Written By Sarah Spencer
People relocate these days more than at any other time in history. New Orleans has also had an influx of residents in the past decade, so it’s not at all uncommon for two people who live here to have all their family living far away. If most of your guests need to travel to the Crescent City for your wedding, don’t worry. Whether they’re a seasoned traveler or a Big Easy novice, New Orleans offers a plethora of avenues to keep them entertained. There are really only a few general guidelines to keep in mind.
Know your crowd
Are most of your guests college friends that want to party, or family members who’d rather have a quiet day exploring the city’s history? Are they bringing children? Have most of them been here before, or will this be a new experience for the majority? Are they driving or flying?
Try to keep all these things in mind when you’re planning activities and accommodations for them. A group that wants to be in the midst of everything might prefer to stay in the Central Business District. Le Meridien, Hampton Inn, and the brand new NOPSI Hotel all offer easy access to the excitement of downtown. If you think they’d appreciate the city’s history, maybe you should block rooms in an old French Quarter hotel, such as Chateau LeMoyne or Maison Dupuy. Or if you want to keep your guests away from the hustle and bustle of downtown, you could stay in an entirely different neighborhood. The Hampton Inn and Suites on St. Charles is right on the streetcar line, halfway between the French Quarter and Audubon Park, and just past the Garden District. This might be just the ticket for your group.
Choose your weekend wisely
If you live here, you know how crazy it can get at certain times of the year. If you want a Mardi Gras wedding, then go for it! Just be aware that traveling to, and around, the city during these events is going to be more difficult. You need to be sure that your guests know what to expect, too. In addition to planning around local festivals, you could also consider having your wedding over a federal holiday, so it’s easier for everyone to attend. Summer and winter weddings are quiet times that might offer affordable rates and a low volume of tourists.
Get that hotel block early
Again, if you live here, you know that there are random conventions and festivals year-round. What might not seem like a popular weekend can end up being jammed with people by the time it rolls around. The organizers in charge of these massive conventions block rooms for their attendees the year before, and you should too. This is especially true if you want special amenities, such as a bridal suite for you and your bridesmaids.
Have welcome bags at the hotel
Treating your traveling guests to a small welcoming gift is optional, of course, but it does show that you appreciate the effort they took to attend your wedding. You can have customized gift bags pre-printed with a message, or small baskets ready for them at the hotel check-in or in their room. Fill the bags with handy items like seasonal fruit, locally made soaps, treats like pralines or other treats and small coffee packets. Just a small favor or other trinket reminiscent of New Orleans will do. Grab a few guides and a city map, while you’re at it (you can find a free one at the CVB office). It’s a good idea to include directions to your rehearsal dinner, wedding venue and Sunday brunch if most of your guests are unfamiliar with navigating the Crescent City.
Book a group tour
This is a great idea if several of your attendees are visiting for the first time and are staying a day or two before (or after) your wedding. A group tour is a great way for the New Orleans newbies to explore the region, as well as give your guests a chance to meet or catch up. Many tour companies offer group rates for tours, as long as you book them in advance. Gray Line Tours only requires 24-hour notice, with a minimum of 10 people.
Encourage guests to do their own thing
You are under no obligation to provide an itinerary for your guests outside of your wedding events. There is an overabundance of culture and events in the Big Easy, so visitors shouldn’t have any problem finding something to do on their own time. You can suggest they come a few days early, or stay late, to get a true New Orleans experience, and leave it at that. The city speaks for itself, so your guests should have no problem exploring and enjoying all that New Orleans and the surrounding areas outside the city have to offer.
Whether you are hosting a large number of out-of-town guests in New Orleans, or somewhere else away from your friends and family, good logistical planning ahead of time will make everything go smoother for you and your out-of-town guests. Then you will be able to just sit back and enjoy the ride!