Meeting in the Middle: a Reno couple chooses New Orleans for a destination wedding to accommodate guests coming from the east and west coasts.

Photographed by Willow’s World Photo

Jennifer Marbley, a Southern-California girl, enrolled at the University of Nevada in Reno to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in English in 2012.  Shortly thereafter, like a lot of people, she created an online dating profile in the hopes of finding love in her new location.  One evening, she received a message on her account profile. It was from a fellow student at the university named Matt McKinney.  He was a Ph.D. candidate and teacher in the English Department and he wanted to know if she would like to grab some coffee.  The two met and quickly connected over a love of cooking, travelling, and music.

A whirlwind romance began and within six months,  the two found themselves moving in together.  Jennifer often thinks about the fact that they must have crossed paths many times in the English building but had never met until meeting online.  “That thought always encourages me to be more open to the possibilities of chance, because that’s how I found the love of my life,” explains Jennifer.

In the summer of 2015, Jennifer and Matt set out on a road trip to Napa Valley to celebrate Jennifer’s graduation from college.  They enjoyed wine tasting and touring, including a visit to the 13th-century-style Tuscan castle and winery, Castello Di Amorosa.  They continued their trip with a romantic drive up Pacific Coast Highway to Eureka, California.  They stopped there to visit a friend of Jennifer’s. They all went down to the beach for a walk and some photos.  Matt asked the friend to take a photo of the couple.  Instead, the friend selected “video,” knowing what was going to happen next…to Jennifer’s surprise, Matt suddenly knelt on one knee and pulled out the diamond ring he’d been hiding in their apartment for months.  Jennifer first confirmed with Matt that he had in fact received her father’s blessing, and then she said “Yes!”

The couple knew they wanted to have a destination wedding and after considering all the factors, decided that New Orleans was the perfect place for them. “Matt took me there for one of our first trips as a couple, and I fell in love with the city,” said Jennifer. She explained it was “the perfect middle ground for our families, who are spread out all over the country.”  Jennifer and Matt also knew that “most importantly,” New Orleans is a destination where “people would want to go to.”  She describes the “unique blend of cultures” as being “unlike any other city.”  “There’s something for everyone,” says Jennifer, “whether it’s museums or live jazz.”  Plus, she added that “we’re total foodies and have never had a bad meal there!”

Having settled on their destination, the couple dove into wedding planning and began researching accommodating venues to host their big day.  After sorting through all their options, they selected the Hamptons Inn and Suites, Convention Center.  “There were so many great things about our venue!  It was convenient to have a destination wedding at a hotel so that all of our out-of-town relatives had a place to stay. The hotel also offered us a packaged deal that included Joel’s Catering, their in-house catering service,” said Jennifer.

On November 21, 2016, Jennifer and Matt married in the lovely courtyard at the Hampton Inn. After a moving ceremony, the couple and their guests were ushered to Hampton’s beautiful ballroom for the reception. “There were so many great things about our venue!”  Guests dined on Italian and Southern comfort food, which reflected the couple’s cultural backgrounds. “Food is what everyone remembers about a wedding, and months later, we still get comments about how good the lobster bisque and the shrimp and grits were,” says Jennifer.

For dessert, there was four-tiered doberge cake, each layer having a different flavor. The groom’s cake paid homage to Matt’s ancestry with dual flags, one Irish and one Italian,  frosted on top of a traditional New Orleans king cake.

For future brides, Jennifer advises prolonging your engagement. “Our engagement lasted a year and a half, which seems long, but we were able to save during that time in order to make sure that we could afford the perfect wedding for us without going into debt,” Jennifer advises. She also suggests hiring a wedding planner like Mandie Drummond, who can help find the best deals, connect you with the best vendors and educate you on what questions to ask the vendors so that you can make an informed decision.  Looking back on it all, Jennifer said, “Reading our vows to one another was the highlight of the wedding for me.”


Venue: Hampton Inn & Suites, Convention CenterWedding Planner: Mandie Drummond | Caterer: Joel’s Catering | Bakery: Debbie Does Doberge | Florist: Crystal Vase Flowers | Hair and Makeup: Wink Eyelash Bar & Makeup Studio | Music: Party Tyme Productions | Transportation: NOLA Carriages | Photographer: Willow’s World Photography | Invitations: Shutterfly | Bridal Attire: David’s Bridal | Groom’s Attire: Men’s Wearhouse | Bridesmaid Attire: David’s Bridal | Groomsmen Attire: Men’s Wearhouse