Le Nozze Italiano

November 2023 View more

A Downers Grove couple puts local touches on their destination wedding in Italy

Cooper MacNeil and Katie Kearney at their wedding

When Cooper MacNeil met Katie Kearney for their first date, the 6-foot-5 racecar driver found himself in unfamiliar territory the moment they stood at the restaurant’s host stand waiting for their table. “I was looking at her basically directly in the eyes, and I remember never having done that before with anybody else [I dated]—they were usually much shorter than me,” he says. Kearney, a model and host of Golf 360 on NBC Sports, is 6-foot-2 in heels. “I remember thinking, ‘This is kind of weird, but I kind of like it, too,’ ” Cooper says.

MacNeil grew up in Hinsdale and retired from racing earlier this year after career highlights such as winning his class in the 24 Hours of Daytona this past January and taking second in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France in 2022. He now works in product development for his family’s business, WeatherTech, in Bolingbrook. Kearney, a former Miss Missouri, was raised in St. Louis where her father, former NFL linebacker Timothy Edward Kearney, played for the St. Louis Cardinals. She started modeling at age 15 and has worked abroad in cities such as Cape Town, Milan, Athens, and Stockholm. “I always knew I wanted to meet a good Midwestern-valued person but also a world traveler, and I found that in Cooper,” Kearney says.

That first date in 2021 was a long time coming. They initially met in 2016 on the dating app Raya and had years of missed connections. “I tried to meet up with her, and she kept blowing me off,” says MacNeil, laughing.

“It’s true, I ghosted him. He would ask me to go out and I would push it back or cancel,” Kearney says. “My mom was in town visiting, and he had asked me to go out, and I tried to cancel it again, but my mom was like, ‘Please, go out with him!’ ” After that first date, they were inseparable. “I had asked her out for a drink, and we ended up having two bottles of wine,” MacNeil says. Adds Kearney: “We just talked the whole night away. And we have been together pretty much every day since.”

MacNeil surprised Kearney with a proposal later that year, and when they started discussing wedding venues, MacNeil’s past travels delivered some inspiration. He had visited a picturesque Italian resort on the shores of Lake Como called Villa d’Este for the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, a prestigious vintage car show. When he brought Kearney there, she fell in love with it, too. First built in 1568 as the summer residence for an Italian cardinal named Tolomeo Gallio, the property was turned into a resort in 1873. A family friend performed their ceremony in the Mosaic Garden, where 75 of their loved ones had gathered in April to hear them recite their own vows.

The couple's golden retriever, Oliver

Their beloved golden retriever, Oliver, wore a collar ringed with fresh flowers for the big day, accompanying them down the aisle and on a postceremony boat ride. “Everyone was expecting us to come back to the dock and come to the cocktail hour,” MacNeil says. Instead, this car-loving groom envisioned a more dramatic entrance. He called on a friend who owned a nearby Ferrari dealership to loan him some wheels for the occasion. “He lent me a brand-new Monza SP2—it’s a very special car,” MacNeil says. “We took the boat to the other side into downtown Lake Como, where the Ferrari was waiting and drove it down a ramp, basically off road down straight into the middle of the cocktail hour.”

The couple driving to their wedding's cocktail hour in a Ferrari

Though the reception’s handmade pasta courses and wine from Tuscan vintner Marchesi Antinori were thoroughly Italian, the Downers Grove couple were intent on putting a local stamp on the festivities wherever possible. Lynda Junge of Greenstar Paperie in Downers Grove designed the save-the-dates and invitations, which featured a custom watercolor illustration of Villa d’Este by Aurora-based artist Kristen Janes. “Lynda was so great,” Kearney says. “We are very visual people, and she gathered that and had so many ideas and samples. We would throw out crazy ideas, and she figured out how to make it work.”

They also hired Lauren Veers of Crown Calligraphy and Design in Downers Grove (who did the calligraphy on their invitations) to engrave custom messages onto Hermés perfume bottles for Kearney to gift her bridesmaids, mother, and mother-in-law. Razny Jewelers in Hinsdale lent Kearney a suite of diamond jewelry handpicked to complement each of her three wedding looks: a long-sleeved ceremony gown, a plunge-back number for the reception, and a feather-trimmed mini-dress for their after-party in the hotel’s discotheque. “We had a really great DJ with the best music and had late-night pizza and drank limoncello and Champagne,” Kearney says.

The newlyweds kissing on a boat

After the wedding, the couple spent two weeks on safari in Kenya and Tanzania. “It was so special. I used to live in Cape Town and love South Africa, but I had never spent time in East Africa and I always wanted to take Cooper there,” Kearney says. “It was our dream honeymoon.” They recently moved from their Downers Grove condo into a new home in Hinsdale. “We are definitely going to start trying for a family and continue to travel and enjoy being newlyweds.”


Venue and catering
Villa d’Este, Cernobbio, Italy

Wedding invitations

Greenstar Paperie, Downers Grove

Crown Calligraphy and Design, Downers Grove

Bride’s attire
Berta ceremony gown, Mira Zwillinger reception gown, and Ines Di Santo after-party dress, all from Ultimate Bride, Chicago

Groom’s attire
Custom tuxedo by Zegna, Las Vegas and Chicago

Wedding jewelry

Razny Jewelers, Hinsdale

Wedding planner
The Lake Como Wedding Planner, Cernobbio, Italy

Bottega 53, Lugano, Switzerland


Photos: ©Bottega53