Planning the Perfect Wedding: An AY Guide


“Father of the Bride.” Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s fairy-tale wedding. The next Kardashian nuptials. Weddings have long garnered our attention. But how is one easily and effortlessly carried out? Even before the question is popped, potential brides (and their very concerned mothers) are scouring the Internet and asking friends:

What is the best venue? Where will I buy my dress? Where can we have a swell bridal luncheon?

Look no further than AY’s Bridal Guide. These experts can dispense advice and calm the nerves of everyone involved in the wedding-planning process. If there’s a wedding in your future (or the future of someone close to you), tuck this guide in a safe place to help with the chaotic world of wedding planning.

The Ring

How to choose the ring? Sissy’s Log Cabin has been known to have their famous blue sacks in tow when the man pops the question. But how does the buying trip usually start?

“It typically starts with a picture on her phone of her ‘dream ring,’” says Jackie Dunkley, manager of the Little Rock store. According to Dunkley, 85-90 percent of the women who come in have something they’ve either pinned to a Pinterest page or have stalked online. They’ve been daydreaming about it.

The Internet has been very good to engagement ring buyers, she adds. It helps them narrow down their choices. After the ladies see their perfect ring online, the staff gets to work on finding it – “either to customize it or to create and find the perfect mounting and diamond and put it all together.”

What are the trends for ring buyers in 2018? Dunkley says, “The halo is still popular, but now, the millennial shoppers are sentimental to what maybe their grandmother wore.” So, that means the solitaire and a three-stone look is highly sought after and in any of the three metals of yellow, white or rose gold. And it’s not always a brilliant diamond as a center stone; some brides-to-be are choosing morganite and black diamonds.

Go see the staff at any of Sissy’s four locations for your perfect ring.

Mary Lewis wearing black dress standing by white flowers

Wedding planner Mary Lewis has been helping couples create perfect weddings for 25 years.

The Planner

How do you have a happy wedding-planning experience? Step one: Hire a wedding planner. The end.

OK. There’s more.

There’s a name in Central Arkansas who is known for her easy manner and beautiful style. And it’s Mary Lewis. She has been planning weddings for 25 years, and she knows it’s an arduous process.

Interviewing a wedding planner helps you see if you have a vision that someone can design. Lewis spends hours with potential clients and then hundreds of hours if she’s hired as the wedding planner.

Lewis recommends reaching out to her for that initial consultation, in which she interviews the bride, and the bride interviews her. She says, “The real reason people hire an event planner or wedding planner is to alleviate stress on the mother and the bride and to keep them from forgetting the numerous details” that accompany the biggest moment of her life. There is no fee for that first meeting, and if the bride sees Lewis is a good fit, an agreement is signed. Then Lewis gets to work.

The Cosmetics

One goal for every bride is to look her best on her wedding day. Dr. Michael Spann, a board certified plastic surgeon, has helped hundreds of brides achieve their goals, and he’s offering up tips from his extensive experience working with brides-to-be over the past decade.

Spann believes timeline, lifestyle and budget are the most important factors to maximize results. His team at Little Rock Plastic Surgery start by working with a bride’s goals and defining the best procedures. Three to six months before the wedding is optimal for surgical procedures.

“Commonly, brides look to body contouring and breast augmentation to get that special fit,” Spann notes. The nonsurgical options – Botox, fillers and lasers – are best performed at the six-week to three-month mark. He advises brides-to-be to seek their last filler, sculpting and laser treatment sessions and to keep up with their skin-care routines at the month mark.

“I’m thinking beyond your wedding,” he says. “I want your pictures to be beautiful, your day to be magical, and am honored to play the role I play.”


The Waters Hotel building front

The Waters Hotel in Hot Springs has everything a bride and groom could want in a wedding venue.

The Venue

If you have a love of nature and a bit of old-world charm, then plan on touring the property at Sassafras Springs Vineyard & Winery in Northwest Arkansas. It’s what the events manager calls “God’s country,” because as Sarah Kilpatrick says, “It’s the only way to describe it.”

You are greeted warmly when you come see the 37-acre property, which has five outdoor spaces, including the “chapel ruins” and its spectacular rock and stone setting. Brides can tour the vineyard and winery and even host parties in the production building where the wine is made.

If your reception wants an outdoor venue and you need to accommodate 400 people, this is the place for you. Brides and party hosts welcome.

For a historical site for your wedding or reception, Hot Springs boasts a recently renovated hotel right on Central Avenue. The Waters Hotel, a 62-room boutique hotel that just underwent a $7 million renovation, is complete with an award-winning chef at The Avenue Restaurant who has been recognized by AY as one of best chefs in the state.

Chris Arrison, the director of sales and events for the hotel, says The Waters Hotel has everything for a bride to host a great event. The Blushed Beauty Boutique, on the property, offers hair and makeup services for the entire wedding party – for a discount if you are hosting your party at The Waters.

“The bride can have her reception and rehearsal dinner here,” he adds. And they even have a very intimate terrace for a small wedding. But Arrison says, “If you want to go big, you can have a tent on the grounds of the Quapaw Bath Houses,” right across the street. He recommends you come tour the property and see why it’s a perfect destination or local wedding.

The Dress

Dorcas Prince, owner of Low’s Bridal, has been fitting brides for over 40 years. It’s the job she and her staff take on Tuesday through Saturday, in the small town of Brinkley, off Interstate 40.

After an appointment is secured, the bride comes in for a two-hour appointment and tries on, typically, 10 to 15 gowns. The team helps the bride assess her individual style and asks questions about the venue. The brides often use social media to pin their favorite gowns, and the narrowing begins there.

The inventory is plentiful at Low’s. Roughly 3,000 gowns are in stock, ranging in size from 2-32, and hundreds of those gowns are on display. Prince says the current trends are “anything goes.” Fabrics such as “dupioni, organza and chiffon are always classic fabrics” for any generation, she says. The latest influence of the Duchess of Sussex, the former Meghan Markle, will definitely influence the bridal market just as her sister-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge, Catherine, did for long-sleeved gowns.

Prince adds that though they have been in business all these years, they aren’t an intimidating operation at all. She snickers, “We’re country! All the ladies here are good Arkansas small-town ladies. And we are here to find the bride the perfect dress.”

Ashley Murphy and her husband standing in doorway of elevator

Ashley Murphy and her husband, Mac, have created incredible wedding images over the years, like the one above.

The Photographer

The first thing Ashley Murphy of Ashley Murphy Images does when she meets with a bride and groom is listen. She gets to know them and their story. She hears their vision for their wedding day, and then she gets to work. With the art background she and her husband Mac, her second shooter, have, they bring a unique point of view to wedding photography. She recommends bringing your wedding date and venue and expecting to meet for about thirty minutes.

Murphy says her favorite part of shooting a wedding is the look on the bride and groom’s faces after they have said their vows and are walking back down the aisle. She also enjoys the level of trust that is developed between her and the couple after many consultations and through engagement and bridal photos.

She and her husband have shot numerous weddings statewide, nationally and internationally, in their five years in the wedding photography business.

The Food

What are your options concerning the feeding and entertaining of not only wedding guests but the bride and the FOB (friends of the bride)? Cache Restaurant, in the heart of Little Rock’s River Market, is the perfect venue for wedding showers, the rehearsal dinner and even a wedding, if you so choose.

Executive chef and owner Payne Harding and his staff can help plan every detail. Need an intimate dinner for 25? A seated event for 86? Or even a party area for more than 200? Cache can accommodate. Regina Gallucci, events manager, says, “We can customize a menu with the bride and her wedding planner. You can dine on smoked salmon and crudités, and then choose from our famous filet mignon or gnocchi. It can be done through a plated dinner or a buffet.”
She says the view of the Arkansas River is a popular choice for the perfect room inside the restaurant.

Gallucci says for brides to contact her as soon as the question has been popped. That way, she and her staff can start working on menus, options for the different parties, and she can get to know the bride and groom’s preferences. With a wedding, there are more people to entertain than just the bride and groom, and Cache can take care of any hungry appetite.

The Furniture

Once the bride has chosen her date and venue, she has something else to choose. Where to seat all these nice people?

Hank’s Event Rentals, a service provided by Hank’s Furniture, has a unique business that can help the bride with this task. Mary Browne Allen, the president of Hank’s says, “Hank’s Event Rentals was a natural addition to what we already do.” It is a unique business that offers the seating and furniture for your event.

“We took the infrastructure we already had in place with the trucks, warehouse and delivery people,” she adds, to provide a furniture rental service that is state-wide. Hank’s Event Rentals is the only business of its kind in Central Arkansas.
Charla Boatright, Hank’s Event Rentals’ manager says, “A real popular trend is casual, shabby-chic furniture.” She adds that if you want a modern, clean look, they have the seating and furniture to accommodate. “The groom’s lounge is a new trend, too,” she adds.

Hank’s Event Rentals can provide the seating from anywhere up to 2,000 with chair rental, or give you the perfect look for an intimate gathering. Contact Charla at Hank’s Event Rentals for your big day.

The Registry

What is a fun shopping trip for her is often a bit of dread for him. It’s picking out the china and all the goodies a woman loves. The Everyday Chef, with its two locations in Jonesboro and Little Rock, can entertain even the weariest male shopper. And that is done by enticing him with barbecue items and barware.

But the first thing the staff does when the bride and groom walk in is have them walk around the store and start deciding what look they want. Many times, they know because of things they’ve seen elsewhere. The staff gets nosy at this point. They start asking what shower dates they have planned. This is done to ensure they have the inventory from their registry to accommodate their needs. And they are known for their gift-wrapping at the store, along with delivery to local showers.

The Everyday Chef looks for things in the registry to make sure the whites match in the patterns they choose or if they need to add an accent plate. And this isn’t your mother’s china. This is the day and age when brides might mix and match and not necessarily get the 12 tea cups. Employee Felicia Hart says, “We are honest with the brides. We have them think ahead. We tell you that you’ll need the different-sized bowls, though you think now, with the just the two of you, that you won’t.”

The monogrammed china is a big draw for brides. Hart says, “It’s gorgeous and so unique.” Cookware is also a huge draw for today’s shopper. Lines like Le Creuset and All-Clad are pieces that are not only beautiful, but also have longevity. You won’t have to replace cookware like your parents did if you buy right the first time.

The inventory is impressive at The Everyday Chef, but the help they provide for engaged couples makes this part of the decision-making process rather simple.

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