In the fall of 2004, Jeffrey Kahn joined Ashley Cortes’s high school class and immediately caught her eye. “I had no idea then, but that new kid and I were about to begin a decade-long adventure together,” Ashley says. On their 10th anniversary, Jeff surprised Ashley with a classic New York City evening, starting with dinner at Tavern on the Green, followed by a horse-drawn carriage ride to the Plaza Hotel. “As the carriage pulled away, I saw the Pulitzer Fountain in front of the hotel, surrounded with candles and white rose petals,” she says. “Jeff got down on one knee and told me 10 years wouldn’t be enough, asking me to spend forever with him.”
Luckily, the couple had chosen their wedding venue years before. “I grew up spending summers in New Orleans, and it’s such a special place for me,” says Ashley. “In college, Jeff and I visited my family there and stayed at the Ritz-Carlton. We saw a wedding in the courtyard, and Jeff said it would be a great place to have our wedding one day, so that’s what we did!” With a venue locked down, the couple set about designing a celebration with New Orleans’s character, inspired by the city’s history and charm. Keep reading to see Greer Gattuso's gorgeous photos of the perfectly curated details!
“My mother wore long sleeves for her wedding, and I wanted my dress to have sleeves too,” says Ashley. She was on the hunt for delicate lace, a natural waist, a deep-V neckline, and sleeves, and she found it all in this stunning Monique Lhuillier gown. “The skirt was printed with flowers, and the bodice was sheer Chantilly lace,” she describes. To tie into New Orleans’s old-world charm, Ashley layered her veil over a gilded flower crown.
Ashley’s bridesmaids all chose their own dresses, picking colors that fit the dusty-blue-and-gray palette. Her maid of honor’s dress featured a sheer bodice and 3-D blooms that complemented the bride’s gown beautifully.
The bride paired her oval engagement ring with an infinity band. She skipped a big bouquet in favor of a nosegay of white ranunculus, stephanotis, and lilies of the valley. The bridesmaids’ gathered bouquets mixed porcelain spray roses with white stock and green amaranthus.
“Jeff and I wrote personal messages to each other and read them during the ceremony,” says Ashley. “We promised to love each other in good times but even more in bad, because we know we will have to love each other that much more when times are tough.”
After they said “I do,” the couple led their guests in a second-line parade from Immaculate Conception Jesuit Church, down Canal Street, and to the Ritz-Carlton, carrying lace parasols as guests waved custom handkerchiefs.
Ashley teamed up with her bridesmaids to assemble welcome bags and table numbers. “We gave all of our guests cans of Abita beer, Crystal hot sauce, and creole-flavored Zapps potato chips,” she describes. For the table numbers, the women glued boxwood wreaths to French-blue letterpressed numbers.
“I love the beautiful decay of New Orleans and wanted every element to feel lived in,” Ashley explains. The centerpieces combined pastoral candlesticks and worn silver vases with a combination of quicksand roses, white larkspur, hydrangeas, Italian ruscus, ivy, and silver dollar eucalyptus. Blush garden roses and spray roses were draped dramatically on the newlyweds’ gold Chiavari chairs.
To give guests a real taste of the city, the evening’s menu included panko-crusted shrimp, corn and crab bisque, and a duet of braised beef short ribs and Gulf shrimp and stone-ground grits. “We picked crowd favorites, incorporating flavors New Orleans is known for,” Ashley says.
Jackie Kennedy’s swirling all-white wedding cake served as the inspiration for Ashley and Jeff’s almond, strawberry, and blueberry confection. “The top layer had lily-of-the-valley rosettes, followed by our custom fleur-de-lis crest. Then our pastry chef mimicked the floral detail of my gown in icing!” Ashley describes.
“I love karaoke, so Jeff and I were thrilled when the band brought us up on stage to sing ‘Don’t Stop Believin’,” says the bride. “It was such a blast!”
Balancing expectations was a challenge, but Ashley realized that whatever didn’t make it into the plans wouldn’t take away from the day itself. “Yes, it’s all about you and your partner making a beautiful commitment to each other, but other people will have opinions. Be sensitive to everyone involved, but listen to your own voice!” And on the day of, the only overwhelming thing was all the love the couple received. Says Ashley, “I wasn’t prepared for how emotional it would be!”
Ceremony Venue: Immaculate Conception Jesuit Catholic Church
Reception Venue, Catering & Cake: The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans
Bride's Dress: Monique Lhuillier
Bride's Veil: Saks Fifth Avenue
Bride's Shoes: Badgley Mischka
Hair: Carpe Diem Boutique Salon
Makeup: Meggan Ory
Groom's Attire: My Suit
Floral Design: The Plant Gallery
Wedding Bands: Lauren B Fine Jewelry and Diamonds
Invitations & Paper Products: Scriptura
Photo Booth: Epic Moment Photo Booth
Music: Crescent City Soul
Rentals: Southern Hospitality, Your Event Delivered
Photography: Greer Gattuso
Videography: Montoto Productions