A Winning Team

Ashley Miller marries Derek Anderson

January 1, 2017

By Tonya Abeln

If you don’t believe in fairytales, perhaps you should allow Derek Anderson’s love story to change your mind. On New Year’s Day 2017, the former UK basketball standout and NBA star took the hand in marriage of international runway model, former Ms. Kentucky United States and Glamour Magazine Phenomenal Woman of the Year, Ashley Miller. Don’t let the sparkle of the tiara distract you from the substance that earned it. That’s actually Dr. Ashley Miller – community advocate and business owner with a Ph.D. in nursing. Their union joins two recognizable, dynamic and respected individuals, and their wedding day was befitting on that stature. But their lives haven’t always been a fairytale.

Ashley uses her platform to share her story of a childhood home plagued with addiction issues and recognized education as her way out. Derek was abandoned at a very young age and was homeless for much of his childhood. He knew his athleticism would be his way off the streets. Their paths crossed at an event for the Kentucky Derby and a courtship began. On May 5, the same date they had met for the first time, Derek told Ashley he needed to run by his old neighborhood. He took her to the bench where he had slept when he was homeless, the place where he had looked up at the sky and prayed to God to deliver him from his current circumstances. She looked up to the sky with him, imagining how broken and desperate he must have felt lying alone on that bench. When she lowered her gaze, Derek was on one knee asking her to be his bride, never to be alone again.

Wedding planning was something they wanted to do together. Derek recalls, “I know the saying goes, ‘happy wife, happy life,’ but I really wanted to be involved with the planning process. I wanted it to reflect us together.” Ashley agreed: “Some brides get so stressed in the details of planning that they can’t wait for the day to be over. I wanted it to be a fun experience for us to enjoy together.”

The only detail they didn’t decide as a couple was the wedding gown. Ashley envisioned a combination of two special designs and looked to none other than acclaimed evening gown designer Sherri Hill to make her dream dress a reality. Sherri Hill doesn’t normally design for bridal, but as a personal favor to Ashley, the two met at Miss Priss in Lexington, Kentucky, to collaborate.

Once they determined that the ceremony and reception would take place at The Henry Clay, both Ashley and Derek wanted to give much consideration to food. The two looked no further than their favorite date night spot. Derek explains, “We have always been dedicated to a weekly Tuesday night date night, and we always go to Ruth’s Chris. They know us well and we have a regular seat, so when we asked them to cater our wedding day, they were fantastic to work with.”

Surrounded by 450 friends and family, Ashley describes the moment that she first locked eyes with Derek as the most memorable of the day. Miss Kentucky 2016 Clark Davis serenaded them both with, “Make Me Whole.” Ashley delivered her original vows, and as Derek started to recite his, he recalls, “Every emotion I’ve ever felt about Ashley hit me all at once.” His genuine nervousness and excitement drew encouraging laughs from the audience followed by tears when Derek and his sons surrounded Ashley in a circle to symbolize how she was now a part of their family in a bond that was never-ending and could not be broken.

The sincerity of the ceremony was perfectly balanced by the festive and fun atmosphere of the cocktail hour and reception that followed. With a shared passion for basketball (the couple engages in the occasional one-on-one hoops matchups, and despite what you may assume, the former NBA pro doesn’t always emerge the victor) the sport was an appropriate theme to the celebration. Their friendly rivalry over UK and UofL was demonstrated in their wedding party’s attire. Derek’s groomsmen wore white tuxedos with blue accessories. Ashely’s bridesmaids wore red and white gowns custom-made by Pare’ Boutique. Each guest received a “ticket” to the reception where the bridal party was introduced starting lineup-style and were welcomed by a host of “cheerleaders,” all women Ashley has mentored in recent years. The evening was perfectly accented with décor by Millenium Events and was topped with a cake by Lorie Blevins that had been driven three hours for the occasion.

The couple’s custom DNA logo was a visual motif throughout the day. Besides the obvious combination of their initials, Ashley explains, “DNA also influences who you love. When you realize that every step in your life has led you to cross paths with the one person on this earth you’ve been prepared to love and be life partners with, you realize that DNA is much more than microbiology. It can also mean eternal love.”   

Photos by Ryan Kendall