She could have chosen anywhere in the world to get married – money was no object – and she chose New Orleans. When tennis superstar Serena Williams married Alexis Ohanian last November, she chose to stage her nuptials at the Contemporary Arts Center in the Central Business District “because of its incredible architecture and history,” according to sources.
Her event planners filled the hall with thousands of dollars worth of crystals and flowers, and transformed the venue into a Beauty and the Beast inspired wonderland.
So why did Williams choose New Orleans? Maybe because this isn’t just a place, it’s a living, breathing culture filled with creative artisans who make dreams come true – not just for celebrities but all styles of brides. Maybe it’s because the city offers truly unique backdrops that carry with them hundreds of years of history, creating perfect stages for the most important day of your life.
The truth must be because New Orleans embodies a joie de vivre where dreams come to life and memories last forever.
In this year’s guide, we profile some of the top local people and places for a truly couture wedding.
Start where the party does, with the invitation – that beautiful piece of stationery that heralds the tone of festivities to come.
Gem Printing has been creating invitations for brides for over 100 years, and has been family owned and operated for four generations.
Melissa Cousans Mortillaro, the great-granddaughter of Gem’s founder, says, “One member of our family is always here in the store, as my father, uncle and brother and myself all work here. We love what we do and we’re dedicated to offering the same attentive, personal customer service that generations of customers have enjoyed.”
“Paper is something you see, touch and feel in person,” she continues, “and we enjoy representing the wedding in tangible form. We do it all, from helping to pick out papers, to creating something very bespoke.
“Some brides like luxurious invitations created on ultra thick card stocks using multiple printing processes, embossing and traditional engraved typography. Incorporating a family crest or cipher is always a lovely touch and brides also add custom ribbon or fabric to line envelopes. Other brides are seeking something more modern, and enjoy using multi ink colors and typestyles to create something beautiful and memorable.”
“Etiquette is where brides often need the most help,” Mortillaro concludes. “Every wedding is different and no two family dynamics are the same. All we need to know is who, and we’ll tell you how.”
With so many venues at a bride’s disposal, sometimes deciding on one is the hardest part. Some of the perennially popular ones are located New Orleans City Park. Amanda Frentz, Assistant Director of Public Relations, explains why, “We have the largest collection of mature oak trees in the country, some 800 years old, and the 100-year-old Peristyle overlooking a lagoon, which was specifically built for dancing underneath.”
“We have arranged weddings in Storyland,” she says, “and during our “Celebration in the Oaks” event, a month-long holiday lights extravaganza.”
New Orleans Museum of Art, the newly opened Popp Fountain, the Botanical Garden and the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden are all equally stunning venues also located within the park, and with so many high caliber events held in the grounds, staff are helpful and knowledgeable and catering is top-notch.
The Pontchartrain Hotel, an architectural gem located in the Garden District, was recently voted one of the Best New Hotels by Travel + Leisure. Originally opened in 1927, it reopened in 2016 after a $10 million renovation. Eleanor Mayer, a representative for the hotel, says, “The Pontchartrain has a variety of spaces for wedding parties. First of all, who wouldn’t want a photo in front of Ashley Longshore’s amazing custom Lil Wayne painting? But seriously, we have hosted many bridal showers in Hot Tin, our roof top bar and pool area, which offers 270-degree views of the Mississippi River and downtown New Orleans.
There’s also the Bayou Bar and Caribbean Room restaurant where Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth and Truman Capote dined. We have wonderful spots for shoulder events around a wedding, excellent culinary options as well as a dedicated event space, The Parlor, which you can transform as you wish.”
The new Jung Hotel on Canal Street originally opened more than 100 years ago, and was once at the epicenter of life in the Crescent City. During the 1970s it fell on hard times, but it has just reopened after a multi-million dollar overhaul by the New Orleans Hotel Collection. Its beautiful architecture has been restored and interiors are luxurious with velvets, marbles and gold details. According to representative Marc Becker, “The Jung is a wonderful place for weddings. Our dramatic lobby, spacious event spaces, rooftop lounge and pool offer an array of places for a wedding. The 12,000-square-foot Grand Hall is a wonderful place for large weddings with room for unique decorations, staging and even roll in type décor!”
EXPERTS ON HAND
Having a steady hand to guide you through all these decisions can make a big difference. Susan Zackin of Z Event Company advises, “You might be able to throw a great party on a regular basis but your own wedding is different and you should let someone else handle the details so you can enjoy the day.
“Couples come to us to create a wedding that will reflect their personal style and keep it unique for them,” she continues. “We never duplicate the weddings we offer or offer packages. I also find that a shorter engagement period is better than a longer one; and with the right planner it is possible to enjoy the process and not get stressed out. Importantly, a planner will help you be realistic about your budget and make the best use of the dollars you have to spend. We also know what other events are taking place in the city and plan our events around them and the weather!”
Zackin has a 30 years experience in event planning and a background in interior design, which, she says, creates a point of difference. “Our experience and expertise means we can execute any event no matter the size or scope. We can bring concepts to life from conception to completion and deliver unique elements of surprise. Some of our recent work includes lots of greenery, living walls and bars, bright and bold florals, marble dance floor wraps and custom printed fabrics.
Zackin recently launched The Event Glossary; a web-based marketplace for all events needs with one point of payment to offer brides and hostesses an easy way to pull a stunning event together.
You find craftsmanship and expertise at every turn in New Orleans, and grooms wanting to look their best should consider a custom-made suit.
Luca Falcone offers handmade custom garments using the finest fabrics, but at surprisingly competitive prices. The store on Magazine Street is a luxurious lounge where custom clothiers work directly with the master tailors as they guide grooms through the process. Staff can also come to your home or office. Garments can also be built online, and all of Falcone’s suits and shirts are fully customizable from the lapel and top stitching to the buttons, vents, lining and monogramming to make it genuinely unique.
Kim Starr Wise is a floral designer known for her one of-a-kind work. “We strive to incorporate distinctive design, color, texture and style using elements of the old, the odd and the extraordinary to create a truly memorable New Orleans event,” she says.
For larger affairs, Wise creates expansive arrangements and installations building layers and textures through the venues, which include eye-catching details.
For tighter budgets, Wise offers “A Wise Bride,” which simplifies the process by offering pre-designed custom wedding flower packages. An online gallery allows the bride to choose from an array of handcrafted bouquets using high quality flowers in stunning designs.
Brides getting married in New Orleans have artisans at the top of their game that are both more accessible and affordable than in other large cities, from chefs, tailors and seamstresses, to jewelry designers, stationers, floral designers and more. Marry that with historic venues with state-of-the-art facilities and it’s no surprise that New Orleans is becoming one of the most popular destinations in the United States to tie the knot.
1904 Veterans Blvd., Metairie
The Jung Hotel
1500 Canal St.
Kim Starr Wise
437 Philip St., Unit 101
2049 Magazine St.
New Orleans City Park
1 Palm Drive
The Pontchartrain Hotel
2031 St. Charles Ave.
Z Event Company