The bride, a Louisiana native, says she always dreamed of an outdoor tented wedding close to home. So, after Billy proposed last October, the couple took that vision and ran, ultimately hosting a wedding in New Orleans that celebrated the city in every detail from the location (the French Quarter, naturally) to the entertainment (a local second line band) and the cuisine (fresh gulf oysters and seafood staples from Brennan's). There was even an "after-after-party" on Bourbon Street, and Garth Brooks's "Callin' Baton Rouge," a favorite song amongst LSU football fans, made for one of the night's most memorable moments.
But New York City, the place where the couple first met and fell in love, also played a part in their wedding inspiration. Keep reading to see how Brooks and Billy brought a dose of Manhattan to their romantic winter wedding in New Orleans, as planned by Leslie Campbell Weddings & Events and photographed by Jenn Ocken Photography.
The couple worked with Ceci New York to create a unique yet classic invitation suite. The resulting design set the mood for the December wedding with an elegant script font, silver accents, and a unique laser-cut liner.
Brooks had ten bridesmaids stand by her side, including fellow models Robin Holzken and Annika Krijt. They all wore navy silk pajama sets as they got ready together.
For the ceremony, Brooks wore the "Oberon" gown from Pronovias, which features a strapless neckline, fitted silhouette, and statement back of fabric-covered buttons. She accessorized with wedding shoes from family friend Dee Keller and jewels from Ring Concierge, Angara Jewelry, and Jade Trau. Her final accessory? A ring from Billy's mother that she tied to her bridal bouquet.
Brooks first said "yes" to her dress while shopping with her mother, sister, and future mother-in-law. However, the dress got one additional seal of approval before she walked down the aisle. "My dad came to the dress fitting, which was so special to have him there for that process," she says. "The girls were making jokes about who was going to shed the first tear. When I came out in the dress, my dad 'fainted' when he saw me. I knew it was the right dress!"
On the day of the wedding, the groom had a similar reaction. "When we did our first look, Billy was uncontrollably crying, which, of course, made everyone else cry," Brooks says. "It was so special!"
To complete the wedding party's elegant look, the bride asked her 'maids to dress in pewter gowns with a cowl-neckline. The women carried petite bouquets of white peonies, roses, and dusty miller.
The couple officially wed at St. Mary's Church, a cathedral that dates back to 1727. "We saw a lot of venues in New Orleans, and when we walked in, we immediately knew the church was a perfect fit for us," she explains. "It is a beautiful Catholic church connected to a historic convent." There, Father Tony Rigoli led a ceremony that included traditional vows and a reading by Raine Michaels, Bret Michaels's daughter. And, funny story: The couple's rings almost didn't make it to the church! The groom thought the bride had them and she thought he had them until about 10 minutes before the ceremony when they realized what had happened. Brooks adds, "One of our guests happened to be running late from the hotel and was able to grab them from the safe and literally ran them up to the priest as the bridesmaids were proceeding down the aisle!"
Following the ceremony, guests walked over to the reception area, which was set up in an adjacent courtyard at Old Ursuline Convent. Once there, everyone gathered around a garland-accented entryway to watch the Paulin Brothers Brass Band perform from the balcony.
Instead of a seated dinner, Brooks and Billy opted to do a cocktail-style reception. The night's menu included local staples such as gumbo and shrimp and grits, as well as an ice bar of fresh gulf oysters and boiled shrimp. They also served two signature cocktails: a spicy margarita for Brooks and a Manhattan for Billy.
To complement the venue's muted facade, décor was done in shades of cream and gray with blush accents. Our favorite touch? A Hermes throw blanket emblazoned with an "H" for the newlyweds' last name.
After enjoying cocktails and live music in the courtyard, everyone moved inside an elegantly draped tent for dinner and dancing. Just as the ceremony doors and grand balcony were dressed with floral garlands, the tent's entrance was also done up with a lush floral arch and romantic lighting to welcome guests to the next part of the evening.
The inside of the tent was set up for open seating with a mixture of tables and centerpieces in varying heights. Round tables were surrounded by Chiavari chairs and topped with tall arrangements of hydrangeas, roses, and greenery; while larger farm tables were elevated with upholstered, round-back chairs and lush garlands of greenery. Above, two chandelier groupings were covered with more greenery. "Although I was away, I was very involved and felt a part of the planning process," says the bride. "We had a longer engagement, so it was easier to take time to plan. We made a few trips to New Orleans for tastings and site visits."
For the reception, Brooks changed into a second strapless dress by Viero Bridal. This gown was made with sequin embellishments and a sexier bodice that perfectly signaled the transition from day to night.
For their first swing around the dancefloor, the newlyweds chose Frank Sinata's "The Way You Look Tonight." The Time of Your Life Band played throughout the reception, as Brooks and her father danced to Heartland's “I Loved Her First” and Billy and his mother danced to “Say A Little Prayer” by Aretha Franklin. The band knew how to read their crowd. "People in Louisiana are huge LSU football fans, and, in the middle of the wedding, the band announced that Joe Burrow, the quarterback for LSU, won the Heisman and then they played 'Callin Baton Rouge,'" recalls the bride. "Everyone went ballistic!"
The couple had two cakes: a six-tiered confection made with traditional almond buttercream and a chocolate-flavored groom's cake. The groom's cake was decorated with logos of Billy's favorite sports teams and the New York City skyline.
The cake cutting took place in front of a staircase covered in a lush display of peonies, roses, and greenery. The cake (and cake table!) were also accented with fresh flowers, with greenery and peonies surrounding the base and roses cascading from each tier.
In true New Orleans fashion, Brooks and Billy ended the night with a second line march through the French Quarter. Their final stop? Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar, a Bourbon Street staple, for the "after-after" party!
Ceremony Venue: St. Mary's Church
Reception Venue: Old Ursuline Convent
Wedding Planner: Leslie Campbell Weddings & Events
Officiant: Father Tony Rigoli
Bride's Ceremony Dress: Pronovias
Bride's Reception Dress: Viero Bridal
Bride's Veil: Daphne Newman Design
Bride's Shoes: Dee Keller
Hair: Beth Washington
Bridesmaids' Hair: SoHo Boutique Salon
Bride's Makeup: Bruce Lindstrom, using Charlotte Tilbury
Bridesmaids' Makeup: Amy Thornton
Groom's Attire: Tom Ford
Engagement Ring: Jade Trau
Wedding Bands: Hamra Diamonds
Floral Design: Billy Heroman's
Invitations: Ceci New York
Ceremony Music: Dreux Montegut
Cocktail Hour Music & Second Line: Paulin Brothers Brass Band
Reception Music: The Time of Your Life Band
Catering: Ralph Brennan Catering
Wedding Cake: Chasing Wang
Transportation: American Luxury
Accommodations: The Ritz-Carlton New Orleans
Videography: Nathan Willis
Photography: Jenn Ocken Photography
Guest Photography: Boogie Booth
Ice Sculpture: Ice Dragon
After-Party Venue: Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar