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Getting Married in New Orleans - Planning Tips From a New Orleans Wedding Photographer

 

Do you know what it means to get married in New Orleans? Rich with an abundance of unique venues and traditions (not to mention fabulous food), New Orleans is a wonderful place to get married, whether you are a local or are from out of town.

Bridal / Engagement Portrait Locations

There are many options to choose from, depending on your preference and personality, and your photographer can certainly help you with this decision.  For an elegant, traditional bridal portrait, the front steps of the New Orleans Museum of Art is a very popular location.  For a fun, natural-environment engagement portrait, City Park or Audubon Park are good choices.  For a grittier, edgier bridal or engagement portrait, nothing beats simply roaming the French Quarter, seeking out interesting doorways and old weathered walls, in front of which the immaculate and beautiful bride creates a striking visual contrast.  These sessions are always spontaneous, fun, and unpredictable.

Most photographers will want to shoot bridal and engagement portraits on a weekday, because weekends are usually spent shooting weddings, and because locations will tend to be less crowded.  Late afternoon / early evening is typically the best light.  If at all possible try to schedule these portrait sessions for the Spring or Fall, when the weather is mild.

Ceremony / Reception Venues

Traditional, elegant venues in the area include The Balcony, The Rose Garden, Champagne Palace, and numerous downtown hotel ballrooms.  These beautiful venues do an excellent job at hosting weddings, can accommodate large numbers of guests, and usually have abundant parking on-site.  And, from the photographer’s perspective, they often have an area away from the main ballroom set aside specifically for doing the formal group shots, which can make these shots go much quicker.

But, on the downside, many of these venues look as though they could be in any city.  So, you owe it to yourself to also consider some of the many truly unique venues that New Orleans offers.  For instance, French Quarter courtyards such as those at the St. Louis Hotel, Maison Dupuy, and Broussard’s provide an undeniably New Orleans experience for you and your guests.  Is an opulent uptown mansion more your style?  Check out The Elms Mansion on St. Charles Ave.  Rosy’s Jazz Hall has an intimate atmosphere that some find very appealing, while Latrobes and the Board of Trade take you back to a bygone era of old New Orleans elegance.  Southern Oaks Plantation is another very popular venue, known for its top-notch service and excellent food.

If your ceremony is to be held in a church, be sure to discuss restrictions on photography with church officials.  While most have reasonable guidelines that essentially boil down to “be discrete”, sadly a few churches have strict rules that limit photographers to shooting from the back of the church and/or the choir loft, which means all of your photographs will be from that one angle, and there will be no frontal shots of you being walked up the aisle.  So, it’s better to know about this well in advance instead of receiving a nasty surprise on the wedding day.

Traditions

There are several wedding traditions that are unique to New Orleans.  First up, the groom’s cake.  While the main wedding cake is what you would expect (well, mostly, more on that in a bit), the groom’s cake is usually more creative and informal, taking on the form of, for instance, a favorite hobby, the college he went to, or his occupation.  These cakes are often so gorgeously crafted that it is downright painful to see them get chopped up.  Some notable examples I’ve seen include a trumpet in a case, a pot of gumbo, a doctor’s bag, and an absolutely stunning University of Georgia bulldog.

Regarding the main wedding cake, these are often adorned with another New Orleans tradition called cake pulls.  Cake pulls generally consist of several short ribbons around the lower section of the cake.  Single ladies chosen by the bride simultaneously each pull a ribbon, which are attached to small charms embedded in the cake that each have a special meaning.

And perhaps the most notable tradition of of all, the Second Line parade.  Virtually every wedding in the New Orleans area has some form of a Second Line (many don’t fit the strict definition of a Second Line, but to keep things simple, the term is broadly used).  In its most basic form, the DJ or band will play that universally recognized (in New Orleans at least!) Second Line song, and everyone dances in a line around the venue waving napkins in the air.

Even more thrilling is a real Second Line parade through the French Quarter, led by a brass band.  These require more planning (such as booking the band and obtaining the required permit), but it always ends up being an absolutely unforgettable experience for the couple and the guests... you essentially become a tourist attraction, with police motorcycles clearing the street ahead of you as crowds of onlookers on the sidewalks struggle to get a view and take pictures of the authentic brass band, while cheering and dancing.

It’s the perfect way to cap off your memorable New Orleans wedding!

 

Michael Caswell Photography

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