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Whether you grew up around horses or are simply a bride looking to bring some classic, tailored style to your celebration, an equestrian-style wedding is a natural fit in the South. (And a favorite at Southern Weddings – see here, here, here, and here, for starters!) With the help of our friends at Keeneland, one of the South’s most famous racetracks, today we’re sharing ten ways to incorporate equestrian style in your wedding.

Rebecca Shehorn Photography

1. Choose an equestrian setting. One of the easiest ways to tie in an equestrian theme is to host your wedding at an equestrian facility! A beautiful backdrop like Keeneland can include a racetrack, the starting gate, barns, and rows of pretty fencing as far as the eye can see.

2. Set the tone. Clue your guests into your celebration’s style right from the start by adding an equestrian flair to your invitations. A whimsical watercolor crest incorporating a horseshoe or a pen and ink sketch of your venue are two options we love.

Chris Cornwell Photography

3. Add some witty wording. In addition to graphic details, the verbiage you choose for everything from your invitation to your signage, escort cards, and cake flavors can point to your setting and theme. Try plays on betting (“we’re betting on a good time,” “the odds are favorable”) and race terminology (“and we’re off!” for the welcome dinner, “a photo finish” for the Sunday brunch).

4. Choose a fitting gift for the wedding morning. Many couples choose to exchange gifts on the morning of the wedding. Horseshoe cuff links or a horsehead tie bar will always remind your groom of your big day in an understated way!

Chris Cornwell Photography

5. Invite guests to get in on the action. Whether you’re marrying on Derby weekend or not, inviting your lady guests to don their best oversize hats is a fun way to invite them to be a part of the theme. In our experience, guests are usually eager to get on board as long as they have time to prepare, so be sure to note your suggestion on your wedding website and/or invitation!

6. Make an entrance. If you’re an equestrian yourself and/or want to involve your beloved horse in your celebration, consider an entrance or exit on horseback. A simpler but no less magical option is a classic white horse and carriage, like Lauren and Luke chose.

Chris Cornwell Photography

7. Involve the kids. Are you the lucky aunt and uncle to tons of nieces and nephews? Consider offering pony rides during cocktail hour – it will be a guaranteed hit not only with the littlest ones, but as a spectator sport for the rest of your guests! Horse-themed coloring books, crayons, and small horse figurines can extend the fun to the kids’ table once dinner is underway.

8. Kick back and relax. If you have the space, setting up two stakes for horse shoes is another great way to keep guests entertained during cocktail hour.

Chris Cornwell Photography

9. Decorate with equestrian motifs. From horseshoes to prize ribbons, there are several iconic symbols that offer endless opportunities to riff on equestrian style. Try them mixed into your centerpieces, at the escort card display, made into food signage, or as guest favors!

10. Toast the newlyweds. With a mint julep, of course – the unofficial drink of the Kentucky Derby, and the most appropriate choice for an equestrian-style wedding!

Rebecca Shehorn Photography

Looking for the perfect location for your equestrian wedding? Consider Keeneland, an iconic race track and event venue in Lexington, Kentucky that offers a timeless, unique setting perfect for your biggest day. With rolling hills of Bluegrass, panoramic views of the racetrack, and the historic charm of the grounds, Keeneland weddings are unlike any other.

This post is brought to you by Keeneland. Thank you for your support of the brands who make Southern Weddings possible!

emily Written with love by Emily
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Have you heard? It’s Engagement Celebration Week! Whether you’ve been engaged for two days or twelve months, we invite you to join the party and celebrate like you said yes yesterday. Upload a proposal or ring shot to our hashtag, enter to win giveaways all week on Instagram, or take 20% off our wedding planner with code JOYFULLYENGAGED. We can’t wait to cheer you on!!

The first item most brides look to book is the wedding venue — and with good reason! Your venue sets the tone for everything that is to come, it often helps determine your wedding date, and it can take up a large chunk of your wedding budget. Many brides or grooms also often have a sentimental attachment to the spot they choose to say “I do,” so (as with many wedding decisions) there’s an additional emotional factor to consider.

Since we know many of you are at the beginning of your engagement (how exciting!!), we wanted to share some of the most important things to consider when choosing a wedding venue! To do so, we invited three of the event planners at Keeneland, one of Kentucky’s premier venues, to offer their tips, and combined them with some of the best info from the Joyful Wedding Planner. We’ve sprinkled a few lovely photos from Keeneland’s various venues throughout, too!

Honey Heart Photography

1. The Particulars of Your Wedding. Know your (approximate) guest count, (desired) date and (approximate) budget before starting the search. It’s okay to not have them all set in stone, but you want to have at least a ballpark for each! If you have any must-haves (great view, garden setting, white walls, etc.), write these down, too. Use this information to make a list of possible venues, then narrow it down to your top picks before scheduling tours.

Honey Heart Photography

2. Your Love Story. Do you have a special tie to a location or city? Your wedding should be filled with your unique love story, and your venue is a great place to start! The Keeneland folks love hearing from brides who met their fiancé on property, grew up coming to the track, or were proposed to in between races.

Nina and Wes

3. Catering. There are several benefits of choosing a venue with an in-house catering company (especially if it’s a fabulous one, like Keeneland’s!). Having the food prepared by an in-house team means you don’t need to create a kitchen from the ground-up, you usually don’t have to worry about renting china and silverware, and you know your venue and catering team will work together seamlessly. Of course, if you have a specific caterer you’ve been dying to work with, or you have a particular vision in mind (like food trucks), you’ll want to look for a venue that allows outside vendors.

Lang Thomas

4. Coordination. At Southern Weddings, we believe that every couple should have at minimum a day-of coordinator, even if it’s just a trustworthy and organized family friend. Whether you’re planning to hire a full-service planner or not, make sure that you meet with and get along with the venue contact who will be on site during your celebration! Ask what level of involvement they’ll have with your planning, too.

VRV Photographie

5. Venue Specifics. The frustrating thing about the wedding venue search is that you’re usually comparing apples to oranges, because every venue builds their packages differently and charges accordingly. Make sure to gather as much information as possible! In addition to our basic questions, below, here are a few next-level Q’s:

— How long do we have the venue on the day of our wedding? Will we have access early to set-up?
— Does our rental include tables, chairs, china, a dance floor, a stage, or any other rentals?
— How will our venue coordinator assist us?
— Do you have enough parking to accommodate our guest count? Do you require valet, and is it additional?
— Restrooms: are they big enough and nice enough for your taste?
— What is the rain plan?

6. Photos. Does the venue itself photograph well? Are there pretty spots for portraits? If not, is the surrounding area accessible, and a good fit for your aesthetic?

Honey Heart Photography

Thanks to the ladies at Keeneland for chiming in today with their expert advice! And remember: as you sift through information from your top picks, make visits to each, and consider your options, don’t be afraid to ask questions, get proposals, and use the expertise of the on-site coordinator!

Sending wishes that you all find your perfect wedding venue match as quick as a Kentucky thoroughbred! :)

This post is brought to you by Keeneland, a gorgeous wedding venue and iconic race track in Kentucky. Thanks for your support of the brands who make Southern Weddings possible!

emily Written with love by Emily
1 Comment
  1. avatar Ryan reply

    LOVE seeing our photographer friends and several past clients on Southern Weddings! The planners and staff at Keeneland are second to none and it is such an honor that we get to produce wedding videos at this beautiful Lexington venue!

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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We love our food in the South, don’t we? (It’s easy to love when we’re known for so many delicious specialties!) If you’re like most couples, catering will take up a large chunk of your budget (and make a big impression on your guests), so it’s worth spending time to craft a menu that suits the two of you and pleases your loved ones. Chef Marc Therrien, the new Executive Chef of Keeneland Hospitality, is here today to share some tips for customizing and incorporating your personality into your wedding menu, while still serving a meal that accommodates all of your guests!

Vet your chef. If your venue has an on-site caterer, be sure to meet with him in the venue decision-making process. Tell him a bit about your vision and see whether he seems excited about it. “It’s not about his favorite dishes or what he wants to do,” says Chef Marc, “It’s about him creating something unique that reflects you as a couple.” Ask whether he or another chef will be on-site for your event.

Consider an in-house caterer. Working with an in-house caterer, like Chef Marc at Keeneland, has its advantages. He is familiar with the venue, and should have creative ideas about how to reinvent the space (either based on things he’s seen other couples try, or ideas for things he’s never seen anyone try!). He also has a “home field” advantage from working with the same staff for every event, which can lead to a more confident execution.

Schedule a tasting. Besides being delicious (hopefully!), this is your chance to reaffirm the direction of your meal, or make any necessary tweaks. It can also be one of the most fun parts of the planning process, as you imagine sitting down with your loved ones in the months to come!

Base your menu around your favorite foods. Creating a menu from scratch is not for the faint of heart, so to utilize your chef’s expertise while also incorporating your personality into the day, Chef Marc suggests couples brainstorm their ten favorite ingredients, then turn them over to their chef to create a menu incorporating as many as possible.

Another fun idea that will keep your guests talking: base each station around a story from your shared history: say, roasted oysters for your Charleston alma mater. “Come to your chef with ideas, but let your chef create,” encourages Chef Marc. “If you box someone into a corner, they can’t be creative for you. Find a good chef, then let him run with it.”

Always opt for local, seasonal, and sustainable. Chef Marc, like so many chefs these days, is passionate about local ingredients, believing they should ideally only change hands four times (farmer, farm hand, truck, his door!). Local ingredients tend to be more flavorful, healthy, and beautiful, so find a chef who is skilled at sourcing and cooking with them.

Make it memorable. There are so many (really fun!) ways to make a wedding meal exciting for guests, as well as delicious. Some of Chef Marc’s include:
— synchronized service, when every plate is set down at once
— presenting familiar food in creative ways (like the Caesar salad skewers he created for one Caesar-loving bride!)
— mixing up the presentation (like the time his team served a seated salad course then released guests to a variety of stations for their entrees)
— and preparing food directly in front of guests (no chafing dishes here, but he did recently torch salmon on Himalayan salt blocks while guests looked on).

Graciously accommodate dietary restrictions. Chef Marc recommends incorporating dietary preferences across your entire menu instead of singling individual guests out (for example, he says going gluten free is easier than ever these days). He also recommends that if alternatives (such as vegetarian or vegan dishes) are available, they be offered up to the entire table as part of the main meal, instead of something that guests have to ask for specifically.

Chef Marc is the new Executive Chef of Keeneland Hospitality, with 25 years of culinary experience under his belt. He believes in simple food with good technique while using locally sourced product. Learn more about him and all of Keeneland’s offerings here!

This post is brought to you by Keeneland. Thank you for your support of the brands who make Southern Weddings possible!

emily Written with love by Emily
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    Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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