When it comes to wedding themes, the Kentucky Derby will always be one of my favorites–preppy accessories, shiny silver pieces, mint juleps, and monograms? Sign me up, y’all! What makes a Derby-inspired wedding so much more special though is when that inspiration is chock full of meaning for the bride and groom, like it was for Kristin and Wai. Neither of them is originally from Kentucky, but one fateful night in downtown Louisville, their paths crossed for the first time, and the hometown of Churchill Downs has been extra special to them ever since. They brought some of their favorite Kentucky details to Virginia Beach for their wedding, and loved sharing them with family and friends from across the country!
Thank you so much to Shannon Moffit for sharing this special day with us!
How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Wai and I met in Louisville, Kentucky. It was truly fate that brought us together, as I am originally from New York, Wai is from Virginia, and neither one of us ever thought we would ever be living in Kentucky. We owe our love story to Wai’s co-worker, John. John and I both went to Yale, but didn’t know one another. In Louisville, the Yale Alumni Association frequently puts on events and happy hours, and for some reason, on February 8, 2013, I decided I would check it out. John had also decided he was going to go and asked Wai to crash the event with him. Wai was resistant since he went to Princeton, a rival school, but John insisted, telling him, “You never know, you might meet a girl!” When Wai arrived at the bar–a craft beer joint called Holy Grail–he came up to speak with me right away (apparently, he was impressed by the super dark stout that I was drinking). Despite having to wait out an older Yale alumnus who, in Wai’s opinion, was monopolizing my time, Wai was able to catch up with me at the end of the night to get my number. Against the advice of his friends who advised him to wait at least 48 hours, Wai called me bright and early the next morning and asked me out!
Finding my wedding dress was surprisingly easy. I loved every single dress that I tried on–I literally wanted them all! While searching in magazines and online for dresses, I came across a sweetheart-style dress, Bobbi by Augusta Jones, and I knew that was it. I went to a bridal salon called Ava Clara the next day and told them that I especially liked that particular dress. Luckily for me, they had it in the store! The woman helping me brought out several dresses for me to try and requested that I wait to try on Bobbi until last. I loved all five dresses, but when I tried on Bobbi, that was it–it was my dress!
Did you decide to do a first look? Why or why not? It was a tough decision for us, because I really loved the idea of Wai not seeing me until I walked down the aisle, but I also loved the idea of Wai and I seeing each other for the first time in a more personal setting. We wanted to have as much time as possible after the ceremony to share with our guests and did not want to be pressured to squeeze all of our photographs in in a short timeframe. In the end, we decided to do a first look. We both cried, and it was perfect!
I think our wedding flowers were spectacular! We wanted very soft flowers in shades of pink and white, and we wanted them to look very natural and loose with lots of dark greenery. My bouquet was one of my favorite wedding details. It was so full and wild, and included the most beautiful white dahlias. I might have to have the florist make me a similar arrangement to put in a vase at home–I cannot stop thinking about it!
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? We had both Old and New Testament readings at our ceremony. The Old Testament reading came from song of Solomon 2:10-13, 8:6-7. It’s a really beautiful love poem and Wai’s sister, Shelley, read it. Of course, she started bawling about five words in, prompting all the other bridesmaid to cry as well! The minister offered her a handkerchief and she made it through. The New Testament reading was from I John 4:7-12, and explains how God’s love is perfected in us when we love each other. Wai’s good friend from college, Ira, gave an eloquent reading (with no tears!).
What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? We buried a bottle of bourbon at our church a month before the wedding, though that didn’t ultimately pay off with good weather on the wedding day! More prominently, our whole wedding was Kentucky Derby-themed, with details like Derby-inspired specialty drinks, horseshoe name tags, silver mint julep cups, a Derby hat photo booth, Derby-themed invitations, bourbon truffles, our horseshoe monogram, and Wai’s jockey cuff links. And of course, Wai and his groomsmen all wore the most Southern bow tie and cummerbund sets anyone had ever seen, custom made by High Cotton Ties!
We knew right away that we wanted to have our wedding in Virginia Beach. It is where Wai grew up and it was a favorite vacation destination of mine growing up. After looking at a few venues, we knew that the Oceanfront Hilton was the perfect spot for our reception. We loved the gorgeous ocean views, the amazing presidential suite for getting ready, and the fact that we could have an outdoor cocktail hour with a solid indoor back-up option in case it rained. It was a great decision, because boy, did it rain that day! Picking the ceremony venue was a tougher decision for us. We had both dreamed of having a beautiful outdoor ceremony by the water, but also knew the significance of having our ceremony in a church. In the end, we decided on Wai’s family church, Bayside Presbyterian, and it was one of the best decisions we made.
Our favorite detail of the wedding was: There were so many details that I loved, but my favorite may have been our specialty drinks. Since our wedding was Kentucky Derby themed, we served Oaks Lilly and mint juleps. It was very personal to us, as we met in Louisville, and the drinks brought back memories of the times we spent together there (it also didn’t hurt that the drinks were delicious). To thank our wedding party, we had a private toast with them during the cocktail hour where we gave everyone their own monogrammed silver julep cups.
Tell us all about the proposal! It happened in Disney World, the happiest place on Earth! We were out at the Magic Kingdom all day and Wai had the ring in his pocket. Since he was nervous that I would see the box in his pocket, he took the ring out of the box and safety pinned it to his pants pocket! We even went on Space Mountain that day! He said he was really nervous the entire day and was rehearsing all of his lines in his head during the rides. The actual proposal happened back at Disney’s Grand Floridian Hotel. He had secretly booked us a fancy room at the hotel and had it set up with flowers, candy, and pictures of us. He told me he wanted to go up and see a “model room” in case we wanted to stay at the Grand Floridian the next time we went to Disney World, and when we got to the room, he got down on one knee and proposed. I immediately started crying and don’t remember one word of his rehearsed lines. I just remember being the happiest I had ever been!
When did y’all get married? July 11, 2015
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 180
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We didn’t write our own vows. In hindsight, we wish we had, but at the time, I was very worried about getting nervous and forgetting my lines (and also not being able to get through my vows during the ceremony with about crying the whole time). We did write each other letters that we read the morning of the wedding. I was an emotional mess reading mine, but it was wonderful! Who knows, maybe one day we will renew our vows–if so, I will definitely insist that we write our own.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? We were fortunate that both of us really took an interest in planning the wedding (Wai’s family liked to joke that he was a groomzilla!). We agreed on all of the big decisions, such as the theme, venue, band, etc., but we had some different opinions on some of the smaller details. We overcame this challenge by really listening to one another and then making compromises, just like we will need to do throughout the rest of our marriage. In a way, wedding planning can really be a great prep course for married life!
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $75,000-$100,000
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? The devil is in the details. We found that parts of the wedding that we stressed the most about, but that our guests also loved the most, were the little accents that really personalized the event to us. Also, we can’t emphasize enough how great the party was with a band, especially one that worked with us to choose amazing music that kept the dance floor hopping all night (Wai would have been crushed if we had had an empty dance floor). The one thing all of our friends remember the most was the last hour and a half of crazy dancing!
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? We are looking forward to sharing our lives together and growing our family. We just bought our first home in Virginia Beach and are so excited to put our personal touches on it and make it our own!
Photographer: Shannon Moffit / Ceremony Venue: Bayside Presbyterian Church / Reception Venue and Caterer: Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront / Florist: Palette of Petals / Cake Baker: Incredible Edibles Bakery / Lighting: Stage Right Lighting / Band: Attraction / Paper Products: Jacobson Fine Paper & Gifts / Signage: Lynnea Midland / Bride’s Gown: “Bobbi” by Augusta Jones / Bridal Salon: Ava Clara Bridal / Bride’s Jewelry: Tiffany &. Co / Hair Stylist: Shaelynn Riddle / Makeup Artist: Kristine Marie / Bride’s Shoes: Badgley Mischka / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: “Style 334” in Petal Pink by Bill Levkoff / Groom’s Attire: Polo Ralph Lauren / Bow Ties and Cummerbunds: High Cotton Ties
Ahh, love this couple! Thank you for the feature!!
That bouquet is seriously incredible!
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Stunning!!! I’m new to Lexington, KY and I love the idea of this theme. I’ve been putting off planning because it all seems so overwhelming, but this gave me some really great ideas :-)
Love the stunning decor and detail in these photos!