BDK and I actually celebrated our reception in the lobby of the historic Lakeside Inn! So, I love seeing couples transform non-traditional venues into beautiful reception sites that represent their own personal style and love story. Tess and Bernard wanted to show off where they’re proud to live, so they chose to hold their reception at the historic Etoile Polaire Lodge built in the 1830’s. No one had ever held a wedding reception there, so Tess and Bernard worked with their planner Clandestine Events, and Blue Ribbon Vendors Pret a Fete and Kim Starr Wise to develop their vision for a swamp-inspired, romantic vibe into the beautiful reception celebration Tess described as “perfection.” Keeping with their South New Orlean’s feel, they even ended the night with a “bounce” (new Orleans-style rap) performance by Vockah Redu!
Big thanks to Heirloom Collective for sharing such a fun day with us!
We met at the Voodoo Experience music festival in New Orleans in 2008. I was dating someone else at the time, but we became good friends. Bernard, as he likes to say, played the long game — and we got together for good in the spring of 2012. By the time we started dating, we didn’t need to worry about uncovering each others’ skeletons in the closet — we already knew all the dirt there was to know about each other!
Tell us all about the proposal! I came home from breakfast at my dad’s house to find a puppy (our second mixed breed rescue) on our bed with a ring on a gold cord around his neck. It was 9:30 in the morning and I was not expecting it in the slightest! The diamond was my great-grandmother’s, and my mom had helped Bernard design a contemporary setting.
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? The ceremony was only 40 our nearest and dearest — then we celebrated with 215 wonderful guests at the reception!
What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? We wanted all our wedding weekend events to be right in or around our neighborhood — we love where we live and wanted to show it off to visiting family and friends. Preservation Hall is a gorgeous, historic space that just screams New Orleans, and it’s small and intimate. The reception was at a masonic lodge built in the 1830’s — again, a gorgeous historic space. The coolest thing about the reception venue was that no one had ever had a wedding reception there — that also made it a ton of work as they had minimal infrastructure!
Did you write your own vows? We wrote our own vows, and we incorporated bits and pieces of various traditions. My favorite part was a vow we modified from a Buddhist ceremony we found online: “Tess and Bernard, just as we are a mystery to ourselves, each other person is also a mystery to us. Do you pledge to seek to understand yourselves, each other, and all living beings, to examine your own minds continually and to regard all the mysteries of life with curiosity and joy?”
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? Tess’s sister officiated our ceremony, which was wonderful — so sweet and intimate. Each of our moms did a reading — Bernard’s mom read “[love is more thicker than forget]” by e.e. cummings and mine read “The Two of You,” by Czeslaw Milosz. Bernard’s friend Barry read a selection from a gorgeous poem that moved us to tears the first time we read it, called “Little Sleep’s-Head Sprouting Hair in the Moonlight,” by Galway Kinnell.
What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? We were psyched to work with Emily Shaya from Pret a Fête rentals in New Orleans. She has an awesome selection of vintage furniture that helped us give the reception a distinct style beyond the typical table-chairs-centerpieces.
South Louisiana is a bit of its own animal as far as the South is concerned, but our wedding was certainly chock full of unique South Louisiana elements. Instead of a rehearsal dinner we had a crawfish boil for all our guests on Friday night — and a Cajun band, Soul Creole, played. On our wedding day we represented quite a few New Orleans musical traditions: traditional jazz at Preservation Hall, New Orleans funk from Dumpstaphunk, and even a bounce (new Orleans-style rap) performance by Vockah Redu to close out the reception!
Describe your wedding flowers. The interior of our reception venue was pretty stark, so we knew we’d need to go big with the flowers. Bernard wanted to stay far away from the typical ivory-and-pink palate — we developed a vision for a swamp-inspired, rustic, romantic vibe that our florist Kim Starr Wise executed to perfection. The vines all over the interior were her (brilliant) idea.
When did y’all get married? 3/29/15
Tell us about finding your wedding dress. I spent a weekend shopping for wedding dresses with my mom in New York, where I grew up, and didn’t find anything perfect. On a whim, I stopped into Town & Country, an old school bridal boutique in New Orleans, during my lunch break one day — and found the perfect dress!
Did you decide to do a first look? We didn’t do a first look. We had a small ceremony followed by champagne hour just with the ceremony guests — so we did our photos right after the ceremony. Everyone we wanted in photos was at the ceremony, so it was easy. Also, from being with friends the day of their weddings, it seemed that once they had their hair and makeup done, and their dress on, they were anxious to get the ceremony underway!
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. I walked down the aisle to “Such a Night” by Dr. John — a New Orleans classic and a nod to our shared history before we got together. Our first dance was “Rock with You” by Michael Jackson — we took dance lessons to prepare, which was a blast.
Describe your wedding cake or dessert. We had a wedding cake — coconut lime cake with lime curd filling and cream cheese frosting — as well as a groom’s cake, which was Super Mario-themed and complete with a fondant Yoshi (the name of our puppy, who delivered my engagement ring to me).
How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? We bought and renovated a house together before we even got engaged, which we felt was the big test of our relationship. We also started a joint checking account to pay all our shared expenses, which helped ease the transition and build trust!
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? It was definitely a second job, and the work fell (surprise, surprise) mostly on the bride. Planning an event in a space without the typical wedding infrastructure allows you to be way more creative — but it can also end up costing a lot more, and taking a huge amount more time and effort to plan.
What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? When my mom got confused about the order of the ceremony and stage-whispered loudly from the front row, “When are you going to kiss?”
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? The main thing your guests care about — and the main thing they will remember — is how happy you look. And believe it or not, all the stress of planning will melt away once you turn to each other to hold hands and say your vows.
Photographer: Heirloom Collective | Planner: Clandestine NOLA |
Ceremony Venue: Preservation Hall | Reception Venue: Étoile Polaire Masonic Lodge | Florist: Kim Starr Wise | Wedding Cake: Shake Sugary | Caterer: MoPho NOLA | Vintage Rentals: Pret a Fête | Rentals: Event Rental | Lighting: Firefly Ambiance | Musicians: Little Maker, Dumpstaphunk, Quickie Mart, Vockah Redu | Paper Products: Sarah Mangerson Design | Bride’s Gown: Watters Wtoo | Bride’s Hair Accessories/Veil/Jewelry: Ted Muehling | Hair Stylist and Makeup Artist: Blush and Bashful | Bride’s Shoes: London Sole | Groom’s Suit: Paul Smith | Groom’s Shoes by Cole Haan | Photo Booth: Deep Fried Photo
Kim Starr Wise, Firefly Ambiance, and Pret a Fete are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!