Haylie & Brad

Paying homage to an intimate garden celebration and the client’s Dutch heritage at the oldest building in the Mississippi River Valley

Haylie and Brad approached our team with a specific vision for what their event should be: an intimate garden party with tons of food, lots of beverage options and an excellent dance band – for over 500 guests at the Old Ursuline Convent. High on the list of priorities was a need to incorporate elements from both sides’ heritage, and blend the details into a narrative bespoke to the new life they would be starting together.

Inspired by her own parents’ garden wedding with 30 guests, and her grandmother’s Dutch roots, we reimagined intimacy for a significantly larger guest count in designing a floral installation featuring 25,000 tulips inverted over the dancefloor. We developed a spectacular gastronomic array of food stations throughout the space, and paired each offering with a bespoke cocktail, select beers on tap brewed from the various locations the couple had lived, as well as casked wine atop the custom bars created especially for this event. A seven-foot-tall bridal cake flavored with lavender elderberry anchored the dining space as an impressive focal point, while a life-like replica of the castle city Minas Tirith from Lord of the Rings drew guests inside the Convent museum for an awe-inspiring confection as the groom’s cake, made of rich red velvet.

Here’s how we brought all of their dreams to life with this once-in-a-lifetime event.

The Client:

The couple living in Indiana with a relocation to New Orleans during the planning process, with parents living locally, planning a traditional ceremony at the St. Louis Cathedral and cocktail-style reception for 550 guests traveling from all over the country.

The Objective:

A full mass in the afternoon at the St. Louis Cathedral, followed by a reception with cocktail-style service at the Old Ursuline Convent. Clients wanted food and beverage in abundance, so developing a stellar food menu with plentiful decadent options throughout the venue was top priority, as well as a significant bespoke cocktail program featuring multiple craft cocktails, select beers on tap, casked wine in barrels, a champagne tower pour, elegant ice luge and edible cocktails. Facilitating the flow of events for the 550 person guest count, we were tasked with making the OUC gardens feel intimate and original, using as few tents as possible to maximize the ambiance of the outdoor spaces, while respecting the many rules surrounding use of the historic property.

Challenges

  1. Creating an intimate garden party experience, with guests congregating in the front manicured gardens of the Old Ursuline Convent, and utilizing as much of the outdoor space as possible for food activations and maximum elements of surprise. The venue itself could withstand an intimate party, but at a large guest count over 500 expected guests, both comfortable intimacy and space constraints would be difficult to achieve. Clients wanted cocktail hour in the front garden, then transition guests to the back for the reception. Given the limitations of the space, this arrangement was not possible.

  2. Hand-in-hand with the intimate garden feel, the client requested few, if any, tent solutions so that the ambiance of the open air would drive the guest experience. With zero available rain plan in the case of a likely spring rainstorm, we were commissioned to develop a reception plan that would not require use of any additional manmade structure, keeping the garden as open as possible.

  3. Considered the oldest building in the Mississippi River valley, the venue was not only a delicate national landmark for historic purposes, but also was not constructed with anticipation of hosting an event of this scale. Thus, the requisite number of trucks for deliveries to sustain this event, and their modern shape and size, proved challenging given the extremely limited nature of the French Quarter streets and also the points of ingress and egress which were available to our creative team for access.

Design Plan

Our Strategic Solutions

  1. As we developed the specs and dimensions for our custom CAD of the reception venue, the width of the garden pathways were not conducive to more than a few dozen people occupying at once. In lieu of transitioning the guests from separate courtyards for cocktails and reception, we convinced the client of the necessity to utilize as much of the entire space, inside and outside, as possible. We established a preliminary floor plan to show how we would incorporate the various elements of surprise for the guests using a variety of food and beverage pairings, and offered a postcard to guests upon arrival with information about where reception landmarks for the night would be centered.

  2. Through multiple site visits and discovery meetings, we developed a plan for a Loesberger clear span tent over the parking lot in the garden that would allow us to design an inverted garden suspended over the dancefloor, and also provide additional cover in case of weather to sustain optimal square footage for the large guest count. Bringing the inverted garden of 25,000 suspended tulips into the space, the tent would have a warm, inviting feeling without impeding on necessary under-foot real estate. Keeping our color story natural, neutral, and with focal florals in green and white, the design felt intentional in the space without detracting from the venue’s innate beauty.

  3. Our leadership during the production phase allowed us to communicate effectively with each one of the suppliers delivering on site for load in. We took great care to assess the needs of each vendor, including how many trucks would be necessary to deliver their products, how long to unload, the size of the trucks, and where each point of ingress and egress for deliveries would take place. Maximizing the time available to us, we were able to effectively issue a detailed minute-by-minute truck manifest to each vendor, thus choreographing a delicate balance of allowing each team member the necessary time to perform to their contract, resulting in as little crossover as possible between vendors.

Results

Despite an early afternoon rainstorm, the multi-day install occurred timely and with minimal complications. The detailed truck manifest, communicated clearly to each vendor well in advance, proved supremely effective at tailoring the load-in process with maximum efficiency for all involved. The guests enjoyed the lovely ceremonial service, then walked to the reception venue where delectable food items and beverage options covered every corner of the venue. The space was transformed into an inviting, beautifully designed space with a garden-like feel. Guests were amazed at the installation and danced into the night under an endless cloud of white tulips overhead, majestically suspended under the stars and moonlight. The clients could not have been more pleased with the visuals of the day, but more importantly, that their articulated desires for each aspect of the event experience for their guests was flawlessly executed to their exacting specifications.

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