Labor of love: Wedding planner finds hope in her business

Lydia Petersen, is the owner The Arling, located in Franklin, Kentucky. Petersen started wedding planning back in 2001 and began having her own venue in 2013. “My main focus is on weddings, that’s my passion,” Petersen said. “I have so much freedom here and it’s me that makes all the decisions.”

Katelyn Latture

Wedding planner Lydia Petersen knows what it’s like to find love. Perhaps that is why she loves her job so much.

Though she gets to send off happy couples on a lifelong journey for a living, her own journey to finding true love was complicated. After years of living in an unhappy marriage and trying hard to raise her two children, she divorced.

She gave marriage a second chance with her now-husband, Chuck, who she said became not only her better half but a better fit.

“The security, the trust, knowing when someone truly loves you is, I think, why I love working in weddings as I do, ‘cause I’ve known both sides,” Petersen said.

Petersen sits at a table used during mock weddings in the foyer. She is wearing blue jeans and a fuzzy pullover, and her short brown locks are pulled back in a clip. Her glasses frame her bright eyes and sit above the big smile she almost always wears.

Behind her sits a case of binders. “Lindsay and Zach” one reads. Each binder has a photograph of a soon- to-be-wed couple on the front, and the couples’ names are printed on the side. Petersen makes one for each couple as soon as it makes an appointment to tour The Arling — a barn wedding venue in Franklin, Kentucky — even before the couple decides to book the renovated tobacco barn-turned-wedding venue.

Chuck was working on a loft addition to The Arling’s main reception area. Tall, natural wood ceilings and towering antique doors are met with white drapes that reach from ceiling to floor. Petersen and her husband own and run The Arling together.

“Every day I’m so glad I have Chuck,” Petersen said. “I knew he’d take care of me, and he does.”

Almost on cue, Chuck walks in and grabs a box of Girl Scout cookies off a table in the foyer and asks, “Are these our cookies?” Petersen confirms they are, and Chuck says, “I’m gonna make sure they put the right cookies in there.”

Petersen laughs and smiles at her husband’s response. The smile disappeared as she spoke about her past marriage. However, it reappears as she speaks about the present.

“Through my first life in the marriage world — I was never really a happy person,” Petersen said. “When I met Chuck, and then as time went on … It’s like every day is a happy day.”

Petersen married Chuck in December 1991 after dating him for two years. She had befriended his parents at church before she met him. When Chuck’s dad heard Petersen was getting divorced, Chuck showed up at church the next Sunday.

“Well, she couldn’t do it without him,” said Marty Sharer, Petersen’s son. Sharer said he believes Chuck serves Petersen well and does whatever he can to make her dreams come true.

Twenty-three years after they married, Petersen and Chuck opened The Arling. Petersen had admired the barn for many years. Her brother’s golf course, Kenny Perry’s Country Creek,

is next door to the property. Perry eventually bought the 100-acre farm on which the barn is located, and Petersen tried for years to convince him to sell the barn to her, but he wouldn’t budge.

It wasn’t until 2013 when Petersen was finally able to convince her brother that owning the barn was her passion.

“And, when I said that one word — ‘passion’ — he stopped, and he looked at me, and he said, ‘OK,’” Petersen said.

Petersen said The Arling is built on three things: passion, family and love.

Before opening The Arling, Petersen wore many hats in the professional world. She worked in insurance for 30 years, worked at the pro shop at Perry’s golf course and then opened her own wedding planning business, Elle Squared. Petersen paired Elle Squared with The Arling and said she enjoys planning weddings much more now that she has her own venue.

Pieces of Petersen’s family are carefully placed throughout the venue. The Arling is named after her grandfather, “Olley the trolley,” a trolley Petersen and Chuck use to transport wedding guests from local hotels to The Arling, is named after her grandmother, and there are family pictures hung in the foyer. In the foyer also hang two dresses that belonged to Petersen’s mother: a navy blue suit she wore for her wedding and a yellow, aquamarine party dress. The venue’s website features a picture of Petersen, Chuck, her children and grandchildren standing together outside the wedding venue.

Sharer worked at The Arling with his mother shortly after he moved back to Franklin, and he still DJs for some of the weddings there. His wedding was the first one Petersen ever planned, and it is what first got Petersen’s creative wheels turning.

Petersen hung an antique parachute to the venue’s high ceilings and strung lights with it. There are live trees and shrubs thoughtfully placed around the reception area, as well. The same plants are now planted in Petersen’s yard.

“I don’t think I have one,” Petersen said about having a least favorite wedding. “They’re all my favorites.”

However, she did remember a time when a mother-in-law of the bride was unkind to her through the entire planning process and made her feel like she wasn’t doing a good job. However, that woman’s husband approached Petersen the evening of the wedding and apologized for his wife’s behavior, hugging and thanking her for the work she had done.

Even though she does not have a single favorite wedding, one of Petersen’s favorite decorating moments was when she had a hefty budget to work with. She said she was able to do and create things she had always dreamed of: a special tent for the outdoor area, a chandelier from Nashville hung over the dance floor, a harpist to perform during cocktail hour and a live band to perform during the reception. Not to mention the ice sculpture.

Petersen said photographs taken at that wedding have been used in many of her vendors’ advertisements. She said she can look on their websites at any given point and recognize at least one photograph taken at The Arling.

Sharer said he believes Petersen has an affinity and talent for planning weddings. Though he and the family initially thought she was crazy for wanting to own a barn venue, they supported her the entire way. It has apparently turned out well for Petersen, and she is able to do what she loves.

“When we can be here on earth and support one another through the happy times and the hard times, it’s kind of like what blesses me,” Petersen said of her role in ushering in someone’s love of a lifetime. “That’s how I’ve gotten to where I am.”

Features reporter Katelyn Latture can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected]