Eclectic Elegance

Krysten Dekker & Eric Johnson

September 9, 2017

Story by Mariah Kline

Photos by Irene Hernandez Photography

Pulling off a unique yet classy wedding may sound like an impossible task, but when the bride is an event planner, it’s a piece of cake (no pun intended). Krysten Dekker curated the wedding of her dreams, which featured an elegant, Southern-inspired ceremony at Churchill Downs in front of 180 guests. This was followed by a whimsical reception featuring tropical-themed decor and a few surprises for her groom, Eric Johnson.

How did you two meet?

Krysten: One of my high school friends introduced us on October 30, 2014. They were watching a football game at Buffalo Wild Wings and she said, “Hey, my husband has a single friend if you want to come with.” and I said, “No, I don’t want to go on a blind date.” But I ended up going and we had fun that night. But he didn’t ask for my number so then I kind of stalked him a little bit and said something to my friend. So she just gave him my number and then he called right away! 

Eric: When I ran into her friend again and the topic came up, I wrote down her number on a napkin. I called her immediately and we arranged to meet. I kept the napkin the whole time, put it in a frame and a gave it to her as a gift a year or two later.

When did you get engaged?

Eric: I proposed on Christmas Eve of 2016. I dressed our dog in a Santa costume and tied the ring to him. So when the dog ran up to her, she unwrapped the package and I proposed to her right there.

You only had nine months to plan an elaborate big day. How did the planning process go?

Krysten: I’m an event manager at Churchill Downs so I knew what I was doing. At one point, I was actually planning three weddings at the same time: my own and then two for other clients.

Did you have a particular vision for the wedding that you followed through with?

Krysten: Yes, I had a vision the whole time I was planning. I always wanted an Under the Sea-themed wedding. I knew it would definitely work for the reception part of it. However, we had difficulty finding a venue that could balance what we needed both ceremony-wise and reception-wise. Since I work for Churchill Downs, we just decided to look into it and ended up doing it there. The ceremony turned into a kind of Churchill Downs theme and the reception had the Under the Sea theme. I wanted everything completely different from what a normal wedding would be.

Did you have any surprises for each other at the wedding?

Krysten: Our reception was at the University Club on UofL’s campus. I’m a huge Kentucky Wildcat fan and he’s a Louisville fan, so we’re a house divided. My gift to him was renting the cardinal bird and having him show up at the reception, and he handed Eric an envelope that said “To Mr. Johnson from Mrs. Johnson.” When the cardinal bird walked in, the whole place erupted.

I also hired a choreographer to create a dance for me and my bridesmaids because I love gangster rap and I love to dance. So, I had it planned out for someone to grab Eric and put him in front of us so we did the dance in front of him.

What other unique elements did you incorporate into the wedding?

Krysten: I used my grandma as a flower girl. Instead of throwing flowers, we did confetti and she threw them out of mint julep cups that Lloyd’s Florist had made into baskets. I had a client who got me real horseshoes from the backside of the track, so Eric’s parents cleaned them for hours and hours and polished them up. We tied little notes to them that had to do with the horseshoe and how you keep it turned up for good luck, so that was our favor we gave guests as they left.

For the unity part of the ceremony, I thought, ‘Who wants to do the candle or the sand anymore?’ So I got creative with it, and we poured bourbon together. I had a bourbon barrel made with the Johnson name on it. We had a funnel and we each had a glass container full of bourbon, and we mixed it. We had two people bring it up to us to be a part of our unity service with us; one was one of my best friends and the other was my cousin. At the end of the ceremony we brought the bourbon barrel back out and when we were signing the marriage certificate we got the bridal party together and all did shots of bourbon from it.

What was your favorite part of the whole experience?

Eric: I’m not big on large parties or wedding stuff, but I still enjoyed it a lot. It was all Krysten’s project so I’m glad she got everything she wanted.

Krysten: For me it was definitely the dance number, especially when the cardinal bird joined in. It was absolutely hilarious.

Were there any hiccups along the way?

Krysten: Well, Hurricane Irma affected so much of our wedding. I had family come in from all over the United States, and we had people up from Florida not knowing if their houses were blowing away at that moment. Then, when I was in the makeup chair that morning, the travel agent called and said our honeymoon in Jamaica was cancelled because of the hurricane. But that night I said, ‘We’re going to the airport and we’re going to figure this out,’ and we actually made it. We were on the first flight in after three days of no flights.

Eric: Thankfully, it didn’t touch Jamaica, so once we got there we were fine.

What advice do you have for future couples planning their big day?

Krysten: Stick to what you’ve always imagined and envisioned. Being an event planner myself, I wanted things to be really different. I wanted people to have a different experience and not just experience the same type of wedding, and we got so much good feedback from all of it. People were saying, ‘This was the best event we went to in 2017’ and ‘We’ve never laughed so much and danced so hard.’

Also, you should hire an event planner or a day-of planner because you never know what’s going to happen. I had quite a bit of help and that’s how I was able to pull it off on the day of. VT


Wedding Gown:
Rebecca’s Boutique

Tuxedos: Tuxedo Warehouse

Bridesmaids Dresses:
David’s Bridal

Décor: Millennium Events

Flowers: Lloyd’s Florist

Cake: Jaelin Rifkind

Photography: Irene Hernandez Photography

Doughnuts: Sugar & Spice
and Nord’s Bakery

DJ: Bailey Pyle

Ambassador Limousine Service

Wedding Venue:
Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs Caterer:
Levy Restaurants

Reception Venue: University Club

Officiant: Dwight Mitchell