When he agreed to be the best man at his brother’s wedding in November of 2009, Dillon Hohertz didn’t expect that one of the bridesmaids would turn out to be the woman he’d marry. But when Dillon met Meghan McDonald on the dance floor, their chemistry was undeniable. The two dated long distance for the next four years, and finally got engaged on April 25, 2015, during a trip to Big Bend National Park. “We grew to love camping because it gave us a break from the constant journey back and forth between our two cities,” the bride says. “Big Bend was always on our bucket list and now it is even more special for the both of us.”
For their wedding, the couple turned to nature once again, choosing to host their ceremony and reception at the bride’s family lake house in Hot Springs, Arkansas. “It’s one of our favorite places to go, so we wanted to share this special spot with all of our family and friends,” Meghan says. “It’s hard to beat the views.” The couple’s main goal was to enhance the natural beauty of their surroundings, not detract from it, and with the help of planner Shelia Vaught, they did just that. On May 7, 2016 — Kentucky Derby day! — just over 100 guests gathered for a celebration on the water. Read on to see how this couple created their venue from the ground up, photographed by Shaun Menary Photography.
Meghan decided to go wedding dress shopping with her entire family, including her father and brother. “It was so special to have my entire family there when I found my dress,” she remembers of the day she bought her Pronovias gown. She loved how comfortable the classic silhouette was, and that the split skirt gave the traditional dress a modern upgrade.
Her bridesmaids nailed the classic vibe, too. Meghan asked each woman to choose any navy dress they loved, as long as it wasn’t too short. “I loved the balance between long and short dresses,” she says of the final result. “I think it makes pictures more interesting when there are different styles.” The bride and her ‘maids all carried white bouquets of peonies, roses, and hydrangeas.
Dillion wore a navy blue suit and gifted his groomsmen coordinating gray ones.
The ceremony was held on a deck that looks out over the water, with the bride and groom exchanging vows beneath a trellis decorated with white hydrangeas and greenery. A string quartet performed during the bride’s walk down the aisle, and the ceremony was personalized with readings from Meghan’s aunt and Dillon’s uncle.
Guests moved to the reception on the lawn, where long tables were covered with deep blue linens and white and green floral arrangements. With plenty of candles, chandeliers hung from trees, and string light around the property, Meghan and Dillon were able to show off the beautiful trees, a major priority for the nature-loving twosome.
A mix of different low vases topped each table, including some with ornate blue and white patterns and classic white vases.
Since the couple tied the knot on Kentucky Derby day, it was only fitting that they served mint juleps as their signature cocktail. “Plus, bourbon is Dillon’s favorite,” Meghan says.
“The menu had some creole and southern flair,” the bride says of their outdoor dinner. “We had a grits station with an assortment of toppings such as wild mushrooms, crawfish tails, and Italian sausage.”
For dessert, everyone stopped by Meghan and Dillon’s cobbler station, where peach and cherry cobbler was served on the spot, as well as enjoyed slices of the five-tiered vanilla wedding cake.
Guests partied through the night, stepping away from the dance floor only for late-night tacos or to grab Derby-inspired headbands, another nod to the couple’s unique wedding date.
When the celebration was over, friends and family saw the newlyweds off with glowing sparklers. “Don’t get bogged down with the details because those aren’t the things that matter,” the bride says. “What matters most is that you get to celebrate with family and friends.”
Ceremony & Reception Venue: Private residence || Wedding Planner: Shelia Vaught of Little Rock Soiree || Bride's Wedding Dress: Pronovias || Hair: Freedom United Salon || Groom's & Groomsmen's Attire: Jos. A. Bank || Flowers: Becky Clement || Music: High Definition || Cake: Mickey's Sweets || Photographer: Shaun Menary Photography