celebrate: special settings

Look no further for the perfect place for your reception.

The location you choose for your wedding reception reveals a bit about your personality. Like things tidy and organized? A hotel with a soup-to-nuts package might be best. Prefer to wing it? You might do fine with a potluck reception at a friend’s house.

For brides who want something a little different for their receptions, New Orleans provides a wealth of choices.

You can say “I do” or dance the night away at an antiques-filled mansion, in a smokin’ hot music club or aboard an iconic paddlewheeler, just to name a few.

steeped in history
Couples who like a historic atmosphere can choose from four venues at the Louisiana State Museum: the Cabildo, the Presbytère, the Old U.S. Mint and Madame John’s Legacy. The first three sites accommodate 100 people at a seated dinner and 500 at a reception.

Madame John’s Legacy can handle a seated dinner for 100 or a cocktail reception for 200. This restored Creole cottage is best rented during times when the weather is likely to be pleasant so guests can enjoy both the home and the courtyard.

Jennifer Dorsey, special events coordinator for the properties, says the sites have become increasingly popular, especially the Cabildo, with its tall ceilings, bright chandeliers and views of Jackson Square. One plus is the fact that you needn’t do much decorating. Simple centerpieces are about all that are needed, Dorsey says, although there are areas where a bride can do elaborate lighting, draping, etc., if that’s her thing.

Another perk is the size of the venues. Couples get the use of the whole building, and at the Cabildo or U.S. Mint, they can have drinks, dinner and dessert in different sections if they want.

Dorsey has a recommended list of caterers who are familiar with the layouts of the buildings, but brides are free to use any licensed, insured caterer they want. Because the sites are growing in popularity, she recommends booking early; dates in the spring and fall can be reserved more than a year in advance.

Unique Feature: You can hire tour guides for your guests.

The Hermann-Grima Courtyard, behind the 1831 Hermann-Grima house on St. Louis Street, gives another glimpse of historic New Orleans. The Courtyard, which can handle a reception for up to 250 guests, is richly planted with raised flowerbeds. From the Courtyard, you can see the home’s lovely gallery and its historic slave quarters and outdoor kitchen. Bacco, a French Quarter Italian restaurant owned by Ralph Brennan, is the exclusive caterer for the venue.

The Courtyard provides “an absolutely beautiful setting,” says Lisa Samuels, development director. Brides like the space because it is unique and gives their guests a genuine New Orleans experience. Most receptions take place in late afternoon or evening and include cocktails and food stations. Some couples choose to have both ceremony and reception in the Courtyard, while others have just one or the other.

The location is also a plus, Samuels says; wedding parties sometimes second-line from St. Louis Cathedral to the reception.

Unique Feature: Guests can enter through the front door and see the fully furnished Hermann-Grima home.

The New Orleans Opera Guild Home, a lavish Garden District mansion, boasts Tiffany windows, a grand staircase, a large yard and a beautiful front porch – all ideal spots for snapping pictures. The house was built in 1865 and is filled with 18th- and 19th-century antiques, artwork and other period touches such as glistening chandeliers. It accommodates 200 at a reception; 50 or more at a dinner.

Julie Rice, president of the opera’s Women’s Guild, says brides are attracted by the home’s period feel; it’s a National Historic Landmark property and still retains many antiques once owned by the Seebold family, which donated the home. Since Hurricane Katrina, the home has been renovated and is “more beautiful than ever,” Rice says. There are marble fireplaces in every room, and a grand piano that can be used at wedding receptions. The Grand Double Parlor is ideal for dancing.

Couples are given a list of preferred caterers to use, and there’s no corkage fee. A new kitchen and butler’s pantry helps the serving run smoothly, and a bride could be forgiven for believing she’s stepped back into an earlier, more gracious era for her big day.

Unique Feature: Upstairs, a bride’s suite and groom’s bedroom gives the couple a place to change before setting off on their honeymoon.

Yet another historic spot is the Federal Ballroom, located inside The Security Center on Carondelet Street. The Security Center was built in 1923 as a Federal Bank. The Federal Ballroom, on the second floor, is noted for its ornate columns that run the length of the room, its high ceilings and its many large windows. It can accommodate up to 300 people. A smaller room on the lower level is ideal for intimate weddings under 100. The venue provides food and beverage packages with unlimited food and open bar, and you can sign on for a “honeymoon box” full of goodies to take with you.

The ballroom’s soft, neutral colors provide a pleasing backdrop for most wedding colors; brides don’t have to worry about working around red carpets or busy wallpaper. Another elegant touch: Guests take a manned elevator to their destination.

Unique Feature: Couples can have champagne service for their guests in the Main Lobby as they arrive.

for art and music fans
No antiques in sight at Venusian Gardens, an art gallery on Chartres Street in Marigny neighborhood, five blocks from the French Quarter and owned by artist Eric Ehlenberger and his wife, Indra. The building, once a church, is filled with Ehlenberger’s neon artwork, including jellyfish hanging from the vaulted ceiling and glass “swamp rocks.”

Indra Ehlenberger says brides really go for the atmosphere. “Especially when it’s dusk, the artwork really has a life of its own,” she says. The gallery’s name comes from her husband’s affinity for science fiction and his desire to create a Venus-like scene. The 1854 building has original hardwood floors and soaring ceilings.

Venusian Gardens can hold about 200 people, and Ehlenberger says most of the weddings she books are large, featuring buffet dinners and live music or disc jockeys and lots of dancing. Many couples have the ceremony there, too. Prospective brides should call a year in advance to snag their desired date.

Couples are free to use the caterers of their choice. Decorations are optional, since the artwork creates such a luminous scene. Parking is provided at several public spots nearby.

Unique Feature: Neon jellyfish – way cool.

If you and your groom are music fans, make your wedding a party at the House of Blues. Chloe Tassin, the hall’s wedding coordinator, says couples usually opt to get married in the Voodoo Garden’s covered courtyard, then second-line to The Parish, a reception room that can accommodate up to 175 people with room for a dance floor.

The Parish also has a stage, and Tassin says she can help couples book a band.

House of Blues is a popular spot for destination weddings, Tassin says. People want their guests to get the whole “New Orleans experience,” so the venue’s catered offerings include plenty of southern specialties, such as voodoo shrimp. The club also sees its share of commitment ceremonies for gay couples as well as costume weddings; one recent bride dressed as Marilyn Monroe.

Because The Parish is ornately decorated, brides don’t need to spring for much in the way of flowers, Tassin says, and the House of Blues’ many pieces of folk art provide the opportunity for unique wedding pictures. The club can accommodate multiple events on any given night, so couples don’t need to worry that their ceremony will be drowned out by a rocking concert.

Unique Feature: Everybody can return for Sunday brunch.

great views
You and your guests could be rollin’ on the river with a wedding and/or reception on the Creole Queen, owned by New Orleans Paddlewheels. The ship offers several wedding packages; you can even have the captain perform the ceremony. Each package includes a three-hour reception with open bar, flatware, linens, chairs, tables and a wedding cake. Catering is provided and all the New Orleans favorites are featured.

Venue choices include a small room that holds 60, a medium room for 110, the largest room for 300 or the entire boat, which will accommodate 500.

Director of Sales Paul Bair says about half of the weddings held on the Creole Queen are destination weddings, often by Tulane or Loyola grads.

Usually guests board the boat at 6 p.m., the ceremony takes place, and then everybody moves into the reception room(s) while the general public boards for the 7 to 10 p.m. cruise. Bair says the boat can provide piped-in music
or couples can hire their choice of bands or DJs.

The Mississippi River provides lots of opportunities for cool photos, Bair says; a “Titanic” pose on the back of the boat is especially popular.

Unique Feature: You’re cruising, and it isn’t even the honeymoon.

Ten acres of beautiful views await brides at Vintage Court on the Northshore. The property was formerly St. Gertrude’s Chapel, a private church for nuns. Most brides take advantage of the grounds and have their ceremonies outdoors, in either a 100-year-old stone grotto or a near a massive oak tree. Two reception spaces are available: a larger room that still resembles a church and a smaller, more modern room. The venue can accommodate up to 500 guests.

Vintage Court is a photographer’s delight, with its live oaks, azaleas and cypress trees. Nature’s bounty is so plentiful that most brides don’t need to buy many flowers, says Julie Steinhauer, the venue’s chief executive officer. The venue does its own catering – most couples choose a buffet/cocktail party – and she can furnish chair covers, candles and candleholders.

People seem to like the spot’s quiet, peaceful feel, Steinhauer says. In daytime, the trees, flowers and fountain make a colorful backdrop, and in the evening, the candles give the place a romantic glow.

Unique Feature: You feel like you’re out in the country, but you’re just two miles from downtown Covington.

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