One of my favorite things about the South is that we have equally amazing cities and countrysides. While this makes the South so versatile, it can also present a challenge for brides–swanky city wedding or laid-back country celebration? I struggled with this decision myself recently, so I love Dana and Jeben‘s perfect solution–do both! Their ceremony and cocktail hour were held at the gorgeous Walnut Way Farm in the heart of Kentucky horse country, and then guests adjourned to the historic Henry Clay in downtown Louisville for dinner and dancing. As a result, their many out-of-town guests had a full Kentucky experience, and Dana and Jeben got to enjoy what they love most about both settings!
Thanks so much to Lang Thomas for sharing Dana and Jeben’s wedding with us!
We met in 2008 when we were both were working at Google (me in NYC, Jeben in California) and would often work on projects together. In early 2010, I transferred to San Francisco, and in the daunting process of looking for a place to live, Jeben conveniently rushed to my aid. He offered up his insight into the city and his car to help chauffeur me from Craigslist appointment to open house, and in the process of seeing over 33 apartments, the seeds of love were being planted. We got engaged a few years later in early 2013, and were married that fall.
Tell us about finding your wedding dress. I found my dress at Jin Wang Bridal in San Francisco with one of my bridesmaids, Lee. In order to make the deadline, I had to confirm it was “the dress” in 12 hours (not enough time for my mom to fly out from Kentucky!). The store wouldn’t allow photographs, but would allow video calls, so we did a video chat with my parents and sister on the farm in Kentucky. While I wished my mom and bridesmaids could have all been there, it was a ridiculously memorable, long-distance, technology-enabled process.
Our favorite detail of the wedding was: We have many friends who contributed their artistic talents to the wedding in the form of hand-painted murals, a custom monogram, hand-painted signs, bride and groom sculptures, a hanging string installation in the wedding barn (which we made ourselves and installed with brave friends), a custom quilt, a costume for our “flower girl” miniature pony Peekaboo, a monogrammed bourbon barrel, tables and chairs made from a felled tree from the Walnut Way Farm property, and more.
We followed the Southern tradition of burying a bourbon bottle one month in advance of the wedding, and it certainly paid off with perfect 78-and-sunny weather on our wedding day! To us, Walnut Way Farm epitomizes the best of the South and Kentucky’s horse country, so the setting provided the perfect Southern backdrop. We were so lucky to have Walnut Way Farm’s champion horses and historic carriages to bring the parents, flower girl, and me to the wedding ceremony barn. We had the official bugler to the Kentucky Derby/Churchill Downs announce the arrival of the carriages to the wedding location, and during the cocktail hour at the stables and gardens, we featured a local bluegrass band, The Slow Charleston.
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We wrote our own vows, and attempted to answer three things during them: what do you mean to me, how will I honor you for the rest of my life, and how am I better because of you. Our vows ended up very different in format, but we both touched on those themes. And we wanted to keep them at two minutes or less!
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? In addition to our officiant’s remarks about loving one another, we had a reading of “The Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann, a poem that we feel reflects a universal approach to love and sharing a life together. This poem was also an important passage for my family and has been shared before at previous family weddings.
What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? Walnut Way Farm, our ceremony and cocktail reception venue. It was a dream come true location–the perfect venue for a contemporary, yet classic, Southern wedding. Our guests couldn’t stop raving about the farm and everything it provided. Their only complaint was that they wanted to stay there longer!
Describe your wedding flowers. I wanted a Southern-sophisticated-romantic-classic look (think more Ralph Lauren than rustic), with a touch of whimsy. It also needed to be appropriate for the farm setting, but able to transition to the downtown reception. Luckily, our florist was a genius and translated my vision into amazing arrangements at the farm and all throughout the reception. They featured soft whites, ivories, light pinks and peaches with lots of dusty miller and seeded eucalyptus. The bridesmaids wore three colors of dresses, so we opted for all-white bouquets of long-stemmed roses and astilbe. I grew up riding horses, so we displayed the flowers in silver trophies that I had won over the years, as well as other trophies from Marilyn MacFarlane (owner of Walnut Way Farm). It was both personal to me and appropriate for the farm!
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? Logistics! We had grand visions for our guests (80 percent of whom were out-of-towners) to enjoy as much of Kentucky as possible, so we had a lot to coordinate. Our guests stayed in downtown Louisville, our wedding ceremony was on a hill in the back of the 300-acre Walnut Way Farm property, our cocktail hour was down the hill at the stables and gardens at Walnut Way Farm, and our reception was at the historic Henry Clay in downtown Louisville. We were able to work it out, though, thanks to several shuttles and detailed logistics. Everyone got to experience several picturesque locations across the farm, a Kentucky sunset at Walnut Way, and the charm of downtown and the Henry Clay.
We opted to not have a wedding cake, and instead, had a spread of Silver Spoon desserts for everyone to enjoy and try–from bread pudding to chocolate ganache. We did, however, have a “Father of the Bride” cake, which was a dark chocolate cake with a Maker’s Mark-inspired red glaze over the top, and a groom’s cake which featured two of Jeben’s favorite things: a Nike Blazer shoe box with his Boston Terrier, Wally, popping out of it.
Tell us all about the proposal! Jeben created an elaborate book chronicling our relationship through photos, stories, poems and private memories, and planned to propose with the book in early February. However, when the book arrived, all the text had been erroneously replaced with hieroglyphics and WingDings font, rendering the book absolute gibberish. Jeben contacted the book company and was told to expect a replacement in mid-March. On March 1, after a long week, we left work a bit early and spontaneously went to a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, where we enjoyed a bottle of wine, kettle chips, and a couple un-winning lottery scratchers. When we went home, Jeben saw a book-shaped delivery sitting on the doorstep, earlier than expected. Sensing the timing was right, he presented the book and proposed as I read the final pages.
When did y’all get married? September 28, 2013
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? About 175
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. For the ceremony, we wanted the songs to be familiar, but also to capture the reverence of the moment and the beautiful farm setting, so we chose contemporary songs performed by a string quartet. Our mothers and bridesmaids walked down the aisle to “Here Comes the Sun” and “What a Wonderful World,” respectively. Dana walked down the aisle to “To Make You Feel My Love,” and we walked out to “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch.” Our first dance was to “How Glad I Am” by Nancy Wilson. We first heard the song on a road trip to Palm Springs before we were engaged, and it immediately became our anthem.
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! I borrowed an antique pearl bracelet from my mom, wrapped my bouquet in satin from her old wedding dress, wore a new custom veil, and donned some blue undergarments!
What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? Standing together during the ceremony in the quiet Kentucky field, under the big blue sky, surrounded by all of our favorite people in the world. We’ll never forget it.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? First, push yourself to write your own vows or say something personal at the wedding. It’s challenging, but in this once-in-a-lifetime moment, you’ll be glad you did, and your guests will enjoy hearing it more than you think. Second, work on projects as a couple or enlist your friends and family to contribute–it makes the entire experience a collaborative and memorable process, and produces one-of-a-kind details for the wedding.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? We’re looking forward to throwing anniversary parties forever. The wedding was so much fun that we want to celebrate in style with friends and family for years to come.