I unknowingly scheduled my own upcoming wedding for the day of the Kentucky Derby in 2015, and while I won’t be taking too much inspiration from this famous Southern sporting event for my big day, I can’t help but have a soft spot for couples who do! Maryland residents, Ashley and Jim, drew upon their beloved Southern roots to bring a taste of Louisville to their home state. After their traditional church ceremony, they gathered with over 200 of their loved ones to watch the Derby live during cocktail hour–and as fate would have it, the winning horse, much like Ashley and Jim, was a perfect representation of Maryland-meets-Kentucky!
Thanks so much to Maria DeForrest for capturing this celebratory day and then sharing it with us!
Tell us about finding your wedding dress. My mom and I went to about four boutiques in the Baltimore area and found the dress at the third place we visited. All of the places let us take pictures of our favorite ones, which was a huge help. We went home and looked through all of the photos after being out all day, and the choice was clear once we saw the pictures at home. I highly recommend taking photos if you can–it is so worth it to help you make the decision!
Did you decide to do a “first look”? Why or why not? Yes, we did a “first look” and it was the best decision. One of my bridesmaids is also a wedding planner and she recommended we do a first look so that we could enjoy our cocktail hour and not miss any of our reception. We were on a tight time schedule because we were showing the Kentucky Derby live during our cocktail hour, and then heading straight to dinner. It was so nice to spend a few minutes with Jim before the craziness began, and the first look gave us some time to have a special moment alone together. We also had the most beautiful setting–an old stone bridge overlooking a lake on the farm where we had our reception. Our bridal party watched from the other side of the lake and were cheering in the background when Jim turned around and saw me for the first time.
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? No. We had written each other love letters during our pre-Cana retreat weekend and those were so special that we didn’t feel the need to write our own vows.
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? We used a reading from the Book of Tobit, Tobit 8:4B-8, which is about Tobiah and his new wife, Sarah. In the end of their prayer, they ask God to bless them to “live together to a happy old age.” We also used Romans 12:9-13–it ends with “practice hospitality,” which we thought was fitting with our Southern roots.
Being from Maryland, we are on the “edge” of the South, so I had to borrow many of my mom’s Kentucky traditions to amp up the Southern feel that I love. Since we themed our wedding around one of the most famous Southern sporting events, the Kentucky Derby, we had a lot of room to weave in Louisville details. We served mint juleps as our signature drink, along with Derby Pie for dessert. We also had a vintage “Kentucky Bourbon” tasting bar set up with homemade bourbon balls, another tasty Southern treat, on sliver platters. We also encouraged our guests to dress as if they were going to the Derby, so many women wore beautiful hats and the men wore lots of seersucker and bow ties. We also served hot browns, shrimp and grits, and mini Maryland crabcakes during our cocktail hour.
Our favorite detail of the wedding was: Watching the Kentucky Derby! We set up a huge projection screen in a restored barn on the property to watch the race before dinner. Our guests were really getting into it, and even placed bets against one another during cocktail hour! Over 200 of our favorite people in the world joined Jim and me as we cheered on Baltimore-owned Orb to a Kentucky Derby victory! Orb winning the race was the perfect blend of Maryland and Kentucky! Of course, I had my money on him, and had been telling guests for weeks leading up to the wedding that he was going to be the winner, so thank goodness I was right!!
Describe your wedding flowers. We actually ordered our flowers from Wegmans, a local grocery store. They were white (baby’s breath, roses), green (baby cabbages), and gray (lamb’s ear), to blend in with the natural beauty of our outdoor reception. Wegmans also grew grass for us and incorporated that into the tablescape by transplanting it into mint julep cups the day of the wedding. It fit very well with our horse racing theme, since it looked like turf grass!
In keeping with Derby Day tradition, my mom, a Louisville native, made fourteen “Derby Pies” for our big day. They were served with homemade whipped cream and were to die for!! We also had Jim’s favorite dessert, Key lime pie, and a coconut wedding cake–all Southern faves.
How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Jim and I met in 2006 when we were both working on political campaigns in Maryland. There was a 70-year old woman, Doris, who volunteered for Jim’s candidate one night, and then volunteered for my candidate the next night and told me all about this “cute, young guy working on Jim Smith’s campaign” who was my age. Ms. Doris was determined to see us together, so we owe a lot to her. Who knew commiserating over finding volunteers to fill a “phone bank” could lead to a marriage? Both of the candidates won their elections, and were both guests at our wedding almost seven years later.
Tell us all about the proposal! I knew I wanted to marry Jim within months of dating him. Jim, on the other hand, took some convincing :) After two years of dating, he enrolled in law school at night while working full-time, and he didn’t want to get married until all of that was behind him, so I had to wait four more years for him to propose. Finally, the day came when we were walking on the beach in Duck, NC at the Outer Banks, where Jim’s family has a beach house. We have been going there for the last six years to unwind and relax. It is our favorite place to get away, so it was the perfect place to get engaged, since we are both so calm and happy when we are there together. Our chihuahua, Javy, was walking with us on the beach when Jim got down on one knee.
When did y’all get married? 5/4/13
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 225
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. The most special part of our wedding day was when my grandfather orchestrated a surprise sing-a-long with our jazz trio during the welcome at dinner. When I was a little girl, my grandmother, who died a few years ago, used to sing old songs (like “It’s a Grand Old Flag,” “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” “You are my Sunshine,” and “Yankee Doodle”) to me every single morning while I sat on her lap after my parents went to work. Since my grandmother couldn’t be with me on my wedding day, my grandfather thought that incorporating these songs would be a special tribute to her and to our relationship. He printed out song sheets with the words to these “oldies but goodies,” and encouraged everyone to “sing to the bride as her grandmother used to do.” It was probably the most special moment of the day besides saying “I do.”
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! My something borrowed and blue was a lace handkerchief with our wedding date and names embroidered on it in blue writing. This is a tradition with my college roommates, who also have their names and wedding dates embroidered in the other corners of the hanky, and we have each used it (with one more girl to go)! My something old was my mother-in-law’s veil that she wore in her wedding, and that a few other family members have worn. I had admired it in her wedding pictures, so it was special for me to wear it in our wedding. My something new was my wedding dress of course!
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? Not having a professional wedding planner when both Jim and I have busy full-time jobs was a huge challenge, especially given all of the details you need to contend with when having an outdoor wedding on a farm. Outdoor weddings at venues that don’t traditionally host huge receptions can mean a lot more work for the couple and/or planner. Everything from having to find a place to rent restroom trailers, to worrying about the weather and which tent accessories to have on hand (thank goodness we had heaters on standby, because we ended up using them). Luckily, my bridesmaids really pitched in, and their collective event planning experience saved the day many times over. I owe them so much!
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $50,000-$75,000
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Do it in steps, and give yourself enough time to research all of the vendors. If you are on a budget, this is especially important.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? Starting our family is something that we both are really excited about. We are also looking forward to having more free time together now that all of the planning is complete!
Photographer: Maria DeForrest / Planner: Lauren Hanna / Ceremony Venue: St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church / Reception Venue: Cold Saturday Farm / Florist: Wegmans / Wedding Cake: Baltimore Cakery / Derby Pie: Bride’s mother / Caterer: Chef’s Expressions / Rentals and Lighting: Baltimore Tent Company / Band: The Leggz Band / Cocktail Hour Music: Bill Elliot Trio / Bourbon Bar: The Recipe LLC / Bridal Salon: Betsy Robinson Collection / Paper Products: Oakland Printing Company / Hair Stylist: Hot Air / Makeup Artist: Behind the Veil / Bride’s Shoes: Style & Co. / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: “Ruthie” in Caspian Blue by J. Crew / Men’s Attire: Vera Wang by Men’s Wearhouse / Bow Ties: Collared Greens / Restrooms: Gotta Go Now