Wedding Belle: Damaris' Southern Wedding

Food Network Star winner Damaris Phillips shares the details of her big day — a DIY celebration in the heart of Kentucky. 

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The challenge sounds like the final test on a cooking-show competition: Throw a wedding reception for 235 people in the middle of a city street with a different place setting for each guest, an all-vegetarian menu and a 10-cake dessert buffet baked exclusively by the bride and groom. Oh, and the forecast calls for thunderstorms. This is not, however, a cooking-show challenge; it's Damaris Phillips' real-life wedding day — and she's pulling it all off without a hitch.

Damaris, who won Food Network Star in 2013 and now hosts Southern at Heart, says she had never really given much thought to what her wedding would be like — until the minute she got engaged. As soon as education consultant Darrick Wood proposed, "I was like, 'What are you thinking for the wedding?'" she recalls. Darrick suggested they allow themselves the night to simply enjoy being engaged. After that, though, they each wrote a top-three wedding wish list. Damaris wanted an outdoor ceremony, a parade-like procession and tables with mismatched vintage china. Darrick wanted family-style dining, a single table for everyone and, odd as it sounds (the idea came to him in a dream, he admits), he wanted each guest to bring a fork for the couple to keep and use during a lifetime of meals.

Those six wishes led to a party in June that, despite the big size, felt charmingly homespun and personal. The couple involved the guests every step of the way: Their families voted on favorite cake flavors a few months before, Damaris' mom and closest friends marched her down the aisle, carrying parasols and waving streamers (the parade of her wish list), and the friend who originally introduced Damaris and Darrick officiated the ceremony.

"I was so excited to marry Darrick, I would have gone to the courthouse," Damaris says. "But this was more fun — and a lot prettier."

Photographs by Mark Peterson