Southern Weddings

Bride Ariana shares her paper flower-filled wedding at The Elms Mansion.

Whether it’s the first dress they try on or the venue they’ve been dreaming of for years, some brides know exactly what they want and the vision that they have in mind. And some are like me: completely indecisive. That’s why I’m excited to introduce y’all to today’s bride, Ariana. She’s a combination of both! While she and Mike might have looked into every possible wedding venue in New Orleans before deciding on The Elms Mansion, once they stood under the gigantic magnolia tree, Ariana finally knew. She remembers looking at the gazebo and thinking, “that’s where we’re going to get married.” Of course, said gazebo needed a touch of something special to make it perfect. Ariana, who just so happens to own a paper flower and décor company, Love & Paper, created a huge 8 foot by 8 foot paper flower wall backdrop for their vows (and for guests to snap photos in front of all night long!). Wondering where else Ariana snuck in her paper flower work? Keep reading to find out!

Big SW hugs to Arte de Vie for sharing this sweet wedding with us!

How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? Our parents all wanted to be involved in the planning process, which I know definitely made me closer with Mike’s parents and sister. I think it taught us all how to communicate with one another as a big family; there were times when one of us would get frustrated and the others quickly learned how to deal with that. If I ever needed help with something, I knew I always had at least six people who would probably jump on a plane for me. I love that my maid of honor was Mike’s sister, Lauren, and his best man was my brother, Erich. It’s a beautiful thing for my parents and in-laws to get along so well – we all spent this past Christmas together! From day one, marriage always meant the union of our two families, not just the two of us, and planning the wedding was a great exercise for that.

I was so in love with our wedding flowers. I had pages and pages of inspiration photos, and Diane from Fat Cat Flowers nailed it. The color palette was a mix of soft corals, pinks, peaches, light oranges, and yellows. When I first saw the gazebo at the Elms, I knew it had to have a floral chandelier, which turned out to be breathtaking. I love peonies and was somewhat heartbroken when I learned they wouldn’t be in season for the wedding. However, since I have a paper flower and decor business, Love & Paper, I just made my own peonies for my bouquet! I love that while the rest of the flowers wilted over time, I’ll always have the fluffy magenta peonies from my wedding bouquet on display in our home. I had paper flowers all throughout the wedding venue; some were out on display on the tables and other were hidden in with real bouquets.

I knew I wanted to wear a big ball gown, and I tried on so many beautiful dresses. There were a couple that I really liked a lot, but they didn’t give me that “feeling” you hear about. I eventually put on the Hayley Paige “Londyn” gown. The second I stepped out of the dressing room, my mom and I both looked at each other and teared up, knowing it was the one. I loved twirling in all that tulle!

We decided to do a first look because we wanted formal photos in the daylight, and it would be dark by the time the ceremony was over. It also allowed us to dive right into the party after the ceremony. We wanted to soak up every moment possible with our loved ones at our reception, which really does go by so quickly! The first look was such a special moment between the two of us, and gave us the opportunity to take each other in as bride and groom in a relaxed and private manner.

We knew we wanted to get married in New Orleans, since it was our home and where we both spent the majority of our adult lives. I think we looked into every possible wedding venue the city had to offer! Mike was actually the one who first wanted to look at The Elms Mansion, and it was one of the last venues we visited. After we walked through the beautiful historic mansion and lush gardens, we stood under the gigantic magnolia tree (one of the largest in the city), and I remember looking at the gazebo and thinking, “that’s where we’re going to get married.”

When I first started my paper flower business, I committed to making an 8 foot by 8 foot paper flower wall for people to rent for their events. When we got engaged, we knew we had to use it at our own wedding! So we planned on having it as the backdrop for our ceremony. On the morning of our wedding, Mike and his groomsmen skipped their hot shave to set it up with my mom in the gazebo, which was such an act of love. I was so nervous, because it had never even left our house before, let alone made it through an entire event, but it was so rewarding to see so many hours of hard work on display. And I’ve rented it out to two other brides since our wedding!

When I asked my godfather to do a reading, he replied, “no reading is good enough for you- can I write my own?” Seeing as he’s a professional speech writer, I knew he wouldn’t disappoint! He wrote the most beautiful speech for us celebrating our love and relationship. Another dear family friend read the “Blessing of the Hands” right before we exchanged rings, which was so special.

What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? We really did have the absolute dream team of vendors, and I’m still so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with such talented people. But if I had to pick one in particular to call out, I have to hand it to wedding coordinator, Belinda Belk (Blue Gardenia Events). I loved our meetings, during which we’d pour over inspiration pictures, specialty linens, florals, color palettes, etc. She helped add so many special details and elements that I wouldn’t have thought of myself. I literally cried when I walked into our venue on our wedding day and saw how perfect and beautiful everything was – exactly how I had pictured it all in my mind, except better. Belinda also just made things so much easier on us as the big day came near, and was extremely helpful with tasks and errands that weren’t even her responsibilities.

There were so many love-filled details of our wedding, it’s hard to choose a favorite. I spent countless hours making paper rose escort cards for our guests, which were pinned to gold frames of moss. The whole family was so helpful, and our little apartment felt and looked like a wedding decor factory. My mother-in-law also secretly made flip flops for our wedding guests, which were revealed at the wedding after our first dance. And they were a huge hit – not a single pair was left behind! Putting together the guests’ welcome bags was a huge collaborative effort. My mom made homemade “graNOLA” bars, a family friend of the Shlanskys made chapsticks, another family friend of theirs made the first aid kits (he even painted on the red crosses with help from Mike’s parents), my grandmother helped put on the personalized water bottle labels, Mike and his dad did shopping runs for Zapp’s potato chips and pralines from New Orleans School of Cooking, and everyone, including a helpful bridesmaid, helped to stuff and and deliver the bags. I think all of the work and love that went into putting those bags together makes them one of my very favorite details!

What was your most memorable moment from your wedding day? After our ceremony, we led a second line up and down St. Charles Avenue. Once we got back to the Elms Mansion, I remember standing on the front steps and looking down at the 175 people we love most in the world cheering for and waving at us. That was such a surreal moment. We then went upstairs and signed the marriage papers, and people wanted to give us a few minutes alone to gather our thoughts and eat some dinner. But we spent most of that time peering out the window wanting to rush down to the party! We were so giddy and thinking, “Come on, can’t we do this later!? Let us down there!”

Our wedding cake was half white almond with amaretto buttercream and half devil’s food layered with dark chocolate mousse. The three tier cake was iced with white buttercream and had peachy coral brushstrokes on the top tier and mint brushstrokes on the bottom tier. I wanted a watercolor effect, and Melissa’s Fine Pastries did such a beautiful job with it. I made the paper flowers that cascaded down the cake. Mike has a major sweet tooth, so we also had a table of assorted pastries: fresh fruit tartlets, cayenne bourbon pecan tartlets, carrot cake squares, lemon poppy seed cupcakes, Banana’s Foster cheesecakes, and pecan pralines. Yum!

What was Southern about your wedding? We didn’t have to do much to make our wedding feel Southern, because there is so much Southern history in The Elms Mansion, and the food their chef prepares is very New Orleans. We also had a New Orleans second line after our ceremony, which was such a rush. We’ve participated in many second lines in all of our years in New Orleans, but it was so surreal knowing that this parade was in celebration of us! All of our guests were handed monogrammed handkerchiefs to wave in the air and sweet tea and vodka cocktails to sip as we danced down historic St. Charles Avenue. The umbrellas that Mike and I held were the ones his cousin and his cousin’s wife (who was also one of my bridesmaids) used at their own wedding a few years prior. As wedding favors, I put together little jars of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning, complete with custom labels that I designed.

Tell us your love story. I had just moved into an apartment on Napoleon Avenue in New Orleans, and Lucy (my small dog), escaped from my yard. Thinking she had gone through a hole in the fence, I rang the next door neighbor’s doorbell asking if he had seen her. My neighbor told me that he saw a little dog in the middle of the (very busy) street furiously licking a hamburger wrapper as honking cars swerved around her. Thankfully, I got her back later that day. That same neighbor ended up coming over to my birthday party a couple months later, and we became good friends (as did Lucy and his dog, Cole). We remained “just friends” for a year before we decided to start dating, and my next door neighbor became my boyfriend, then my roommate, then my fiance!
Tell us all about the proposal! Over the summer of 2015, I had this feeling that he would propose. I don’t know why, and I definitely didn’t admit it to anyone (I barely admitted it to myself), but that feeling grew stronger and stronger as our annual summer vacation to Block Island, RI approached. When Mike didn’t propose on Saturday night, I thought to myself, “Eh, okay, I was just being silly and my imagination was in overdrive!” On Monday, we were rushing around packing because we had to make a ferry. We were cutting it pretty close (as always), and I had started off toward the car when I saw something written in chalk on the drive ahead of me. I stopped in my tracks and just stared, dumbfounded at what was in front of me: “Ariana, will you marry me?” surrounded by hearts. After what felt like seconds to me, but probably minutes to Mike, I slowly dropped my bags and turned around, only to see Mike on one knee holding a ring! It all felt so surreal that I’m not sure I’d remember all the details if it weren’t for his best friend Jason documenting the entire thing on his iPhone. I went to him and said, “of course!” but was suddenly hit with the reality that we were about to say goodbye to one another for a week. “But now we have to leave?” I asked, through tears. He answered, “Nope, we’re staying ’til Friday!” Apparently, it took a small army, the zipped lips of all four of our parents, PhotoShopped plane tickets to New Orleans and Boston, fake work obligations that had been in place for a month or so in advance, and very careful monitoring and deletion of any emails, texts, or pictures that might tip me off to pull off this very elaborately planned ruse. He said he knew that I might think he’d propose in Block Island, which is why he threw me off by “having to leave” and waiting until the very last minute to do it.
When did y’all get married? October 22nd, 2016
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 175
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. I walked down the aisle to Pachelbel’s Canon in D, which I’ve loved ever since I learned how to play it on the piano when I was little. I really wanted a trumpet to play as my dad walked me down the aisle, and I can’t wait to hear and see it on the video, because I don’t remember it at all! I was too distracted by everyone and everything else around me. My father helped me choose the rest of the ceremony music, since he’s the family expert on classical music. Our first dance song was “You Are the Best Thing” by Ray LaMontagne, which Mike and I chose just a couple nights before the wedding. We only had to listen up to the first refrain to know it was perfect – upbeat, not too sappy, but with a sweet message that resonated with us. We did a combined father/daughter and mother/son dance to “Ain’t that Love” by Ray Charles. It was so lighthearted and sweet; I just love the photos from that moment.
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! I borrowed a pearl bracelet from my mom that my dad gave to her when I was born. My something old was a “Magic Hankie” that was given to me at me as a baby and used as a bonnet at my Christening; I had it tucked into my dress to wipe away any happy tears! I had my toes painted light blue as my something blue, and my dress, veil, shoes, and earrings were all new.
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? Aside from our letterpress invitations, I did pretty much all of the design work using Photoshop and InDesign for our wedding materials. I designed the save the dates, the A&M monogram, the welcome bag brochures, the ceremony programs, the menu (with help from Belinda), the spice jar favor labels, and small signage. Not having to outsource any of those design jobs helped us save money, and I enjoyed doing it. Another small way I saved money was forgoing expensive designer shoes for a pair of cute, inexpensive flats. A bride will often splurge on a fabulous pair of Jimmy Choos or Christian Louboutins for her wedding day (and there’s nothing wrong with that!), but I personally didn’t see the point, as no one was going to see my shoes under my dress, and I wanted something comfortable as I knew I’d be on my feet all night.
What’s next for you as a couple? We actually just moved to Connecticut at the end of March! We miss New Orleans greatly, but are so excited to really start our life together up here. Mike got an amazing job offer, and we’ll be closer to our parents, which will be wonderful once we’re ready to start a family of our own in a year or two. I’m also really looking forward to bringing my business to a new market and expanding Love & Paper’s reach. We still have a lot of family and friends who live in New Orleans, so we’ll be back often for visits (especially during the snowy northeastern winters).

Photographer: Arte de Vie | Videographer: Dyle Films | Planner: Blue Gardenia Events | Ceremony and Reception Venue: The Elms Mansion | Florist: Fat Cat Flowers | Wedding Cake or Dessert Baker: Melissa’s Fine Pastries | Caterer: The Elms Mansion | Rentals: Event Rental | Lighting: Fat Cat Flowers and Blue Gardenia Events | Band or DJ: Bucktown Allstars | Paper Products: Scriptura | Bride’s Gown: “Londyn” by Hayley Paige | Bride’s Hair Accessories/Veil/Jewelry: Toni Federici | Hair Stylist: Flawless Bride | Makeup Artist: Flawless Bride | Bride’s Shoes: Dessy | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Amsale, Hayley Paige, Dessy | Groom’s Attire: Calvin Klein | Groomsmen Attire: Vera Wang Black | Paper Flowers: Love & Paper | Calligraphy: VCalligraphy | Ceremony musicians: New Orleans Classical and Jazz | Second Line Band: Young Pinstripe Brass Band | Linen: Nuage Designs

marissa Written with love by Marissa
3 Comments
  1. avatar Denis Lunyakin reply

    Divine photos! Thank you for your work!

  2. avatar Weddingpixie reply

    Stunning wedding, beautiful photography

  3. avatar Kara B reply

    what a gorgeous venue! Love the bridesmaid dresses.

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