New Orleans: The French ConnectionWords by Shana Kinnerup
Never having had the opportunity to indulge in the party scene of Bourbon Street in New Orleans, I was eager for the chance to see what all the hype was about. I was surprised, and pleased, to discover that the infamous drink-fest experience known as Bourbon Street was just one small piece of an amazing destination.
New Orleans proved to be a place rich in culture, history and European influence. Having had the opportunity to travel to many amazing international locales, what struck me as so appealing about New Orleans was the feeling that I was strolling the streets of an international destination, but on a domestic budget.
The French influence, in particular, is so prevalent you see and feel it in everything from the architecture to the infamous wrought iron balconies, street names, restaurants and even street performers. This culture embodies the (appropriately named) French Quarter and the romance oozes around every corner. Having to remind myself on more than one occasion that I was on assignment for a bridal destination story (and not a European travel blog), my immediate excitement turned to the wealth of opportunity New Orleans affords for bridal parties and out-of-town guests to experience something so close to home, yet feels like they are a continent away.
With a European flare for tolerance, this is a city with a real sense of humor and filled with some of the friendliest people I’ve encountered. The destination bride has options ranging from a historic cathedral ceremony and opulent ballroom reception, to a private garden or even quaint restaurant as their backdrop. One of the most decadent options I found was at the luxurious Omni Royal Orleans, located in the heart of the French Quarter. This historic property is the only hotel with a private, unobstructed roof-top space, with views which lend themselves to a romantic celebration. Also offering a grand ballroom and garden courtyard, they can host up to 400 guests.
Consider other local flare to add some character to your wedding such as horse-drawn carriage rides through the French Quarter or your own brass marching band by hiring a second line. Having accidentally stumbled upon a wedding second line on my last night, my jealousy was immediately palpable. Your own band will lead you, your bridal party and wedding guests on an escorted parade through the streets of the French Quarter to your next destination. Envision a ceremony at the historic St. Louis Cathedral followed by a bridal party parade to one of the rich banquet rooms at famous Brennan’s New Orleans.
Enjoying my last morning in New Orleans, I reflected on a few things I learned during my experience. Bourbon Street does not define New Orleans. Beignets are not just for tourists. The French Quarter is, visually, like no other place in this country. The European culture will, without encouragement, embellish the destination wedding (that’s in $, not €).
This article originally appeared in Destination I Do's Spring/Summer 2014 Issue. You can order your copy here.
Photo's courtesy of NewOrleansOnline.com and Omni Royal Orleans (last photo).
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