A Romantic, Reimagined Wedding in New Orleans
Most people stress about planning their wedding once (and for good reason!). But, for bride Ashley Chapman and groom Doug deVerges, they had to reimagine their special day not just once, but twice! After meeting in 2016 and getting engaged in 2019, the couple began planning a grand wedding in New Orleans for the following yearâ€”then, March 2020 happened.
"Once COVID hit, everything clearly changed," shares Ashley. "I essentially threw everything I had spent nearly a year planning out the window and pivoted from a 200-plus person dance-party wedding to a COVID-friendly seated-dinner soirĂ©e with aâ€Ż 40-person guest list of our immediate family and best friends." The couple sent out a change-of-plans card, locked in another venue, and were then hit with yet another curveball: a hurricane threat less than a week before the wedding! "We scrambled to re-plan the wedding yet again and find another new venue that was safe for guests," she says.
But, the multiple pivots and roadblocks led the couple to an unforgettable wedding theme: a French-meets-Italian dinner party filled with jazz, champagne, and laughs. "Weâ€™re big dinner party people, so, the idea of having a four-hour dinner party was our dream," she admits.
Instagram was also incorporated into almost every element of the day. Since Ashley is head of consumer communications at the company, it was only fitting! From streaming their ceremony on Instagram Live to designing plenty of "Instagrammable moments" at the receptionâ€”think dreamy tablescapes, a unique photo booth, and an epic charcuterie stationâ€”every single element of this wedding was a reflection of Doug and Ashley. "From the onset, we knew we didnâ€™t want to adhere to the traditional box of what a typical southern wedding should be," notes the bride.
Ashley recruited her talented best friend and owner of Hudson Ink, Alyssa Kiefer, to design the couple's custom invitation suite. Meant to reflect Ashley and Doug's relationship, as well as their love for New Orleans, the suite included illustrations of brass instruments, street signs, and trees. Their change-of-date cards, also designed by Kiefer, featured a mask illustration of the couple under the word "Ugh." Ashley laughs, "It perfectly encapsulated how we felt about it all."
Upon arrival, the couple's 40 guests were given custom face masks reminiscent of the wedding invitation's illustration. Ashley and Doug also took other COVID precautions to ensure the safety of their guests like spacing chairs six feet apart in the large ceremony venue, limiting the capacity of transportation to the reception to about 25 percent on each bus, and seating each guest by household at dinner.
"There was a moment of shock when I put it on. Iâ€™d never seen a dress like it before," Ashley recalls of trying on her wedding gown for the first time. She found the one-shouldered long-sleeve gown by Liz Martinez at Spina Bridal in New York City. It was actually one of the first looks she put on! "I felt all the things I didnâ€™t realize I needed to feel to know it was the one: elegant, regal, glamourous, and comfortable," she recalls.
Ashley paired the modern and minimalist number with pearl earrings, a topaz and diamond ring from her mother, and fuchsia pink Christian Louboutin satin heels. "It was all about the shoes for me," she says. "Since my dress had a pretty dramatic slit, I really wanted a 'wow' shoe moment. This was it!"
Ashley's father was in the bridal salon when Ashley found "the one"â€”"my parents were legitimately speechless," she boastsâ€”and his first look with the bride on the big day was just as heartwarming.
Carrying bouquets of organic loose greens, Ashley let her seven bridesmaids wear black dresses of their choosing. "Letâ€™s be honestâ€”everyone loves a LBD," she exclaims. "I wanted everyone to feel like the most glamourous version of themselves."
As cheesy as it sounds, it was like that Walt Whitman quote: 'We were together, I forget the rest.'
After getting ready in their respective suites, the couple met for the first time under the oak trees in New Orleans City Park. "We were both so emotional," shares the bride. "It was like every stress we had leading up had just gone away. As cheesy as it sounds, it was like that Walt Whitman quote: 'We were together, I forget the rest.'"
While Ashley first found their ceremony venue, Marigny Opera House, on Instagram, she later discovered the building was rich with family history. "Itâ€™s aâ€Żformer Catholic church where Dougâ€™s great-grandparents were once parishioners," she shares. Built in the 1800s, the church has since been transformed and restored into an opera house and performing-arts center.
Between the marble walls, arched ceilings, and intricate tile floor, the couple wanted to let their venue speak for itself when it came to decor. "We didnâ€™t want to distractâ€”we wanted to enhance," Ashley explains. Each column was fitted with hanging organic greenery to complement the dramatic ceilings. A simple wooden chuppah decorated with pink and white flowers and foliage served as the wedding altar to honor Ashley's Jewish faith. To encourage social distancing, wooden chairs were placed in pairs and scattered six feet apart.
Ashley proceeded down the aisle for the sunset ceremony escorted by her father. As they headed to the altar, a trumpet, piano, and violin trio played Rondeau by Mouret. "We really wanted the trumpet to play into the grandness of the Opera House," she shares. "I am so glad we did. The music gave me chills. I didnâ€™t tell anyone weâ€™d have a trumpetâ€”and honestly, it was a gasp moment."
The couple combined their faiths for the wedding ceremony, which was officiated by both a priest and rabbi. Rather than vows, the bride and groom wrote â€śessaysâ€ť about their love story and what they loved most about each other. Ashley explains, "The anecdotes from our essays were woven into the ceremonyâ€”so it was entirely reflective of us!"
Ashley admits she teased Doug about breaking the glass prior to the wedding day. "I think I made him nervous," she laughs. "But, when he broke it, and all of our family and friends yelled Mazal Tovâ€”it was so special."
Due to COVID-19, the newlyweds weren't able to invite their extended families to the celebration (they watched via Instagram Live instead!). However, as Ashley and Doug exited the Opera House as husband and wife, they were surprised by the groom's aunts, uncles, and cousins standing outside!
For the reception, guests moved to the Italian villa-style venue il Mercato in the Lower Garden District.
I wanted to create a tablescape that felt like you were in a chic European town having a five-hour dinner with friends.
With a vision of a dreamy French-Italian dinner party, the couple, along with their wedding planner and florist, transformed the venue into a European restaurant. Guests were seated by household at rustic wooden tables spread throughout the indoor-outdoor venue. Floral runners that were similar to their ceremony decor cascaded down each table.
"I always knew that grand floral centerpieces werenâ€™t my vibe. I wanted to create a tablescape that felt like you were in a chic European town having a five-hour dinner with friends," says the bride. Instead, the couple paired brass bowls of flowers with grapes, pomegranates, taper candles, lemons, olive branches, and greenery to create a cozy tablescape.
But, the most Instagrammable moment, as the bride puts it, were the place settings. White plates rested on deep-blue floral chargers, and a Lithuanian linen company designed custom napkins using illustrations from their wedding invitations. Name cards were wrapped in twine around mini baguettes to help guests find their seats. Ashley jokes, "Iâ€™m a big bread person. We had to have the bread!"
Before dinner, guests snacked on a bread cart and cheese-and-charcuterie grazing station by Beauty & Graze. "It was truly a feast for the eyes," admits the bride. Later, a multi-course Creole, French, and Italian-fused meal was served featuring a "mashup of all of our favorite things!" From gulf shrimp to truffle fries to chicken parmesan, the menu truly had it all.
Aside from the charming tablescapes and drool-worthy menu, Ashley and Doug wanted to add one more "Instagrammable element" to their big dayâ€”and a unique lounge installation was the answer! The couple rented an emerald-velvet couch and accented the area with vine-like florals and candles. It served as the perfect alternative to a photo booth and per the bride, "was a hit with guests!"
Fitting for a small celebration, the couple's wedding cake boasted two tiers of red velvet with cream-cheese buttercream topped off with edible gold flakes and florals.
While the pair didn't have a dancefloor because of coronavirus safety measures, music was still a staple of the nightâ€”particularly, jazz. Joeâ€™s Jazz Trio played throughout the dinner, then Kinfolk Brass Band surprised guests with a modified second-line performance to close out the evening. Ashley reminds, "You canâ€™t do a NOLA wedding without a brass band!"
And, while a smaller affair wasn't the wedding Ashley and Doug dreamt of pre-pandemic, one thing was clear after the it was complete: "At the end of the day, we didnâ€™t want to wait any longer to start our lives together. Having hundreds of people around us didnâ€™t matter. The big band and dance floor didnâ€™t matter. We just need each other and a few of our closest people."