Whether your dream wedding is hosting 600 people at a country club or a few dozens intimates in a courtyard, every couple wants their special day to be absolutely perfect.
That is why it’s natural if the excitement in organizing such a day is equally matched with feelings of anxiety. Being ultimately responsible for the most important event of your life can give even the most confident of couples the jitters.
One of the first and most important choices to consider will be a venue: From the ceremony, to the reception, to the bridal shower and rehearsal dinners, each setting will play an important role in the history of the wedding.
So where to start? According to professional wedding planner Terry Cambise, start by asking yourself some simple questions: Will your wedding be large or small? Formal or funky? Inside or outdoors? Decorated location or blank canvas?
Services on-site or select your own vendors? These answers will play a big part in defining the best location for you.
Next we asked some of the best wedding experts in the city for the “Top Five” most important things couples should think about when deciding on a location:
• Wedding vision? When you imagine your ideal day, where are you? What does it look like? Is it traditional or rustic?
Does it reflect your personalities? Is it a representation of who you are and how you enjoy yourself?
• What’s the most important element? Is it the food or the music? Make this a key criterion for venue selection.
• Reputation. It is great to have references from friends and family, but you also can now see what other brides think through online sites such as Google and Trip Advisor
• Do you like the wedding coordinator? You will spend a lot of time with him or her; will you enjoy that? Do you trust them and their understanding of your vision? Do you think they will work well with your respective families and other vendors?
• Money. Do you have an agreed-upon budget? Is it realistic with your preferred location and vendors? Are you looking at real costs or are there hidden extras? Keep a tight hold on the numbers and you’ll save yourself a great deal of anxiety later.
By this point you probably have a good idea of what you want and you can start researching. So take a look at these nine incredibly different but equally amazing venues, all with idiosyncratic New Orleanian flavor.
Pastoral & Idyllic: If you picture yourself making your vows beneath 100-year-old oaks at a small private altar encircled by orange blossoms, think no further than the recently opened Stella Plantation (4881 Highway 39, Braithwaite, 682-2491, StellaPlantation.com). A private home on 1,500 acres, the family-run venue only hosts one couple a day and customizes every element to suit them. The plantation offers numerous options both for small parties and the very large – up to 1,000 people. There is a pool with a guest house that makes it the perfect spot for the bridal party to pamper and prepare. Mr. Chalin’s Cook House has a flat-screen TV and pool table-equipped “man cave” for the groom and his friends. The Oak Row and Fatima Circle are intimate settings in which to exchange vows, and there are many great spots such as Spindle Gazebo for photographs. The Carriage House is great for cocktails, and the 5,000-square-foot Harold Pavilion is ready for the reception come rain or shine. Having just opened at the beginning of 2012, the private home is hard to beat for a unique plantation experience.
Upscale Elegance: If you dream of a sophisticated affair in a world-class location, how could you go wrong with The Windsor Court Hotel (300 Gravier St., 523-6000, WindsorCourtHotel.com)? Its luxurious furnishings provide a ravishing backdrop and its Four-Star and Four-Diamond accommodations are guaranteed to keep guests from both sides of the family happy. Its variety of spaces provides the perfect settings for all the wedding celebrations from the showers to the ceremony and reception. Its world-class award-winning cuisine from executive chef Drew Dzejak and pastry chef Shun Li will delight the most demanding of taste buds, dietary needs and wedding cake requests. The high level of service for which this hotel is famous is complemented by an in-house coordinator who will take care of all the wedding worries and organization; so much so, the bridal party will be able to relax and prepare for the day in the newly opened Windsor Court Spa.
Urban Park: If you’re looking for great food, professional staff and ample parking with a panoply of iconic New Orleans locations from which to choose, go to City Park (NewOrleansCityPark.com). Which will you find the most romantic? Pick from the Botanical Gardens, Pavilion of the Two Sisters, the Azalea and Camellia Garden or the Parterre Rose Gardens.
There is also the Parkview Terrace or the refurbished Peristyle – a turn-of-the-century Greek-inspired open-air dancing pavilion overlooking the lagoon. If you want a fairy-tale feeling (or you are marrying a Johnny Depp type) you can even choose the Carousel Gardens or Storyland – with its Art Deco fountains and gardens, the views are unforgettable.
Modern & Cool: If you like contemporary, you’ll swoon for the cool, white, sleek minimalist design the new Saint Hotel (931 Canal St., 522-5400, TheSaintHotelNewOrleans.com) offers in the heart of the French Quarter. The bridal party can take over the Halo rooftop bar and lounge and never come into contact with the groomsmen as they hang out in the Lobby Living Room with its billiards table and high-speed internet. Perhaps they’ll have drinks together after the ceremony in the Burgundy Bar before taking over some of the 1,450-square-feet of function space. As part of the Marriott’s Autograph Collection, the Saint Hotel can deliver fine banqueting facilities alongside the most up-to-date audio and visual equipment.
The 166 rooms and valet service will take care of guests, and the onsite fitness center will work for a last-minute tune up.
Classic Country Club: If you’re a couple who wants to enjoy that extra comfort of “members-style” service in a beautifully natural setting, the English Turn Golf and Country Club (1 Clubhouse Drive, 392-2200, EnglishTurn.com) won’t disappoint. Easy to reach from the center of New Orleans, it has plenty of free parking. There is an array of rooms to choose from such as: the crystal-chandeliered Grand Ballroom, the Garden Room, the Fairway Room and the Piano Lounge. The club can be configured to suit any size of party, large or small, up to 600 guests; both indoor and outdoor ceremonies can be accommodated. Four apartments are available to the wedding party, and the groom and his friends may even have time to fit in a round of golf, depending on availability. A wedding coordinator will work with you to ensure all your needs are taken care of, and there are personal attendants for the bride and groom on their wedding day.
True Louisiana: If you’ve never been to Palmetto’s on the Bayou (1901 Bayou Lane, Slidell, (985) 643-0050, PalmettosOnTheBayou.com), you need to know it sits on the Bayou Bonfouca at the historic site of Robert’s Landing in a lush cypress marsh surrounded by moss-laden oak trees. Each room of its Acadiana-style restaurant bursts with personality thanks to art from local artist George Dunbar and hand-painted murals by Phil Galatas. The 5,000-square-foot covered deck has great views of lush foliage, flowering plants, trees and calm water. The contemporary Louisiana cuisine features fresh local dishes. Only 35 miles northeast of New Orleans, near Old Towne Slidell, Palmetto’s on the Bayou offers you genuine Southern charm and hospitality, and the staff are keen to work with couples to accommodate taste and budget.
French Quarter Stage: If you want to create your own French Quarter legend, visit the Musée Conti Wax Museum (917 Conti St., 525-2605, NewOrleansWaxMuseum.com). Built in 1890, it has turn-of-the-century French Quarter architecture featuring cypress windows, spot-sandblasted brick walls, original heartwood pine floors and exposed wooden whitewashed beams. Guests are able to wander through the wax museum, including into the Haunted Dungeon where tarot card and palm readers may await them. The Legend room, 4,425 square feet with nearly 12-foot-high ceilings, can be transformed into the personal vision the couple desires. The family-run museum is keen to work with couples to coordinate all the important elements, and they offer to open up their impressive black book of contacts to help book the best (and best value) bands, caterers and floral and décor designers – even a Justice of the Peace – in order to take care of all the details.
The museum is able to accommodate up to 500 for cocktails and 300 for a seated dinner.
Room With a View: if you want a day or a night like no other, consider the Grande Terrace and Promenade at Pat O’s on the River (718 Saint Peter St., 525-4823, PatOBriens.com). Located on the third floor of the Jackson Brewery Millhouse, the room with antique chandeliers and floor-to-ceiling windows opens up to a terrace overlooking the Mississippi River.
The Promenade, newly opened, is an additional 3,800 square feet of beautiful space with the same view. With a garden feel, you can have the best of both worlds – indoor and out – and you can configure the space for parties large and small.
The catering is matched by professional service, but the standout feature has to be the impressive premium bar service.
Your guests can enjoy the finest wines and spirits as well as some of those legendary cocktails. The friendly and attentive staff will work with you to make Pat O’s your place for the day or night.
French Quarter Courtyard: If the cobblestones of the quarter have always held a special place in your heart, then The Princess of Monaco Carriage House and Courtyard (912 Royal St., 412-8965, PrincessOfMonaco.com) may hold the key to your dream. The lush gardens and beautiful courtyard are complemented by The Monte Carlo Banquet Room filled with beautiful art and ready to sit 50 for a dinner and 75 for a cocktail reception. Included in the price are the services of an on-site coordinator to ensure every detail is executed to perfection. The food and wine are reported to be of excellent quality, and their easily accessible online Picasa album is a wonderful way to peek into the ethereal events that have taken place there.
If being spoilt for choice is truly a bad thing, then maybe we’re at a disadvantage in New Orleans, but there are few places in the world where so many iconic and spectacular locations are accessible and available for our lives’ celebrations. The cherry on top is each of these locations is run by local people, keen to accommodate our wishes and our budgets. If you’re lucky enough to live here, why go anywhere else? If you’re not, then we have to recommend a destination wedding for you.