Try to imagine a four-day celebration with 160 friends and family from all over the world, coming together in New Orleans to celebrate with Elizabeth and Clarke Swanson. In your wildest dreams, you couldn’t believe that they could treat their guests with such love, creating fabulous non-stop parties with attention to detail that would please the Queen of England or the Ambassador of Austria!
It all started with a private concert at Preservation Hall with a second-line street parade led by the famous Preservation Hall Jazz Brass Band to a cocktail party at Napoleon House. All of the festivities were planned by Elizabeth’s sister Pamela Pipes, along with Elizabeth and Clarke.
Guests stayed at the Ritz-Carlton, the Soniat House and the Omni Royal Orleans hotels with buses at the ready to take them to all of the events. All out of town guests were given welcome bags with pralines, directions, times, chips and water. We were all told exactly what to wear to each soirée. For Preservation Hall with cocktails and dancing at Napoleon House: spring dresses and jackets with no ties. Dinner and dancing at Arnaud’s: “over the moon” ball gowns with real or fake jewelry and tap shoes for the ladies, black tie with a twist for the men. Dinner and dancing at Rock ’n’ Bowl: Cajun casual for the ladies and bowling, fishing or Hawaiian shirts for the men. The Swamp Tour and lunch at Restaurant de Families: “Gator Friendly,” so blue jeans, sneakers and sun guard hats for the girls, blue jeans and sneakers for the men.
Party at Preservation Jazz Halland the Napoleon House
We all met in the courtyard and went in together to hear the jazz concert and even got to dance a little before taking off on our second-line parade, complete with bandanas and umbrellas. We arrived at Napoleon House and were greeted with Pimm’s cups and any kind of cocktail or wine you might want. My gift was creating the flowers for the entire party, complete with mantles and food tables, cocktail tables and the entrance. The Doreen’s Jazz New Orleans band was playing in the background and there were crab claws, mini muffulettas, passed hors d’oeuvres and chocolate, lemon and caramel doberge cakes from Gambino’s Bakery. This was an early night because guests had just arrived that day.
Rock ’n’ Bowl
This party was casual and we all really bowled – even though we were terrible! Elizabeth and her sisters dressed up like Nat’ly of Vic and Nat’ly with wigs and bowling shirts. Everyone danced and ate shrimp and grits, red beans and rice and crawfish étouffée with bread pudding for dessert. John and Debra Blancher surprised Liz and Clarke with fabulous passed hors d’oeuvres. After dancing to Papa John Gros Big Chief Monk Boudreaux and the Golden Eagles came in and closed down the night. There was a continuous movie playing celebrating Liz and Clarke. Of course Swanson wine was served the entire night!
Coming next month: Part Two: The party at Arnaud’s and the Swamp Tour