Settle into your seats this morning, y’all–we have an extra sweet love story to share! Ellen and Richard first met in middle school, and their friendship grew throughout high school. In college, after realizing there were sparks between them, Richard finally suggested they start dating, but Ellen resisted, afraid of losing such a close friend if things didn’t work out. The ultimate comeback? “Richard thought it might be problematic if, by not giving it a shot, we would both end up married to other people, and he would still want to call me every night to tell me about the funny things that had happened during the day!” Naturally, Ellen couldn’t argue with that, and a little ways down the road, these two friends-turned-sweethearts planned a fabulous celebration in New Orleans to kick off their marriage. Our Blue Ribbon Vendor Sapphire Events helped them pull the details together at the same hotel where Ellen’s parents had honeymooned years before, and from the traditional ceremony to the energetic second line, I can only imagine that the 350 loved ones in attendance won’t soon forget this joyful day!
Thank you so much to the talented Ryan Ray for sharing Ellen and Richard’s celebration with us!
My mom and I shopped all over Houston for three weeks for my wedding gown. I have always heard that I would just know it when I saw it. I was 99% sure I had found the perfect dress, so we decided to go back and try it on one more time before ordering it. When we walked into the shop, my mom, who knows me so well, said, “Now, Ellen, do not look to the left or right. Go straight to the fitting room.” Well…I looked to the right, and there it was: the dress of my dreams, which had not been there before. My mom cried when she saw me in it–I had found my dress!
What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? From the welcome bags that were filled with Mardi Gras beads, Zapp’s Spicy Crawtater chips, Aunt Sally’s pralines, and maps of things to do in the French Quarter, to the Cajun Creole dinner at the reception that included seafood gumbo, shrimp and grits, braised short ribs, and king cake, everything about the wedding was Southern! We also had a classic Louisiana “cake pull.” The pastry chef put ribbons with pewter charms tied to the ends in between layers of the bride’s cake. Each ribbon had a wish or fortune, such as “you will soon find love.” Before we cut the cake, 12 of my close friends, who were not bridesmaids, were asked by the band to go to the cake table. Each friend grabbed the end of a ribbon and pulled out her charm. In addition to getting to participate without having a duty, each lady had a special keepsake from the wedding.
After much discussion, and getting way too much advice, we did decide to do a first look. Since the wedding was in picturesque New Orleans and the ceremony was at 7:00 P.M., we had so many fabulous locations and daylight hours for photographs. We wanted to take advantage of that, so we met in the courtyard of the hotel. It was such a sweet, fun time, and it felt private, even though our wedding party and parents were watching from the surrounding balconies and french doors! The pictures of our first look are such treasures. Plus, having already seen each other, we were then able to walk around the French Quarter with our wonderful photographer, getting so many pictures out of the way before the ceremony, freeing us up to celebrate with our guests the rest of the evening! For us, the first look also calmed lots of nerves.
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? No, we did not write our own vows. We are both very traditional, and wanted to make the same vows our parents had made years ago. Our favorite pastor did a beautiful job officiating, using Scripture we had selected together, helping us begin our marriage with the solid foundation of our shared faith.
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? One of our dear, lifelong friends read 1 Corinthians 13, the beautiful “love chapter” from the New Testament.
What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? I was born in Mississippi and have many childhood memories of happy times in New Orleans. Both my maternal and fraternal grandparents, as well as my parents, spent their honeymoons there. As a matter of fact, Richard and I got married in the Grand Ballroom of the Royal Sonesta, the hotel where my parents honeymooned! My mom and dad had taken Richard and me to New Orleans a couple of years before we got married, and we did everything we could to make Richard fall in love with the city. It worked! When the time came to plan our wedding, New Orleans was the obvious choice. We wanted our guests to have fun! Everyone was so excited to spend the weekend in the French Quarter and celebrate with us.
Describe your wedding flowers. My bouquet was a cascading arrangement of white garden roses, white gardenias, white lilac, white ranunculus, and white orchids. The flowers used throughout the evening were lush, imperfect combinations of beautiful white flowers and green foliage.
Our favorite detail of the wedding was probably the second line parade. This tradition descends from African American Jazz funerals. Led by a New Orleans jazz band, the newlyweds carry parasols and are followed through the French Quarter by family, wedding party, and guests. It is basically a huge street dance and block party! We had hankies with our names and wedding date on them for guests to wave as we all sipped champagne, celebrated, and danced our way a few blocks to and from the hotel. Crowds lined the streets, waving and cheering, with some even falling in line and joining the parade. It was such a festive experience for us, as well as our guests, many of whom had never witnessed a second line, much less joined in one. It also gave the hotel a chance to “flip” the ballroom for the reception.
How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Richard and I met in seventh grade when Richard transferred to the small private school I attended. We became close friends in tenth grade, but always dated other people. He was captain of the football team and I was the cheerleading captain. We spent a lot of time with each other, and even went to senior prom together! College found me at Baylor University and Richard at The University of Texas at Austin. Throughout freshman and first semester of sophomore year, we saw each other often, as friends. In February of sophomore year, Richard suggested that there might be something more than friendship between us. I agreed, but feared losing him as a friend if things were to go badly. Richard thought it might be problematic if, by not giving it a shot, we would both end up married to other people, and he would still want to call me every night to tell me about the funny things that had happened during the day! I couldn’t argue with that, so we started dating, running back and forth between Waco and Austin each weekend. We have never regretted going for it!
Tell us all about the proposal! From Richard: I graduated from law school in May 2014. One night in June, I picked Ellen up to go out to dinner. When we got in the car, I made up an excuse to run back to my house, and I suggested that she come inside. When we walked through the house, she looked into the dining room and saw the table set for dinner for two (which I had prepared), along with an open ring box containing the heirloom setting we had admired a couple of years before, with my grandmother’s diamond in the center. Ellen became a little hysterical, and kept asking, “What is going on? Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!” Yes, I got down on one knee and asked her to marry me. She said, “Yes!” (For the record, I had taken her dad to lunch a few weeks earlier to get his permission!)
When did y’all get married? March 28, 2015
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? Our hope was to have 300 guests. Amazingly enough, there were around 350 people in attendance!
How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? Since we knew each other and each other’s families so well, we were already ahead of the game. We share so many of the same values, so a lot of the typical compromises and adjustments were not really necessary. We did attend a wonderful marriage prep class at our church, in addition to excellent premarital counseling with our precious pastor who conducted our ceremony.
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? Although our grandmothers would be horrified, we chose thermography over engraving for our invitations and save the dates!
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Enjoy every minute. Do not let anyone steal your joy! This is the one time in your life when it is okay to be a little selfish. You cannot please everyone. You and your groom need to have it your way, as long as your underwriters (in our case, my parents) are fine with your decisions. When we got engaged, my parents told me, “This wedding is our gift to you and Richard. It is about the two of you.” What a great gift it was!
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? We have bought our first home and look forward to starting our family in the near future. I hope we will always remember to cherish the simple everyday things that really bond and unite us as a couple.
Photographer: Ryan Ray Photography | Videographer: Studio Vieux Carre | Planner: Sapphire Events | Venue, Catering, and Cake: Royal Sonesta Hotel New Orleans Grand Ballroom | Florist: Kim Starr Wise Floral Events | Band: Memphis Soul Revue | Save the Dates and Invitations: Crane & Co. | Custom Welcome Bag Packets and Wedding Programs: Bering’s Hardware | Bride’s Gown: Style 9215 by Alvina Valenta | Bridal Salon: Ivory Bridal Atelier | Bride’s Belt and Veil: Anne Barge | Hair and Makeup: Kiss and Makeup Beauty Services | Bride’s Shoes: Christian Louboutin | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Style 450049 by Monique Lhuillier | Bridesmaid Dress Salon: Bella Bridesmaids Houston | Menswear: Perlis Magazine Street | Second Line Band: Storyville Stompers | Ceremony and Cocktail Hour Musicians: New Orleans Finest Musicians | Invitation Calligraphy and Custom Monogram: PenDance Calligraphy | Custom Stamp: Paper Gold Co. | Custom Map: Designs by Robyn Love