Though they grew up a block away from each other, Leighton Freret Bell and Michael Robert Carson Riess Jr. didn’t meet until June 2014, when both happened to be at Fat Harry’s with friends. They immediately hit it off and had their first date at Jamila’s on Maple Street about a week later. Leighton and Rob spent that summer seeing each other, but when she moved to Nashville at the end of the summer, they decided to keep it casual. In 2016, Leighton returned to New Orleans, and their casual relationship became a committed relationship.
Three years later, Leighton was working with Rob’s family to plan a surprise 30th birthday party for him at Antoine’s. Little did she know what his family knew – Rob was planning to propose. They told Rob about the party and suggested that he surprise Leighton instead. When the couple walked into the restaurant, their friends and family yelled “Surprise!” and Leighton just knew she’d caught him off guard. However, just a few minutes later she was the one left speechless as Rob got down on one knee! After she recovered her voice, she happily said “Yes!”, and the party had one more reason to celebrate.
Rob proposed with the engagement ring that his mother wore for 30 years, before she took it off for him to give to Leighton. This set the tone for a wedding steeped in family traditions. The couple chose to get married at the Bell family home on the Bogue Falaya River built by Leighton’s great-grandparents. As she walked toward her husband-to-be on December 12, 2020, Leighton wore a 100-year-old veil worn by her great-grandmother, grandmother, mother and 40 other family members. In recognition of Leighton being the 44th bride to wear the family veil, her mother’s college roommate lovingly embroidered a linen handkerchief with 44 hand tied French knots.
Because family traditions are so important to Leighton and Rob, their loved ones decided to create special mementos of their wedding day that they could enjoy year after year. Unbeknownst to the couple, family and friends from around the country had mailed “Blessings and Best Wishes” cards and hand-decorated wooden bell ornaments to Leighton’s parents. When the newlyweds entered the reception, they found a surprise – a Christmas tree full of ornaments from all the important people in their life!
The couple and their guests enjoyed looking at the ornaments while sipping French 75s and jalapeño-infused tequila. While getting their cocktails, guests were treated to praline bacon from Elizabeth’s at the bar. It was the perfect nibble to complement the grazing table from SNACX. For the main dishes, Coffee Rani Food Truck served up Crawfish Monica, ham and gouda grilled cheese sandwiches and grilled redfish tacos, just to name a few. Everyone enjoyed the “Love the Riesses to Pieces” chocolate peanut butter cup s’more kits for the outside fireplace.
Making the s’mores was almost as fun as watching Rob and Leighton’s first dance as a married couple. The two had taken dance lessons and choreographed a routine to “Coming Home” by Leon Bridges. When Rob picked up his wife and spun her around, the guests went wild!
After an unforgettable wedding, the newlyweds spent five days relaxing in Sugar Beach, St. Lucia. They enjoyed spectacular views, great food and cocktails, and exploring the nearby rain forest. They then returned to New Orleans, where Leighton is an English Language Arts teacher at Academy of the Sacred Heart and Rob is an attorney with Riess LeMieux.
➺ Wedding Details
Rehearsal Dinner Location: Arnaud’s
Coordinator: Vicki Evans Events
Celebrant: The Rev. Dr. Don Frampton
Ceremony Music: Annie Young-Bridges, violinist
Wedding Gown: Dress by Ti Adora & topper by Romona Keveza, from Wedding Belles
Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Each bridesmaid chose her own long green dress
Bride’s & Groom’s Wedding Bands: Friend and Co.
Florist: Ceremony bouquets, Florist of Covington; Reception décor, mother and aunts of the bride
Favor: Leighton had an oak tree planted in Audubon Park in honor of her wedding party
Invitation: Betty Hunley Designs
Wedding Cake: Zoe’s Bakery
Photographer: Jessica Bachmann Photography, and “Remember This…”
Hair & Makeup: Wildflower Hair and Makeup
Music: Crescent City Soul