Heather & Justin – A Love Story from Kentucky

Heather’s family is originally from Louisville, KY (they’ve moved around from Florida to North Carolina and back to Kentucky) and Justin’s family is from Midway, KY. They both live in Lexington, KY.

We were actually assigned to a group project in graduate school. We both have our master’s degrees in Library Science and work in higher education.

We’re both really sing-songy. Like, making up songs randomly about whatever we’re doing. It keeps the mood light whenever one of us is feeling down. We’re both pretty empathetic and are good about sensing if the other is in need of something when it comes to emotions. I’m very “heart on my sleeve” when it comes to emotions whereas Justin is more reserved, so we complement each other in that way.

We both are Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans, so watching B-movies for fun is something we do with our friends and each other. We also have done tabletop RPG campaigns with friends. I think the biggest thing we love is just finding ways to laugh with each other even in difficult times. “Heather is very expressive, and she always speaks her mind. She has an Art History background (her uncle is actually a curator in New York) and a passion for opera. She is very passionate about the home and organizing. She’s definitely the one who gets excited to do the planning and budgeting and things like that–a true type A. Her favorite colors are pink and green, and she loves Starbucks. Heather has worked in libraries in the past, and we actually met in library school. Her reading addiction is definitely Gothic novels (she loves the Bronte sisters).” Justin “Justin has a passion for old school radio broadcasts and their internet era brethren, podcasts. Justin also has a master's in Library Science which comes in handy at home since he's quite the book (and boardgame) collector. Justin enjoys pen-making with his dad and exploring steampunk culture. His favorite colors are green and red, and his favorite drink is Diet Coke. Justin's favorite music genre is indie, with one of his top artists being Neko Case. He’s a big advocate of listening to diverse opinions–he pushes me to be a better listener.” Heather THE WEDDING:
My dream wedding wasn’t that different than my actual wedding! I maybe would have had nicer finishes or more decoration, but all the elements I wanted were there: classical singers, beautiful German Romantic music, an ice blue gown with a crown (Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, the film version of Camelot, and The Princess Bride were all style inspirations for us). I probably would have incorporated more Neo-Medieval elements in our decor if we had more time and the extra funds. I think for both of us, we missed having our grandparents all there with us. I carried a special decorative pick with photos honoring my late grandfather and Justin’s “Mimi” in my bouquet, but having them with us in person would have really been a dream come true.

It all went by really fast! Then again, a few hours go by fast when you’re an opera-lover like this bride! Like all weddings, we were running a little late to start so Justin and I didn’t get to have a “first look,” which actually made it sweeter since we first saw each other as I was walking down the aisle. Our wedding theme was German Romantic Period music, specifically the music dramas of Richard Wagner including Parsifal and Lohengrin (where the famous "Here Comes the Bride" tune actually originated: I walked down the aisle to a full choral version of Act III’s Treulich geführt which has always been my dream). This period in classical music is known for its lush emotional quality, naturalism, and themes such as faith, love, and art. It is also my favorite type of music (I’m an avid opera fan and really love big, bold music dramas!). In addition to the German Romantic music featured at the ceremony, there were live performances by classical artists at the reception. Brittany Benningfield, a local soprano was an amazing reception host in addition to performing a lieder concert for our guests. We hired a local choir for the ceremony—we always looked for local talent in putting all the musical details together. Justin’s aunt is a talented cake maker and bridal seamstress, and she did all the alterations on my dress and made a gorgeous (and delicious!) cake for everyone to enjoy. We pulled in themes from German classical music by having each table at the reception be named after Wagnerian characters (there was a Valkyries table, and tables for Tristan & Isolde, for example). I incorporated Pre-Raphaelite artwork in the table decorations to add that 19th century meets Medieval feel we wanted to capture. We had swans everywhere—even a swan card box at the reception–as a nod to Lohengrin. Justin wore a swan pin on his tie, and I wore a swan ring he had purchased for me as a present. Of course, we wanted to break up some of the serious music drama with some fun modern hints at those themes, so our wedding party entered the reception to “Find Your Grail” from Monty Python’s Spamalot! Justin and I had our first dance to “Storybook Love,” the theme from Princess Bride. The food was great, the music was perfect, and we both have amazing memories of that magical day. And beautiful photos from Rocker in Love!

We had a year to plan and prepare, but it went by very quick! I ended up having a medical operation three months prior, we both had a lot to handle at our jobs, and we had a ton of DIY projects to tackle. Thankfully, we both had really amazing friends and family to encourage us and help tackle everything. And spreadsheets…LOTS of spreadsheets.

For me, the important thing on our wedding was how it sounds. Most of my friends who had married chose non-Church venues, typical music over speakers, and DJ-led dance parties for their receptions. While that fit their style and preference, I knew I wanted a music-rich wedding. Our choice to prioritize music over other elements (like, say, having the most expensive gown or a three-course meal on fine china) was very important to us. There is nothing quite as memorable or thrilling as hearing a twenty-something chorus singing you down the aisle, their voices bold enough to reach over the Church’s pipe organ, and all of this amplified by the great acoustics of the nave. Music, especially Romantic-era music, has the power to lift you up and influence the way you feel. I’m so blessed to be able to remember through the music, to recall the emotions it awakened in us and our loved ones on that special day. THE PROPOSAL
Our first official date (we “dated” for way longer without calling it that) was an outing to Triangle Park in downtown Lexington for a picnic to see a shared movie favorite, "The Princess Bride," which was being played on a screen in the park. A year later, Justin took me back to that spot in the park and popped the question. Justin actually presented his grandmother's ring which was very special. He figured out the my ring size by getting my mother to trick me into sizing my ring finger for my own grandmother's ring (when my mom was going through old family heirlooms). I said "yes," of course. Justin told me later that, apparently, there was some guy in the park that day who was trying to hand out pamphlets or something. He had to distract me while he got the guy to head somewhere else long enough for him to propose! He had purposefully got up really early so we’d have the park to ourselves for the most part.

An advice we would give to a couple planning their wedding?
Pick your battles: prioritizing what you (the couple) want is really key. For instance, I knew I wanted live performances by classical musicians since we had a German Romantic music theme. Justin and I didn’t really want a big dance party or a DJ, so we didn’t do that. We sacrificed things like real flowers, fine china at the reception, and we did a lot of DIY work to keep costs down so we could achieve having great performances. We picked a beautiful historic venue that was parts of the Parks & Recreation system, which also helped keep costs down since we didn’t need to decorate it (or our Church, apart from altar flowers). I’d say being willing to give up some of the overall “perfect-ness” in favor of the elements that really matter to your wedding will help you stay sane and enjoy the experience. Also, if you have live performers, please remember to feed them and let them go to the bathroom (I know this seems intuitive, but you’d be surprised how many performers don’t get a break at weddings). One of my bridesmaids is a classical singer and can attest to the importance of this. We had our caterer prepare extra food just for our ceremony musicians and singers even though we couldn’t have them with us at the reception. Lastly, trust your guests are there to celebrate (not to bicker): we had a super diverse group of friends and family (LGBTQ+, conservative, liberal, dating, single, etc.), and everyone had a great time because the focus was the marriage and the music. Don’t worry about pleasing everyone–just enjoy yourselves and your guests will enjoy themselves too. Weddings (and music) can really bring folks together!




The bride is a paper-crafter, so she handmade all the invitations, programs, and paper signage for the wedding.
Church of the Good Shepherd, Lexington KY
Good Shepherd is an Episcopal church.
The Historic Bell House, Lexington KY
(rented through Fayette Co. Parks & Recreation)
The only real flowers were our altar flowers which were by Carol Lynn Originals: http://www.carollynnevents.com/
The other flowers were actually recycled sheet music roses crafted by Christine, etsy seller crazy2becrazy: https://www.etsy.com/shop/crazy2becrazy
Dry Art Salon, Lexington KY
The Rev. Brian Cole (then at Good Shepherd)
Selma’s Catering: https://www.selmascatering.com/
No bakery: the groom’s aunt Nancy Childers baked our cake. She is an experienced baker, and it was the tastiest wedding gift we received by far!
We didn’t have a band, but we did have an organist and a full choir!
Our ceremony organist was Owen Sammons of Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church in Paris, KY.
Universitatis Schola Cantorum (now Lexington Early Music Ensemble) performed the choral selections at our ceremony including the Bridal Chorus: https://www.facebook.com/kycantorum/
Our reception soloist and emcee was Brittany Benningfield (then completing her Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Kentucky), accompanied by Raphael Chou on piano. Both have worked at the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts, and we were elated to have them there to share their talents with us and our wedding guests.
The bride’s gown was an ice blue ballgown from Alfred Angelo (now no longer in business), with sleeves and alterations provided by the groom’s aunt. Her veil was from David’s Bridal (http://www.davidsbridal.com/ ). The bride’s “getaway gown” is actually a dirndl by Chicago designer Erika Neumayer from Rare Dirndl: https://raredirndl.com/
Men’s Wearhouse: https://www.menswearhouse.com/
The bride’s Norwegian Bridal Crown and matching earrings set was by etsy seller KAStrainKreations (Karen Strain): https://www.etsy.com/shop/KAStrainKreations
The “ring box” we used is actually a decorative shell with the image of three water nymphs decoupaged on it that was purchased from etsy seller rtistmary: https://www.etsy.com/shop/rtistmary