Our Small Wedding in the Big Easy
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I am so very late posting about this, but these gorgeous photos just keep bringing the memories back to us and reminding us how incredibly perfect our wedding day was. Our wedding guests still talk about our wedding to this day, saying how it was the best wedding they've ever attended! Just this past weekend, our friend Ryan asked us if we could renew our vows this November, so we could all go back and redo it again!
If you are reading this, I assume you are either trying to plan an intimate wedding or a New Orleans wedding, or you're like me and just obsessed with looking at people's wedding pics! If you're planning a small wedding, I hope this post gives you some insight into how to throw the perfect intimate wedding; if you're planning a NOLA wedding, get ready to hear about some of the best vendors around!
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
Wedding Date: November 19, 2017
Number of Guests: 60
Wedding Ceremony Location: The Pharmacy Museum
Wedding Reception Location: Pat O'Brien's on the River — The Promenade Room
Chris and I knew from the beginning that we wanted a small wedding, surrounded by only our closest friends and family. We wanted our wedding to be an "experience" that our guests were a part of, not just another wedding. We desired to share our love story as fully as possible and knew the only way we could achieve that was by having a small wedding.
We chose New Orleans for a couple of reasons. First, it was the very first trip we took together. Traditionally, I had been there many times before as a yearly stop on the way to our family's Boca Raton trip, and I knew Chris would love it as much as I do — and I was right. (Chris and I now carry on that tradition of stopping there on the way to Boca.) Secondly, we wanted to unfold our love story in the only city we felt appropriately matched the spirit, rhythm and romance of who we are as a couple.
This day had personal touches all over it. One of the biggest things for me with planning an intimate wedding was that I wanted to make it as personal as possible.
That being said, I designed invitations and all of the day-of items, including the chalkboard signs, the programs, the cake pulls, the flipbook covers, and the hand-stamped handkerchiefs our guests used in the Second Line. Many late nights were spent with my rockstar MOH and a few glasses (er hm.. bottles) of wine, assembling our invitations and folding our handkerchiefs into origami fleurs-de-lis.
I also made some awesome Mean Girls quotes shirts for me and my girls to get ready in, making sure each quote fit each of my bridesmaids perfectly! You can't see mine that well in the pics, but it says, "You can't sit with us!"
Although the amazing Sarah and Karen of Verde Beauty did the hair and makeup of my bridesmaids, my mom and Chris's mom, my beyond-talented best friend, Magan of Magan Nicole Beauty, did my hair and makeup (hers, too). But I loved that she was the one to doll me up on my wedding day! Side note: She also hand-glued every single one of the rhinestones on this bedazzled champagne bottle you'll see below. She's crazy and I love her.
I knew I didn't want to do a first-look with my husband, as I wanted to his first reaction to be the one of me walking down the aisle. But that doesn't mean it can't be done with dad! I adore this moment captured by our photographer, Maile Lani, of my dad seeing me for the first time.
We chose the Pharmacy Museum as our ceremony location because everything about it drips with New Orleans charm. The inside is old and kind of spooky, and the outside is a beautifully intimate courtyard surrounded by greenery and exposed brick. We didn't add a single decoration to the outside, but rather let the venue speak for itself. All we did was add the chairs!
The picture above is of my "Something Blue," gifted to me by my best friend/MOH. The photo is of my very loved Granny Hart, who passed away when I was 20 and unable to be physically present with us that day. At this point, both my cousin, Sarah, and I immediately started crying for the first time that day and yelled at Magan for waiting to give it to me after our makeup was done! Little did Magan know, pictured with my Granny Hart was her absolute best friend in the world — making the gift that much sweeter.
Making our ceremony deeply personal to us was an essential. We knew we didn't want a generic wedding program, so to go deeper we did a few things:
The officiant. We asked Chris's Uncle Jerry to officiate the wedding for us. As someone who knows both Chris and myself very well and watched our relationship from the beginning, we knew he was the perfect choice.
Including other loved ones. Whether you want someone to read a poem, sing a song, or participate in some other way meaningful to you as a couple. We asked our high school English teacher, who was the first to pray over me when I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, to do our Opening Prayer. I felt a full-circle effect, having her be that role in the two most important decisions of my life. She unexpectedly asked the immediately family to join her and lay hands on us as she prayed — chills. I'll never forget she prayed that everyone present "defend this union." How powerful in a world of fickle marriages.
The vows. "Through sickness and health" etc. etc. is powerful, but we have kind of become desensitized to its message because it is standard. It's a beautiful thing when a couple uses their own words to seal their vows to one another. So, we decided to write our own. Chris and I have been through an immense amount, both individually and together, and we wanted our vows to accurately reflect our commitment to one another.
Inviting God into our marriage. The photo above is a moment captured when we chose to play "Let the Heavens Open" by Kari Jobe Carnes and Cody Carnes, previous worship pastors at our church. The lyrics open with, "You are welcome in this place / Welcome in our hearts / Come and have Your way." It was important that we invited God to be present in this crucial moment in our lives and invite him to be the center of our marriage.
We knew the traditional New Orleans Second Line was an absolute must! I mean... who wouldn't want to be paraded around the French Quarter by the best brass band in town (Hey, Kinfolk!), dancing, singing and drinking with all your loved ones and being congratulated by everyone on the streets?! This was by far a guest favorite — my mom's boyfriend joked about paying each of the band members $100 to take us around the block again. I told him he should have! This was such a euphoric moment that I borderline don't remember it! I wish it would have lasted longer!
Cake pulls are a fun New Orleans tradition that replace the bouquet toss. All the single ladies gather around the cake and pick a pull and hidden in the cake is a charm for each pull, each with its own good fortune message. I loved this because everyone is a winner! And of course, an engagement ring is one of the charms and that replaces the bouquet — naturally, the youngest one of the group (15) got the engagement ring.
We chose to do a Polaroid guest book — each guest took a polaroid pic and left a message. To be honest, this is a much better idea in theory than in practice, but we got some pretty funny polaroids out of it!
In place of guest gifts, we decided to just get a flip book photo booth instead. This was a total hit! Fantastic Fotos brought the greatest crew in with all the props and gadgets. For those who don't know what this is, they film you for 7 seconds and transform those 7 seconds into a flip book of moving photos. We wanted people to walk away with a memory of themselves on that day, not a candle or s'more set (no offense to those things, but those get used and thrown away). I'm so glad we invested in Fantastic Fotos instead! Like I said, everyone loved them and each person walked away with at least 3-5 flipbooks (or 15... Meghan)!
And we also opted in on karaoke for the reception! Greatest. Decision. Ever. This brought a whole new element to the party! We DJed with DJ Storm and DJ FDP from Omega Sound Entertainment and we seriously couldn't have picked a better company! They were engaging and felt like just a couple of other guests at our wedding.
The absolute best part about having a small wedding was the intimacy factor. It was the perfect amount and the perfect group of people, and we had the chance to spoil our guests just as much as they have spoiled us over the years. We controlled every aspect of our day but didn't feel any stress! I remember our coordinator checking in on us girls getting ready to ask how we were doing and we all just said, "Great!" while sipping our champagne. I'll never forget her saying, "Okay, this is a little TOO great. Like eerie. What's going on? I've never seen a calmer group of girls..." But the whole day was that way! From the vendors, to the friends and family present, and saying "I do" to the very best man I know, everything was absolutely perfect — truly wish we could just play it on a loop.
Wedding Planning and Production: Southern Belle Events
Photography: Maile Lani Photography
Invitations + Day-of items: The Pax Collective
Florist: Leaf + Petal NOLA
Catering: Pat O'Brien's
Wedding Officiant: Jerry Gutierrez, Chris's uncle
Wedding Cake: The Sweet Life
Flipbooks: Funtastic Fotos
Wedding Dress: Grace Loves Lace
Grooms Suit: Banana Republic
Bridesmaids Dresses: Show Me Your Mumu
Groomsmen Suits: Generation Tux