State of the Union

There’s only one reception hall that comes complete with Bobby Jindal watching over the wedding cake.

Of all the votes ever taken in the building now known as the Old State Capitol, back in the days when it was just “the state capitol,” the most critical was the one taken on Jan. 26, 1861, to leave the Union. The “yeas” that echoed from the second-floor House chamber added to the thunder as the United Sates plunged into an internal war.

We all know how that turned out. The war here didn’t even leave anything significant for future tourism like it did across the river in Vicksburg, Miss. Now, however, the state has made the old building into something tourist-worthy.

But even tourism needs an occasional boost. As is happening with many historic buildings with bills to pay and space to fill, the halls where Huey Long once wailed about every man being a king are also where an interested bride can be a queen.

Weddings are a big business, and the state is cashing in on it. Where the Union was once dissolved, unions are now being solemnized. In the very chamber where party politicians once followed the lead of secessionists, the wedding party follows the lead of a dance band.

In the space between the former House and Senate chambers is a circular hall now lined with pictures of governors, past and present. There are some that are easily recognizable to the crowd. Kathleen Blanco’s hair doesn’t match the early powdered wigs of  governors that flank her. Probably not many people are looking for Armand Beauvais (who served from October 1829 to January 1830), but the images of Huey Long and Edwin Edwards both stand out, just like when they were governors.

Most striking, if only for its placement, which is probably coincidental, is the portrait of Bobby Jindal, located in a position as though to officiate the cake-cutting. No couple, when looking through their pictures, will ever forget who was governor at the time of their wedding.

As a setting for weddings, the Old Capitol is a much happier place than it was back in its political days. I thought for a moment that similar scenes could be duplicated in any state with an old capitol to put into use, but then a server stopped in front of me to offer an hors d’oeuvre. When I asked what it was, he replied, “Boudin balls with mint jelly.” In retrospect, no other place could ever do it quite like we do.

See related story Castle by the River.

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