This couple had their dream wedding, thanks to winning the big prize from Crate & Barrel’s Ultimate Wedding Contest. And to be completely honest, it is my dream wedding too. And I’m betting more than a few of you might have visions of this soiree dancing through your head tonight. It is filled with so many romantic, classic New Orleans touches I seriously need someone to come through this screen and pinch me. Docuvitae has provided us with SO much eye candy, sweet as molasses, from the day that we had to fill up a great, big gallery for your viewing pleasure!

Thanks to my orange shoes, a beautiful love story, the support family and friends, and a whole lot of luck, we were the 2011 grand prize winners of the Crate & Barrel Ultimate Wedding Contest. The contest enabled us to have our dream wedding in New Orleans, Louisiana. In mid-2011, we relocated to Beijing, China and our guest list spanned 41 states and seven countries. We wanted to give our guests a destination wedding in America that had a unique local flavor, worthy of at least a weekend visit. There is no better place to host a celebration than the French Quarter in the Big Easy, and our wedding mantra was “laissez bon temps rouler” (let the good times roll). Julie Gibson, founder of Studio Grace, designed our save the date and passport like-invitations that reflected both NOLA and our ever-traveling careers.

Romantic, old New Orleans was brought to life thanks to Yifat Oren & Associates, our wedding planner, courtesy of Crate & Barrel. Stefanie Cove, Managing Partner, was with us every step of the way to choose the best local vendors (neither Michael or I are from NOLA) that would bring the vision of Southern charm, cajun comfort, and French elegance to life. Laura Kleinhenz of Docuvitae, our photographers, captured each moment in their authentic photojournalist style. They produced images that were more than just photographs – they were art! Welliver productions shot our wedding video and stayed with us throughout the entire evening.

The day began at the Aveda Paris Parker Salon where the bridesmaids, mothers of the bride and groom, and me had our hair and makeup done. The stylists and artists treated us like old friends, did beautiful work, and gave us a relaxing morning. We returned to our hotel to change; the bridesmaids wore long, ivory Two Birds Convertible Dresses (purchased from Bella Bridesmaid DC), which gave them fifteen different ways to wear their dress. The thick, high-quality jersey fabric was comfortable to wear all day and photographed beautifully. I wore two dresses: for the ceremony, a Pronovias lace gown and for the dinner and at the reception a silk with tulle overlay gown by Vera Wang. I purchased the Vera Wang dress from the most lovely Bridal Boutique I had ever been to: Mimi NOLA. Gail and Mimi, two of NOLA’s finest ladies assisted me and theirs is the only VW bridal boutique in New Orleans. They gave us the most personal attention, service, and advice for hosting a spectacular local wedding. They are the place to go bridal shopping if in New Orleans, hands down. As a nod to how we met, I wore orange pumps and my bridesmaids and flower girl did too. The groomsmen changed into a Calvin Klein classic tuxedo from Men’s Wearhouse and my handsome groom wore his own tuxedo by J.Crew. To give the groom distinction, we had him be the only one in a white bow tie and the rest of his men in black.

We wanted to maximize time with our guests, so we decided to take pictures before the ceremony at one of the most iconic parks in New Orleans, Jackson Square. It sits before St. Louis Cathedral, which provided a stunning backdrop for the portraits. Next, we asked our guests to meet at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, which tucked in the 140 friends and family for an intimate and cozy view of our ceremony. Pastor Stephen Aguillard gave what my Grandfather called, “the best wedding ceremony I’ve ever seen” as he preached about men’s and women’s needs in marriage. We wrote our own vows; Michael read his from a neatly folded piece of paper, me from my iPhone, which caused a few chuckles. It added to the interesting quirk of our young Pastor reading from his iPad, too. Our florals for the ceremony were by Ambiance Flowers and added to our mostly white with a few pops of orange in our bouquets. Harry Hardin’s string trio played Air on the G String for the family procession, Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley for the bridal party procession, and then my father and I entered with Mascagni’s Intermezzo. After a tearful vow exchange, we recessed to the traditional Mendelssohn’s Wedding March.

Joyfully marching out of the church as husband and wife, we were greeted by the brass instruments of the Storyville Stompers, one of the most decorated second line bands in New Orleans. Orange handkerchiefs and white feather boas were handed out to the guests and to their surprise, we began marching down the French Quarter. Michael and I briefly followed the parade in a horse and carriage, but we soon joined the crowd, not ones to miss out on any fun. Locals took pictures from their balconies and some even threw beads! We marched and danced with the brass band about eight blocks to the reception site, Galvez Restaurant, located in the French Quarter on the bank of the Mississippi river.

As the sun was setting, the second line band played for our cocktail hour outdoors in the Dutch Alley next the French Market. White lights streamed the alley, and specialty New-Orleans-inspired drinks and delicious Spanish-Cajun hors d’oeuvres were passed around. When it was time, guests were invited to walk up the votive lined stair case, up to the dining hall where five long king’s tables were set. I remember hearing my mother gasp, “Wow!” Each of the tables had no fewer than 100 candles illuminating the room; some in candelabras, some in candlesticks, and small votives. The room needed no other lighting, and the hundreds of candles were my favorite signature touch. The tables also were decorated by Ambiance Flowers vases with white flowers and baby’s breath. Each place setting contained a hand-written note to each guest, from either Michael or me, thanking them for coming.

Dinner was led by Chef Laura, of Galvez. Even though our event was black tie, we served our five courses family style to make for a more personal meal. Our guests passed around their incredible spanish, american, and french inspired dishes: ensaladas, crab cakes, grilled rack of lamb, paella valenciana, and shrimp and grits. It was cooked to perfection, thank you Chef! Our toasts broke up the courses, and our best man and maid of honor gave memorable and touching speeches. My father went last, and after his invited the guests to the dance floor, in the neighboring room.

The dance floor at Galvez is surrounded by French windows and doors that lead to a wrap around balcony. It’s one of the most romantic views in New Orleans, and our guests could watch steamboats chugging along the river as they sipped cocktails on the Crate and Barrel designed lounges outdoors. Or, inside they could get footloose with us to the incredibly talented, seven piece band, Taboo. They were a show stopper and played everything we asked, plus the favorites that even kept my Grandparents dancing way past their usual bed time.

We served two cakes: our wedding cake was by a local favorite sweet shop: Sucré, and they did a buttercream, three tiered wedding cake and our Groom’s cake (we’re in the South, after all!) was by Courtney Schmidig, a family friend and pastry chef at the French Laundry. I insisted on taste before appearance, so there was no fondant, only delicious butter cream and natural ingredients, they both were outstanding, but Courtney’s took the cake to another level!

We danced until midnight with Taboo and their incredible band arrangement and ended the night with a stellar performance that had most guests ready to continue their evening onto Bourbon street. In the morning, we relived the night over beignets and chicory coffee at Cafe Du Monde and bid a final farewell to our guests. We’re still hearing stories about how amazing strolling down the French Quarter with a second line band was, and the awesome jazz ensemble during cocktail hour, and the candlelit views of the Mississippi at night. Thank you Crate & Barrel, and thank you New Orleans, you gave us all an event to remember.

Wedding Contest: Crate & Barrel / Wedding Planners: Yifat Oren & Associates / Church: St. Mark’s United Methodist / Pastor: Stephen Aguillard / Reception, Catering & Bar: Galvez Restaurant / Invitations: Studio Grace / Photographer: Laura and Hannah of Docuvitae Photography /  Videographer: Welliver Productions / Flowers: Ambiance Flower Shop / Second Line Band: Storyville Stompers / Reception Band: Taboo / Bridal Gown (Ceremony): Pronovias, from Designer Loft, New York / Bridal Gown (Reception): Mimi NOLA / Rings: Blue Nile / Tableware, Lounge, and Decor: Crate & Barrel / Rentals: Your Event Delivered / Bridesmaid’s Dresses: Two Birds, from Bella Bridesmaid / Hair & Makeup: Aveda Paris Parker Salon New Orleans / Groom’s Tuxedo: J.Crew / Groomsmen Attire: Men’s Wearhouse / Wedding Cake: Sucre / Groom’s Cake: Chef Courtney Schmidig / Farewell Breakfast: Cafe Du Monde

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