By Lisa Tudor
Photographs by Skip Bolen
Hair and makeup by Katy Seghers
Model: Rachel Mayeur
Floral design by Leslie Stidd for Mitch’s Flowers
Photographed on location at the bridal design studio of Suzanne Perron


St. Charles Avenue’s: Couture Wedding GuideCustom couture gown of pin-tucked satin faced organza featuring silk satin and alencon lace adornment. Made to order by Suzanne Perron. Antique cushion-cut diamond ring in 18-kt. white gold at Symmetry Jewelers; Cathy Waterman green amythyst  earrings set in platinum with diamonds at Pied Nu.

Not only does New Orleans provide a multitude of romantic settings for hometown girls ready to set the date, its lush historic locale also lures brides from all over the world dreaming of the ultimate destination wedding.

An alternative to churches or synagogues, non-traditional venues that are most appealing to New Orleans brides include historic gardens and courtyards. Kevin Kelly, owner of the newly restored Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, says brides can easily create the wedding of their dreams. “The most beautiful gardens in the South, ballrooms designed for grand entertaining, and its historic past make Houmas House Plantation a unique wedding venue.” Events are catered on-site by the plantation’s own award-winning restaurant, Latil’s Landing, named one of the top 20 restaurants in America by Esquire. Custom designed weddings begin at $110 per guest, which includes everything but the cake.

Uptown, hundreds of couples choose to wed inside the grounds of Audubon Zoo. Ceremonies take place among exotic animal exhibits and at the zoo’s private Tea Garden. The magnificent ballroom at Audubon Tea Room is one of the city’s newest and most elegant reception facilities.

With its elegant marbled lobby, tranquil fountains and sparkling chandeliers, the Royal Sonesta Hotel New Orleans is the perfect place for a French Quarter wedding. Located at 300 Bourbon Street, the hotel’s Wedding and Social Events Specialist Mary Reynolds is available to assist in coordinating all details and will arrange any imaginable service, including transportation, entertainment, spa/salon services,
floral and décor. A full range of catering services and bar options complement on-site fine dining in famed Begue’s Restaurant, which boasts a AAA Four Diamond rating, and provides an elegant setting for bridal luncheons and rehearsal dinners. Suites are available for the bridal party as well as the honeymoon. Courtyard ceremonies and unique wedding cakes designed by the hotel’s executive pastry chef make the Royal Sonesta a very popular destination venue for the entire wedding party.

When you undertake the task of planning an event as important as your wedding, Joel Event Catering has the resources, great ideas and long-standing experience to make your vision a reality. Joel not only provides exquisite food, but can also book your location, recruit the entertainment and arrange transportation for your guests. Owner Joel Dondis has created a full-service event planning and catering company that has built its stellar reputation on attention to detail.

Diamond rings, fine china, crystal, flatware and invitations are traditional trappings of engagement. At Adler’s, couples choose the ring, order engraved wedding invitations and register gift selections at any one of the family-owned business’s two locations. Adler’s offers the largest presentation of china, crystal and silver patterns in the area, as well as barware, home décor and engraved and monogrammed gifts for the wedding party. When you purchase your engagement ring from Adler’s, 10 percent of its value goes toward your bridal registry. Adler’s convenient on-line bridal registry benefits both the newlyweds and their guests. At www.adlersjewelry.com, search by name for brides and grooms for easy Internet shopping. The bonus: For every seven place settings purchased as gifts, Adler’s wedding registry completes the set by giving the bride a complimentary eighth setting. 

Gentry, a 40-year-old New Orleans family-owned business, offers a gift registry. Couples can register for decorative items and tableware from Nambe, Mariposa, Annie Glass, Arte Italica, Emile Henry and Abigails. A great resource for shower gifts as well as gifts for attendants, Gentry stocks picture frames, personalized wedding albums, bar accessories and barbeque gadgets.

St. Charles Avenue’s: Couture Wedding GuideMadinaVadache “Monica” gown and Jennifer Leigh “Peace” veil at WeddingBelles; Antique diamond earrings (Russia, circa 1890) and period ArtDeco diamond ring (circa 1935) from the collection of Hope GoldmanMeyer Fine Jeweler.

The jewelry business started in Baton Rouge by Lee Michael Berg in 1978 has stores in New Orleans downtown at the Shops at Canal Place and in Metairie at Lakeside Shopping Center. Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry at Canal Place offers complete bridal registry services, as well as the expert advice of Jay Aronson, their on-staff bridal consultant. They also offer unique jewelry for bridesmaids priced under $100 and pearl jewelry starting at $25. Unique gifts for groomsmen include fleur-de-lis double Old Fashioned glasses, engraveable knives and bottle stoppers.

This year, Symmetry Jewelers and Designers celebrates its 32nd anniversary as one of the first galleries in the country to feature jewelry designers as artists, and jewelry as an art form. Local, national and international jewelers are represented in the Riverbend gallery owned by brothers Richard Lee Mathis and Tom Mathis, the in-house designer responsible for the custom engagement and wedding rings for which the shop is famous. Symmetry offers and creates special gifts for the wedding party. “We are a destination for those couples who desire distinctive and unique jewelry that reflects their one-of-a-kind relationship,” says Richard Mathis.

For more than 70 years, Town & Country has been a mainstay for many a New Orleans bride. The store carries 20 bridal lines, including Amsale, Lazaro, Christos and Judd Waddell. A recent trend they have noticed is that brides are choosing dresses with more lace. But Town & Country isn’t just wedding dresses, it also offers mother-of-the-bride, bridesmaids, shoes, jewelry, bridal accessories, flower girl dresses and much more. Besides the store’s personalized service, it also has a full-time seamstress on site so the dresses never leave the building to get altered.

St. Charles Avenue’s: Couture Wedding GuideAmyMichaelson silk chiffon gown to order at Pearl’s Place; Anthony Nakframed rose quartz Marquis chainmail earrings at Pied Nu.

Pearl’s Place is one of the leading bridal stores in the Gulf South. Family-owned and operated since 1970 by the Schulmans, Elaine and Fred, along with their adult children, Courtney, Jordan and Jessica, you can count on family to be represented on-site, all the time. Pearl’s boasts an extensive selection of styles to fulfill the wishes of every member of the wedding party at every conceivable price range. “We are a store that is always on the cutting edge in fashion, carrying the latest trends along with traditional looks. We attend all major markets throughout the year and specialize in expedited delivery of special order merchandise with the best delivery track record in our area,” says Elaine Schulman. About her team, she says, “We have the merchandise, the staff and a wonderful alterations department.”

Designer Suzanne Perron brings 13 years of New York fashion industry experience to New Orleans that includes design-team stints at Carolina Herrera, Anna Sui and Vera Wang. Partner Jenny Aschaffenburg Williamson contributes 20 years of retail experience to this duo who recently opened shop Uptown on Magazine Street. Prospective brides can now book a consultation by appointment at Suzanne Perron. Perron is known for her beautifully designed, flattering silhouettes: designs that are unique, ethereal, romantic and feminine. With emphasis on the perfect foundation and perfect fit, Perron designs from the inside out. She collaborates with the client from sketch to finished garment, striving to create a gown that complements the bride’s personality, style and body type. “We create once-in-a-lifetime gowns in white and ivory, individually designed and constructed for each client,” says Perron.

At Wedding Belles, founded in 2004, sisters and co-owners Amy Anseman and Mary Sides draw from their experience as “professional bridesmaids,” as well as East and West Coast trends to present something fun and fresh in wedding fashion to the local market. Their Magazine Street showroom first opened in the summer of 2005, and when it reopened post-K it added bridal gowns, bridal shoes, custom veils, garters, handbag, wraps and bridal bustiers to their collection of modern bridesmaid dress lines. “We have sought to create an enjoyable bridal experience where the fabrics are beautiful, the price points are moderate, the designs are flattering and equally important, the bride and her party receives the personal and non-pressured service they deserve,” says Mary Sides. “For all bridesmaid orders, we contact the girls personally and handle the orders individually with each one, thus allowing the bride to side-step the often challenging task of harassing her friends to place their orders and pay their balances!” Boutique-style design companies that are unique to the region include gowns by Amy Kuschel Bride, Madina Vadache Couture and Modern Trousseau. Maid and flower girl dress labels include Charsa Designs, Coren Moore NYC, Elon Michelle Couture and Jenny Yoo Collection to name a few.

At Ballin’s, the bride can choose from the complete line of bridesmaid dresses from prestigious designers Watters & Watters, Vera Wang, After Six and Currie Bonner. Also known for its success and expertise in dressing the mothers of the bride and groom, Ballin’s is a family-owned business celebrating 25 years with seven stores in the region. Owner Wendy LeGardeur’s extensive collection of suits, dresses and everyday wear is perfectly suited for nuptial occasions such as showers, rehearsal
dinners and leaving the reception in style.

Febe Clothing + Shoes + Beauty recently added a second location at 474 Metairie Rd. Owners Bessie and Effie Papazis offer a fabulous range of designer cocktail dresses for any bridal occasion:

luncheons, showers and rehearsal dinners. Brands popular with brides-to-be include Vera Wang, Diane Von Furstenberg, Chetta B and Milly. The new location sells shoes and features a full-service makeup department, Blush Beauty Suite. Owner Ron Jones sells the popular skincare line Fresh as well as a mineral makeup line that is great for photography. “We also have professional makeup artists that will give makeup lessons in-store for brides or do wedding makeup on location for the entire bridal party,” says Jones.

Feet First celebrates 30 years of business this spring as New Orleans’ largest independent shoe retailer. Feet First offers 50-plus lines of ladies’ brand-name shoes, sophisticated handbags and fashion tees, jewelry and baby items crafted by local designers. Owned by Eads and Debby Poitevent, the store’s day-to-day management duty and buying is overseen by their kids, Evie and Sam. “Every year we outfit hundreds of brides and bridal parties with stylishly elegant white satin shoes which are comfortable and won’t break the bank. All shoes and evening bags can be dyed (off-site) and are available in either shiny or matte satin and can be ordered in toddler, children’s and adult specialty wide widths,” says Evie Poitevant. Brides benefit from a 10 percent discount on group bridal party orders as well as Poitevant’s commitment to facilitate the process and minimize stress on the bride’s behalf. “We pride ourselves on our in-store approachable demeanor with the emphasis on quality
customer service,” she says.

Perlis has been a mainstay in the men’s clothing business in New Orleans since 1939. Known regionally for its selection and expertise in spring and summer clothing including poplin seersucker and white linen suits, Perlis assists in creating an individual look for the men in the wedding party right down to the coordinated neckties from Robert Talbott and Vineyard Vines. In the late 1940s, Perlis began a men’s formalwear rental department that to this day offers an unmatched selection of rental attire in the most classic of styles. Whether full dress (tails), tuxedos or morning and afternoon attire, you are sure to find the best quality and service by renting at Perlis who are professionals in the wedding trade—and for Carnival balls. Young boys in the wedding can be attired at Perlis as well, with a full dress clothing department including Eton suits perfect for ring bearers. Their signature crawfish shirts are excellent gifts for groomsmen. For the women in the wedding party, the store carries several lines of dresses particularly suited for the mothers of the bride and groom as well as great cocktail dresses for rehearsal dinners.

Mignon for Children has been in business in New Orleans for 45 years, says owner Karen Ludwig, and offers a lovely selection of flower girl and ring bearer outfits in a
variety of fabrics and colors. The store boasts a unique selection of clothing, toys and
gifts for children, including New Orleans-related items, which provide a keepsake of a very special event.

St. Charles Avenue’s: Couture Wedding GuideAbigailFort wears a silk shantung dress by Frances Johnston and Bear Feetballet slippers. Arthur Fort wears a Gordon & Co. silk shantungEton suit, at Little Miss Muffin.

Little Miss Muffin is famous for its selection of flower girl and ring bearer ensembles. Owner Monique Sobrino, who added a second location after Katrina, recently reopened the spacious and newly renovated Lakeview store at 766 Harrison Ave., which stocks special-event clothing year-round. Customers can also special order bridal fashion for the youngest attendants in silk shantung, silk organza, seersucker and cotton, as well as shoes to match. Dressing children in traditional seersucker or white linen for weddings in New Orleans is always in style, and the girls at Little Miss Muffin streamline the entire process with fabulous photographic results. The store also offers a wedding gift registry, which Sobrino describes as informal and flexible. “We try to understand the personality of the couple so with rapidly changing inventory, we can suggest gifts that fit their image and décor,” she says. “The bride appreciates this since she has either expressed herself by selecting the item herself, or if she hasn’t, we make certain the gift is a unique surprise we know she will love.” Sobrino added a monogrammed linen service at Lakeview that includes napkins, tablecloths, sheet sets, towels and shower curtains. An original selection of photo, memory and guest books are always available, along with an exclusive line of picture frames that feature a monogrammed button detail for attendants’ gifts. 
  
Brides and their moms have a long tradition of turning to Stationer of New Orleans for all their save-the-date, invitation and social stationery. In-house wedding authority Ethel Clay is on hand to consult, and a graphic design team executes custom work to perfection. Owner Jane Bensel says her store’s boutique atmosphere, above-and-beyond attitude toward customer service, and classic inventory makes Stationer ideal for brides. “We offer the leaders in the industry: Crane, William Arthur, Kate Spade, Claudia Calhoun and Vera Wang as well as our own custom designs,” she says. “We work with brides to find unique gifts for their wedding party ranging from personalized stationery, photo albums and frames, fine pens, and much more.” A valuable service offered by Stationer is to address, stamp and mail invitations if desired. “We also stock retail products to aid a bride with her gift registry, allowing her to track thank you notes, as well as A-to-Z wedding journals for the planning process and keepsake memory albums that follow the couple’s first year from engagement parties to first anniversary.”

Every bride-to-be is delighted to realize a pre-nuptial beauty routine is considered mandatory, and the blissful hours spent in facials, massage and the pedicure chair are no longer an expensive indulgence but a necessary prerequisite to the ceremony. The serene atmosphere and skilled staff at Bamboo Apothecary provide the perfect oasis for pampering skin treatments, elegant makeup applications, carefully edited product lines for hair, skin and fragrance to swoon over. Consider making your standing appointments the second you get engaged and enjoy every minute.