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Sunflowers & Sunshine: Meet The Mertzluffts

It could not have been a more picture perfect Louisiana spring day for this AH-mazing Alabama couple’s March wedding. Seriously… 70s, breezy and not a cloud in the sky. If you’re from Louisiana, you know just how rare a humidity-less 70 degree day is! There wasn’t a single person on the guest list from Louisiana; so, naturally, the bride and groom insisted on creating an authentic good ol’ southern Louisiana experience for their guests with the likes of muffalettas, a second line and rows of grand oaks at a 250-year old plantation just twenty-five miles south of New Orleans.

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Sarah and Paul, who first described themselves to me as a “jeans and t-shirt couple” that only gets “dressed up for dinner when we’re feeling fancy”, wanted their intimate 75-guest wedding day to be a true reflection of who they are as a couple: laid-back, cheerful and joyous.  Above all, they wanted their guests to feel comfortable and have a genuinely good time… skip all the typical wedding day traditions and formalities, this was going to be a pure celebration!  Their vision was shabby chic with a color scheme of sunflower yellow, blues and steel.  The bride wore converses with her wedding gown, the bridesmaids wore mismatched blue dresses and the groom and groomsmen completed their outfits with superhero socks.

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Are you getting the playful + celebratory vibe, yet?!

We created a fun and unique first look by having Paul wait for Sarah behind a handful of balloons in front of the plantation home.  When it was time for the grand reveal, Paul released the balloons and swooned over his unveiled gorgeous bride. After the jovial outdoor ceremony, everybody made their way to the beautiful bricked pool area for a cocktail hour with passed traditional southern fare and libations.  Instead of relying on a videographer, guests were encouraged to capture all of the day’s festivities and candid moments with provided go-pros.

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It wasn’t long before the bridal party threw on some colored sunglasses, the bride and groom grabbed their “Mr. and Mrs.” paper umbrellas and they all got the party started by leading a traditional New Orleans second line down the row of grand oaks and into the tented reception.  Of course, this wasn’t before I had to explain to quite a few guests how to properly shake the personalized handkerchiefs in the air as they marched away from the pool area!

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To make the reception extra personal and inviting, framed engagement portraits accompanied the bright wildflower centerpieces on all of the guest tables.  Sarah and Paul also had a wooden cake topper custom-made to look identical to them in their wedding day attire.  Don’t worry- Sarah didn’t let Paul see the topper before the big day! Of course, the couple didn’t want a traditional wedding cake, though.  Instead, they opted for a small serving cake accompanied by an array of uniquely designed and filled self-serve petifores.  Guests danced the night away under large bistro string lights and took the occasional break to snap some pictures in the photo booth.  For the grand exit, guests were given glow sticks  to light the bride and groom’s way to the buses, which then took the whole party into the French Quarter to continue the celebration.

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I am so thankful that Sarah and Paul chose to have me by their side throughout their engagement and on their jubilant big day!

Pictures:: Kristen Soileau Portraits + Venue:: Stella Plantation

Kati + Ben: A Post-Wedding Styled Shoot

When I was asked to design Kati and Ben’s styled post-wedding photo shoot at Nottoway Plantation, I couldn’t get the “ABSOLUTELY!” out of my mouth fast enough. Kati and Ben are every event designer’s dream: beautiful inside and out, very obviously in love and they have some serious style.

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A little background on Kati, Ben and their big day:

Kati and Ben met briefly on a high school senior year spring break trip in Florida and then quickly became an item when they reconnected during their freshman year at Louisiana State University a few months later. Ben proposed almost exactly seven years later in December of 2014 at the Botanical Gardens in New Orleans under the twinkle of Christmas lights. Although Kati and Ben had been together for some time, Kati literally couldn’t believe the proposal was happening. She threw herself on the ground and asked, “IS THIS REAL LIFE?” According to Kati, it was the perfect moment.

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The Pavilion of Two Sisters in New Orleans’ City Park opens to the same Botanical Gardens where Kati and Ben were engaged one year prior to their desired December 2015 wedding date. So, clearly, the wedding venue selection was a piece of cake! Being that December was such a sentimental month for the couple, they played up on the holiday wedding theme. They kept the festive color palette chic and classic: lush greens, holiday reds and sweet reds with white accents. Kati wore a custom Pnina Tornai wedding dress that she purchased from the designer herself at Kleinfeld’s in New York; and Ben donned a traditional tuxedo. The couple displayed their love for the south by having guests find their way to their reception seats via oyster shell seating cards. What a fun detail! The wedding cake was also perfectly styled for their day- a large naked cake with green and red accents.

You hear it after every wedding from every bride and groom: the wedding day goes by in the blink of an eye. So, Kati and Ben wanted to play dress up again, take un-rushed styled formal photos and enjoy some tasty wedding cake in a more intimate setting as husband and wife!

I wanted the shoot to be an extension of their wedding day and a true portrayal of their collective style as a couple. Shot just a few days before Christmas while the venue was heavily decorated, I elaborated on the classic holiday theme from their big day: clean whites, lush greens and deep reds with a few softer shades of blush, a touch of dark purple florals, tasteful pinecone, garland, ribbon and berry accents with splashes of gold. The bouquet was bigger than the bride and the groom’s boutonniere was simple and understated- it’s all about balance, y’all! One of my favorite decor details from the day was the beautiful garland table runner on top of the distressed farm table that was situated in a private area in the Plantation’s yard! Swoon. Gold rimmed china, gold utensils, tarnished gold candle sticks and wine goblets, and overflowing florals in a vintage water pitcher also created the perfectly shabby-chic table scape. The rain stayed away just long enough for the photographer to get some amazing pictures of the eerie yet romantic ambiance created by the mist rolling in! Kati and Ben’s very traditional wedding stationary suite, menu and place cards were redesigned to reflect the holiday color scheme and a stylish calligraphy type. Instead of the typical white or dark chocolate naked cake, I opted for a more merry red velvet naked cake placed on a gold bar cart in the Plantation’s stunning “White Room”.

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We also had fun with their cocktail selection- a warm Christmas sangria topped with whipped cream and cinnamon sticks. YUM! After all, what would a romantic winter shoot be without a cozy cocktail? Last, I loved that Kati was able to take some pictures in the fur that the uncharacteristically warm weather prohibited her from wearing on her actual wedding day! Kati and Ben smiled, loved and laughed the entire time. The shoot was truly such a beautiful, intimate memory to be a part of.

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I highly recommend a post-wedding shoot to all newlyweds! It is such a sweet way to keep the momentum going after the honeymoon and to re-celebrate the start of this new chapter in your lives!

All pictures are from the shoot and are courtesy of Nicoll’s Wedding Photography + Florals from Antigua Floral.

Southern Wedding Traditions

The south, especially New Orleans, is big on tradition and passionate about celebrating them. We’ll find any reason to throw a party {Oh, there’s a hurricane coming? That can clearly only mean one thing: It’s hurricane party time!} and a wedding is the grandest of them all! So often I get a destination bride who wants to give her guests the experience of a good ole’ New Orleans wedding but doesn’t know where to start when it comes to our little crazy {eh, “unique”} customs.

So, today I’m breaking down my favorite {and, in my opinion, the “must have”} southern wedding traditions:

  1. The Second Line: It’s really just not a true New Orleans wedding without a second line parade. On any given day in New Orleans, while walking down the street in the French Quarter, you can find yourself spontaneously caught up in the music and dance of a second line parade. The term “second line” comes from the idea that the brass band members leading the parade are the “main line” or “first line” and those following/dancing behind the musicians are the “second line”. In a wedding, this parade is typically the celebration from the ceremony to the reception OR the last dance at the reception. The bride customarily carries a festive white umbrella and the groom a black umbrella, bopping them up and down in the air continuously, while guests dance and wave hankies {i.e. handkerchiefs} behind them. The hankies are often personalized and double as wedding favors.  It’s also not uncommon for the bridal parties to don Mardi Gras masks and throw Mardi Gras beads. The second line is such an amazing way to get the party started or to end the party with a BANG!
  2. Wedding Cake Pulls: This tradition gets it’s roots from an old Victorian ritual, “ribbon pulling”, which entailed bride’s placing charms of luck and good fortune into the wedding cake for her single friends. Today, bakers place charms with specific meanings on bracelets or key-chains inside the bottom layer of the wedding cake and the bride’s closest single girlfriends are given the opportunity to pull a random charm from the cake just before the bride and groom cut the cake. It’s silly, fun and makes for a few wonderful candid photos! Charms may include: Ring {Next to marry}, Fleur De Lis {New beginning or rebirth}, Chili Pepper {Red-hot romance} and Button {Old maid/bachelorette}.
  3. Groom’s Cake: This tradition also originated in Victorian England… but let’s be honest, does anything matter other than the fact that you get to have MORE CAKE at your wedding?! Customarily the groom’s cake was a surprise gift from the bride to the groom that reflected his personality/interests and was his favorite cake flavor. However, I’m seeing more grooms design their own cake nowadays. Whereas the wedding cake is typically almond cake with white icing, the groom’s cake can be any design/color/flavor; although, more often than not, it is a chocolate cake in order to offer guests more dessert variety. Some of the most popular southern groom’s cake designs revolve around hunting, fishing and football. What else is there, right?! If your wedding falls within carnival season and your groom doesn’t have a specific desired design, this is a great way to incorporate a king cake!
  4. New Orleans Specialty Cocktails: The Sazerac, the Vieux Carre, the French 75, the Hurricane… instead of the standard “Blushing Bride” cosmo, why not treat your guests to a specialty cocktail that was invented in New Orleans? We promise that nobody else does them better!

Now that we’ve covered our bases, who’s craving some cake and a cocktail? We can work it off in the second line parade that’s happening in 3… 2… 1!

Foot Washing: Taylor & Jack’s Sweet Unity Ceremony

2014-06-07_0134Taylor and Jack’s wedding day was ridiculously rainy. When I say “ridiculously rainy” I mean that it was a non-stop torrential downpour ALL day [and for several days leading up to the big day]. Their outdoor ceremony under grand oak trees that we planned for over a year had to be tented and we had to construct an aisle runner out of mulch so that the bridal parties could make their way to the ceremony, holding umbrellas, without walking through mud. You would think that the rain [and all of these “Plan B’s”] would really put a damper on the Bride and Groom’s day, right? Not for this amazing couple- Taylor and Jack actually got engaged in the rain! So, when they were given the option to move the ceremony into the indoor reception area, they didn’t even consider it. They embraced the elements! They even had a foot washing ritual planned for their wedding ceremony. In addition to the deep sentimental and religious value of this unique tradition, it proved to be incredibly useful for Taylor’s slightly dirty {hey, the mulch could only help so much!} feet!

So, what exactly is a foot washing ceremony, you ask?

In a Christian wedding, foot washing symbolizes the moment when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper (John 13:1-17) to display his humility and commitment of service to them. By washing each others’ feet, the Bride and Groom are therefore demonstrating their commitment to serve each other humbly in marriage. This ritual is personally one of my favorite unity ceremonies.

Taylor and Jack had a beautiful water pitcher, towel and chair set off to the side from their stunning ceremony arbor for the ritual. After the Pastor explained the meaning behind the practice to their intrigued guests, Taylor and Jack pulled the aforementioned items front and center and took turns kneeling on the soggy grass, washing and then drying each others’ feet. It was truly a beautiful few minutes, and everybody at the ceremony felt honored to witness such an intimate and obviously meaningful moment between the newlyweds. At the end of the ceremony, Taylor and Jack danced down the aisle as husband and wife to “Oh, Happy Day”. Could they be any cuter?!  Talk about #marriagegoals.

Vivian Greene said it best: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass… It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

These personal details are what memorable wedding days are made of!

To see more pictures from Taylor and Jack’s lovely big day, visit AND .

Looking for other alternatives to the traditional unity candle?

Some of my other favorites are listed here on Best Bride 101: .


Meet The Burleys: Featured on

This wedding was all about the details- those sweet personal ones and all things chicly southern!  [I don’t know if gets much more southern than a magnolia leaf chandelier at a Louisiana plantation!]  The bride, Megan, dressed in Vera Wang, and the groom, Michael, sporting a traditional black tuxedo, were married by the bride’s uncle in a stunning New Orleans catholic church.  The guests were then bused to a 250 year-old plantation about 20 miles south of New Orleans for a seated dinner reception.  Megan’s vision for the wedding was a classic and chic color palette of black, gold and white infused with tons of organic and magnolia leaf accents.  She wanted guests to feel as if they had been transported into a classy, whimsical southern wonderland.

Think: A garden party fit for a King and Queen!

 Megan and Michael were engaged while wine tasting on vacation at Saddleback Cellars in California.  So, it was only fitting that wine from the vineyard was available on all tables and that the place card holders were Saddleback Cellars corks!  The place cards were displayed on vintage wooden doors atop wine barrels, to stick with the vineyard theme, underneath a bistro light tent that was situated in the oak tree scattered yard of the historic plantation.  Once guests collected their cards and walked into the tented reception, they were greeted with monogramed Mardi Gras beads on their seats.  These were, of course, absolutely necessary for when Megan, Michael and the bridal party made their grand entrance into the reception via their own second line parade donning Mardi Gras masks and throwing beads.  You know it’s not a New Orleans wedding without a second line! Megan and Michael’s “MM” wedding monogram could be found not only on the beads, but also on the menus, bar napkins, match boxes for exit sparklers and all wedding related stationary. Like I said… DETAILS!

The 20+ person head table was adorned with heavy low lush floral arrangements, varying lanterns and candles and ridiculously beautiful floral-accented sweetheart chairs for the bride and groom.  The guest tables alternated between high, extravagant floral centerpieces, more simple low lush centerpieces and large candelabra centerpieces.  Magnolia leaves accented all of the centerpieces and potted magnolia trees lined the walls of the reception tent.  After a three-course meal of traditional southern fare and a speech from Megan’s father that had every eye in the room filled with happy tears, the Atlanta-based party band got everybody on their feet… and once guests were up, they never sat back down!

The entire party danced the night away on the black and white checkered dance floor under a candle lit custom-made magnolia leaf chandelier and ceiling draping adorned with fairy lights.  Megan and Michael were able to take a quick break to snap pictures in front of the breathtaking floral and candle wall that was the wedding cake’s backdrop.  Thankfully, a live painter was there to capture the fabulous night in its entirety.

It was truly a magical night for a couple that had as much style as they did obvious love for each other!

I am so thankful to have been part of Meg and Michael’s engagement and beautiful big day. When I received a Christmas card from the new Mr. and Mrs. Burley [featuring pictures from the wedding day! Ek!] and Meg’s parents within days of each other, I couldn’t help but realize how fortunate I am to have clients that turn into lifelong friends.

To see the full feature on click HERE!

Featured Vendors:

Photographer:  Sison Photography ; Dressing Hotel: The Roosevelt New Orleans, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel  ; Dress Designer: Vera Wang ; Dress Shop: Warren Barron ; Tuxedo Shop: John’s Tuxedos  ; Makeup and Hair: Flawless Bride LLC ; Transportation: Alert Transportation ; Ceremony Church: Mater Dolorosa ; Reception Venue: Stella Plantation ; Cakes: Mad Batter Bakery ; Floral and Candle Decor: Bella Blooms Floral ; Band: Mo’ Sol ; Videographer: Dyle Films ; Invitations: bell’INVITO ; Caterer: New Orleans Catering ; Live Painter: Hannah Lee ; Ceiling Treatment: Luminous Events of New Orleans ; Event Rentals: Your Event DeliveredDistressed RentalsThe Plant Gallery