Planning the Perfect New Orleans Gay Wedding

From second-line parades to cocktail-style receptions, weddings in the Big Easy take a different—and wonderfully joyous—approach.

Imagine you and your spouse, arm in arm, heads held high, dancing elatedly down Bourbon Street to the syncopated rhythms of the Storyville Stompers brass band. Dozens of close friends and loved ones trail behind, waving antique parasols and fleur-de-lis–embroidered hankies. Soon, complete strangers join the parade, gaily urging you onward. Jubilant revelers whistle, holler, and clap from the balconies of Bourbon Pub and Oz, showering you and your party with beads, confetti, and trinkets.

Welcome to your very own New Orleans second-line wedding parade!

This spirited procession that typically travels from the ceremony to the reception has been a beloved staple of Big Easy weddings for generations. They’re but one reason why couples love tying the knot in this joyous city famed for decadent Creole food, buoyant ragtime and zydeco music, and extemporaneous celebrations of all kinds.

But there’s more to New Orleans than riotous revelry. It’s also a deeply romantic city of stately 200-year-old inns wrapped in ornate wrought-iron balconies. A New Orleans wedding can happen just about anywhere, from the deck of a Victorian sternwheeler to a lawn shaded by moss-draped oak trees in Audubon Park. And even as the venues are as different as the couples who celebrate at them, one constant remains: the Crescent City’s one-of-a-kind joie de vivre.

Big Easy Style: New Orleans Wedding Etiquette

A wedding here may last only a few hours—officially—but this being New Orleans, you can expect guests to happily extend the occasion into a long weekend. Get the ball rolling by arranging a few memorable group outings—maybe a boat tour of the alligator-infested waters of nearby Honey Island Swamp, a bar crawl among a few scandalous strip and drag cabarets, or a brunch of mimosas and bananas Foster–stuffed French toast at snazzy Commander’s Palace or down-home Elizabeth’s Restaurant.

It’s a deeply romantic city of stately 200-year-old inns wrapped in ornate wrought-iron balconies.

It isn’t only duration that sets New Orleans nuptials apart. There’s the aforementioned second line parade, which can be tremendously fun but requires advance planning and extra costs. Consider hiring a good local wedding planner to help arrange obtaining a parade permit, paying for a police escort and cleanup, hiring a grand marshal and a brass band, buying parasols and masks, and so on.

Also, local wedding etiquette favors reception-style dining over a formal meal with assigned seating. This casual and convivial tradition has several advantages. For one thing, guests tend to move around, socialize, and dance more than at sit-down soirees. For another, the culinary conventions—passed hors d’oeuvres, buffet spreads, and specialty-food “action” stations—allow for more varied and creative fare. You might offer an oyster station, for instance, serving the bivalves raw, barbecued, and fried in po’boy sliders; or a rice station with étouffée, jambalaya, and gumbo. Another idea: set up a few bars, each serving a different New Orleans cocktail, anything from a Sazerac to a hurricane to a brandy milk punch.

Enchanted New Orleans Gay Wedding Venues

The conservative politics of the rest of Louisiana notwithstanding, New Orleans ranks among America’s most LGBT-welcoming cities. The New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau (504-566-5018) provides complimentary reception planning assistance and operates a same-sex wedding website packed with useful tips and a list of recommended venues.

And the options are many. Does a French Quarter wedding sound too boisterous? Not to worry. Several hotels in that touristy but famously atmospheric neighborhood have secluded spaces ideally suited to weddings. Maison De Ville (504-324-4888), a charming 16-room inn just steps from Bourbon Street, can accommodate receptions of up to 100 in its romantic courtyard. Nearby but on a quieter block, Maison Dupuy (800-535-9177) offers a few handsome options, including a poolside plaza—stylishly updated and tastefully strung with lights—that can handle a cocktail-style reception of 200.

Other wedding-friendly digs in the Quarter include the grand and gay-supportive Hotel Monteleone (504-523-3341), where Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote regularly overnighted, and the swank Ritz-Carlton New Orleans (504-524-1331), in a beautifully renovated former Maison Blanche department store.

Another gorgeous, one-of-a-kind venue—in the trendy Warehouse District—the Chicory (504-521-8055) occupies a huge 1850s coffee warehouse with multiple indoor and outdoor spaces. Antique-style gas lanterns, original beams, exposed-brick walls, and a 2,000-square-foot balcony—the place crawls with Old World allure. Race & Religious (504-523-0890), meanwhile, situated at the relatively quiet Lower Garden intersection for which it’s named, ranks among the city’s most distinctive wedding spaces.

Expansive redbrick courtyards connect two whimsically decorated early-19th-century houses filled with museum-quality antiques, while a swimming pool, restored living quarters, state-of-the-art sound system, and two commercial kitchens round out the amenities. Both the Chicory and Race & Religious work closely with the hip Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery (504-527-5271), a wonderfully arty option for out-of-town guests. A mid-19th-century warehouse with 167 guest rooms, it abounds in noteworthy perks, from pillow menus to pet room service.

Modern event spaces at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA, 504-940-2851) in hip Faubourg Marigny offer a sleek, airy contrast to the city’s historic venues. Options there include art galleries, a lush lawn with flowering gardens, and Press Street Station restaurant, with its roll-up garage doors. Just around the corner sits the Marigny Opera House (504-948-9998), an 1847 German Catholic church that’s been spectacularly transformed into a nondenominational performing arts center and highly lauded wedding space.

Gay Weddings in the Louisiana Plantation Country

Less than an hour’s drive from the French Quarter, the mighty Mississippi meanders past riverfront hamlets, petroleum plants, oil refineries, and agricultural concerns. If this sounds like an odd milieu for a wedding, consider that several of the South’s grandest 19th-century plantation homes grace this historic stretch of the river.

Two of these lavish properties, Oak Alley and Houmas House, enthusiastically welcome LGBT weddings. Distinguished Greek Revival mansions anchor both of these gorgeous plantations, and both have made appearances in celebrated Hollywood films: Oak Alley in Interview With a Vampire and Primary Colors, Houmas House in Mandingo and Fletch Lives, and both plantations in the 1964 Gothic horror classic Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (with Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland).

At Oak Alley (Vacherie, 225-265-2151), couples typically marry along an iconic avenue of towering 300-year-old oak trees leading to the main house. Receptions, which accommodate 50 to 250 guests, are held outdoors (there are no indoor venues at Oak Alley), and the property also has nine handsomely appointed one- and two-bedroom cottages that make lovely overnight accommodations for honeymooning couples and their wedding parties.

Set on 38 acres of meticulously maintained gardens and similarly exalted oak trees, Houmas House Plantation (Darrow, 225-473-9380) hosts weddings of every conceivable size and style. Couples can choose from a dizzying variety of venues. For a smaller celebration, go with a seven-course wedding feast in the art-filled dining room of the main house. At 2,500 square feet, Neptune’s Ballroom is perfect for larger receptions, as is the 5,000-square-foot Pavilion and Courtyard. There’s also an exceptional on-site restaurant and an ultra-cushy inn with 21 modern but period-style suites.

Leave a Reply