The Kentucky Derby: Simply Sarah Style

As a born and raised Kentucky girl, there is nothing I love more than a party centered around the largest equine event of the year. Not only do I love dressing up and celebrating, I grew up in a horse family. My dad used to own a racehorse named Zachary's Girl. As a five year old, I remember feeling so tickled because the horse was named after me and his business partner's son, Zach. My earliest memories of the racetrack revolve around me and my dad walking around the paddock. I also have a very vivid memory of tripping and scrapping my knee on the sidewalk and then getting to go to the doctor's office at the track, where my dad told me I was special because that's where the jockeys get fixed up. (Isn't it funny the little things that you remember as a child?)

Many, many years later, I made even more memories at the racetrack. My college years were filled with Keeneland tailgate parties where you dressed to the nines to hang out in the most beautiful fields with your friends all before heading inside the track to socialize even more and be seen by anyone who is anyone. (PS-If you haven't been to Keeneland, add it to your bucket list. It is one of the most beautiful places.) 

While I will not be going to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby this year, here's what I'm thinking for a local house party... I am planning on rocking my new Bliss Tulle skirt (an anniversary gift from my hubby), one of my Banana Republic button-downs and a fascinator. 

What will you be wearing this Saturday? 

Shop the look:

The Wedding Series: Part VI


(New to the Wedding Series? Be sure to stop by herehereherehere and here.)

To wrap up this series, I thought I would end on a humorous note.

For fun, let's count all the ways I can throw a monogram into wedding planning. And if you know me, you're laughing right now, because you know how much I like to monogram E V E R Y T H I N G.

1) Wedding Dress Styling 

2) Bridal Attire

3) Bridal Scarf (because it might snow or be chilly the first week of April... you never know)

4) Reception Door Decor

5) Shortbread Cookies 

7) Cocktail Napkins

And if a single initials counts...

8) Bridesmaid Bouquet Styling

9) The Wedding Program

(And if you're wondering... my favorite place to purchase monogrammed goods is MK's Totebags & Monogramming in Covington, KY. Mary Kay has the best prices and selection in town.)

Here's to monogramming the heck out of everything we own for the rest of our married life! A special thanks to all those who joined me on this journey as I shared our lessons learned.

Photos of our big day by the talented Sherri Barber

The Wedding Series: Part V


(New to the Wedding Series? Start here, here, here and here.)

While this picture makes our wedding look absolutely magical (Sherri Barber worked some crazy awesome photographer magic to make this happen), there were many areas in which the experience could have been improved, and possibly a little less stressful. (Hey, you live and your learn.)

Below are a handful of tips and lessons learned. I'm sharing these tidbits in hopes they can help ensure smooth sailing for current and future brides.

  • Getting married in a church? Select a date close to a holiday and you'll find luck in the flower department. Since we were married the weekend after Easter, the church was already decked out in beautiful blooms, which meant significantly less money we had to spend.
  • Avoid ordering bridesmaid dresses without seeing them in person. As you may recall reading in a past post, the fit of my bridesmaid dresses was a disaster. I saw the short version in person at the boutique, but ordered the long version thinking they would look the like the picture. Not the case. It was expensive to get them majorly altered.
  • If you're looking to shave a little off your expense list, it's okay if the groomsmen do not have boutonnieres. In fact, my florist said that many people are forgoing these to save money. By wearing matching tuxedos, it is clear who is and isn't in the wedding party. The guys don't need a boutonniere. They don't care about them. Plus, the boutonnieres have the potential to get turned while pinned and then they look awful in photos. 
  • Prior to the ceremony, designate a person who can help pace out the wedding party as they walk down the aisle. Typically, a wedding planner would handle this for you, but we did not use one.
  • Prearrange for someone to close the church doors before you prepare to walk down the aisle in order to create the feeling of a grand reveal. My church doors were wide open and it didn't even occur to me that they should have been closed until I re-watched the video weeks later. Now each time I attend a ceremony as a guest, I notice that the doors are closed before the bride arrives. One area I wish I could re-do.
  • Think of every possible photo scenario you would like captured on your wedding day and make sure you add it to the shot list for the photographer. They can't read your mind, so if there is a decorative detail or a certain family or friend photo you would like to have captured on film, write down in advance and give it to your photographer.
  • Know what vendors need to be tipped and designate a friend or family member as the person who distributes the tips on your behalf. 
  • One final logistics note for Catholic brides - Don't forget to kiss your groom! The priest will not say, "You may now kiss the bride," but you do practice incorporating the kiss during rehearsal. We practiced, but were so excited in the moment that we forgot. Total bummer.
  • Most definitely do a trial run on hair and makeup, but perhaps not on the same day as your engagement pictures. I thought I would be smart and save money by combining. Not such a great idea, because I didn't absolutely love my hair or makeup for my engagement pictures. I honestly would have liked my hair to be a little more natural and not so stiff for my pictures. (See the rest of my engagement picture prep tips here.) 
  • Have someone tighten your belt (or dress if it laces up), fluff your veil and touch up your makeup before you walk down the aisle. These are all things that did not cross my mind that I wish I would have done to make sure I was looking a little more polished. 
The wedding process definitely has it's ups and downs, so I hope these tips and lessons learned are food for thought to help make your wedding run a bit smoother. 

All the best,

The Wedding Series: Part IV


(Did you miss Parts I, II and III? If so, start here, here and here.)

Our big day came together beautifully thanks to a collection of talented vendors. I vetted the list of weddings professional in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area, plus a handful of Etsy shops, until I found the perfect match for our style and budget.

While there are a couple vendors I wouldn't work with again, here's a list of those who went over and beyond to wow us with their products or services:

Reception Venue - Bell Event Centre

Photography - Sherri Barber

Flowers - Posy Floral Designs

Limo Service - Motortoys (Most affordable rate for quality in town.)

Bridal Party Gifts - MK's Totebags & Monogramming (The best gift shop for every occasion.)

Large Wooden Monograms - Scrappin Plus on Etsy

Wooden Letter Guest Book - Route 17 West Weddings on Etsy

Monogrammed Cocktail Napkins - Confetti Grey on Etsy

Custom Gift Tags - Tagged with Love on Etsy

Wedding Garter Set - Lucy Bridal Boutique

RSVP Management Service - RSVP Services (Seriously, the best $160 we spent on our wedding!)

Wedding Invitations - HEN & CO. on Etsy

Wedding Stationery - Wiregrass Weddings

Calligraphy - The Purple Squid (Another great investment. Our invitation envelopes were stunning. So stunning that I had a hard time dropping them in the mail.)

Do you have a local favorite not listed? Share below and help out other brides!

My bouquet photo via Posy Floral Designs

The Weddings Series: Part III

(Did you miss Part I and II? If so, start here and here.)

Let's talk attire.

Considering I love dressing and accessorizing, selecting my wedding dress was not at the top of my wedding to-do list. Oddly, I was much more excited about other tasks like selecting stationery and wedding party gifts.

I felt like there was so much pressure to pick the right dress. It was strange. I didn't expect to feel that way, but for some reason, selecting the dress wasn't as exciting for me as I expected. Did anyone else feel that way? I know, it seems so strange.

I did end up purchasing a dress I loved. I found several that I was drawn to at Bridal and Formal in Reading. I was surrounded by my friends and mom who helped me narrow down the selection to three gorgeous ballroom-style dresses. I finally set my sights on one gown, which of course was $500 over budget. Go figure.

Then to make matters even worse, the embellished silk belt they put on me to style the dress was $900. Let me tell you... When you are in wedding mode, you are not thinking clearly. In my head, I was registering the belt as $90. A big difference, huh. The realization that the belt added almost $1,000 to the cost of my dress led to a total freak out/devestating moment.

After telling the sales associate that I loved the dress, but couldn't afford it all and would have to reconsider purchasing it, she brought out a $300 silk belt... Whew! Much better. Still not cheap for what it was (e.g., an embellished appliqué on a piece of ribbon), but much more doable with the discounts the shop offered. I truly felt I needed this belt to make the dress extra special.

To finish it off, I added a big pouffy veil that I called my "Barbie veil" (Pinterest-inspired, of course).

So yes, the dress cost more than I expected, but I cut corners when making other purchases. You'll be delighted to know that my almost brand new shoes were a Snooty Fox consignment store find and my earrings came from the clearance rack at Charming Charlie.

Here's how it came together...

Now, let's talk my handsome groom. He and his groomsmen wore Vera Wang tuxedos from Men's Warehouse. We bought the guys' bow ties from a random website. We also included striped stocks from Men's Warehouse in their attire package, so they could look extra snazzy.

Lastly, to hit on my wedding party attire.

I thought the bridesmaid dresses were a sure bet. From day one, I was set on ordering these dresses. I loved the ruffle around the neck and bow detail. I thought it was soooo Simply Sarah Style.

While the boutique only had a short version in stock for fittings, I felt comfortable ordering the dress with the full length bottom because the online photo looked so attractive. Boy, was I wrong! The dress skirts were huge. Each bridesmaid (minus the four girls who were expecting babies) had almost eight inches cut out of each side to get a more tapered look. Honestly, the dresses fit like ball gowns worn by the step sisters in Cinderella.

I was devastated with how they turned out. The dresses quickly went from the top of my favorite list to my sh*t list. They were a fail in my eyes, but what could you do after each girl spent so much money on them?!? It even crossed my mind to personally cover the cost of ordering a completely new style dress for everyone.

So now that the bridesmaids dresses were a downer, let's end on a happy note! This flower girl dress... only $19.99 at Burlington Coat Factory. Talk about a major score! And I paid only $1.50 for the headband at Kohl's. I kid you not.

(Isn't she the cutest?)

Thanks for stopping by for the third post in this series!

Photos of our big day by the talented Sherri Barber

The Wedding Series: Part II


(Did you miss Part I? If so, start here.)

We started with a spectacular base. The Bell Event Centre in Cincinnati, where we had our reception, has such a wow factor.  While I live for sensational styling, the thought of crafting 20 centerpieces did not excite me, especially with a to-do list a mile long. I kept this in mind when selecting a venue.

My criteria for a venue:
  • a place that was somewhat new to our family and friends 
  • a space that had a ton of character and required less investment in the decor department 

I was oh so happy with our selection! The venue was perfect. I am still tickled when I think about it.

Holly, our florist and owner of Posy Floral Design, was so helpful in selecting an arrangement that would achieve our desired look and feel while also fitting in our budget. 

We varied centerpieces, featuring a tall floral arrangement on some tables and a lantern set in bronze, copper and gold on others. I have to shout out to my friend Melissa who allowed us to purchase the lanterns after she had painted them for her own wedding. Talk about saving time! 

Looking back at these pictures now, I should have layered additional ribbon on the kraft boxes to create greater interest. 

My cousin, a very talented cake baker, set out out to create our wedding cake, but due to time, ended up having Fantasy in Frosting in Newport prepare the main cake as she baked the supplemental cakes.

Inspiring Kind Boutique Bakery created a variety of shortbread cookies for us. I thought these would be perfect for our guests who aren't cake people or those who want a small sweet. (Can you believe those non-cake people exist?)

And finally, a bird cage for cards. Of course, you already know that trick though as I'm sure you have seen it on Pinterest a gazillion times. 

If you're looking for a unique wedding venue in the Cincinnati area, I highly recommend the Bell Event Centre! The staff was so easy to work with and the pricing was easy to understand (one price per person, without a ton of other fees lumped into the equation).

And did I mention the outdoor courtyard makes a spectacular backdrop too? 

Photos of our big day by the talented Sherri Barber

The Wedding Series: Part I

I'm sitting here in disbelief as our two year wedding anniversary is just a few days away. As this milestone quickly approaches, I realized I never fully shared an inside look at our wedding details with you. I shared our engagement pictures and a mini recap of our wedding, but never a detailed look, lessons learned or recommended vendors, which I plan to do over the course of the next week.

So here's Part I...


Unlike most girls, it wasn't about the dress for me. It was about the smaller details that come together to create major impact. In particular, I was so excited to pin down plans for the stationery and print materials. In fact, I had an entire Pinterest board dedicated to just stationery ideas. Giggle. It's okay. I know I have a pretty paper problem.

After weighing all my options and scouring Etsy, I selected Wiregrass Weddings out of Alabama for most of our print pieces. Hands down, they offer the widest selection of unique wedding programs. Our wedding program ended up being one of my most favorite pieces. It was quite the booklet, but I didn't mind, and I'm pretty sure our non-Catholic guests appreciated the reading material.

My dear cousin even had each page of our program framed to create one custom keepsake. It's currently hanging in our main hallway and I smile each time I see it.

Laurie at Wiregrass Weddings also created additional pieces for our reception. She produced coordinating menus, table numbers and other directional signage.

I purchased our monogrammed cocktails napkins from Confetti Grey. I have to say... our leftover napkins became a timeless addition to our bar cart!

Lastly, short on remaining budget, I designed and printed the escort cards myself. I repurposed scalloped note cards from the dollar bins at Michael's. I was thrilled with how they turned out. (Nothing like a little Microsoft Word magic!)

It's funny how something so simple as paper can make you so happy. I look back at these details and am just as tickled as ever.

Photos of our big day by the talented Sherri Barber
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