The Hitching Season

00:00 January 26, 2014
By: David Vicari

Spring is upon us; that time of year when the grounds thaw and nature becomes sun-drunk with sex. Budding love is as flagrant as the budding branches of Magnolia trees, and as the warming days of a new year welcome prospect and promise, wedding bells fittingly fill the air.

Tying the knot is a major commitment comprised of intricate preparation. Planning consumes the lives of the bride and groom, often to the point of madness. Venue reservations, catering, cake, bridal gown shopping, tuxedo rental, making sure the bridesmaids and groomsmen are squared away, invitations, honeymoon plans, transportation, guest accommodations...the list goes on and on. If you aren't a wedding planner or considering hiring one, the workload is enough to turn the sweetest blushing bride-to-be into a Bridezilla. Thankfully we have a healthy stock of facilities at our fingertips here in New Orleans. Might I begin with the grand temptress of all seasons herself, City Park.

Whether the open fields with their bayou-scapes grab you or one of the many sites on campus, the park has innumerable offerings for marital ceremonies. To name a few: Botanical Gardens, Pavilion of the Two Sisters, and Arbor Room at Popp Fountain, and of course there's Parkview Terrace which is stationed atop Morning Call coffee stand in the Casino Building. Guests can break away from the formalities for a classic New Orleans treat, as the beignet cafe is open 24 hours. The Park location is the second storefront for owners and brothers Robert and Mike Hennessy who pride themselves on their 'French Market Doughnuts.' The restaurant is loaded with nostalgia from the original lighted wooden arch to the golden PYOB (Powder Your Own Beignet) rule. And on the note of new traditions, dine-in customers occasionally find themselves serenaded by flute playing, bongo banging waitstaff members that aren't opposed to taking requests.

What was once Holy Trinity on Ferdinand Street is now referred to as the nondenominational church of the arts - otherwise known as Marigny Opera House. It's original details remain untouched, beautifully coated in various tones and stages of patina from the stained glass windows down to the peeling bits of floor. The feeling you get inside the space is certainly rustic, albeit ethereal. In 2011, Scott King and classic pianist Dave Hurlbert partnered to purchase the church and converted it into a hotspot of operatic, song and dance performance for the community. The Foundation is equipped to host private events along with specially permitted public performances. It's been a popular location among film and television scouts, wedding planners, and the scene for many photo shoots.

Another notable landmark in town, Eiffel Society has made a name for itself in the wedding arena. The ornate framework in which the nightclub/special events venue/reception hall is built was once a restaurant inside of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. After an engineer hired to assess the tower concluded that the restaurant was weighing it down, measures to preserve its structural integrity were taken. All of its 1,100 steel appendages and 30,000 bolts were plucked piece by piece from the massive 1889 World's Fair attraction. The famous slice of architecture was purchased by investors and shipped from Paris to New Orleans by way of New York City.

Chef Daniel Bonnot and business partner John Onorio, erected the reconstruction as a restaurant on St. Charles Avenue. After nearly 20 years of sitting idle, it became the Cricket Club, a supper and music club housing the Culinary Institute of New Orleans. Post Hurricane Katrina the space was renovated and given new life as Eiffel Society. Private events booker, Nicole Hershey explains, "We opened in 2010 and as a new venue, we've been working to capture the attention of the wedding market. Weddings typically book upwards of 8 to 18 months in advance, so it's taken some time to get our name out there. Because Eiffel isn't your traditional venue, we've found that we appeal to the contemporary bride interested in a fun, celebratory atmosphere rather than a conventional one." It's not only wedding parties that have found Eiffel to be a great spot for events. Mayor Landrieu recently booked the venue for the Mayors' Institute on City Design Conference in which Chef Jamielyn Arcega of Intermix & Mingle curated and customized the menus.

Hired as an independent contractor through the catering by Eiffel extension, Jamielyn procured locally sourced and sustainable menus considerate of indigenous produce and kind to those with dietary restrictions. The petite and fashionable Chef is inspired by her Filipino heritage, color, design and accessories, which are reflected via her creative garnishes and ingenuity with foodstuffs. Intermix & Mingle is a budding powerhouse of all things hip-catering, weddings, private parties and the like.

Joel Catering founded by Mr. Joel Dondis is no stranger to the wedding circuit. Formally trained at CIA in Hyde Park, the culinary businessman spent many successful years in Chef Whites touring Europe's finest restaurants and hotels. Peppering his impressive list of clients are prominent figures and companies such as President Barack Obama, American Express, the Hearst Corporation and CBS Broadcast Network.

Let them eat cake - and make sure it's good cake! Cheryl Scripter of Bittersweet Confections has the recipe just right for her wedding cake and wedding favor selections. She and her talented crew of pastry chefs carry out the baking and design, be it simple or outrageously elaborate. The chocolatier has created a name for herself among those that crave high fashion, as she's become a preferred vendor at Saks Fifth Avenue. Her truffles, lemon bars, petit fours, and macarons don't last long at the fashion forward, in-store events due in part, perhaps, to the fact that they complement a nice glass of bubbly oh so well.

When an establishment can combine panoramic views, tasteful interior décor, and a perfect French Quarter location, the only thing that could make it better is outstanding food. Galvez restaurant has you covered on all fronts. Three rooms are offered in varying sizes, accommodating small to large groups. The menu offerings, pegged as Continental Cuisine, are rich with Spanish influence. And for a brief history lesson, the restaurant takes its name from Bernardo De Galvez, the first Spanish Governor of Louisiana.

If what you're looking for is a unique and beautiful space that's not in the middle of the city, Race & Religious will take you to church. The spot is New Orleans through and through, from the brickwork, breezeways, and balconies. A gorgeous evening view of the Crescent City Connection Bridge is quite possibly shown up by the pool which sparkles with reflections of strung bulbs and candlelight. Named after the intersection at which it sits, Race & Religious has been a wedding destination for tourists and locals alike, not to mention the film industry's affinity for hosting many a wrap party there. If it's good enough for the stars, I say it's good enough for us all.

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