Jessica & ReneCelebrating cuisine, culture, and music with an international destination guest list
Jessica and Rene contacted our team initially to conduct site visits and explore New Orleans as a possible destination for their upcoming spring 2019 wedding. Neither Jessica nor Rene had ever visited New Orleans prior to selecting it as a possible host city, and on the off-chance they were unable to find a suitable venue for their event goals, they hired Sapphire Events to conduct a day of venue tours prior to fully committing to a planning, production, and design contract. They had heard that New Orleans was a fun location, and wanted an environment that shared European sensibilities for the largely German- and UK-based guest list. Jessica, an American living abroad, and Rene, a German citizen, wanted to be sure all of their guests would have the experience of a lifetime. Upon visiting the city for their first trip, the couple found two venues they loved and solidified New Orleans as their wedding weekend destination.
Inspired by the art and architecture of the city, Jessica and Rene selected the Marigny Opera House for the ceremony venue, and the New Orleans Museum of Art for the reception. Because so many of their friends and family were travelling great distances to celebrate with them, Jessica and Rene wanted each of their guests to sit with them at one long communal dining table. With limited space at NOMA to fit a number of people together in one room without dispersing guests into multiple galleries, we worked to configure a layout in the Great Hall that would work within the parameters of the venue as well as fit their entire 150 person guest list at one table for dinner. A menu featuring classic New Orleans fare prepared by Ralph Brennan’s Catering set the stage for an epic Big Easy celebration.
Read on for how we planned this epic European-inspired celebration to perfection!
The couple residing in Germany, with the bride’s mother on the US East Coast, working closely with her executive assistant to plan the details of the event, planning a destination wedding with a traditional ceremony and seated dinner reception for 150 guests traveling from around the world.
A remarkable and traditional New Orleans experience highlighting the food, culture, art, and architecture of the city for a varied guest list of world travelers. Jess and Rene wanted a traditional ceremony at the Marigny Opera House with a second line parade right after, followed by a cocktail hour on the front steps of the New Orleans Museum of Art. A seated dinner and dancing would have guests well fed and on their feet until the romantic newlywed send-off at the end of the night.
Planning across multiple time zones and countries to coordinate effective communication was the primary challenge of logistics and details planning from the start. With the bride residing in Europe and frequently traveling for work, and the mother of the bride on the East Coast (also traveling frequently) and working through the mother’s executive assistant to schedule calls, meetings, and presentations, ensuring that all parties landed on the same page throughout the complexities of the planning process was a feat.
Once the venues were selected, coordinating a seamless flow of events from the Marigny Opera House to NOMA (two venues in completely separate parts of town) and featuring a second line parade and cocktail hour in between ceremony and reception without sacrificing the momentum of the day was a priority. Coordinating transportation for all guests to and from each of the venues at the right times to maximize use of available sunlight also proved enterprising.
The clients wished for each of their guests to sit in one large room at a singular table for the seated dinner at NOMA, which had never been achieved before. Not only does the museum itself remain open to the public even on event days, thus pushing back setup time to late in the afternoon once the last tour to the public commences, there is also limited space in which to seat any number of guests together in one room, let alone for a growing guest count. When the clients selected their venue, the expected guest count was 100; as we approached the date of the event, the actual guest count was just under 150. With a ballooning guest count and lack of flexible event space, the ability to achieve the clients’ main goal was evaporating.
Our Strategic Solutions
Setting up a protocol for decision-making in a timely manner was critical for our team in order to ensure our ability to secure desired vendors, design faithfully to the clients’ expectations, and also proceed through the production phase without forfeiting quality control. For the bride and groom, it was most important to share an authentic New Orleans experience with their guests from start to finish; for the bride’s mother, the overall design aesthetic was most important; and for the executive assistant, keeping the budget on target with exacting detail was her mission. We established a system for which items each party would be responsible to respond to on a strict deadline, so that our expected communication process would remain in tact as much as possible, while giving the clients’ assurance that each of their priorities relating to design, financials, and storytelling would be supported.
The bride loved the architecture and old-world feel of Marigny Opera House, and also gravitated toward the black and white, minimalistic design of NOMA. To bridge the gap from ceremony and reception, while facilitating as true a New Orleans experience as possible, we planned for a second line parade immediately following the ceremony that culminated in the side garden at Marigny. After a stint of the brass band playing traditional second-line music, we escorted guests onto buses to traverse the city and arrive at NOMA for a cocktail hour on the front steps of the building just as twilight was setting in. This allowed us ample time to setup the seated dinner details – place settings, florals, escort cards, double check chair counts, among other tasks – as we were limited to begin our setup for the dinner until after the museum closed to the public. Despite the unusually windy weather that day, we were able to make minor adjustments to the floorplan allowing for all of the aesthetic beauty to make an impact upon guest arrival.
Working without a scaled architectural drawing from the venue, our team measured the Grand Hall in the back of NOMA’s main room in order to determine the parameters we could work within to fit a single, long dining table for the clients’ entire guest count. The museum has strict rules on distances around art, maintaining a three-foot boundary around all murals, sculptures, and other artwork. We created a scaled and accurately measured CAD drawing of the venue and determined our maximum size table allowance in the space. As RSVPs came in, however, the anticipated guest count maxed out 148 in attendance – and we had enough places set for exactly 150 (if our measurements were indeed correct)! On the day of the event we discovered a new art piece that had been installed in the room since we first measured, prohibiting our use of eight feet of the planned 156’ long single table. We were able to take advantage of an inlet in the wall adjacent to the main dining table and set a link of our table aside. All the guests were seated in the same room, and the intimacy of the dining experience shared by the clients’ most precious friends and family was a success.
Because of our tried-and-true planning process, we were able to accommodate the clients’ varied time zones and communication styles in order to stay on track with expected planning deadlines. Taking leadership through planning, our confidence and expertise gave the clients the peace of mind necessary to continue with the responsibilities of their daily lives without having to concern themselves with driving the planning process. Understanding the challenges and limitations of our venues helped us guide the clients through intentional decision-making that would support their event goals: the narrative of New Orleans, the financial tracking, and the elegant visual impact. The event itself turned out beautifully, and the celebration was most certainly a night to remember!