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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

lisa Written with love by Lisa
2 Comments
  1. avatar Richard King reply

    What absolutely beautiful work, Inspired!

  2. avatar Jen M reply

    Beautiful wedding! My husband and I were married at Royal Sonesta in 2013…lots of amazing memories! Wyeth was a joy to work with and she is such a sweet, sweet lady. Best Wishes to you both!

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When a wedding planner and a chef tie the knot, you might expect beautiful styling, gorgeous details, and delicious food. And in the case of Elyse and Jack, you’d be right! Their wedding day at Stella Plantation had all of those things and more. Mixing together sweet details from their love story (yummy mini pizzas) with romantic decor (tons of dreamy candles, plus 13 different crystal chandeliers!), they created a celebration that was just as lovely as it was meaningful. I also love the way they weaved Elyse’s signature “xoxo” throughout their day, and right on into their newlywed home!

P.S. If you’re thinking the only way these photos could be prettier is if they were printed on glossy paper and surrounded by other wedding goodness, you’re in luck! We’re so glad Greer Gattuso was on hand to capture this beautiful wedding, and we were proud to feature it in Southern Weddings V8. If you don’t have your copy yet, look for it on news stands across the Southeast, or order it before we sell out here!

Since I’ve signed all of my letters to Jack with “xoxo” for years, we fell in love with the idea of having “xoxo” accents throughout the design! As guests were first introduced to the wedding through the save the dates, they noticed my handwritten “xoxo” at the top. We then commissioned one of the best local calligraphers to design our “xoxo” logo, which we used as a dance floor vinyl, had laser cut for our wedding cake topper, gold foiled on our napkins, printed on our koozies, and more! We even used “elysexoxojack” as our wedding hashtag! The “xoxo” has since carried over into our home decor, which continues to make me smile and think of our wedding.

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. Having shopped through New Orleans with my clients, I knew I’d have to travel to find my dress, so my mother, bridesmaids, and aunts joined me in Houston for a long weekend. Ironically, the bridal attendant had to force me to try my dress on! After removing the one-shoulder strap and some floral appliqués, it was exactly what I had envisioned myself wearing.

As the guests arrived for our wedding ceremony, they were greeted by my six honorary bridesmaids at our confetti bar! They were instructed to make their own mix of navy and metallic confetti to toss at us as we walked back up the aisle as husband and wife. Our immediate family members were given wedding bells to ring after our kiss, and my sorority sisters were each handed a Killarney rose–my sorority’s signature flower.

Tell us a bit about the wedding ceremony. My dad walked me down a long, tree-lined aisle as a cello and violin played. Once the celebrant greeted the guests, my aunt delivered an original ode to love. This was followed by the reading of the poem “Love” by Roy Croft, a poem read during recruitment in Delta Zeta Sorority, by my maid of honor, and a contemporary version of Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” sung by a dear friend. Thank goodness I had gifted Jack a “Mr.” hanky because I needed it a few times myself!
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We wrote an original set of vows for both of us to repeat during the ceremony. These vows were a little more traditional, but still so meaningful to us.

Did you have a cocktail hour? If so, what was it like? The cocktail party started outside of the tent at our champagne table, where we had rows of pre-poured champagne, each glass adorned with either a gold pom, a rock candy stick, or a rim of edible gold sugar. Our family and friends enjoyed cocktails around highboys with floral ties by the glow of our three 10-foot walls of candles.

New Orleans thrives on a buffet-style reception–they keep people moving, mingling, and dancing! Food was really important to Jack, as he’s a chef, but I am a picky eater, so we wanted to have food that could could represent us both. We offered elegant food like oysters bordelaise, turtle soup, red snapper filet with crawfish ravigot, cajun duck breast, and marsala mushroom-topped tenderloin to suit Jack’s sophisticated palate. Then, to represent my favorite foods, we served miniature Margherita pizzas and had a french fry and mac and cheese bar that guests could top with their favorite accoutrements!

Did you try anything new or nontraditional? Our guest book was a nod to the hopeless romantic in each of us! Like the Parisian love lock bridge, we asked guests to sign and add their well wishes for our relationship to a padlock, then lock in their love by attaching it to a trellis, which we continue to enjoy in the landscaping in our backyard!

What was your reception like? As cocktail hour came to an end, the drapes of the tent were pulled back to reveal the reception inside. A golden-draped tent with 13 different crystal chandeliers added the backdrop and lighting for our perfect night! Our tables were a mix of round and square tables, the chairs were a mix of gold chiavari, gold estate, and ghost chairs, and our three different specialty table linens added various navy textures to the room. The whole room twinkled!

Our cakes added some wow factor! The wedding cake was a four-tiered fondant cake accented with gold leafing and topped with our xoxo wooden cake topper! It sat on a gold bar cart–a gift from my aunts for my bridal shower–adorned with candles on the bottom shelf and on the floor around the base. The backdrop was a custom painted and gold-leafed wall that our florist created. After we cut our cake, we asked the ladies of the bridal party to join us for a cake pulls–a Southern tradition where each girl pulls a charm out of the cake that is said to predict their fate. The groom’s cake was four stacked king cakes, a New Orleans speciality, with a fleur de lis topper and purple, green, and gold Mardi Gras beads scattered on the table!

Don’t miss Elyse and Jack’s wedding film by our Blue Ribbon Vendor Bride Film below!

How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. In eighth grade, my parents moved to a new city right outside of New Orleans, where I made many new friends! One afternoon, I had joined my new girlfriends at the ballpark to watch their friends play baseball. After a foul ball was hit towards the stands, I scooped it up and chucked it back to the boys. Let’s just say that I didn’t throw like a girl! Impressed by my athleticism, Jack came to chat with me after the game. We spent many afternoons together at the ballpark after that, and the rest is history!
Tell us about a date you’ll always remember. For our one-year dating anniversary (keep in mind that we were 16 years old), Jack told me that he was going to cook pizza, my favorite meal, from scratch. He surprised me by writing “I <3 U” in pepperonis! He had already discovered his love for cooking (he's now a chef) and had gotten pretty good at it, so the fact that he simplified his dinner plans to cook this simple dish showed that he really understood and loved me. I’ve always told him just how special that meal made me feel! Describe the proposal: After the weather forced Jack to change his plans of proposing in the park in front of a photographer, the ring must have been burning a hole in his pocket. The very next day, he surprised me with another hand-tossed pizza, this one reading “Marry Me?” in pepperonis– a nod to our one-year anniversary date! Needless to say, we were too excited to eat the proposal pizza!
Three adjectives that describe the day are: Elegant, custom, lively
How many guests attended your wedding? 200
What did the groom and groomsmen wear? Jack had purchased a light navy suit months before the wedding, but three weeks before the big day, an editorial arrived in the mail with a velvet, navy tux blazer that he had to have! It arrived just in time! He also wore my late grandfather’s Rolex watch that my father asked him to wear. During my dad’s rehearsal dinner speech, he said, “Jack, I would like you to wear this watch this weekend so that Elyse’s grandfather can be a part of his granddaughter’s wedding. Keep it on your wrist so he can feel your pulse quicken as you watch Elyse walk up the aisle in her beautiful wedding dress.” It meant so much to me to have my Dide there in spirit! The groomsmen all wore matching black suits with navy skinny ties. We also gifted them polka dot socks for a fun touch.
Tell us about your wedding flowers. I really wanted my bouquet to have a hand-picked, natural feel, so we used lush blooms in whites, ivories, and blush mixed with loose, cascading foliage to give it lots of movement. We applied gold leafing to a few leaves for a gilded touch! We used Frou Frou Chic hand-dyed ribbon to tie it all together. As a finishing touch, I had “Mrs. Jennings” in my handwriting turned into a gold bracelet, which we wrapped around the stems. Just as the bridesmaids’ dresses were different, I wanted their bouquets to be different as well. Each had the same filler flowers and foliage, but a unique focal flower! I also made each of the ladies a handwritten gold bracelet with their names to wrap around their bouquets.
Tell us a bit about your first dance. We danced to “Amazed” by Lonestar, which has been “our song” since we first started dating in 2003–the year the song became most popular. We sang every word of the song to each other while we danced! So romantic and nostalgic!
Tell us about your grand exit. In true dramatic fashion, we ended our reception with fireworks over the Mississippi River to celebrate not only our love, but all of the love that surrounds us each and every day! It was a truly magical ending to the most incredible weekend of our lives, and the perfect start to our forever!

Planning and Design: Elyse Jennings Weddings | Venue: Stella Plantation | Photographer: Greer Gattuso Photography | Videographer: Bride Film | Candles and Lighting: Luminous Events | Florist: Bee’s Wedding and Event Designs | Rentals: Perrier Rentals | Vintage Rentals: Distressed Rentals | Hair Stylist: Ginger Dickey | Makeup Artist: Ashley Sievert | Band: Groovy 7 | Catering: New Orleans Catering | Ceremony Musicians: New Orleans Finest Musicians | Officiant: Rev. Johnny Adams | Transportation: Bonomolo and Hotard | Save the Dates and Invitations: Tupelo Honey | Invitation and Envelope Calligraphy and Signage: Ebb and Flow | Cake Baker: Royal Cakery | Champagne Flutes: Anthropologie | Bride’s Gown: Ines Di Santo | Bridal Salon: Ivory Bridal Atelier | Bride’s Veil: Wedding Belles | Bride’s Earrings: Kendra Scott | Bride’s Shoes: Jimmy Choo | Bride’s Robe: Flora Nikrooz | Menswear: Express | Bridesmaid Dresses: Adrianna Papell and Badgley Mischka | Tinsel Stirrers: Em for Marvelous | XOXO Cake Topper: My Girl Josephine | Bouquet Ribbon: Frou Frou Chic | Name Bracelets: Yvonne Boutique | XOXO Floor Decal: Off the Wall Expression | Confetti: Inside My Nest | Frosted Go Cups and Napkins: For Your Party | Koozies: Discount Mugs

Greer Gattuso, Bride Film, and Stella Plantation are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

marissa Written with love by Marissa
7 Comments
  1. avatar Brittany reply

    By far one of my favorite weddings. It is the perfect mix of elegant and fun. I might be using some of these ideas :-)

  2. avatar Champagne bar with tinsel stirrers – Em for Marvelous – reply

    […] of my very favorite weddings from the latest issue of Southern Weddings is on their blog today! Elyse and Jack, who began dating when they were 16, blew me away with all of the thoughtful and […]

  3. avatar Elyse reply

    Our wedding was the very best day of my life and it’s made me smile from ear to ear to relive it through the magazine and the blog! You ladies are just the sweetest! XOXO

  4. avatar Sybil reply

    Beautiful wedding! I love alll the detail and how special it seems for the couple.

  5. avatar Nicole reply

    Beautiful…so this is what a wedding looks like when a super talented wedding planner makes the dream of her wedding day come to life. Details, Details, Details, Love, Love, Love!!!

  6. avatar Brooke reply

    This was one of my favorite weddings from the new magazine! Seeing even more pictures on the blog is just so exciting! I absolutely love the confetti bar and the mini chicken and waffles!

  7. avatar 5 Southern Wedding Traditions Any Couple Can Incorporate reply

    […] See the full wedding here! […]

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