By Sarah Boerkircher


Nick and Ally Holt love to host family and friends, but their favorite party of the year is their Kentucky Derby party. When it came time to pick a wedding date, the Holts were quick to agree on May 6, 2017, or the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby.

While picking a wedding date was easy, living in Louisville and planning a Kentucky Derby Day wedding proved to be more difficult.

Ally was born and raised in Greenup County, Kentucky, and Nick was born in Tennessee, but raised in Louisville. The couple now resides in Louisville, so they wanted to find a wedding venue that not only tied in their love for Kentucky, but also was conveniently located for their guests.

“While we love having our Derby party, and we wanted to embrace our Kentucky roots, we knew a Louisville wedding over Derby weekend was not going to be possible,” Ally said. “I stumbled upon the Moundale Manor and Winchester Opera House at a bridal show in Lexington and fell in love. It’s absolutely stunning and classic Kentucky.”

Luckily Winchester, Ky., which is where the Moundale Manor and Winchester Opera House are located, is a halfway point between where Nick and Ally were raised.

While the weather was questionable on Derby Day 2017, luckily for the Holts, they were able to have their ceremony on the front lawn of the Moundale Manor as planned. Ally and Nick wanted kept the ceremony décor classic because it was important to Nick and Ally that the wedding ceremony be about them, not the Derby. As Ally explained though, the reception is where they really wanted to celebrate and showcase the Derby theme.

“I wanted the reception to feel like Old Hollywood Glamour, but Kentucky style,” Ally said. “To me, that is the definition of the Kentucky Derby.”

Throughout the reception, Ally and Nick included subtle (and not so subtle) nods to the Kentucky Derby, like a life-size horse statue with a rose blanket draped across its back and enclosed by boxwood shrubs.

“We wanted the horse to be our ‘wow factor’ and to resemble the winner’s circle of the actual Derby,” said Nick. “There were two signature drinks for guests: one was called ‘The Winchester’ and the other, ‘The Lilly’. Bartenders placed a drink stirrer in each that was topped with a tiny gold horse.”

The seating arrangement was framed in an ornate gold frame and marked with the calligraphy of Haley Michelle Designs. Guests were seated at tables named after each horse that ran in the 2017 Kentucky Derby, so Haley waited until the last possible moment to put the finishing touches on the table numbers to account for any horses that scratched.

During the cocktail hour, there was a live showing of the Derby projected onto a wall in the ballroom and each table was encouraged to cheer for the horse that matched their seat assignment. Guests at the winning table were each awarded a rose lei.

Making their guests feel special was most important to Nick and Ally. For couples planning a wedding, the Holts suggest thinking of some special things that you can do to make your guests feel extra welcome.

“The little details are what make your wedding day so special,” Ally said. “Once you’ve covered all the big ticket items, then really think about what little details you can add that will make your wedding unique to you and your partner. My mom and I made welcome gift baskets for all of the out-of-town guests. Each basket included a note from me and Nick, local restaurant recommendations, Derby glasses, local food and drink like Ruth Hunt candies and Bulleit Bourbon, and a 2017 Kentucky Derby program. Our friends and family who weren’t familiar with the Derby or Kentucky really loved and appreciated this special touch.”

Behind the Scenes:

PHOTOGRAPHER:  Amy Wallen Photography

VIDEOGRAPHER: Happy Kamper Films | Dayton, OH

CEREMONY VENUE: The Moundale Manor

RECEPTION VENUE: The Winchester Opera House

CATERING/DERBY PIE: The Winchester Opera House Catering

DAY OF COORDINATION: The Winchester Opera House, Natalie Johnson

FLORIST: The Winchester Opera House, Neal Linville

BRIDAL GOWN: Nyra by Watters, Bridal & Formal | Cincinnati, OH


GROOM/GROOMSMEN: Jos. A. Bank, J Crew, Mason on Main | Winchester, KY


HAIR: Back Stage Salon

MAKEUP: Shelby Doose | Benefit Brow Services Bar, Lexington Ulta

RENTALS/DECOR: Bryant’s Rent All, The Winchester Opera House