John & Elizabeth Lenihan

Photo by ASHLEY ANDERSON | The Voice-Tribune

Elizabeth (Ferguson) Lenihan wasn’t in any hurry to find love. Neither was John Lenihan. But when the two finally met on Jan. 1, 1997, they were suddenly swept into a whirlwind romance.

The couple first became acquainted after John’s ex-girlfriend set him up with Elizabeth for New Year’s Day lunch. “On New Year’s Eve, I got a call from a friend and she says she has a friend coming in town and wants to know if I’m free to go to lunch tomorrow,” Elizabeth said. “I was like, sure whatever. I was John’s New Year’s Day lunch date because he had come to Nashville to –”

“–meet girls,” John finished the sentence with a grin.

During lunch, John attempted to impress Elizabeth with his recent claim to fame, an article written about him in The Voice-Tribune by former columnist Lucie Blodgett.

“(The article was about how) I was so small when I was born, I was really sick and they could (fit) me in a shoebox,” John said.

“And I’m like, ‘Are you trying to impress me with this sickly child thing because it’s not cool!’” Elizabeth joked. “But I love how I could just call him on that.”

Though unmoved by his story, Elizabeth did find John to have an incredible sense of humor. “I had never met anyone like him before and he just makes me laugh,” Elizabeth said.

From their first meeting, it didn’t take long for John to know Elizabeth was the woman he would marry. He was so sure, in fact, on their first official date, the first question he asked her was how many children they would have.

“Normally that would catch a girl off track,” Elizabeth laughed. But, she responded without hesitation, telling John they would have three children.

“I said, ‘They’re going to have red hair, I’m going to have to put sunscreen on them, put sunscreen on you,’” Elizabeth continued, alluding to John’s fair skin. “And we do have three children, and I do have to put sunscreen on all of them.”

It was Elizabeth’s “realness” and sharp attitude that John especially grew fond of, and just six months after their New Year’s Day lunch, John proposed to Elizabeth on the Fourth of July.

“At 40 years old, I knew what I was looking for and it did not take me long to figure out that Elizabeth would be my wife,” John said. “I was very well assured from a couple of weeks into it, then I freaked out, broke up with her and we got back together.”

To ask her hand in marriage, John decided on a somewhat unconventional proposal. While sitting around the house, he took off his cross necklace and placed it around Elizabeth’s neck, asking her to marry him.

Later, John took Elizabeth, her mother and the friend who introduced the pair to New York to pick out an engagement ring. After Elizabeth stopped by Vera Wang to find her wedding dress, she was then forced to face the most difficult part: planning a wedding in less than three months.

“(On) Oct. 4, (1997), we got married at Calvary Episcopal and had a big reception at our house,” Elizabeth said. “It was perfect. We had a sit-down dinner. The last guest left at five in the morning. It was a fun wedding. We had an orchestra for the first part and at midnight we had a jazz band and omelets at two in the morning.”

Following the wedding, the couple took a five-week honeymoon on a cruise through the Fiji islands and later visited Australia. Traveling has become a favorite pastime for the couple, who often take a vacation to Telluride, Colo. each summer with their three children: Lillian, 12, Adelaide, 9, and Elle, 6.

“We travel a lot and take the kids a lot but also make sure to do things ourselves,” Elizabeth said.

“And, we travel with (Elizabeth’s) family,” John said. “A lot of people freak out about in-laws, but I couldn’t do without our in-laws.”

Last year was both a busy and big one for the Lenihan’s. John opened Sotheby’s International Realty, 3803 Brownsboro Road, and the fashionable duo walked away a Best Dressed Couple at The Voice-Tribune’s Best Dressed of Louisville Presented by Churchill Downs in August.

Though 12 years apart in age, the two seem to form a perfect balance with each other, and always keep God and family, or “Team Lenihan,” at the center.

“We  know we are meant to be together and centered our family around our belief in God and our belief in each other,” Elizabeth said. “I truly look at John and he is a gift to me. There’s a reason he’s in my life. I’m his cheerleader, he’s my comedian. As long as John makes me laugh and as long as I’m his cheerleader, then it’s all good.”


“Know what you stand for, wait for it and commit completely to it,” John advised. “And do offer unconditional support.”
“Figure out what it is about that person that you love and keep encouraging it,” Elizabeth said.


“Don’t sweat the small stuff,” John said. “I was once told, you enter a marriage with your eyes wide open; you stay in a marriage with your eyes half-closed.”

“When contemplating who you are going to marry, don’t just settle for less than you think you deserve,” Elizabeth continued. “You should not compromise on your values.”

Photos Courtesy of Adele Reding Studio