So, you’re planning a destination wedding in New Orleans. Congrats! There’s legit no cooler place on earth to get married than the Big Easy. The food, the culture, the history, THE MUSIC…none of it can be beat. You’re going to have a blast saying your I Do’s here, no doubt – but there are a few things that you need to know before you start planning.
Pulling together a destination wedding can be stressful no matter the location. But since New Orleans is such a unique city, it has its own, well…let’s call them quirks, shall we? She plays by her own rules, this city – but quirks are no big deal, so long as you plan for them! Having a game plan ahead of time will ensure that your wedding will be a smash. And that you remain as stress-free as possible!
So, let’s dive in!
Picking A Date
Choosing a wedding date is usually the first step in planning any wedding, right? But choosing the right date is particularly important when it comes to planning a destination wedding in New Orleans. We are a city of party people, yo – which is fun, until you’re choosing your wedding date and all the parades and festivals make everything complicated. We have several big events throughout the year–not just Mardi Gras! And when it’s festival season, hotels book up, traffic becomes atrocious, and popular venues are busy hosting balls and events.
Make sure to consult the city’s Schedule of Events before you pick your wedding date!
Another important thing to consider is our weather pattern. Spring is a very rainy season for us, often providing predictable afternoon showers every day. Our summers are long and extremely hot and humid, as well. So, if you’re dreaming of an outdoor ceremony, October and November are usually a pretty good bet, being relatively dry and cool!
And since I know the days are longer or shorter in various parts of the country compared to good ol’ NOLA, keep our daylight hours in mind when you’re planning. It’s a good idea to plan your ceremony and photo time around our sunset. In the spring and summer, the sun sets around 7pm CST. In the fall and winter, it’s closer to 5pm CST.
Choosing a Venue
Now that you’ve narrowed down your date, it’s time to start considering where to do the thing! New Orleans has a huge variety of venue types to suit whatever your needs are.
We’ve got gorgeous outdoor locations, like the NOMA Sculpture Garden, City Park, and the Tree of Life. If indoor is more your thing, the city has some beautiful churches, mansions and eclectic covered venues. Many restaurants in the city have gorgeous courtyards used for ceremonies, and provide an indoor/outdoor combination option for your reception. Broussard’s is one of my favorites!
Whichever venue best suits your personality as a couple, make sure to book it as far in advance as possible. New Orleans is a popular destination wedding spot, so venues fill up fast!
Maybe you’re planning a destination wedding and bringing in your guests from out of town. Or, maybe you’re local and you just know that your crew are going to be partying a little too hard to be able to drive home at the end of the night. Either way, you’re likely to need to arrange overnight accommodations for your guests. New Orleans has many places to stay, so you’ll more than likely be able to find hotels within walking distance of your venue. Make sure to reserve your block of rooms as early as possible, though. You don’t want to find out too late that a conference or other event means that your guests will be scrambling!
The city also is a popular spot for AirBNB – so family and friends can also share their stay, as well.
The Marriage License
Getting your marriage license can be a little bit complicated – but nothing you can’t handle by being prepared. If you’re getting married in the city of New Orleans, you must allow at least 72 hours between the time the license is issued, and the ceremony. So, no running by the courthouse on the way to the ceremony (sorry). You must apply in person, provide a photo ID, and have two witnesses present to get one. And the license expires after 30 days – so no dragging your feet!
If this level of preparation isn’t possible for you (say, if you live in another state and are only coming into the city for the big event), an alternative plan would be to get married legally in your home state before the big shindig. You can get all of the paperwork and official-like stuff done before your wedding, so that you can just have fun and celebrate with your friends and family in the city.
We’ve got some unique wedding traditions here, some of which can’t be found anywhere else! Familiarizing yourself with them ahead of time can help you decide which you’d like to incorporate in your day, and prepare your guests to participate in them with you.
One popular local tradition is a second line. Think of it as a mini wedding parade, starring the couple and their wedding guests! The couple typically lead this parade (the “first line”) holding fancy umbrellas, followed by a hired band. Then come all of the guests, who wave handkerchiefs in celebration.
Many couples who participate in a second line use personalized handkerchiefs as both wedding favor and second line accessory.
Cool memento, right?!
For any guests who may be elderly or otherwise physically unable to parade through the streets with you, no worries! Hire a pedicab for grandma, and let her get her party on as she rides behind you. Pedicabs are also a great way to travel short distances around the French Quarter when it’s time to get back to your hotel or parking structure from the wedding venue.
IMPORTANT NOTE: You’ll need to arrange a police escort and permit for your second line, since the city streets are actually blocked off for your parade. START HERE to get your second line arrangements started!
I hope you’ve found this guide to getting married in New Orleans helpful! If you’re looking for a wedding photographer who knows all the ins and outs of The Big Easy, CLICK HERE to contact me, and check your wedding date availability!