Friday, March 15, 2013

New Orleans has a few wedding traditions that are specific to us (or our Southern region), although some New Orleans natives do not realize that things like our over the top groom’s cakes and police escorts to and from the ceremony are not a part of weddings everywhere. My New Orleans brides have always enjoyed keeping things traditional no matter what age they get married, which is why they have changed some of the traditions to adjust to their specific style, guests and desires.  One of the newest changes is the twist they have put on the tradition of Cake Pulls.   

Cake pulls, for my destination brides reading this blog, originally consisted of the bride buying silver charms tied to the end of thin satin ribbons which would be placed into the cake and pulled by the six to eight single girls at the wedding, chosen by the bride.  The girls might consist of single bridesmaids and close family or friends, but all girls involved in the pull had to be single.  Typically, the charms were made up of such things as a clover (symbolizing luck in your life), an anchor (symbolizing hope on the horizon), a heart (symbolizing love or romance), and of course, the coveted ring, which would indicate you are the next to get married.  I’m sorry to say that there’s even an old maid button which symbolizes your eternal single status.

Now, brides want to have their bridesmaids involved in the pulls, which means married women get the chance at the cake pulls.  New charms have been added to the list, such as a baby carriage indicating who will be the next to get pregnant.   Then there are charms that are all together different such as the New Orleans charms.  These consist of charms that are universal such as a mardi gras mask (life will be a party), St. Louis Cathedral (your marriage will be filled with peace and joy), a horse and carriage (life filled with romance), etc.  The lists of charms that are out on the market today are endless.  And places to buy the charms are a bit easier to come by these days as well.  Your bakery may sell them or you can find them online. 

The cost will vary, depending on the quality of the charm you are looking for.  Typically, the charms were cheap and tied to a simple satin string.  More and more, brides are choosing to get more expensive charms and attach them to pearl or sterling silver bracelets.  At a place like Mignot Fagot, you can spend up to $600 on a set of 8 cake pulls, but let’s discuss the realism of putting a piece of nice jewelry into a cake.  It’s like the guy that thinks putting a $20K engagement ring into a baked potato is a good idea.  It’s not! 

If you’d like to participate in this tradition and make the charms something that your girls would want to keep and actually wear as jewelry, I have two options for you.  First, you need to buy something worth wearing.  You will need to buy the charms at a jewelry store, more than likely, in order to make them worth keeping.  If you decide to do that, my suggestion is to have the charms wrapped in a small plastic jewelry bag to protect the charm from the cake.  No matter how many times you wash the charm and how much you spent on it, there’s always going to be cake somewhere in the details of your $100 charm.  An even better idea for those who really want the charms to be a gift to their bridesmaids is to pick an individual charm for each of your girls and have them wrapped in jewelry boxes.  Place them in front of the cake where the pulls would be and have each girl open the box instead of pull from the cake.  This way, they still have the fun of not knowing what charm they will get, but they will get to wear the charm on a necklace or bracelet of their choice truly enjoying the gift you spent money on.
Nine times out of ten, the cake pulls will just be a fun, girlie tradition that’s consistently practiced intending nothing more than bragging rights for the ring puller and heckling for the “old maid.”  But I am finding more and more brides who want to use these traditions as something special for their best girlfriends and if that is the case, be different and pick your own charms.  Spend a little more money on them and give them something that’s significant to them and your friendship.  And for God’s sake, do not make them stoop to the level of licking cake of off their fine jewelry – for a trinket it is part of the fun, but not for real jewelry!

photo by Photography by Louis

Friday, March 8, 2013

Independent Venues and the Questions to Ask

Every destination bride has her own reasons for choosing New Orleans as her wedding location. For some, it may be the place where she met the groom. For others, this may have been the first place she and her groom vacationed. Then there are the couples who have never even been here, yet they have always loved us from afar and decided to make their wedding the get-a-way they've always dreamed of. No matter what brought them here, nine times out of ten, they all want the same thing; a venue that you won't find anywhere else.

What that means is that, if they can help it, hotel ballrooms are not an option. They want unique, independent venues that offer outdoor spaces or exposed brick.  They want the character that this city is known for.  But they aren’t always aware of what that character costs.
Independent venues such as The Board of Trade, the plantations on Esplanade, the Chicory, the Wax Museum – basically, anything not within the walls of a hotel – will offer the charm and “New Orleans appeal” most destination brides are looking for.  And for some reason, brides have an untrue notion that these venues are more reasonably priced than downtown hotels.  Perhaps it’s because, when glancing at price lists, the hotels list a food and beverage minimum, but the independent venues just give you a rental cost.  Seeing that a venue only costs $2500 seems like a great deal when you compare it to a $15K minimum at a hotel, but when you consider bar packages, catering prices, linens, chairs, tables, ceremony space, etc, the price can become a lot more than that $15K you were thinking you could beat..
When you price out these independent venues, you will be given their rental fee and then, either a fixed menu with a price per head that you can add to if possible, or a list of caterers they approve you to use.  Bar packages and catering menus are definite things to pay attention to, but what you really need to find out is what’s included in the rental fee.  Does the venue provide linens or tables and chairs of any kind?  Sometimes, the answer is “no,” and you need to find that out up front so you can price out what it’s going to take to “build” the reception or ceremony you are dreaming of. 
For instance, if you are using the space for your ceremony as well, you need to find out the ceremony fee.  And, if chairs are not included, you will have to rent those for the ceremony, at least.  To give you an example, even for white wooden chairs (the cheapest), you’re looking at about $2 a chair.  For 100 guests, we have an additional $200 plus deliverer and tax from the rental company.  With the rental fee that can sometimes be at least $500, you just added $800 to the $2500 rental fee.  If that hasn’t broken your budget, tables can range from $5 to $7 a piece plus linens to cover those tables can be $20 a piece, minimum. 

Here’s a low estimate of a floor plan with limited seating:
Eight tables (48 inch rounds), seating for 8 at each table plus linens for each of the eight tables – $5 x 8 tables = $40 plus $20 x 8 linens for the those tables = $160 plus $5 x 64 chairs (everyone wants chiavari chairs for their reception and those are at least $5/chair) = $320.  So for seating for only 64 guests, we’re looking at an additional $520 not including tax, set up charge, delivery and pick up – which can be an additional $300 depending on set up times, etc.

I’ve just listed two minor scenarios that added almost $1000 each for rentals of things that may not be included when glancing at the venue’s rental price.  My point in all of this is that asking the right questions is crucial when trying to stay on budget.  Contracts are not hard to read, but sometimes it’s what’s not written in that contract that we don’t think about prior to booking which sticks us with the unexpected costs in the end.  Courtyards need rain plans and potential tenting and outdoor spaces also need heat in the winter so make sure you think of all details before signing a contract based solely on a low rental rate and a cool outdoor ceremony option.  Keeping in mind that New Orleans is known for 3 hour receptions should also give you a heads up to ask if the rental fee includes three hours of rental for the space or four.  That fourth hour can be the budget breaker!