How to plan your dream New Orleans Wedding and the vendors that will make it happen!
I woke up this morning to my heart skipping a beat. Not only was I one month away from marrying my best friend, but (dun dun DUUUUNNN) I also only had one month to finish all the planning!
Anyone who has planned a wedding—or any big event for that matter—knows the kind of labor that we're talking about. It’s pretty much a second job. And for someone who is an innate planner like me, the devil is in the details.
Now some people would rather eat dirt than plan all the details of their wedding, but I knew that even if I decided to hire a planner, I would still want to be a part of every single decision. I would have enjoyed the collaborative nature of the relationship and probably would have picked her brain about everything. BUT you know what…that’s what we have friends and Pinterest for!
When I got engaged, everyone assumed I knew everything about planning a New Orleans wedding because I was such an “expert” on New Orleans. But let me tell you…the wedding business is a completely different animal, with all it’s own businesses, locations and intricacies.
Before I get started: I want to give full disclosure on my budget and my partnerships.
Since I’m the only girl in our family, this was our first “paying for the wedding” moment, therefore none of us knew what a wedding is supposed to cost. With a few google searches of average costs and then a couple calls/visits to French Quarter venues, it quickly gave me some perspective. I will say that neither myself, my fiancé or my parents are extravagant people, but we do love a good party. A French Quarter wedding isn't cheap, but depending on your budget and how many extras and details you want, I am here to tell you that it is definitely doable!
For most of my big vendors, I offered them a partnership which included a discount for me endorsing them. That did not determine my selection process though! I sought out who and what I wanted, then I presented the opportunity. If they declined, it did not affect my final choice. Of course I want to endorse them, I obvs think they are THE BEST! If you have something to offer for a discount or trade then it never hurts to ask. I also let them decide on what they wanted to give because at the end of the day I want them to be compensated fairly for their fantastical work.
In the same fashion as I share my best advice and tips on how to do New Orleans as a local on showmeyournola, I am sharing my wedding planning experience in hopes of helping future brides, mother-of-brides, bridesmaids, planners and hey maybe even a few grooms to plan their dream New Orleans wedding.
I am starting with this first “planning” blog entry and then I will follow up with a post-wedding blog entry with all the beautiful pictures and details of the big day. Hello we all know you can't not have a beautiful wedding in the French Quarter!
Nola girl tip: if you get engaged around Mardi Gras, make a fabulous sign to get a Muses shoe. It totally worked for me! (but you still have to hustle, girl.)
I'm kind of embarrassed to admit this, but I started planning the day after the engagement. Let me just say in my defense the very first decision we made was that we knew we wanted to get married this year and the proposal was end of January. I've seen enough wedding Rom Coms to know that booking the venue is Step #1! And believe it or not, I didn't already have a hold on a venue in hopes of a looming proposal. Or wait...did I? Now i can't remember, but I wasn't that overzealous, over assuming bride, OK!?
So the next day I feverishly hit up the internet and Pinterest. Hundreds of wedding-themed Pinterest boards were made (only 2 or 3). Thousands of emails were fired off (like 10 or so). Stress levels were already high (we ate a lot of ice cream and talked about our future wedding diets.) I was def already a super planner on day one, and I kind of scared myself.
To be honest, I got a couple of new ideas online, but Pinterest was a little disappointing when it came to Nola-specific wedding info. Naturally, I turned to the experts: previous brides and current brides-to-be who are getting married in New Orleans.
Like most of the decisions I make, it was through talking with friends that I received the best tips. Nothing trumps solid testimonials from the people you trust. That’s why I really wanted to blog about our wedding: because I know that if planning a New Orleans wedding was a challenge for ME (an innate planner who knows a lot about New Orleans) then its FOR SURE a challenge for the majority of brides out there. AMIRIGHT?
The second decision that is made alongside the date is the venue. See, you can't just choose a date and then a venue like wham bam, done. You have to choose a month, then choose a venue and then see what they have open. Then when you're too late to get a Saturday in October, you settle for a Friday and call it a day. Ahem, I mean some people may have to do that. Just trust me and be prepared to be flexible, Ok? ok.
I had heard about Napoleon House being a spot for a rehearsal dinner because someone actually asked me about it in the past. But it wasn't until I had a chat with my friend Kacie (@nolaprgirl) that I discovered they are a wedding reception venue. Then when she told me the ballpark pricing, I was very intrigued! We booked a tour pretty quickly and we fell in love instantly! The size was perfect, it already had great natural decor (very old New Orleans) and we loved that it's one of the oldest buildings in the Quarter.
THEN WE GOT A TOUR OF THE OTHER STORIES OF THE BUILDING! That's right...there are THREE additional layers to this building after the second story for a total of 5 stories! Speaking of stories, I'm sure if these walls could talk...
I won't go into too much detail because I think you should check it out for yourself. In fact, I'll be giving away a dinner and tour for 4 to Napoleon House in my giveaway this week! Scroll to bottom of this post for more details.
Side story: I didn’t mean for this to happen, but I will certainly recommend it to those with Father-of-the-Bride-type dads (like mine). I told him the cost of the first venue we visited (NOT Napoleon House), which also happened to be the most expensive. When I told him the cost, he maaaayyyy have had a heart palpitation. So when we told him the cost of our chosen venue, Napoleon House, he was very relieved (and very accepting)! I'm not advising you lie to your dad, but the pitch is everything so just keep this little story in mind ;)
When it came to selecting a rehearsal dinner venue, our decision was a no-brainer. Andrés and I met at Baru Tapas (@barutapas) on Magazine St. If you follow my blog or my Instagram account, you know how much I love Baru. One day, I met my close friend (she's a bridesmaid) Katie there for after work drinks. I got there a little early, so my waiter--a cute Venezuelan who gave me free samples of wine--and I got to talkin'. I'll save the details for another time, but obviously Baru is where it all began. Their upstairs and huge balcony is the absolute perfect spot to celebrate, not to mention that the food will undoubtedly be incredible. I will probably have to stop myself from inhaling lamb sliders.
Probably the toughest decision we had to make was selecting a photographer. New Orleans has so many talented photographers!! When it came down to it, we kept coming back to Greer Gattuso's work (@greergattuso). There is something about her light. I even mentioned this in the first email I wrote her: I said, "I love the light in your pictures!" After a long discussion about our budget, we decided that if there's one thing we splurge on, it's photography. After all, the photographer captures your memories. In 50 years, we wanted our photographs to still look timeless and beautiful. And let me tell you, she's worth every penny. The pictures from our engagement shoot in our neighborhood Tremé and my bridal shoot at Race + Religious (@raceandreligious) are better than we could've ever dreamed! I seriously cannot wait to plaster my website with the photographs Greer takes on the big day!
Side tip: We put our favorite engagement pictures into an Artifact Uprising guest book. It's a perfect way to both memorialize your engagement pics and guests' messages/signatures. We got it made before our first shower and have been bringing it to each event.
The quickest decision I made was deciding on a florist. I had been a follower of Sara Ekanger on Instagram for a couple years and always admired her style. So when she struck out on her own with Antigua Floral at the beginning of the year, it was perfect timing. Not only does she have the Latin roots I was looking for, but her bohemian style and color palette is drool-worthy. Keep your eye on this gal, she’s going places!
My favorite part of the process so far has been the invitations. The first year I lived in Nola, I lived uptown on Nashville Ave. I was a huge fan of P's and Q's and would walk there regularly to check out the daily quiches and pies. Before Maggie of WalkingMan Studios (@walkingmanstudios) had her own shop, she left postcard samples at P's and Q's for customers to take. I fell in love when I saw her artwork! Call me crazy, but I knew I was going to work with her in the future when I saw this first postcard. After following her on ig for a couple of years, I learned that she created custom invitations when she featured her own invitation suite last year. This was also an easy call to make: I wanted beautiful custom artwork to share our story and invite our guests to our wedding, and Maggie was our girl!
The way she has brought our story and vision to life is simply amazing. Every time someone says, "These are the most beautiful invitations I've ever received," I just glow with happiness. *And then I'm like, say it again (with an eye flutter)!* If custom invitations are in your budget, I say go for it! I love how the invites set the tone for the wedding; we've already charmed the pants off our guests and it hasn't even started. Totally worth it IMO!
After seeing a post from Lion Heart Prints (@lionheartprints) showcasing her calligraphy on wedding invitations, I was hooked. I didn't even consider calligraphy for the invitation addresses until I was already knee-deep in invitation world with Maggie, but it quickly dawned on me that it would be the cherry on top of a very scrumptious sundae. I have admired Liz for years as well, and I feel so fortunate to have her special mark on our big day. I have received several texts that have said "very nice" or "so fancy" with a pic of just the calligraphy on the outside of the invite. Again, I think its something that just sets the tone. We fancy, y'all!
When it came to the cake, I started off with a very level head. “I want it to taste amazing and I want to keep the design simple.” Well, I accomplished my goal, but I never dreamt I would find something as special as Melissa’s Fine Pastries (@melissasfinepastries). Honestly, her whole set-up, even down to the vintage China she served our tastings on, was ON POINT! But it was her cake that ultimately won us over. She explained that she bakes in a more European style that allows the cake to be more airy & fluffy. Same goes for the icing. I didn't realize how much I wanted an airy & light (yet very tasty) cake until I tried hers! The typical dense, heavy cake and icing that fills you up with 2 bites became the enemy to me as soon as that first bit hit my lips. I can't wait to reveal our flavors we chose, which are somewhat unique...and to also have a whole slice or two to myself again!
A fun & unique New Orleans tradition is to bury cake pulls into your wedding cake (please allow your professional cake maker to do said burying) and choose some girlfriends to stand around the cake and choose a pull. At the end of each pull--which can be a string with a charm on the end or even a bracelet with a charm on the end.) I don't want to give away anything for my girls, but it was so much fun to pick these out! Typically you invite your bridesmaids and any other special ladies you want to include. Each charm is different and has its own meaning for them, so when they pull it out, they get a unique fortune. Lucky for us, Melissa's assistant/Mgr has her own side business of pulls called Honey Dew (@honeydewnola). These are seriously the cutest pulls I've ever seen!
P.S. I could probably write a whole blog post on our cake tasting day, which included SEVEN tastings (this was one day), Adele car karaoke and almost throwing up from eating too much cake which I truly refused to believe was possible until this day was complete.
The last big decision I made was both hair & makeup. I am writing about them together because one led to the other. I originally sought out Ashley Sievert, but was crushed when she said she'd be out of town. I had started conversations with other artists and salon in town, but I was just non-committal. I knew it was something I needed to get on, but I was confused as to what I even wanted. I've been confused by "airbrushing" since 2005. I still don't understand it! I just wanted someone to be like "I know what you want and this is what you need." Well sure enough, during my procrastination and about 3 months later, Ashley emails me out of the blue. Turns out, she will still be out of town, but her right hand woman is free! She also kindly took 30 minutes out of her day to explain what the hell airbrushing is and why she advises against it. She actually has a magical line of makeup...like she owns a whole line of makeup! And let me tell you...I was blown away by my makeup for my bridal shoot. She was right, her foundation is very light and it held up for FIVE HOURS in the middle of an August afternoon! Bonus...her Instagram is so cool and chic too (@ashleysievertbeauty).
When I had Ashley on the phone, I didn't hesitate to ask her opinion on hair stylist, knowing full and well she has favorites that she has worked with. Ali Vasquez (@allzz) was one of the stylists she sent to me, and I was instantly drawn to her perfectly wavy bridal hair-dos. She not only worked wonders on my hair for the bridal shoot, but she came and acted as my glam squad! She was pulling hair pins and bottles of hairspray from out of no where and she didn't hesitate to step in to pull my hair away from my eyes or give me and extra "jujj"...I freakin love her!
One Pinterest idea that did catch my eye was a picture and blog post of a couple having their first look on the rooftop of Hotel Monteleone. Since we had already decided to stay at The Hotel Monteleone (a true New Orleans classic) and to block off some rooms for guests, I started my quest to figure out how to have our first look up there too. We were actually a little torn about whether to have a first look or not, but after asking everyone we came in contact with on the subject, we concluded these 2 things:
- Those who didn't have a first look don't regret not having one.
- Those who did have a first look were SO happy they had one. They all kept saying how special it was to have quiet alone time before the chaos began, even though the photographer & videographer were there too.
I know for me, I like the idea of the tradition of him seeing me for the first time when I walk down the aisle, but ultimately I want to have that moment to ourselves. I want to have that calm before the chaos. I want to clearly see his face and have that vivid memory engraved in my mind.
One of the last details to plan was a bridal luncheon. I wanted to have a fabulous kickoff party with all my girls before the rehearsal. 5 out of 7 of my bridesmaids live out of town, so I wanted us to have our special moments before the itineraries were handed out. Ever since Salon by Sucré (@salonbysucre) opened in the French Quarter, I have been obsessed. At the time they opened, I was working in the Quarter just one block away, and I loved popping in for a macaron & cafe au lait or for a fancy balcony lunch. I feel like Salon by Sucré was made for bridal luncheons. The upstairs dining area is so chic, I feel like I'm in Paris when I'm there. Not to mention their cocktails and dishes are insanely good! Of course, we reserved the balcony ;)
My bachelorette party deserves it's own blog post, and I will eventually get to it, but in the meantime if you're planning a bachelorette party, I highly recommend Blush & Bashful Bachelorette services (@blush.and.bashful.bachelorette). She can help out in any capacity that you need. I really needed someone to help us find a place to stay first and foremost, which she came through big time on that! We couldn't have chosen a better resort for our group: Parrot Key Resort. She also coordinated my swag bags for my girls. I (nor my maid of honor) would've ever had the time to locate, research and organize all the goodies. She was a lifesaver to say the least!
Before I go, I want to share my favorite party favor vendors too because I know it's hard to decide and find businesses that deliver exactly what you want. I am so excited for my Second Line Geaux Cups from GraciousBridal and my Wedding Wands from BellaBrideCreations. Our wands will be in Venezuelan flag colors, and we'll take them with us during the second line.
The best tips I can give you are these:
1. If you just can't make a final decision on something, it's ok to take a timeout. Sometimes you need to let things fall into place instead of forcing them. As Dorinda said tonight on the reunion finale, "Sometimes the best decision is no decision."
2. Enjoy the process! As everyone is constantly reminding you how quickly the engagement period flies, remember that they are 110% correct. Try to do a little each day, even in the beginning to get a head start.
3. Don't be afraid to ask for what you want. All of these people you're working with to make your day perfect can't give you exactly what you want unless they have clarity on your vision. Express your vision with all your might! They can't read your mind. And remember this: if you don't ask, then the answer is always no.
Want in on all the action?
I've teamed up with all of my vendors for a 12 day Instagram Giveaway! Every day you'll have the chance to win something from these businesses, and you don't need to be engaged to win. Whether you're single, married or even planning a divorce party, you'll want what we got! Go here to play---> @showmeyournola
Want a one stop shop to ALL of my vendors and Pinspiration?
From Geaux Cups and Bachelorette totes to wedding bands and wedding BANDS, I've got a working list of them all on my Pinterest board: showmeyourWEDDING.
my wedding website survival checklist:
outfit ideas: Rent the Runway
(I used Rent the Runway for my wedding showers and Rehearsal dinner! It's been a lifesaver.)
save the dates: Minted
online invitations: Paperless Post
cheap & cute photo books: Chatbooks (oh hey get your first book for free with this referral code: JPN9P6N6) !!!
Party/costume jewelry: Stella & Dot
groomsmen suiting rentals: The Black Tux
Do you have any advice for planning a New Orleans wedding? I'd love to hear what you have to say. Comment below so we can discuss all things Nola Weddings!
I'll catch you on the flip side when I'm all married up and adjusting back to a normal life!