My Dream Kentucky Wedding

When I started planning my wedding to my handsome fiancé, I knew that I wanted our wedding to be personal, affordable and in my hometown of Paducah, Kentucky. To set ourselves apart, we chose to have a Mexican fiesta reception. We asked our favorite Mexican restaurant to cater and adorned the tables with orange, hot pink, navy, lime green, turquoise and purple table cloths. To ground everything, I added black and white accents and lots of mustaches. But my table tops did not stop there; I added white cloth napkins with name cards and black ribbon, candy boxes with black and white ribbon, taper candles, votive candles and champagne flutes to toast the bride and groom. To tie everything together, I kept the centerpieces the same on every table. We chose deep red roses and vivid green limes to add another element of elegance. 

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We welcomed our guests with margaritas and passed hors d'oeuvres and had an appetizer buffet including the classic Mexican queso. Shortly after our first dance everyone dined on fajitas, rice and frijoles and they were delicious. While Mexican food might seem like an alternative choice, everyone LOVED it and it was affordable. I cannot tell you how many people complimented us on the food. We also had an open bar full of bourbon, bourbon and more bourbon and served cupcakes and grooms cake from Purcell's Bakery in Draffenville, KY. Our NYC friends said that they were some of the best cupcakes they have ever tasted...and they know cupcakes!

During the planning process, I poured over every detail to make sure it was a reflection of us. I added pearls to all of the bouquets and boutonnieres. 

I spent months beading the train of my dress. 

I made the freshwater pearl sets for my bridesmaids and I persuaded Scott to get the best groomsman's gifts ever, Rayban Wayfarers. I also did all the calligraphy for our invitations. My mom and I crafted every element on our reception tables and I  made our centerpieces with my maid of honor and her mom, Allison.  I also made my own bouquet and Scott's boutonniere and I even made sure that the ribbon on your place card matched the color of the tablecloth at the table you were seated! 

It overwhelmed everyone else around me, but I was in heaven. Pure. Crafting. Heaven!

As illustrated above, I have always wanted a unique and fun wedding, but I never wanted to pay the giant price tag. I worked in fashion for several years and know how much the wedding industry inflates their prices. Below are my tips for saving money during your wedding. 

  1. Always ask for a discount. When we chose our photographer, we wanted our engagements done in NYC and she worked with us to make it affordable. She did an all day shoot in NYC and it is one of our most favorite memories of the wedding planning process. 
  2. Shop around. I really wanted chair covers and the vendor in Paducah was offering them at $3.75 for the cover and sash. I found the same thing on the Internet for $2.50, so we sent her the link and bargained with her. While $1.25 is not much, every little bit adds up.
  3. Look at Sam's Club or Costco for your flowers. When we first got engaged, I asked all of my married friends what they thought about their weddings after the fact and most of them said that they wished they had not spent as much money on their flowers. They said that they really were a waste of money. So I scoured the Sam's website and found a bridal package that worked with our theme and bought 300 red roses for our center pieces. We paid only $600 for all of our flowers and no one was the wiser. 
  4. eBay can be your best friend. Right after we got engaged, I bought my wedding shoes off of eBay. It really just seemed like the most logical first step for me. I got a pair of unworn champagne satin d'orsay peep toe sling back Jimmy Choos with jewels on the front and I also picked up a pair of Kate Spade white satin d'orsay peep toes with a kitten heel for the ceremony. My grand total was $160. 
  5. Do not spend a lot of money on your dress. I know I will probably get a lot of flack for this one, but really ladies, you will only wear it for one day and the general public is not going to know the difference between your fancy fabric and polyester. I will, but I just told you not to spend a lot of money on your dress, so no judgments here ;) I think you should concentrate more on fit and flattery, than the large price tag. My dress was $180. It was plain, but it fit my body beautifully and I spent months sewing freshwater pearls onto the train to make it special. I was very happy with the end result. You should also choose a dress that is not too trend based so your wedding photos look classic for years to come. 
  6. Shop sales. I knew I wanted my bridesmaids to wear polka dot tights, specifically Kate Spade polka dot tights, so I waited until they went on sale and got them for $15 instead of $25. 
  7. See what you can do yourself. I knew I wanted to give my bridesmaids a pearl set so I scoured the Internet for loose pearls and found some gorgeous 10mm baroque freshwater pearls at a great price so I bought them up. I was able to make their pearl sets at a fraction of the cost. P.S. those bouquets are from Sam's! 
  8. Etsy is your other new best friend. A lot of our table top elements came from Etsy and I could not have been happier with the result. I paid about $35 for all of our table top printables and our wedding programs and then just printed them off. 
  9. Look for areas to save money. I really wanted a champagne toast, but knowing that not everyone enjoys champagne as much as moi, we decided to leave flutes on the table and have everyone fill them with whatever they wanted and it worked out well. Not a single drop of champagne was wasted!
  10. Do NOT make your own bouquet! I loved my bouquet and had a fun time making it, but we only saved about $60 and I was up until 1:00 AM the morning before putting it together.
  11. The Dollar Store is a great resource for tabletop items. We purchased vases, votives and candlesticks for a fraction of the price and now people are borrowing them from us!

I also always knew that I wanted to get married in Kentucky. It is such a beautiful state and I really consider it to be home. With 75% of our guests coming from out of town, we really wanted to add elements that embodied Kentucky. For our out of town guests, we included a map of Paducah and a sugar cookie from Paducah's own Kirchoff's Bakery that was decorated with the double wedding ring quilt pattern as a nod to quilt city. We had our rehearsal dinner downtown and encouraged everyone to explore the surrounding area and flood wall.  At our wedding, everyone danced the night away to the The Cruisers, a local favorite for weddings, and we featured cupcakes from a local bakery. We also gave everyone a Kentucky bourbon ball and an Ohio buckeye as our wedding favor and yes,we made those too! 

I had such a wonderful time planning our wedding and would do it a million times over, but my favorite part was marrying my handsome husband.

Photo Credit: All photos by Makenzie Lynn Photography

Our Friend Liz

Y'all remember our fabulous friend Liz, right?



She went went to school. In Italy. To study shoes. I mean, how amazing is that?
That's M. Louboutin. With our friend Liz.
Um, it gets better. She's met Christian Louboutin. And she's married to a dreamy doctor. The best part? She's completely sweet and cool.

So cool, in fact, that back in December she offered to custom-design one of her signature handbags for one lucky HerKentucky reader. She and the winner, Brandi, exchanged emails, worked together on the design, and came up with this darling design. 

Western KY-based attorney, HerKentucky reader, and aspiring purse model Brandi.

Brandi is a convert to Elizabeth Elfen Designs. She says: 

"Liz was so wonderful to work with. I have NO EXPERIENCE in design and was excited I won such a neat giveaway but was apprehensive about what I possibly could contribute. Liz took the lead and sent me samples and gave me options and ideas. She was very supportive and her fabrics were so beautiful. When I received the bag I was blown away. I was really impressed with her skill and care at the creation of my bag! It represents my style (classic with a touch of flare). It will definitely become a staple in closet. Thank you for such a wonderful experience Liz, I truly will remember it fondly….and I have the bag to prove it!"

Liz has lots up her sleeve these days. She and Dr Hotpants are leaving Brooklyn to embark on a Midwestern adventure (not. even. kidding. They had a Green Acres-themed cocktail party.) She has started a fabulous new blog, The Fanciest Chicken, where she talks food, fashion, and fabulousity. I am seriously so amazed by this, y'all. She found vintage Chanel earrings. On eBay. And shares her shopping secrets on her blog

Oh, and one more big announcement: Liz is joining the HerKentucky team as a style corespondent! How fabulous is that?

Please join us in welcoming Liz to HerKentucky, and go check out The Fanciest Chicken today! 


Elizabeth Elfen Designs

Elizabeth Elfen Designs brings a little Kentucky charm to the Big Apple. Transylvania alumna Elizabeth Elfen Johnston's eponymous handbag line is as glamorous and charming as its namesake. Elizabeth currently resides in Brooklyn, NY with her well-dressed foot and ankle surgeon husband, whom she's nicknamed Dr. Hotpants!

Elizabeth was kind enough to answer a few questions about her designs, her personal style, and her Old Kentucky Home. She's also offering a custom bag for one lucky HerKentucky reader!-- HCW

Tell us a little about yourself.
At Woodford Reserve
I was born in New Orleans, LA and moved around to Virginia Beach, VA and St. Louis, MO before landing in Paducah, KY for my first year of high school. There, I fell in love with Kentucky’s elegance and southern charm and continued on to Transylvania University where I started, with the best intentions, as a premed/biology major. Whilst at Transy, my love of creating art grew and I graduated with a B. A. in Studio Art. After graduation, I moved to Florence, Italy to study 
Footwear and Accessory Design at Polimoda and reveled
 in the glamorous Italian lifestyle. Upon graduation, I moved to NYC and
 worked with my favorite fashion houses HOLLYWOULD, Lorelei NYC 
and Amanda Pearl.

To build upon my love of handbags, I went to work at an exclusive
 contemporary handbag manufacturer and immersed myself in all things
 pertaining to handbags! After a yearlong stint in the factory, I set out 
to make my own feminine contemporary clutches that add a touch of
 approachable glamour to one’s everyday life and night!

How did your company come about?
During my time at the factory, I noticed a void within the contempory handbag world. Everything just seemed so masculine, functional and lacked glamour. Because of this, I formed my company, Elizabeth Elfen, in 2011 to add a more feminine and glamorous 
touch to today’s contemporary handbags. I am inspired by old Hollywood glamour 
and a love of practicality and I strive to make clutches that go from 
brunch with the girls to après dinner drinks later that evening,
 all with the quick adjustment of your strap.

Bourbon or Beer?
With an actual pair of Dorothy's Ruby Slippers!
Maker’s Mark Manhattan straight up and extra frosty!

Coffee or Tea?
Is champagne an acceptable answer? [ed. note: Always! -- HCW]

Favorite spots in Lexington?
Cheapside Bar and Grill, Keeneland, Gratz Park Inn and Ramsey’s

Favorite things to do in NY?
Turning non-Kentuckians on to the culinary masterpiece that is the Kentucky Hot Brown. Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain has a great one.

Favorite Fashion Advice?
Fit is everything for everyone. When my husband and I started dating, he was wearing things that weren’t right for him, i.e., unfitted jeans, cargo shorts, ill-fitting hooded sweatshirts…. I could go on and on. I knew that he was a keeper, so I put in the time to outfit him in things that fit him properly. We put him in some better fitting jeans and got him some shorts that showcased his rocking calves and now he receives compliment after compliment!

Elizabeth has graciously offered one HerKentucky reader a custom handbag! Working from her classic 10" by 5" and 1.25" shape, she'll collaborate with you to design the perfect bag for you. It'll even be named for you! Just enter the Rafflecopter drawing before midnight on Christmas Eve!

a Rafflecopter giveaway