New Orleans is by far one of the most romantic, whimsical, musical cities in the world, so it’s not really surprising that those are the same three words Ashlee and Kevin used to describe their wedding in the Crescent City. Ashlee says, “We chose to have our wedding in New Orleans because it is a city full of life, resilience and passion – all things that are important in marriage. Kevin and I have lived in New Orleans for four years, and we love its history, music, food, and laissez-fare. We wanted to share New Orleans with our loved ones – some of whom had never been to the city. We wanted to give them the richest NOLA experience possible in two days. We chose hotels in the French Quarter so everyone could walk to restaurants and enjoy the traditional New Orleans experience, and we chose our venues for their beauty and drama.”
Something old, new, borrowed, blue? Something old: An antique beaded purse my sister gave me on my wedding day. // Something new: My dress! // Something borrowed: My necklace was the first piece of jewelry my father gave my mother in the spring of 1975. It’s a diamond in a glass frame that was a cheesy Mother’s Day special at the jewelry store, and though she wasn’t a mom yet, he bought it to remind her that their love comes first. That is something to live by. I’ve always wanted to wear it on my wedding day. // Something blue: My mother’s gorgeous sapphire ring. (Unfortunately, it was also something borrowed!)
What was the best advice you received as a bride? Planning advice, from my Mawmaw: “Now, don’t let yourself get so hyper.” Day-of Advice, from my bridesmaids: “Stop. Take a deep breathe. Take in all the love.”
What advice do you have for other couples in the midst of planning a wedding? Stay true to what you want but know when to let it go. We were supposed to have our ceremony at a park by our house. It was the only thing I knew I wanted in the beginning. It was a huge headache and it eventually fell apart 3 months before our date. We found the church, fell in love, and never looked back. All that stress for nothing.
Says Ashlee: “Kev and I have my parent’s original wedding rings they exchanged 34 years ago. (They have since gotten upgrades.) For wedding day gifts, I gave Kevin the watch that my mother gave my father on their wedding day, and Kevin gave me an out-of-print book I’ve been longing for since we were in college, Writings by Agnes Martin. His note said, I hope this inspires you to pursue your dreams. I love you.”
“Our ceremony was at Saints Peter and Paul Church – a 166 year old church – that we chose for its haunting beauty,” says Ashlee. “The Church was desanctified by the diocese in 2001 and has since become a somewhat forgotten gem in a neighborhood called the Marigny. The Marigny is a beautiful historic neighborhood east of the French Quarter with laid-back shotgunned-lined streets, perfect for a second line.”
Your ceremony in three words. Whimsical, Romantic, Musical.
How did you plan your ceremony? My sister-in-law Beth officiated and helped us organize the ceremony. She sent us the script from her own wedding ceremony and we sat down face-to-face to talk through it. She picked a secular reading that made her think of us called “Union” by Robert Fulghum. We wrote our own vows and also said traditional vows (based on a Catholic ceremony). Kevin picked out our Bible scripture reading which was read by our friend Elizabeth. It was very important that we involve our wedding guests in the ceremony because we believe that their love guided us to marriage. Beth recommended that we involve everyone with a group blessing – it was very special.
How did you choose your ceremony music? For our ceremony music, I started a Spotify playlist of our favorite songs as soon as we got engaged. It ended up being really helpful when picking songs for first dances, ceremony, and reception. It was also nice to have for showers and getting ready the day of. Harry Hardin coordinated our music. I told him what songs I wanted for the ceremony and he recommended and coordinated the right musicians for the job.
What was your favorite thing about your wedding ceremony? Our vows. We wrote our own vows and we meant every word. It was pure magic.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share about your wedding ceremony? We printed the lyrics to “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” by the Talking Heads on the back of the program so everyone could sing along as we recessed. // The old church has the original bell and bell tower and we rang the bell after the ceremony. // We had watermelon lemonade served outside the church and a brass band playing while we quickly took family portraits. // After formal photos we busted out of the church, the brass band started walking – the second line started. Many of our guests did not know what a second line was but they caught on pretty quick. We danced around the Marigny until we got to the buses that took guests to the civic.
“New Orleans was the inspiration for our wedding,” says Ashlee. “I was really in search of a certain mood that New Orleans brought out in us, which made it hard for me to explain myself to vendors at first. So, I tried to focus on the times I felt my New Orleans goosebumps and let that guide me. New Orleans has this grand feel of indulgence while still keeping a laid-back atmosphere – that is what we were trying to capture in our wedding.”
Do you have any budget tips for other brides? Figure out what’s most important to you. For us, it was the art involved – music, photography, flowers. This is where we splurged and I am so glad we did. Also, let the pros guide you. Our wedding planner helped us manage priorities. He was great about saying, “It’s beautiful, but you won’t even notice if it’s not there,” or “This may be a big budget item, but it will make a big impact,” and he was right.
First Dance Song: “Lovin’ in My Baby’s Eyes” by Taj Mahal. It is mostly blues guitar and harmonica with simple lyrics. We really wanted it played live and I knew the only person who could do it justice was Alvin Youngblood Hart, a grammy-award winning blues musician who shares our hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. I coordinated with Alvin’s girlfriend to surprise Kevin by having Alvin sing our first dance – he was so surprised and we were both blown away by Alvin’s performance. It was priceless.
Menu: Passed: Crab Cakes with Jalapeño Aioli / Rare Ahi Tuna Wonton / Roasted Beet “Truffles” / Shrimp Remoulade on Fried Mirliton Coins // Stations: Beef Tenderloin with Arugula, Parmigiano, Yukon Potatoes / Shrimp and Cheese Grits / Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Assorted Toppings / Oyster Bar and Ceviche / Pulled Pork Cheese Biscuits / Smoked Duck Confit / Sushi Bar (by our favorite neighborhood folks at Sushi Kyoto) // Dessert: Vanilla and Almond Wedding Cake with Strawberry and Pistachio Buttercreams / Croquembouche Groom’s Cake with Vanilla Cream and Salted Caramel
Is there anything else that helps tell the story of the day? We had an after party on a balcony on Bourbon Street. Kevin and I do not frequent Bourbon Street, but we knew first-timers to New Orleans would want to see what it was all about. A private balcony is the only way to do Bourbon Street, so we bought a bunch of beads and rented a balcony. Kevin and I made a quick appearance, tossed some beads, did the garter toss (off the balcony with the single men standing below) then snuck out! Everyone else hung around and spent some time with people they rarely see.