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An early autumn wedding on the Eastern Shore hosts an uninvited guest named Ivan. Hurricane Ivan.
When Shanna Miller wed Scott McHale on the Eastern Shore in September 2004, they danced their first song to Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” “Stormy Weather” might have seemed more appropriate to the 230 guests attending the event at Ingleside Farm, the historic in Trappe owned by Jean and Mike McHale, the grooms’ parents. Despite Hurricane Ivan’s best attempts to dampen the tented affair, the young couple tied the knot in style next to the turbulent waters of the Choptank River.
“It’s a bride’s worst nightmare,” says Shanna, 26, of the wind and rain that began battering the bridal party the night of the rehearsal dinner. Guests enjoyed an evening boat cruise to a local restaurant, but by the time the vessel returned to the dock at the Hyatt resort in Cambridge, torrential rain drenched guests scurrying back to their accommodations. “I found it so comical that this was happening; if you think about it, there’s nothing you can do - if it rains, it rains,” she continues.
While the weather was tumultuous, the couple’s relationship was mostly smooth sailing. The romantic tale begins when the pair was just 7 and 8 years old. Shanna, who is from Pennsylvania, met Scott while visiting her older sister, who was attending Johns Hopkins. The two became playmates and their first “date” was the Holiday Pops Gala when she was 9 and Scott was 10. As they got older, their paths diverted - Scott remained in Baltimore while Shanna moved to New York to pursue her passion for music.
“I moved back to Baltimore a few years ago and my sister begged me to call the McHales to say hello,” Shanna remembers. “When I called to talk to his mom, he answered the phone… I ended up talking to him for 45 minutes.” Scott, 27, invited her to the Gaines McHale Bastille Day party and they’ve been together ever since. “I hadn’t seen her since high school,” says Scott. “She walked in and I turned around without my glasses on and all I could see was this 12-foot-tall smokin’ blonde and I said ‘I need to talk to her right now!’”
On Dec. 15, 2003, Scott proposed at the couple’s home in federal Hill with a ring from Smyth Jewelers. As a limousine swept them off to a romantic dinner at The Milton Inn, the plans for a black-tie fete began. “The only thing I put my foot down about was that it had to be at the family farm,” says Scott. “It’s the closest we have to a real family home and it means so much to all of us. I think it’s the most beautiful place I’ve been.”
Mary Louise Maechling, a family friend, handled many of the preparations for the wedding, which was planned for Sept. 18, during Shanna’s favorite season of the year. “You might expect it would be a country wedding, but it wasn’t like that at all,” says Shanna. Adds Scott, “We wanted a proper, Southern cocktail party. Like something out of the Great Gatsby.”
Working with Annapolis-based caterer Ken Upton, a menu was crafted to bring together traditional Eastern Shore and Southern flavors. Fare included a raw bar (situated on ice in a 100-year-old Eastern Shore hunting boat) and a dinner of tri-colored tomato salad, rockfish with crab imperial and Delmonico steak. The Hazelnut wedding cake was baked by a local woman and decorated with a cascade of fresh pink orchids. Alchemy Designs created centerpieces that accommodated Shanna’s request that each table be slightly different - arrangements varied in size and material, from fruit to flowers.
After scouring the Eastern Seaboard looking for a dress, Shanna found the strapless Duchess satin gown with a tiered skirt by Romona Keveza at Betsy Robinson that added the perfect touch of Hollywood style to an already glamorous evening. A Swarovski crystal tiara and drop earrings completed the chic ensemble. The 12 bridesmaids wore elegant merlot-colored gowns and the groomsmen each wore tuxedos. Scott’s only other requirement? No rentals. Each groomsman wore his own tuxedo.
Both Shanna and Scott work for Gaines McHale Antiques & Home, the well known Baltimore Stores owned by Scott’s parents, and they incorporated their shared interest into the wedding. Antiques were worked into the table settings, and a selection of furniture was brought to the house to create seating vignettes on the expansive lawn. Alas, when the rain began to fall, the Episcopalian ceremony (meant to take place overlooking the water) was moved into the tent and the only antique furniture that remained were the chairs in which the couple sat during dinner. Nor could Shanna make her dramatic entrance in a horse-drawn surrey as planned; instead she arrived via SUV. But it would take more than a little rain to quell the happy couple.
“When I walked in the tent, all I could do was cry,” says Shanna, who shared the aisle with her Shih Tzu, Sophie, and Scott’s pug, Ziggy, dressed as bride and groom, respectively. “You could feel the warmth and love. It was so much more intimate than outside, and the lighting gave everything a beautiful pink glow.”
As the night wore on, the weather cleared and guests, who had gathered from as far away as New Zealand and Europe, danced into the wee hours. Shanna, a trained singer, belted out a few tunes, and Scott showcased his drumming skills with the band. At 1:30a.m. an Eastern Shore work boat whisked the couple across stormy seas to the honeymoon suite at the Hyatt in Cambridge. “The harder it rained, the more fun we had,” says Scott. “It was just a great party.”