Build-Your-Own NKY Wedding

 Build-Your-Own NKY Wedding

The venues, vendors and wedding planners of NKY can make your dream wedding a reality

Planning a wedding is hard work and it can be even tougher to make it the one-of-a-kind event that perfectly reflects the personalities of you and your spouse-to-be. But take heart, engaged couples of Northern Kentucky—everything you need to make your special day perfect is here in Northern Kentucky.

This is why NKY Magazine has put together this guide to building your own Northern Kentucky wedding. We start with choosing the perfect venue and then move to other necessary pieces to build on the theme, from selecting a planner to bring your idea to life to all the flourishes that can make your reception one that every guest will fondly remember. 

Start with a Venue

If you’re looking for wide open spaces and a pastoral setting, look no further than two properties about a half-hour southeast of Newport. The Stables Entwined Event Venue in California, Kentucky, is a giant wood barn built in 2016 that can hold 160 people comfortably and up to 260 when tent space is added. The venue also has a 3,250-square-foot patio area. 

Just a few miles downriver in Melbourne, right on the south bank of the Ohio River, lies The Inn at Oneonta. The historic inn at the center of the 25-acre property was the only building left standing in Oneonta after the 1937 flood of the Ohio River. Michelle and Travis Faris purchased the property a little over five years ago and have been hosting weddings in its picturesque setting ever since.

“There’s so much history, there’s so much natural beauty, there’s so much uniqueness to the venue that guests leave talking about it for years to come,” owner Michelle Faris says. Ceremonies can take place inside the chapel on the grounds or outside in a gorgeous gazebo area right on the riverbank.

Looking for the perfect place for an elegant non-religious ceremony or traditional reception after a church wedding? Covington and Newport have a lot to offer. 

Mansion Hill Sanctuary, at 417 E. Sixth St. in Newport, offers a beautiful space with warm, bright hardwood and stained-glass windows as well as a wedding chapel for ceremonies, over 1,800 square feet of reception area and a spacious bridal suite and annex that can also be utilized throughout the wedding day.

Covington’s Metropolitan Club, located high up in the RiverCenter Towers, offers a flexible reception space with an exceptional panoramic view of downtown Cincinnati and the river valley to the west. With its ballroom and grill room combining for 3,750 square feet of entertaining space, there’s plenty of room for a big party featuring the club’s delicious gourmet menu offerings. Summit Hills Country Club can offer a similarly spacious and elegant reception space while integrating a touch of the outdoors as the pristine golf course serves as a backdrop. 

Any couples looking for a hip space to help make their celebration extra special aren’t hurting for choices, either. Devou Park’s Drees Pavilion features perhaps the best view on the south bank of the Ohio River, heightened by a beautiful terrace and gazebo that can be utilized for the ceremony and reception. The venue also offers special lighting packages to add a unique and vibrant tone to your reception.

Leapin Lizard, located at 724 Main St. in Covington, is in a building that has been reimagined many times over. Starting as a United Methodist church when it was built in 1886, it has been transformed into an eclectic event space that merges elements like its original stained-glass windows and a working pipe organ with the soul of an art gallery and concert venue. 

If you’re looking for trendy, look no further than The Loft at Braxton Brewing. The brewing company’s new event space on the second floor of its Covington taproom blends an industrial feel with great amenities and, of course, easy access to Braxton’s array of beers and hard seltzers. 

Find a Planner

With many venues, there is a planner on staff to help you utilize the space to make your wedding ideas come to life. This is particularly true for many of the outdoor and pastoral options. For example, the Farises and their part-time staff at the Inn at Oneonta can handle setting up their venue and provide food and bar service while supplying couples their list of preferred vendors for fleshing out the rest.

“(We’re) a small business,” Michelle Faris says. “It’s very personalized and customized to the client.”

Also, there are many experienced wedding planners in the region who can take the hard parts of planning off your hands and work their magic. Elisa MacKenzie is a certified Master Wedding Planner and owner of Elegant Events based in Fort Thomas.

MacKenzie has seen trends come and go and just about every wedding concept under the sun. One commonality between them, though, is gleaning a couple’s personality and using that to create the look and feel that they have in their minds. Nowadays, she’s says the details are key.

“It’s no longer about big centerpieces and big, fancy linens,” MacKenzie explains. “It’s definitely more about what I call ‘branding’ an event. Really putting your stamp on it so it doesn’t look like the other six or eight weddings you went to that season. People should walk into the door and say, ‘Obviously this is Harry and Sally’s. This is them.’”

But making the perfect wedding day for the happy couple and their guests doesn’t require a massive budget. Along the same lines, the details of planning make the whole experience more enjoyable for everyone.

“For me it’s about taking care of the guests’ needs and that is hip on any level,” says MacKenzie. “It’s about flow and timing and execution and weaving one event into the other gracefully and keeping people informed.”

Create a Look

Donna Salyers and her boutique, Donna Salyers’ Fabulous-Bridal at 601 Madison Ave. in Covington, have been a part of the Northern Kentucky bridal industry for a long time. She knows that most brides come in with a very strong idea about their dress, but she’s also seen a sea change in how varied those ideas are.

“Weddings have never been more individual,” Salyers says. “I think you can be as creative and individual as you wish and feel very comfortable and confident about it.”

And while brides will come in with a picture of their perfect dress, there’s always room to find something different.

“It may or may not be what she had in her mind, but she knows it when she sees it,” says Salyers. “And it’s always a very exciting, happy occasion—I guess it’s like love at first sight.”

There’s also so much room for creativity in the bridal party’s wardrobe. Brides can have fun with selecting six different styles that fit a theme or color for their bridesmaids or think even further outside the box.

A popular trend is also having a second dress for the reception. Salyers points out that this gives the bride another moment to wow her guests when she enters the post-ceremony celebration.

MacKenzie says that the right vendors can enhance the look and feel of a wedding. Vincent Lighting in Erlanger is her top choice for décor lighting to really elevate the look between pin spot lighting, track lighting and anything else.

For details that span beyond the special day itself, Always & Forever Wedding Service in Union is a stationary and wedding favor provider that MacKenzie says is the best deal in the city. 

“(Karen Franxman) does custom work and she can really help you pull that look or that feel or that theme into everything from stir sticks to cocktail napkins to hashtag signs to invitations and programs and place cards.”

Make a Memorable Reception

The grand finale of a perfect wedding day is where a couple’s personality can shine the brightest. Michelle Faris has noticed one thing that’s become popular for outdoor receptions at The Inn at Oneonta is making little living room-style spaces outside.

“We have plenty of green space but sometimes they’ll bring pieces (of furniture) from family members’ houses or go through a rental company and just have a little cute area, either under the tent in the reception area or in the green space on our property,” she says.

Music is a key element and MacKenzie recommends Nancy James, a nationally recognized soprano who has experience working in almost every church in the region, and The Northern Kentucky Brotherhood Singers. The quintet recently worked a wedding where they sang the cocktail list before the reception and took requests the rest of the evening.

Flourishes in decoration can come from the incredible florists in the area, such as Yellow Canary in Covington and Ford-Ellington Floral & Wedding Design in Fort Thomas. Whether you’re looking for little accents or full walls and arches of plants, these vendors can transform a venue to fit your theme.

Little surprises can really elevate a reception as well. Treats for guests—MacKenzie calls Moonrise Doughnuts in Covington “a really cool find”—are always a plus, while interactive elements are becoming more and more popular. Live paintings have taken the wedding industry by storm and Heidi Vermeil, based in Bellevue, can be present at a ceremony and reception to create a painting that will memorialize the event forever in a unique way.