St. Charles Avenue’s Annual Couture Wedding Guide
21 vendors share their tips, tricks and ideas
Kim Starr Wise
Imagine you’re Taylor Swift and you’re getting married. You can just pick up the phone and the most seasoned experts will be at your beck and call to bring your dream wedding to life.
Well, being a bride in New Orleans is a bit like that. The city is chock-full of experts who are at the top of their game and easily accessible with a phone call or a visit to their store.
In addition, these wunderkids have access to the amazing resources this creative and cultured city offers.
This presents a unique opportunity for local and destination brides for a truly couture wedding: one that’s created and made just for them, which fits their idea of their perfect wedding, well perfectly.
Sara Ruffin Costello, New York Times writer, author, New Orleans resident and celebrated party-giver comments: “You could be getting married in Malawi and probably have access to experts online … but this town is unique in that throwing parties is its life force – bridal and otherwise. I could name three creative titans in New Orleans who would make you a wedding for the ages – dress, venue, food and music. Actually, I might just renew my vows.”
These titans exist in every category, but let’s start with the invitation. Margaret Jones and Betty Hunley are the two grande dames of stationery in the city. Happily, there’s no month-long waiting list for an appointment. All you have to do is walk into their stores, Scriptura and Betty Hunley Designs (BettyHunley.com) respectively, and you’ll be met with a warm welcome.
Both Jones and Hunley will guide a bride through all the nuances of wedding etiquette, as well as personally overseeing the creation of a one-of-a-kind invitation. Betty Hunley explains, “My team and I go to great lengths to create the invitation the bride has been dreaming of. We want her personality to be reflected in her selection.”
Scriptura (Scriptura.com) has a letterpress studio filled with antique presses and a team of designers and illustrators in-house to create anything from a new monogram to a perfect illustration. Jones’ couture service includes sourcing custom handmade paper, custom monograms, foil stamps and wax seals, earning her and her store a national reputation for the most creative and beautiful beginnings to many a wedding.
Left: Boudreaux’s, Right: Town and Country Bridal
When it comes to the dress, think again before booking a trip to New York. New Orleans offers several bridal-wear experts who will find and fit you with your dream dress. Take Town & Country Bridal (TownAndCountryBridal.com) on St. Charles Avenue; the stylists at this intimate salon can steer a bride through dresses from the most prestigious names in bridal wear, including Badgley Mischka and Atelier by Pronovias. Contact one of the friendly staff there and they’ll also invite you to the many trunk shows they hold with designs fresh from the runways.
Yvonne LaFleur (YvonneLaFleur.com), a doyenne of fashion and style in the New Orleans, has only one dressing room in the bridal section of her 10,000-square-foot store in the Riverbend area. Her wedding service is based on individuality, and each bride enjoys undivided attention from LaFleur, her team and her seamstresses at each and every fitting.
Complimentary couture custom alterations are done in-house, and LaFleur’s extensive knowledge of fabrics is evident in her collections, which she handpicks. All elements of the bridal trousseau, as well as gowns for bridesmaids and the bridal party are also available.
Tieler James (TielerJames.com), a “Project Runway” winner and rising women’s wear star from the Crescent City, is still only 16 years old, but any bride commissioning a dress by him will probably be purchasing a valuable heirloom.
Suzanne Perron (SuzannePerron.com) established her reputation for once-in-a-lifetime custom gowns in New York, but now creates in her Uptown couture design studio and is available by appointment.
Given that entertaining seems on a par with living and breathing in the Crescent City, it’s no surprise that some of the most elite event planners are based here.
Valerie Gernhauser, owner and principal planner and designer of Sapphire Events (SapphireEvents.com), creates extraordinary experiences of all shapes and sizes.
A Gernhauser-orchestrated wedding held in the Mississippi River Valley for 500 guests will appear in Martha Stewart Weddings in March, and featured a massive installation of 25,000 tulips suspended over the dance floor.
“Sometimes clients feel it’s necessary to bring in professionals from other places and that the talent is not readily available locally.”
- Susan Zackin of Z Event Co.
Gernhauser is a regular speaker at conferences alongside peers such as celebrity planner Mindy Weiss and Oprah Winfrey’s event designer Colin Cowie.
Commenting on why New Orleans provides brides with the opportunity to create a truly tailor-made wedding, Gernhauser says: “New Orleans provides a wealth of inspiration and a multitude of environments from antebellum mansions to reclaimed industrial spaces to create a remarkable event aesthetic unique to the clientele.”
The Riverview Room (RiverviewRoom.com) is one such place. It occupies the entire fourth level of the Jackson Brewery in the heart of the French Quarter and features panoramic views of the Mississippi River and the city through floor-to-ceiling windows and four terraces. Sales and Events Coordinator Mary Quarls says: “The location of the Riverview Room is unmatched. The space also offers the flexibility to create whatever vision the bride and groom have for their wedding. We’ve had Lucky Dog Stands, Drago’s Oysters, snowballs and live praline and bananas Foster stations to name a few.”
Messina’s at the Terminal (MessinasTerminal.com) is just another of many incredible spaces. An art deco masterpiece, it opened in 1934 at The New Orleans Lakefront Airport. Despite damage during Hurricane Katrina, it still boasts seven of the original eight murals by artist Xavier Gonzalez and original friezes created by Enrique R. Alferez. Consisting of The Atrium and The Walnut Room, there’s also an observation deck for outdoor ceremonies.
Longue Vue House and Gardens (LongueVue.com) is a city estate with a classical revival-style mansion and eight acres of beautifully landscaped gardens. A National Historic Landmark property, it provided the most beautiful backdrop for Hillary Hogan, whose wedding there was featured recently in Vogue magazine. Coordinated by event planners and cousins Glenny Beahm and Anna Schaefer of Angle Events (AngleNola.com), the site provided the overgrown garden inspired by the Charles Dickens’ novel, Great Expectations, for which the bride was looking.
Another historic site, The Pontchartrain Hotel (ThePontchartrainHotel.com) opened in 1927 and was home to many visits by Sinatra, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams and a handful of presidents. It recently reopened after a $10 million renovation. Cooper Manning, eldest son of legendary Saints quarterback Archie Manning, and award-winning restaurateur John Besh collaborated in bringing the hotel back to life. New event spaces will be available in 2017 for couples to make memories at this landmark site.
New Orleans and its surrounding environs also provide a wealth of nature, flowers and foliage, which the most creative floral minds in the city put to good use. When Lake Bell got married at the Marigny Opera House (MarignyOperaHouse.org), it was Kim Starr Wise (KimStarrWise.com) that she tapped for floral designs. Born and trained in New York, Wise has built a reputation for breathtaking environments with exceptional beauty, and her creations are revered among experts and in the press.
Not matter how elaborate the environs of a New Orleans wedding, one of the highlights of the event will be the food. Brides and their families can choose from James Beard Award winners or inspirational newcomers, such as PDR (PDRNola.com), a food speakeasy.
Joel Catering and Special Events (Joels.com), owned by local Joel Dondis, is undoubtedly a titan in this area where every bite is perfection, whether it’s a spoon of homemade gumbo or a tasty oyster Rockefeller.
Brides can also enjoy the best of both worlds when it comes to their engagement rings and wedding bands, as Brandon Boudreaux of Boudreaux’s Fine Jewelers (BoudreauxsJewelers.com) explains, “We’re big enough to have great buying power to locate the finest diamonds and gems in the world at the best prices, but small enough where clients come in and ask for family members by their first name.”
Boudreaux’s Jewelers and others, such as Aucoin Hart (AucoinHart.com), offer bespoke, in-house design services. However, these family-run businesses pride themselves not only on providing their customers with jewelry as stunning as anything available anywhere else, but also with customer service that takes care of their customers and their jewelry on a long-term basis.
Hope Goldman Meyer (HGMJewelry.com) is another trusted expert who runs a jewelry salon and consultancy business. With access to the world’s finest diamonds and gemstones, she can help produce custom pieces.
As an alternative to creating a new piece, jewelers in New Orleans have access to the finest estate jewelry, sourcing unique antique items,which are coveted by collectors throughout the United States.
The space also offers the flexibility to create whatever vision the bride and groom have for their wedding.
- Mary Quarls, Sales and Events Coordinator at The Riverview Room
Despite the depth of resources and expertise locally, it still might be tempting to shop for vendors in New York or Los Angeles, but Susan Zackin of Z Event Co. (ZEventCo.com) has this sage advice, “Sometimes clients feel it’s necessary to bring in professionals from other places and that the talent is not readily available locally. In some instances there are times when that could be true, but in most cases it isn’t, and with a realistic budget it can be done by local planners. We mostly all have access to utilize the same sources that out of town planners use.”
The city’s clutch of creative types provides brides with multiple options for photographers and videographers. However, a favorite way of capturing the momentous occasion of your wedding is through live painting. Heirloom Live Event Painting (HeirloomLive.com) provides talented artists to paint during your event, creating entertainment during the party and an heirloom to keep thereafter.
For a truly couture wedding – created from scratch, just for you – brides can do no better than what New Orleans offers. This guide has only scratched the surface of the limitless potential and the people available to brides and their families. There are no long waits to make an appointment that is finally held with an “expert” you never meet in person.
New Orleans offers accessible, affordable, astonishing experts who are friendly and trustworthy. Whether your style is a crawfish boil or a masked ball, there’s arguably no better place to turn your dreams into reality.