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. 


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

Kentucky Winery Wedding

If you're like me and got married in the pre-Pinterest age, you probably wish you had it back then. Just think of all those awesome projects you could do!

In reality though, so many of those projects are super stressful, and if I were getting married again, I'd probably take on way too many things and then get frustrated or disappointed when I couldn't do ALL THE THINGS!

I had a small wedding at Chrisman Mill Winery in Nicholasville back in October 2007. Other Lexington-area wineries that have weddings are Talon Winery in Lexington, Equus Run in Midway, and Acres of Land in Richmond. At the time, Jean Farris was offering weddings but I don't think they do them anymore.

To push the fall theme, we used oranges and browns as primary colors to compliment the turning colors of the leaves. Part of the appeal of having an outdoor wedding was the colors and decorations that Mother nature provided. This meant we could use fewer flowers and save some money. Instead of fresh cut flowers along the grass aisle or under the gazebo, we opted for large potted mums, which were really inexpensive and in-season. Some of our guests took them home and planted them, which was awesome because they didn't go to waste.

Since we had a small wedding (less than 80 people), that meant I could do some things like make some of the favors. To continue the wine theme, I wanted to give away wine glasses, but with a personal touch. I found someone on the local message board for The Knot (great resource) who had extra wine glasses left over from her wedding. I purchased all that I needed for about half the price if I would have gone to a restaurant supply shop, and she was happy to get them off her hands.

I bought beads and wire to make wine stem wraps, and my friends and I made all the bead strands in one night. We added a printed tag to the stem wrap that was a note of thanks for attending. That was probably the most DIY project I did, and it was enough for me!

We kept things simple but added some Kentucky flair and personal touches. My husband's aunt made our cake, which we decorated with live flowers. The guestbook was a photo book of our engagement photos that people signed over. It's now a permanent fixture on our coffee table. We had Lexington's famous Spalding's Donuts as our grooms cake. For the ring bearer that was too young to walk, we had our bridesmaid pull him in my old Radio Flyer wagon down the aisle. The day before the wedding, we took some of our bridal party and guests out to Keeneland. We loved that our wine was local from the winery, and we had beer from Kentucky Ale (I worked for Alltech at the time - owners of Kentucky Ale.) 

Caught in the act of donut eating prior to the ceremony.
All of these things made the wedding more special than anywhere I might have relied solely on Pinterest project suggestions and becoming overwhelmed about not having things perfect enough. 

Some considerations when looking at having a Kentucky winery wedding:
  • Most wineries have restrictions on serving alcohol, so if you're determined to have bourbon or other spirits at your wedding, check the restrictions of the venue before booking.
  • Check that the area is handicap accessible if you have elderly or disabled guests. To get to the area for our ceremony, there was a large hill with steps. We rented a golf cart and had an enthusiastic usher drive those who wanted up and down the hill. 
  • Have a backup plan. All outdoor weddings are a gamble. Make sure to have a backup plan in case of rain or cold. This means having tents with walls and heaters (or fans in spring or summer) on standby. We had our wedding and reception outdoors, and the threat of inclement weather was probably the most stressful thing about the entire wedding (thankfully it was perfect.)
  • Guest safety: Many wineries are located in the countryside where narrow back roads have to be taken. Consider your guests and their alcohol consumption and plan for ways to get them home from your reception safely. We had designated drivers that stayed until the end of the event to drive people home if that was needed. You could also hire a car service to handle this.
What did you do for your Kentucky-themed wedding?

Weddings with a Southern Touch

As a girl who counts the South as one of her great loves, I've always adored little southern touches in weddings. If you're looking for ideas for your wedding or know someone who is, here are few gorgeous ideas to inspire you!

photo credit: Landon Jacob, via
photo credit: Tonya Joy
photo credit: Robert Wojtowicz
Photo credit: Krissy Allori Photography, Courtney Jade Photography,
by Fusion Photography, via
Cute Favor Idea from

by, via
photo credit: Vesic Photography, via
photo credit: Josh Elliott, via

My Renewal Ceremony

On July 5, my husband and I will celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. On July 13, we will renew our vows to commemorate the event. Two weeks ago I shared some of the details of our original ceremony so this week I thought I'd share some of the inspiration and ideas behind our renewal.

First things first, this is NOT a wedding. This is not Sarah's chance for a do-over. I've looked at my fair share of renewal ceremonies online and so often it just seems like the bride is playing dress up. Now, don't get me wrong. I LOVE playing dress up but this isn't a costume party. It's a celebration of my marriage, my family, and the life my husband and I have built together.

So... there will be no long white wedding dress, no big fancy wedding cake, no seated dinner, no walk down the aisle.

Now, I DID get a new dress. Let's not go overboard here. I wanted something tea length with a 1950's silhouette. I loved this dress and used it as my inspiration. I ended up with something pretty similar to my original dress in that it's mostly lace but it's short and ivory and VERY comfortable to dance in. I'm going to add a colored ribbon around the waist and similarly hued ballerina flat to cut down on the bridal aspect even more.

I also happen to be very good friends with the best and most creative florist in the tri-state region who I have given complete and total creative control so there WILL be flowers.

The bouquet is the inspiration for the floral theme - lots of bright summery blooms and overflowing arrangements. It's going to be stunning I have no doubt and a complete surprise to me which is even more fun!

We're having the ceremony in our front yard at sunset. Our plan is to walk out together with the boys and then exchange a few words underneath the giant maple in front of our home. My three dear friends from college who performed at our original wedding will be reprising their roles at this ceremony, which means the absolute world to me.

Afterwards, we're going to go around back and eat dessert and drink and dance the night away. Several years ago I attended the wedding my dear friend (and herKentucky contributor!) Amy Hille Glasscock. It was a gorgeous and thoughtful wedding from top to bottom but one of my favorite touches was she had friends and family bring pies to fill up the dessert table. I absolutely loved the idea of all that food made with love by people who knew the couple best so we'll be stealing Amy's idea. No cake just long tables full of pie!

Otherwise, my only plan is to have lots of twinkly lights, a loud speaker for my friend Mike so he can keep us rocking and dancing all night long, and lots of gangsta rap for when Mike takes a break.

No stress. No drama. No notebooks or Pinterest boards filled with high expectations and higher budgets. I did that the first time. This time it's about me and my amazing man and celebrating the relationship that has defined my life for the better part of a decade.

Oh... and there might be some Dip 'N Dots.

~ Sarah Stewart Holland

How a Wedding Photographer Plans Her Own Wedding

I am so happy to share today's guest post with y'all. I've known Amy Wallen for as long as I can remember -- our families have been friends and neighbors for generations. It's kind of amazing that the cute toddler who played in the yard with my little brother is now a beautiful bride-to-be with a unique and creative eye for photography and a business of her own! Amy agreed to share with us a few of the pro tips she's learned along the way and that she is working into her own upcoming ceremony. You can see more of Amy's awesome work on her website and her Facebook page. -- HCW

I just love the fact that my life is engulfed in weddings! What can I say? I love love, and I love photographing it! I still can't believe that I've created this business doing something that I'm so passionate about.

My fiance and I are coming up on our own wedding day, June 22.  Being on the other side of weddings, mixed up in all of the hype of planning, has truly given me a better sense of what a couple goes through when planning a wedding.

As a photographer, I never got to see behind the scenes during the planning process.  I would come to a wedding and instantly get excited. The venue is beautifully decorated, the bridesmaids are tending to the bride, the vendors are getting place.  It all seemed so fun to me! But now that I am so close to my own big day, I've realized just how much hard work, effort and MONEY goes into planning this monumental day. 

One thing that I like so much about shooting weddings, is the fact that each and every wedding is different from the last.  A ceremony on an airport runway, in a castle, at the church where her parents were married. Horseshoe favors, signature drinks, sparkler exits.  Everything about all of these little touches just gives me the warm fuzzies. I'm all about letting your personality shine through everything that you do. And when my clients show off a family heirloom, have a special father daughter dance, or incorporate a high school letterman jacket, I feel as if I'm right in the middle of their love story.

When I began planning my wedding day, I knew that I wanted it to be unique, and very true to Sam and me.  We are laid back, goofy, country and a little bit old school.  We love Sunday drives in his '83 Chevy truck, fishing at Jenny Wiley Lake, dancing in the kitchen, and laughing constantly. Our breezy outdoor field ceremony fits perfectly with our personality.  We both love being outside, and spending time with our friends and family. The woods were the perfect venue.
Amy and Sam
I love the idea of not being matchy. You can throw in SO many personal touches nowadays, there's no reason to try to blend in!  Mismatched bridesmaids dresses also pulled our big day together. Light peaches and pinks with breezy fabrics surely fit the bill.

Being a photographer really almost makes me overanalyze my decisions. “What if it rains like it did at x’s wedding? What if we run out of food? What if???” So many things run through my mind, just because I’ve seen so much of it before. At the end of the day, every single wedding I have shot has been beautiful, due in part to the bride and groom being head over heels in love. Isn’t that the most important part?

Sometimes I feel like we forget the reason for a wedding. It’s meant to share the love between two people amongst family and friends. I can’t wait to have my own wedding. Regardless of everything else, I’m marrying my soul mate.  That’s good enough for me.

{all images courtesy Amy Wallen.}

Our Night to Remember

They say that June is wedding month. I'm not sure I've ever been to a wedding in June, though! After yesterday's near 100 degree temperatures swept across the Commonwealth, I think I know why.

Almost four years ago, we scheduled an October wedding. My husband and I are fall and winter people. I love Central Kentucky in the fall - the sharp chilliness of the mornings that blossom into beautiful blue skied afternoons full of a backdrop of brilliant leaves.

Our outdoor wedding was billed as a backyard barbecue party that just so happened to have a wedding thrown in. My husband had already done the wedding thing once before, so he gave me a few of his "must-haves" for our wedding/party and left me to go crazy. Funny enough, I was never a girl who spent her adolescence planning her nuptials. I had no idea what I wanted, but I knew I wanted something that felt authentic to us - fun and casual with touches of sentimentality that reflected our individuality.

While my wedding may have taken place before Pinterest, it did not take place before Martha Stewart Weddings, Rock n Roll Bride, or Weddingbee. I may not have had pinboards galore, but I had Google docs full of links, pictures and lists of ideas! Since we wanted to keep our wedding small and personal, I decided to do quite a bit of DIY. I also had lots of help from my wonderful family and friends. These are just a few of the personal touches that I feel made our wedding special for us.

The bridesmaids found dresses off the rack within the color scheme (green and brown) and rocked their favorite boots while groomsmen wore button-down shirts and their most comfortable jeans (as did the groom). I made my own wedding dress - wonky hem and all, I loved it.

photo by Clay Jackson 

I made our bouquets - sheaves of wheat with brown ribbon - from supplies in the bargain bins at the craft store.
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photo by Clay Jackson

The wedding took place in the backyard of my parents' home. We decorated with handmade votive lanterns along the fencerow - my family and friends saved all their salsa, peanut butter and spaghetti jars for months!
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photo by Clay Jackson
Luckily, we had a tent with walls that kept out the chilliest October day in recent memory (boo!). Also luckily, my parents had a supply of firewood for a late-in-the-reception bonfire. Of course, that bonfire was the site of quite a few rounds of bourbon passed around the circle - something of a family tradition. I, eventually, donned a pair of blue jeans underneath my dress because I got so chilly.

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photo by Clay Jackson

Inside, the tent was filled with lanterns, votives and table decorations that were simply squares of fabric topped with centerpieces that featured photos from our travels and favorite quotes.

photo by Clay Jackson 

With the help of the internet, our officiant (who also happened to be my cousin) and my own flair for the dramatic, I wrote the marriage ceremony and our vows. In true Jason-and-Lydia inappropriateness, we first sealed our marriage pronouncement with a high-five (we got to the more traditional kiss later).

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photo by Clay Jackson; I also made the banner in the background here

Food was handmade by my awesome aunts, uncles and friends of the family. We had some authentic, kick-ass, best-in-the-whole-world Western Kentucky barbecue (St. Augustine Catholic Church recipe) made by my uncles paired with potato salad, pasta salad and appetizers made by my aunts and served buffet-style. No one needs fancy flatware with that menu, so I made easy-to-carry and cute flatware packets.

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photo by Clay Jackson

My handy dad crafted a dance floor for the reception. On the backs of our RSVP cards, I asked our guests to write three songs that they'd request from a wedding DJ. I used those, plus our own favorites and family traditional wedding songs (we do an awesome number to Shout! but aren't big on The Chicken Dance) to construct a 3+ hour dance-til-you-drop playlist.

Wedding Dance
photo by Clay Jackson

Our wedding was a labor of love for me. I relished choosing and crafting all the little details. During one of our dances together, my not-always-enthusiastic-about-the-details husband whispered, "This is perfect. I'll never doubt any of your crazy ideas, again! Thank you."

In the end, of course, it was one day - one awesome day - but only one day of so many that make up a marriage. For us, it was the perfect way to publicly commemorate our commitment to one another and to share the love with our families and friends.

If you're planning a wedding, you don't have to DIY everything or have the biggest and best of everything for your day to be special. Look for ways to make sure that you and your relationship shine through. Make it meaningful, make it real and you won't go wrong.

Seven Things Your Wedding Minister Thinks (but Doesn't Say)

June, as we all know, is the traditional "wedding month." Our sweet friend Erin, whom you may recall as the Kentucky gal who preaches in the desert, and who learned it all from her days as a sorority rush chair, was kind enough to share a few words of advice for all our readers who may be walking down the aisle this month. As always, Erin's essay had me laughing and crying and just being so proud to claim her as my sorority sister and my friend. Y'all can find more of Erin's beautiful writing on her blog, Irreverin.-- HCW

Some Stuff the Minister is Thinking as you Plan your “Perfect Wedding”
Erin loved getting to marry her brother Chris...
1. We roll inward eyes a little when you say you want 1 Corinthians 13 read in the ceremony. Yes, love is patient, love is kind. We get it. But we have to actually SAY things in the service other than ‘do you take this man/woman, etc,’ and well…that little gem of scripture has done been said. It’s been said a lot. Give us something to work with, other than the magic of your love.

2. We die a little inside when we say, ‘the church will provide a wedding coordinator for the rehearsal,’ and you say, ‘oh, no, my mother’s going to do it!’ Trust us. That will not end well for anybody.

3. You are not going to shock us with your family drama. No matter how many crazy siblings, inappropriate uncles, or unconventional marriages you bring into the church, we have seen it all. Oh, and also? 9 out of 10 of us could care less if you are living together. And even if we did, we know you are lying when you talk about ‘my apartment.’

...and her other brother Chris!
4. No, you cannot take down the purple Advent décor in the sanctuary and replace it with red and green stuff that ‘matches the dresses.’ Baby Jesus doesn’t care ‘what it looks like in the pictures.’ You want a church wedding? This is a church.
5. If your cousin ‘who’s a preacher’ insists on reading something from Genesis, we get to approve which translation he’s packing.

6. We triple dog dare you to question our fee. If you do, we will ask you how much you are paying the caterer, the band, the wedding planner, the hairdresser, the bartender; and then we will gently remind you that while our services are the cheapest of any of these, we went to more school, and spent way more time planning for your perfect day.  Grace is free, but our time isn’t. Also—eye rolling and inward groaning aside—from this day forward, til death do you part, we are invested in your marriage. We want it to succeed, and that’s why we’re blessing it. I don’t think the bass player feels the same way about the sanctity of this whole business.

7. And finally, as you plan that perfect day, remember that:

“Perfect” is a dangerous word. For life in general, and for marriage in particular. Chances are, if you have unrealistic expectations of this day, you likely have some unrealistic expectations about marriage, as well.  Expect that there will be a big family meltdown, a major hair malfunction, and/or something in the neighborhood of a bird flying into the sanctuary and dropping an unwanted gift on your grandma’s corsage. Likewise, accept that you will gain a few pounds over the next 50 years, and so will your spouse; you will fight, you will lose money, you will face disappointment—possibly in each other. Life will get messy, and even the most perfect-est, magazine-worthy, color-coordinated and professionally choreographed wedding in the world will not keep that from happening.

So put down that Southern Living wedding edition, step the ^!%* AWAY from Pinterest, and get ready to actually BE married. For better, or for worse. If you go into your special, perfect day in full awareness of all the ways that the wheels can come off, then you will actually have FUN at your own wedding. You will see every little hitch and hiccup as a welcome and introduction to the full, joyful, and unpredictable life you are about to enter, with the person who is your soul’s delight.  Their shoes will not always match you hair accessories… in fact, unless you are getting married in high school (please, don’t) and you still have prom to look forward to (just, please, no) then your attire will probably never match again. And yet… a life shared in love—in all its sacred messiness—is so much better than even the most ‘perfect’ day you can imagine.

Because ultimately—even if we can’t read it without rolling our eyes a little—love gives you life. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things.

Love endures all things. Even the perfect blush and bashful wedding.

Love never ends.