After Anne “Annie” Randle Balart attended a bachelorette party in New York and Kenneth Wesley “Wes” Michaels attended a bachelor party in Pawley’s Island, S.C., the two crossed paths at Louis Armstrong Airport’s baggage claim.
Wes struck up a conversation with Annie, and the two headed for the exit. When it was time for their goodbyes, Wes asked Annie if she would like to go out sometime; the following weekend was their first date at Lola, a Spanish restaurant near City Park.
The Friday night after Thanksgiving 2008, Wes planned to propose to Annie at Celebration in the Oaks. He stashed champagne, glasses and the ring in the back of the car. While driving around the park, they discovered the lights were actually no longer lit throughout the park but only in the Botanical Gardens. It seemed that Wes’s plan might be spoiled.
Wes formed an alternate plan: stop by Lola to recreate their first date. On the way into Lola, they stopped at the corner of Esplanade Avenue and Mystery Street, where he sat Annie on a bench and got down on one knee to propose.
When choosing the wedding date, Annie and Wes knew that December 12, 2009, would be a date to remember, but not only for their beautiful wedding: That day it rained so much that streets, cars and even the wedding party’s limousines flooded. Many guests donned rain boots just to trudge through the water, while others daringly drove on the neutral grounds to get to the ceremony on time. Even though the weather was a disaster, Annie and Wes were happy to see that the church was full and the reception was rocking and rolling.
Annie wore an ivory strapless organza dress by Vera Wang purchased at Mimi. The dress had a high-waisted skirt draped with tiers of organza that fell into a train. The top was a pleated bust complete with an organza flower. The veil was bordered in silk satin in a simple design falling from the crown of her head and extending beyond her dress. She proudly wore a family brooch to hold the veil in place.
Annie’s bouquet consisted of cascading miniature white calla lilies, white large and miniature cymbidium orchids, white dendrobium orchids, paperwhites and a touch of baby eucalyptus.
The bridesmaids all wore J. Crew silk taffeta dresses. The maid of honor, Meredith Weeks Chase, and Ashley Michaels Martin, Wes’s sister, wore Caspian blue while the bridesmaids wore spiced wine. Each bridesmaid had the opportunity to choose their favorite style in her designated color.
Wes wore a black Hugo Boss tuxedo with a silver-grey tie from Perlis. His boutonniere was a pair of white miniature cymbidium orchid blooms set on baby eucalyptus and finished with silver jeweler’s wire. The groomsmen wore black suits with the same silver-grey ties from Perlis, a gift from the groom.
After the ceremony, the celebration continued at Gallier Hall, a venue that Annie believed to be uniquely New Orleans. Guests were greeted through a Winter Grove, the beginning of the “Four Seasons” theme. To the right was a large room that represented a spring garden, the room to the left held a bounty of summer sweets and the taupe room was inspiration for an autumn harvest. In each room guests dined on cuisine prepared by Patti Constantin. Hors d’oeuvres were passed throughout the evening and each room hosted an assortment of entrées, including fowl gumbo featuring ducks shot by the father of the bride.
The wedding cake, done by Denise St. Pierre, was four-tier buttercream with lemon curd and raspberry filling and sugar flowers cascading down the sides to match Annie’s bouquet. The groom’s cake, created by Flour Power, was a recreation of the baggage claim where the two met. It was composed of chocolate and peanut butter buttercream complete with a miniature Wes and Annie sitting on a baggage claim belt.
At the reception Bobby J and Stuff Like That rocked as flood waters began to recede.
Annie and Wes chose Jeff Pounds to be the photographer for the event and for the save-the-date cards. Jeff took photos of the couple at the same baggage claim where they met and each card had the phrase “Baggage Claim is for Lovers” below their picture.
Paperwhites are a favorite flower of Annie and her mother, so each guest was given a Paperwhite as a thank you.
After the rain subsided the two went on their honeymoon to Argentina. Annie and Wes now reside Uptown. Annie is the owner of ARB Meetings and Events and the director of Focus Medical communications in Parsippany, New Jersey. Wes is a Principal at Spackman, Mossop & Michaels in New Orleans and also a professor of Landscape Architecture for Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture at Louisiana State University.