‘Ready to party big time’: New Orleans wedding planning tips, plus supply chain issues

Now that weddings are being held again without as many COVID-19 precautions, many couples are ready to party big time, forgoing intimate weddings for large celebrations and  a greater focus on the guest experience.

“I thought that people would take the micro-wedding thing and really run with that, but that hasn’t happened,” says Becky Lampp, owner of Spanish Oak Events, a New Orleans design and event planning firm. “It’s for good reason — we, as a society, didn’t get to celebrate anything for so long. I’m not seeing couples go down on guest counts … They say, ‘I haven’t seen this person in three years. I want them to be here.’ Even if they legally got married during the pandemic, it’s more about all being able to be together now.”

A focus on the guest experience

Following years of social shutdowns, couples are ushering guests back into society with thoughtful touches, with the theme of not taking any moment for granted.

“I hear a lot of couples say, ‘We just want to make sure that we all have fun and enjoy everybody being together,” Lampp says. “It’s not so much about the formalness of (the day). Couples are asking more, ‘How are we going to incorporate everything about who we are into the day?’ and enhance the guest experience so that people really feel like they are celebrating the joy of the couple together. There is such a strong focus now on the guest experience and spending time with the guests.”

That has included replacing smaller, more formal rehearsal dinners only open to the wedding party with large 150-person welcome cocktail parties, Lampp says.

Ana Belsome, owner of Ana Belsome Events based in New Orleans, says couples are also putting a larger focus on their guests enjoying New Orleans on the days surrounding their wedding.

“Couples are very in tune with wanting to have the guest experience. We go over at length which hotels and which room blocks are best for which parts of the city because couples are concerned with how their guests are going to enjoy the weekend and their ease of exploring the city.”

Personalized touches

“There’s more of a focus on what really matters,” Lampp says. “It has been so refreshing to take an alternative look at ‘traditional’ ways of approaching what is important to them. I’m seeing really cool things of forgetting what we think we ‘should’ do and doing what we actually want to do.”

Personalized guest book alternatives include recorded telephone messages where guests can leave well-wishes, or notes inside a coffee table book that reflect the couple’s hobbies and interests. Touches such as a couple’s monogram, logo or even personalized caricatures of them with their pets on everything from cocktail napkins to glassware has been a trend for couples who want to give their guests a bigger glimpse into their love story.

That ‘Instagram moment’

Social media, especially Instagram and TikTok, “has taken weddings and turned them upside down,” Belsome says. “Everyone wants that Instagram, photo-op moment.”

Couples are asking photographers and videographers what they can offer in terms of social media reels and recaps, and viral moments are the goal. Lampp employs a social media person to come to events and post content on her business social media account and says brides love seeing themselves tagged in the posts.

“There is actually someone who started a business — not (to) be your videographer — but (to) be your content creator for the day of your wedding,” Belsome says. “Couples want those special TikTok moments. It’s like a bonus bridesmaid; that person is there to capture content and create reels of everything throughout the entire day.”

Planning ahead is a must

With weddings, vacations and other celebrations rescheduled due to Covid, and everyone clamoring to get back out there as soon as possible, many venues and vendors in the city are booked well in advance — more than ever before.

“One of the things I encourage couples is maybe we get your invites out a little early — maybe earlier than standard etiquette. Ask the people in your wedding party immediately to be in the wedding and the VIPs who really matter to make sure they don’t have a date conflict,” Lampp says.

Belsome says booked vendors and venue unavailability has made couples consider non-weekends for their big celebrations.

“People are more open to Thursday and Sunday weddings,” she says. “If you ask any venue, they have weddings Monday through Sunday. Sunday weddings are becoming more common just because people are more open to those dates.”

Supply chain issues impact wedding floral budgets, change reception format

Lampp says couples are finding that florists are feeling the strain of supply chain issues with fresh blooms. Floral orders fly internationally on commercial airlines. In New Orleans, florals typically come from South America, where political unrest and fewer people traveling internationally has lead to substantially higher costs.

“A wedding that you planned in 2019 … you can basically triple that cost of florals to now,” she says. “Five thousand dollars doesn’t really get you a lot of flowers today. The floral vendors that I work with are now requiring $5,000-$10,000 minimums because their costs increased so greatly.”

As a result, some couples are considering having cocktail receptions over a seated dinner to save costs with fewer tables needing decor, Lampp says.

“When you have 200 people and you have to seat all of them, that’s more tables and more decor, so when we lean toward the cocktail-style and you do half that amount of decor, that definitely helps couples. They are much more conscious of how they can repurpose their floral budget for, say, an amazing floral alter or a floral wall,” Lampp says.

“It’s really asking, ‘What is the moment you want with the budget?’ Three years ago, you could be a little bit more loosey-goosey with these things.”

This story appeared in the July 19 issue of Gambit in the Bride + Groom special section

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