By Julia Del Rivero

Weddings have never been more diverse than they are today. Just like the people and families that gather at weddings, there are a lot of different ways to celebrate the joining of two lives. While elaborate affairs may be right for some, something a bit more intimate may be just the thing for you and yours. Whether it’s a second marriage for you, or you are a long-time established couple, or perhaps a very young couple or just a couple of independent spirits, a small and intimate wedding may be the perfect choice.

Today’s brides and grooms have found ways to go beyond the boundaries of their predecessors’ ceremonies. Weddings no longer need be expensive gatherings of your and your parents’ 200 closest friends – they can be a simple wedding in a park, at a festival, or a bride and groom enjoying a private romantic dinner by the river, relishing the lavishes of a honeymoon suite. They can even be like many a wedding in the past, a signing of the marriage certificate at a courthouse with only the company a of a witness or two.

For this new breed of intimate weddings, there is no better place than the city of New Orleans. For couples seeking a destination wedding, whether coming from near or far, it’s not usually a difficult proposition to enlist a rather large group of friends and family to come celebrate with them in the French Quarter. There are usually two types of guests on the list for such events: those who have always wanted to visit New Orleans but haven’t had the chance, and those who have and are looking for an excuse to come back. (There is also a third kind – those who are coming on down here anyway and would love to visit with you while you are here!) In any case, one thing is clear, if a destination wedding is on the agenda, convincing friends and family to meet in New Orleans is easy to do!

Whether it’s Jazz Fest, or the Po-Boy Festival, there are so many events to help round out your wedding weekend and boost the festivities for the entire group.

Not to mention that only the Crescent City is home to the charming cobblestone streets of the French Quarter, perfect for romantic strolls amidst the darling Spanish architecture and carriage rides past Jackson Square. Or, for those looking for a livelier celebration of their nuptials, the Big Easy’s music and bar scene cannot be beat. Here are a few other reasons why, no matter what style you are looking for, New Orleans is ready to deliver.


A bride and groom with immediate family.

Farrah and Harold pose with close friends and family; Photo by Ibay Photography.

For couples that want to share their wedding celebration with a select few, the French Quarter offers many romantic venues to host a charming courtyard ceremony or reception. A limited number of guests is ideal for these locales, perhaps as many as fifty or sixty, or as few as two.

The typical architecture of a small French Quarter Hotel offers closer quarters than grand scales, so a smaller group will not feel too small, but instead will be just right in these rich and intimate spaces. A few gorgeous courtyards to consider those at Chateau LeMoyne – French Quarter, W New Orleans – French Quarter, and Maison Dupuy Hotel. These hotels and others like them can offer a great location for both the ceremony and the reception, and out of town guests can stay on location as well.

Perhaps a small hotel such as these would offer the perfect accommodations for your guests if you envision a sunset courtyard ceremony and a dinner to celebrate afterward. If this is the case, another alluring option for an intimate wedding celebration is a grand dining experience at one of Nola’s best restaurants. Dinner for 15 or 20 at Commander’s Palace, Galatoire’s, Arnaud’s or Antoine’s, just to name a few, would certainly be a night to remember by all invited.

Whereas large weddings require high volumes of food to accommodate a hundred or more guests, quickly turning into a potential fiscal debacle, choosing just your very closest friends and family frees up the possibility to dine at the highest caliber restaurants for a fraction of the cost of a reception for 150 or more.

Another major benefit of a smaller number is the opportunity to put more time and thought into each wedding favor. Instead of simple, generic tokens, each person can receive something meaningful, like a letter describing the value of their friendship and attendance as a wedding guest. Or maybe something more luxe is an option like a delicious box of macarons, or perhaps a nice bottle of wine with a custom label on it to commemorate the magical day.

For people who care less for the “haves” in life and prefer to add to their list of “have-dones,” it is worth noting that having fewer guests leaves more room in the budget to spring for a group activity that would otherwise be out of the question. For instance, hiring a famous musical act to perform a wedding is out of reach for most people residing outside of the One Percent, but buying tickets for a small group of people to see them in concert is a viable option for a small wedding party. While hiring a decent wedding band doesn’t have to be expensive, getting to hear a favorite artist with a small batch of favorite friends is priceless.


Bride and Groom at a small wedding

Jessica and Taylor Nobles celebrate their love with a courtyard wedding at the Maison Dupuy; Photo by Stevie Ramos Photography.

New Orleans is one of the country’s top destination wedding locations. Hundreds if not thousands of couples come here from near and far to get married. Many of them come together as a couple, just the two of them. Since exchanging vows of marriage can be the biggest day in any couple’s life, why not welcome it with a bang? New Orleans’ nightlife makes it easy for any small party, or simply a bride and groom to festively celebrate their nuptials as their own party of two. In a city that is always celebrating, it is easy for newlyweds to integrate their own celebration into ongoing festivities, like a second line, an impromptu street performance, or street-side serenade.

The best way to ring in a new marriage? A celebratory toast, of course (or two, or several). For serious celebrating, it’s hard to think of a better cocktail capital than the Big Easy. Newlyweds can bar hop their way around the city alone or with a few friends, hitting such iconic stops as Napoleon House (home to a mean Pimm’s Cup), the Carousel Bar (rumored birthplace of the Vieux Carré) or the Sazerac Bar (said to serve an impeccable Ramos Gin Fizz).

A couple exchanging vows here, or just any couple, can find ample romantic spots to get close and cozy. You might try Sylvain in the French Quarter (home to yet another darling courtyard), or The Séance Lounge at Muriel’s on Jackson Square. In Uptown, try Apolline, a quaint dining spot with clean, chic décor, or Mat & Naddie’s in the Riverbend, an adorable yellow shotgun right by the levee and with a patio to-die-for.

Ultimately, the choice to have a small wedding over the conventional, large gathering boils down to what is right for the couple. If the guest list seems interminable and loaded with names that don’t evoke feelings of explicit joy, perhaps it would be for the best not to invite lukewarm acquaintances for the sake of social convention. On the one day that is supposed to be truly about celebrating “two hearts united in marriage,” sometimes limiting the guest list may be the best option for achieving the wedding day of your dreams. For some, the best guest list is determined by the quality of the relationships and the close ties of the couple to the invited guests. For others, an elopement for two is just the right number. Either way, there are plenty of good reasons that the intimate wedding trend may be here to stay.

Julia del Rivero is a New Orleans-based writer and a lover of candy, catnaps, and all things Crescent City.



Main Photo: shutterstock_216546079