St. Charles Avenue's Couture Wedding Guide
Kim Starr Wise
Photo by Chelsea Rousey Photography
12 local ways to show off your personal style
Once a wedding budget is set, the real fun begins. Deciding where to spend the bulk of your resources is what will inevitably define the character and ambiance of your special day and create those lasting memories. Priorities differ for everyone, and while some focus on an enchanting venue, others hone in on entertainment or a memorable meal. New Orleans is a destination city full of history and charm, so the options here for exercising your personality and flair are countless. Local wedding professionals can help get your creative wheels spinning and generate ideas for an unforgettable day.
For even the most ambitious, control-hungry couples, a wedding coordinator or event planner is a godsend for manifesting your vision. When an event planner knows how to turn your budget into your vision, it takes enormous pressure off of everyone.
“We understand that the perfect wedding means something different to every couple. We are careful to reflect their personal style in the décor and ambiance,” says Susan Zackin, Owner and Lead Designer at Z Event Company. Zackin has over 25 years of experience helping couples create the wedding they envision. According to Zackin, it isn’t more expensive to hire a planner when hosting a luxury wedding.
“The planner has the ability to negotiate pricing on contracts, stop some of the overage and waste on orders and bookings and put your money where it will be most effectively spent,” she says. “For us, the goal is simple: make the wedding process enjoyable, stress-free and memorable.”
Floral ceiling created by Kim Starr Wise | Photo by Brocato Photo
Some of Zackin’s favorite custom wedding splurges have included full orchestras at the ceremony, a full gospel choir recessional, breath-taking floral installations and hiring a celebrity chef for the reception meal.
Of course, event location is one of the first and biggest decisions to be made in the planning process. According to Lauren Langenstein, Conference Services Manager at NOPSI Hotel, hotels are a trending venue for couples. NOPSI offers the “industrially elegant” Dryades event space with exposed brick, floor-to-ceiling arched windows, chandeliers and views of the city skyline.
“Dryades has the feel of a stand-alone venue with all of the added benefits that a hotel provides, including the ability to take the elevator home after the conclusion of your event,” says Langenstein. “Unlike stand-alone venues, when booking at a hotel, one has the benefit of having the linens, tables, chairs and dance floor included.”
Royal Sonesta New Orleans, in the heart of the French Quarter, also plays host to weddings. According to Wedding Specialist Wyeth Metz, the hotel is a “destination in and of itself” with all services under one roof.
“Restaurant R’evolution is the perfect site for an intimate family dinner, and our Fleur de Lis Suite attached to the courtyard or a Bourbon Balcony Suite serves as a great location for a welcome party. Most importantly, there are a number of options to host a ceremony and reception, including the Grand Ballroom,” says Metz.
At Royal Sonesta, food is one of the most fun ways to make a statement. In addition to robust wedding packages, the team is willing to think outside the box for unique, custom dining experiences. Past examples include caviar, wild game and foie gras action stations.
The Fillmore, the latest local venue from Live Nation, presents a new option for New Orleans couples. Modeled after the original San Francisco music venue that helped launch the careers of psychedelic acts such as The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and The Doors, the new spacious venue features 22,000-square-feet of flexible event space.
Floral Installation by Kim Starr Wise
“From rocking your vows center stage to the post-wedding champagne brunch with delicious eats, we’re dedicated to making your special day one to remember,” says Lauren Ramos, Senior Sales Manager. “In terms of entertainment, Live Nation is the largest entertainment company in the world. Therefore we have access to the world’s leading talent. There’s no artist we can’t book if the price is right,” she says.
Two additional new options in town for event spaces include The Pearl Room in Harahan and Laurenia in the CBD. The Pearl Room is a new venue from Mr. Ed’s Restaurant Group that combines modern elegance with the well-known cuisine of the local restaurateur. The well stocked, all-in-one venue offers convenience and flexibility, and its bridal suite, foyer and patio offer places to relax and take photos. The menu selections include favorites from both Mr. Ed’s and Austin’s Restaurant.
Laurenia offers 3,500 square feet of new space in the CBD above the new Pythian Market. Housed in what was originally the historic Pythian Temple, Laurenia features floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook Duncan Plaza, hardwood floors and restored ironwork from the original building. According to Marketing Manager Alessandra Madrid, the unified space includes an additional events area called 2three4, a commercially equipped kitchen and a bridal suite.
“We are located right on the downtown streetcar line. Wedding parties can rent out an entire streetcar for their wedding party and arrive in true New Orleans style,” says Madrid. Other worthwhile splurges include signature cocktails from Bar 1908 and a decadent raw bar that can be added to catering packages.
Floral design can transform a space, adding ambiance with life and color. According to Denise Richter and Megan McHugh, Co-Owners of Pistil & Stamen, a floral budget is best spent on a few things: personals (what they call “wear and carry”), large statement pieces and site-specific installations.
Personals are in most photographs, so it’s important for them to feel special and reflective of the couple’s personalities and style. Meanwhile, large statement pieces provide visual dynamism and set the tone of the event, whether it’s classic and elegant, opulent and lush or modern and cool.
“Last, site-specific installations, like archways, living florals around columns and windows and suspended floral designs are almost always the most memorable florals of the events we do, and draw the most comments, oohs and aaahs from our clients and their guests,” says Richter. For example, Pistil & Stamen once created a “living forest” inside of Marigny Opera House, transforming the bare, tall columns into trees with vines and Spanish moss.
NOPSI Hotel | Photo by Mike Lirette Photography
Likewise, Kim Starr Wise, a third-generation floral designer with over two decades of experience, recommends focal installations as a must.
“Centerpieces may be forgotten, but I love to have a high-impact floral piece that a client’s friends will still be talking about a few weeks later,” she says. Depending on your floral budget, the sky is the limit. Favorite installations of Wise’s include a tulip ceiling consisting of 24,000 white tulips suspended over a dance floor and 10-foot hoops with streaming long garlands that created a jellyfish-like chandelier.
While venue and design make their statement about the wedding couple, the wedding dress (or dresses) gives brides a chance to be a bit more personal in their taste. According to Camille Wynn, Owner of LVD Bridal, many brides look at the wedding weekend as a chance to express their fashion and personal style multiple times.
“Brides looking for stylish second dresses for their reception and knockout rehearsal dinner jumpsuits or dresses are so fun and inspirational to work with,” says Wynn. “While working with brides to find their actual wedding gown is so special and meaningful, sometimes it’s just plain fun to get a little more non-traditional, daring and bold for the second or rehearsal dinner look.”
Floral Installation by Kim Starr Wise
When gown shopping, Wynn suggests researching dress shops in advance and visiting multiple shops that fit not only your wedding aesthetic, but also check off logistical boxes like timeline, sizing and pricing.
Wedding style should go on to determine the style of favors and stationary suite, and at Gem Printing Co., Co-Owner Melissa Cousans Mortillaro has a lot of expertise in the area of invitations. She recommends couples discuss their wedding style before shopping for invitations, as the save the dates and invitations can help give the wedding guests hints as to the formality of the event – from casual and relaxed to modern or traditional.
“Some of my favorite invitations have incorporated both letterpress and very traditional engraved typography. Using a family crest or cipher is always a beautiful touch,” says Mortillaro. “Besides invitations of course, personalized cups, koozies and second-line handkerchiefs really give a laissez les bon temps rouler feel.”
Here, second-lines are one of the most popular ways to congratulate and send-off a couple and add distinct New Orleans flair to a celebration. MemoireDesigns supplies couples with custom, artful, one-of-a-kind second line umbrellas created by Owner and Artist Kari Lee.
“A pair of umbrellas can be used for the couple’s parade, and more additional parasols can be integrated into the overall wedding décor,” says Lee. The small, personal touches engage guests and makes them part of the celebration while shaping a memorable event for the couple, she adds. Other decorative uses of the umbrellas include use as table centerpieces, hanging décor or even a photo-op background made of differently sized, open parasols with outward facing canopies.
These touches of a wedding go a long way towards expressing the couple’s fun side. And another fun touch is hitting the spa beforehand. Good for the body and mind, a spa or salon date for the couple and bridal group is well worth the time.
“It definitely benefits wedding parties that we have a salon within a day spa,” says Lauren Duhe, Spa Manager of Spa Atlantis. Duhe loves seeing bridal groups come in together for body scrubs, facials and hair and makeup.
For couples, it can also be a one-stop shop for relaxation with its steam room and massage services.
“This can make the difference between an anxious, distracted bride and a bride who is truly centered in this special moment and connected to the people who have gathered to celebrate with her,” says Duhe.
Floral Installation by Kim Starr Wise
Z Event Company
508 Metairie Road, Metairie
NOPSI Hotel, New Orleans
317 Baronne St.
Royal Sonesta New Orleans
300 Bourbon St.
6 Canal St.
The Pearl Room
2310 Hickory Ave.
234 Loyola Ave.
459-4005, extension 1025
Pistil & Stamen
Kim Star Wise
437 Philip St.
3512 Magazine St.
Gem Printing Co.
1904 Veterans Blvd.
Spa Atlantis French Quarter
536 Bienville St.