Book a venue that provides an entire weekend experience.
When shopping for venues, you find such a large variety of wedding day policies. Some venues allow access the day of with a limit of four to five hours of use, some require you leave exactly by 11pm with hourly fees if your vendors or guests are still standing on property after that time, and some allow two days of access but include zero services or insurance. Luckily, as the manager at Ashford Acres Inn, I already knew some of the ‘ins and outs’ of the industry, which allowed me to easily plan exactly how I wanted my wedding experience to go. At the initial time of engagement, I didn’t want to get married at Ashford Acres because I worried I would ‘work’ at my own wedding. However, my exact words were, “I want exactly what Ashford Acres Inn is- but I want it somewhere else.”
After searching many different gorgeous venues, comparing costs and then comparing the services that came with those costs- I decided there wasn’t another venue like us. Ashford Acres Inn is an entire experience, one that in hindsight, I would have fully regretted not having had I chosen to have my wedding elsewhere.
We held our rehearsal ceremony exactly where we were to be married the next day and our rehearsal dinner on the house veranda with romantic string lights lighting the area, Ed Sheeran love songs playing on the speakers, sitting beside my favorite Magnolia Tree on property, and eating the best filet mignon in the state of Kentucky. We created a whole other relaxed and memorable moment with our favorite friends and family on Friday night, something we would have lost had we not had it Ashford Acres.
The morning of the wedding (after sleeping on site in the bedrooms), we had breakfast and coffee delivered to a counter sitting right outside our suite by the Ashford Acres Inn staff, mimosas of several flavors delivered to our door, and hair (Hair by Maddie Woff) and make-up (Hanna Barnett Make Up) came to the property to help us get ready. While the ladies had this experience, the guys all played lawn games, enjoyed refreshing cocktails and simply chilled-out together on the two-acres surrounding the house, enjoying themselves and looking forward to what was about to come.
Another moment that Ashford Acres Inn allows for is a Sunday Brunch before you all depart the day after your wedding. Following the best day of our lives, we had a brunch with 30 of our favorite people to reminisce on the day before. THIS WAS ONE OF MY FAVORITE PARTS OF THE ENTIRE WEEKEND! It was just simply too hilarious to sit and talk about the details you didn’t know about, the funny stories, the stories we probably shouldn’t have repeated (but yet we still repeat to this day), and to say a meaningful goodbye to all of our loved ones.
Most importantly, all of these memories were made in the same place. A place which will always hold a special place in our hearts.
Book a quality videographer
In the beginning stages of planning, we always knew we wanted a videographer – simply because we knew we wouldn’t remember the entire day due to nerves, and I absolutely wanted to be able to see all the memories I was going to miss. We booked Happy Camper Films and the choice to do so is one that I would make over and over again! They are AHHHMAZING! I ended up paying extra for the family footage and the full footage of the ceremony, however, their 7-minute clip that I received from the main package is the one that was an absolutely MUST. We have watched that clip SO MANY TIMES since our wedding and it definitely allowed me to see parts of the day I would have never been able to.
Also, the couple that runs Happy Camper Films is simply fantastic to work with! They were so easy, so understanding, guided us, were invisible in our day and yet obviously so present…we HIGHLY recommend them!
We will watch this video for the rest of our lives…and if you can fully grasp that feeling, then you will agree that it is worth every penny!
Have an early ceremony
I planned and executed weddings every single weekend during the timeframe of my wedding, so one of my early goals was to not allow my own wedding day to feel like –
A. Just another wedding.
B. Like it came and went in four hours.
To prevent this from happening we initially decided on an 11am wedding, to follow with brunch. However, there ended up being a two-hour gap of time where I felt like I may lose my evening crowd if, say it were to be too hot, boring, etc. Therefore, we settled on a ceremony that began at 1pm.
In having an early ceremony, we were never rushed! We had a full one-hour “cocktail hour” full of lawn games, refreshing sangria, and socializing. We had a dinner reception with some of the traditional wedding timeline requirements: cake cutting, first dance, and speeches. Later in the evening, a BBQ food truck arrived to nourish any guests who were hungry, buffet tables turned into drinking game tables, Crank and Boom ice cream cups were displayed for guests to enjoy, and so much more! We found that all of the guests that we expected to stay and enjoy the evening with us, did just that- regardless of the timeline! There was so much for our guests to enjoy throughout the day, that it became one whole day of a celebration, instead of four to five hours of celebrating. Though your wedding day flies by no matter what, I personally would never choose a different ceremony time since it gave us so much time to be with our people.
Walk around your venue before anything begins
Something that I recommend to every.single.bride. from here on out, is to sneak downstairs at your venue and look around. A part of me on my wedding day thought, “oh, the photographer and videographer will capture all the feelings,” but ohhh emmm gee am I glad that I ignored that thought. I decided to run downstairs alone to look at everything two hours before the wedding was to begin. When I walked around I began to feel super grateful, emotional, and just unbelievably lucky. I watched the florist (Hal’s Flowers) who has grown to be our friend over the last couple of years, deliver flowers for MY ceremony, that he had stayed up all night to work on. I saw the most beautiful reception completely set and ready to go by my very own staff that I love and adore, lawn games in the yard, a silent hustle and bustle in the air mixed with the sound of the breeze through the trees… it was one of the best experiences from my entire weekend. The video and photographs that may have captured what it “looked” like, would have never captured what it felt like.
Have a First Look
Lots of couples that I work with tend to turn down the option to have a ‘First Look’ (which is where the couple sees each other before the wedding ceremony, alone). I fully recommend deciding TO have one, and here is why: If you have a First Look, you capture TWO moments – not THE moment. Lots of couples are afraid the moment at the end of the aisle that all people expect and dream of, won’t happen if you have a First Look. I fully disagree – my personal opinion is that you will only lose a moment if you DON’T have a First Look.
When you have a First Look, you capture a moment between the two of you that is far more personal, intimate and one that you could not recreate in front of your guests at the end of the aisle. It is romantic, you are close to each other, and you are giddy only from seeing each other. When you capture each other at the end of the aisle, not only are you an aisle-length apart from each other (so capturing both faces in one photo is almost impossible), but you are also in front of potentially 200-300 guests, all looking at your face. Your anxiety immediately jumps due to both seeing each other AND seeing all of those guests looking at you.
From my personal experience, I had two completely different experiences between the First Look and walking down the aisle- and I absolutely wanted them both on camera. Additionally, having a First Look allows for a lotttt of the wedding photos to be taken pre-ceremony, allowing for your cocktail hour to not go too long, and all of your guests to be fed sooner..so it is definitely a WIN for everyone!
“Let It Go”
My next piece of advice would one hundred and ten percent be to let all of the little things GO! I am a perfectionist and I manage a wedding venue – both of these facts could have made me paranoid, moody, nervous, and all sorts of other emotions on my wedding day. However, I decided, starting the day of the rehearsal dinner, to let all things go and enjoy my moments with my people. For example: during a ceremony you are supposed to stand in front of the arbor…when I got to the end of the aisle, I realized my officiant and groom were standing inside and under the arbor – but hey, “whatevs!”. It was gorgeous, if not even more gorgeous that way!
Overall point: don’t let the small, tiny details ruin your perfect day! Because if you do, then it isn’t the tiny details that ruined it, but your own mindset on what a wedding day is about! If you have a great venue, with great staff, then it will be fineeeee.
(Taylor’s dapper suit in the photo above, was purchased at Men’s Wearhouse.)
Book a Great DJ!
Never underestimate the role a DJ plays in your wedding day! This is a lesson I learned for myself by planning and coordinating weddings. There have been DJs that we do not enjoy working with for a multitude of reasons (professionalism, ability to follow a timeline, ability to work with us as their coordinators, ability to DJ… and so on). As a venue, we found Travis McGuire from Elite Entertainment Events out of Louisville, Kentucky, and we send him our business as much as we can – because WOW! He is FANTASTIC!
Travis sends you a Q&A where you fully dictate your wedding music. He dresses professionally, he follows our timeline and has adjusted so much to it that he makes our jobs much easier. His DJ equipment is ‘wedding ready’, white to match our barn, he has the ability to add your monogram to the set up, and he brings uplighting to your wedding that makes the party look so fab! It is so cool!! (and did I mention that he got married at Ashford Acres Inn this past November!?)
Again, due to planning and coordinating weddings every weekend surrounding the time of my own wedding, I needed to think of ways to make mine feel unique to me. So listed below are some ways we did just that!
- We had the J. Renders BBQ food truck come to provide late evening/night food
- We passed out Crank and Boom ice cream for the evening crowd
- The round floor length tablecloths at the reception were alternating colors of blush and white
- The cake that all of our guests got to eat were Nothing Bund’t Cakes
- We had a ‘head table’ that sat 66 people
- We had a 1:00pm ceremony
- We had a Welcoming Party at Maiden City Brewery for other guests that didn’t attend the rehearsal dinner, and a Sunday Brunch the day after the wedding
- We had a fireworks show that went off in the middle of the reception
- We chose to have our wedding photographer (Sarah Katherine Davis Photography) show up early to capture wedding preparations, therefore she couldn’t stay late into the evening. So, we hired a different photographer (DB Shoots) for a couple hours to capture the fireworks show.
Give your bridal party some freedom
There are so many aspects of planning your weekend that will stress you out, and so I highly recommend allowing your bridal party to have some freedom, allowing you to worry about one less detail. I personally chose 10-12 different types of bridesmaids dresses, and I chose their colors. I then sent my ladies the link to that showroom of dresses and allowed them to choose their own style! That way, they are in a dress that they like and they are in a dress YOU like!
I was not a bride that required their nails be a certain way, their hair be a certain way, or any other detail to control their appearance. Honestly, no one is going to see their nails, and I wanted my best friends to feel as beautiful as possible – which meant they needed to choose their hair style (as long as it didn’t match mine).
With the groomsmen, we chose the items online, sent them the links and asked them to buy the items they were going to wear (they mostly came from Macy’s). We then asked them all to where dressy black shoes! This gave them some financial freedom, & allowed us to not be so stressed with their fittings and all of the details that come with that style of shopping.
(I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I found my perfect wedding dress in the picture above at Twirl Bridal Boutique!)
Take time to be with your partner
I saved the most important for last! I find that when Ashford Acres Inn hosts an elopement, I am endlessly stating that elopements are the way to go – simply because you get to actually spend time looking at and appreciating each other on your wedding day. However, I believe that you can have a wedding with a large guest count and still do this, but it does take intention when planning and communication so that you are both on the same page.
With my own wedding, we did choose to walk around and thank our tables, but we didn’t make a strict rule that we had to thank EVERY guest or EVERY table. It was very important to us to look in each other’s faces, sit next to each other, actually eat dinner, and have wedding day memories that mostly included each other, with our friends and family. In my opinion and experience, if you feed your guests well and provide them with a good time, then they will understand that they are there to celebrate with the two of you, and would never be upset that you spent time together rather than standing at their table thanking them for coming.
My wedding was, and always will be, one of the best days of my entire life! I hope that these ten tips help to make yours the exact same experience! Good luck on your wedding journey, and enjoy every second of it!