How Katie’s Daughter Ellie Paid Tribute to Her Late Father and Other Family Members at Her Wedding

A dreamy wedding day full of loved ones who were there in person — and in spirit.

Katie’s daughter Ellie got married this past weekend and the whole family is still processing the incredible event, which was filled with fun, friends, and plenty of emotion. In fact, Katie said she was crying the whole time. And we don’t blame her: Between Carrie’s singing, Ellie’s gorgeous gown, and all the ways Katie’s late husband Jay Monahan was honored over the weekend, we’ve been pretty teary-eyed, too! 

We sat down with Katie to talk about one of the most moving aspects of the wedding: the feeling that Jay was right there with them.

Katie’s late husband Jay died in 1998 of colon cancer, but his presence was very much felt on Ellie’s big day. “I said this in my toast, but I was dreading Ellie’s wedding day for a long time because there’s so much tradition involving the father of the bride: from walking her down the aisle to the first father-daughter dance,” Katie tells us. “I knew that Jay’s absence would be palpable, and Ellie and Carrie were only six and two when he died.” Katie’s two daughters look so much like their father, Katie says. “He’s very much in both of them, so I see him every day, whether it’s a special occasion or not.”

Ellie and Jay

One way Jay was “there” at Ellie’s big day was via members of his family. “It was really special having Jay’s sister Claire there with her husband and kids — she helped me so much when Jay died.”

Katie revealed on Instagram that Ellie walked down the aisle to “Ashokan Farewell,” played by the composer Jay Unger and his family band. “Jay Monahan loved that song, which was used in Ken Burn’s series on the Civil War, so it was a way to honor him,” she wrote. 

When it came to walking down the aisle, Ellie had it covered. “She walked herself down the aisle,” says Katie. “Because first of all, nobody’s ‘giving Ellie away’ — she made a choice to get married. And of course, Jay couldn’t be there,” Katie says. 

Ellie also honored her late dad with her jewels: “She wore a pearl bracelet that Jay had given me,” Katie says. And Ellie’s engagement ring is Katie’s — from Jay. 

Ellie walking down the aisle

When it comes to celebrating, Jay probably would have been the life of the party, says Katie. “I think he would have had so much fun at this wedding — he was a fantastic dancer, and he loved bluegrass music. I also think he would have loved the setting,” she says of the camp-inspired mountaintop atmosphere in Port Jervis, New York. The wedding weekend was full of energy, with a field day event and multiple dance parties. “Jay was incredibly athletic — he played division one lacrosse in college — and there were all these Yale lacrosse players there. I think he would have had such a great time.”

Ellie and Mark

All this wouldn’t have been possible without Katie’s husband John. “Jay’s spirit was very much there, and I’m really blessed to have married someone like John, because he never feels threatened by my love for Jay. He is incredibly supportive and loving, and that gives me such permission to remember Jay and to honor him. It shows how special John is, that I’m able to do that,” she says. 

Jay wasn’t the only family member who was missed on Ellie’s big day — Katie made sure to honor her late sister Emily at the occasion as well. “Ellie wore a pair of diamond studs that were my sister Emily’s,” says Katie. “I had given them to her years ago, and when she passed away I took them for the girls.” Katie’s older sister Emily, who was a Virginia state senator, passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2001. 

Katie has a hunch her late mother would have loved the floral arrangements, created by Tin Can Studios, which had a natural, farmer’s market feel that was “colorful and bright and not too fussy,” Katie says. “I’m a big fan of single stems and small bottles to really showcase the flowers: Sometimes when there’s so many flowers, you don’t appreciate the beauty of the individual ones. So, we had lots of small flowers with single stems in these sea-glass colored bottles everywhere.”

“I wish my mom had been there to see them,” Katie adds. “My mom made flower arrangements for weddings with a group of women — we called them ‘the flower ladies’ growing up. My mom loved flowers, and I think she would really have loved these.” 

Although, Katie says, her mom might’ve had mixed feelings on the whirlwind event: “I think she would have been shaking her head and rolling her eyes,” she laughs, “because she would have thought the whole thing was over the top.”

But we have a feeling Katie’s mom would’ve been overcome by the beauty of the big day, just like the rest of us.