always to dig the hole to place the umbrella.
Fourth of July weekend in 2016, she went with her then-boyfriend Mike Brangan and some friends. While she was digging her hole, Mike got down on one knee and seemed as if he was reaching to help her. “I was like, ‘No, you know this is my favorite thing!’ And he was like, ‘I need your other hand — your left hand.’ Then he pulled out the ring box, and I was screaming like a maniac,” says Katlin. “I was like ‘No! No! I don’t have any makeup on, and I have a Drybar clip in my hair!’”
Mike told Katlin how much he loved her, that he couldn’t imagine meeting anybody else in the world like her and that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. “I just started screaming. All the people started clapping on the beach,” says Katlin.
That day, there was a double-rainbow in the sky, including a rainbow halo around the sun. “It didn’t even rain, so I thought that was so weird, like a blessing from my grandma,” says Katlin. “The last time I saw her was when I took him to Kentucky. I’m so glad she got to meet him before she passed away.”
Soon, the wedding planning began in earnest, and they decided on a Louisville wedding in September.
Never a big fan of traditional weddings, Katlin chose 21c Museum Hotel as their venue. “We wanted something Southern, and we wanted to show off Kentucky and Louisville,” she says. “21c does that in a really modern way. They’re really proud of using Kentucky products in the cooking, and the chef is really great and works with you if you want something special. And 21c is a modern art museum as well. We’re members of a couple museums here in the city, and that’s something we really like to do.”
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Because Mike had always called Katlin his “pop star” — she said she really wants to be one — the theme fell into place. The hotel couldn’t guarantee what art installation would be happening during the wedding so far in advance, but a few weeks before, when the couple came for a final walk-through, the installation was, serendipitously, “Pop Stars: Popular Culture and Contemporary Art.”
Another fun aspect of 21c is the penguin statues. “It is so funny – when I was a kid I used to think penguin was a bad word,” says Katlin. “I use to yell it to people. So to have penguins in our wedding is hilarious!”
The “pop star” bride wore a headpiece with stars on it, and the invitations and all the stationery were designed with stars and other gilded accents.
Because most of the guests were from out of town, the couple wanted to make everyone feel welcome. On Friday, the rehearsal dinner was held at Doc Crow’s Southern Smokehouse & Raw Bar, then the cocktail hour was held at Garage Bar, both in NuLu. “There were a lot of people from all over, like Amsterdam, Alaska, Florida and California, so it was really special to have them all in one place,” says Katlin. “A lot of people would never think to come to Kentucky, but they loved Louisville so much.”
NuLu turned out to be a perfect place to host the Friday night festivities because it’s close to downtown, where most of the guests were staying. “We just had wristbands, and it was open to everyone who was invited to the wedding,” says Katlin.
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The wedding, at 3 p.m., was held on the penthouse terrace of 21c, overlooking the Louisville skyline and the Ohio River. The perfect day, though perhaps a little too hot for Katlin’s taste, went off without a hitch. She wore an ivory striped organza bridal ball gown, with a draped ballerina bodice and curved V-neckline, open back with cut-out detail and full cascading skirt by Hayley Paige. Her bridesmaids wore porcelain cocktail dresses by Shona Joy, and for the photos and reception, they wore custom leather jackets made by NicolesCovet. Katlin wore a custom leather jacket that she had made by a graffiti artist she met through her job as director of photo and video production for the Camuto Group. “I was trying to think of a gift to give my bridesmaids, and I was like, ‘I don’t need another bridesmaid coffee mug or candle,’ and I found this girl on Etsy who made them,” Katlin said. “And she put little stars on them for me, too.”
During the wedding ceremony, the bride, groom and officiant were framed by a wall of white hydrangeas, but flowers weren’t a big part of this wedding. Bucking tradition again, Katlin let the art provide the pops of color. “I wanted everything to be more modern and minimalist, because we had a lot of things going on,” she says, adding, “And I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on flowers. It was nice to have all the modern art in the penthouse and in the gallery, where we had the reception.”
Katlin wrote the entire ceremony herself. “One of my friends had gotten married the month before, and I was freaking out,” she says. “So she helped me write the script. I wrote the whole ceremony — everything [the officiant] Kyle said and everything Mike and I said to each other.”
There was a cocktail hour while the wedding party got their photos made, and guests sampled bourbons: Pappy Van Winkle, Eagle Rare and Bulleit Rye. There was a full meal with choices for the guests, including “Kiki’s Kentucky Farmed Pork Chop,” “Mike’s Block Cut New York Strip” or “Kentucky Ocean’s Best Halibut.” Then the party started.
Katlin changed into her reception dress, the Penelope by Francesca Miranda. It was a short, backless, lace jumpsuit with a polka-dot removable skirt, perfect for dancing. When she took the dance floor with her new husband for their first dance, she had to fight back tears. “The first time I remembered we were married, during our first dance, I cried,” she says. “I didn’t even cry during the ceremony. I was like, ‘I can’t cry; it’s not gonna take that long.’ So, definitely, I cried during the first dance when I realized we were married. And it was the first time we were quiet in our brains.”
They danced to “Just the Way You Are” by Billy Joel, Mike’s favorite musician. “My husband is obsessed with Billy Joel,” she says. “He really wasn’t involved in the planning — not that he didn’t want to, I’m just a control freak. He just wanted us to dance to Billy Joel.”
The party got started with the Naked Karate Girls (an all-male band), which Katlin says was the most memorable part of the reception. “I loved the dancing,” she says. “We had a crazy band. They wear costumes. They were just crazy. They let us do bridesmaid karaoke. I told them my favorite songs, and they made a mix for us. I surprised all my bridesmaids by making them sing karaoke. I’m sure they loved that!”
The Chick-fil-A cow showed up to dance, and there were cases of White Castle burgers brought in for a late-night snack. “Everyone still talks about our wedding,” says Katlin. “I know everyone always says that, but for real, my parents got thank-you cards. It was so much fun. All of my coworkers still talk about it.”
The bride and groom took off for the Seychelles, then Paris for a dream honeymoon. The couple plans to visit a 21c Museum Hotel every year for the wedding anniversary, and this year they are heading to Nashville. They want to collect the penguin figurines at all the hotels.
Her advice to brides: Don’t forget to eat, keep your guests on their toes with lots of fun extras, and spend the money on the photos and video. “For me, the pictures and the video are so important, because that’s all you have, really,” she says. “I mean you have your memories, but it’s nice to have a refresher.”
Thanks for sharing your love story with us, Katlin and Mike! Cheers to a lifetime of happiness!
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