Anna Katherine & JessieOrganic and Tailored Design in an Historic Ballroom
Mother of the bride, Kathryn, along with her daughter, Anna Kat, reached out to us for assistance designing a wedding in a newly renovated venue, the NOPSI Hotel, that was slated to be under construction until right before the wedding date. NOPSI is an historic building that once served as the New Orleans Public Service, Inc., and had only recently been purchased and converted into a hotel property with a complete renovation. Kathryn and Anna Kat booked the venue for both ceremony and reception early on in the construction phase, with the assurance from the venue that the new NOPSI hotel would open a few weeks before the wedding.
Kathryn had a vision for her daughter’s wedding with a courtyard ceremony, then cocktail hour in the large hotel foyer, with a cocktail style reception in the industrial ballroom space. She enlisted the expert advice and assistance from our team for event management as well as design services, with an aim to make the new construction feel of the venue have an organic and “lived in” aesthetic, while maintaining a clean and tailored overall approach to the event design.
The bride and mother of the bride, both living in Mississippi, planning a destination wedding for 200 guests at the NOPSI hotel in the fall. The clients planned for an outdoor courtyard ceremony on location with a cocktail hour in the pre-function space, and cocktail-style reception in the newly opened NOPSI ballroom with a jubilant second line parade through downtown at the end of the night.
Kathryn and Anna Kat wanted an organically “grown-in” feeling to their overall event décor, in a new hotel space under construction with amazing architectural features. Planning from afar, this destination wedding design and event management service level would facilitate an expertly planned and thoughtfully designed event space for Anna Kathryn’s special day.
Because the venue was under construction for most all of the planning process, there was not a point person in place for communication and questions from our team until later in the game. Hiring decisions had not been finalized until closer to the hotel’s grand opening, and our team had to work through several different people offering various answers to the same questions to determine what our design approach would be. Final construction decisions on the courtyard especially could not be answered in advance for us to be able to create a definite ceremony plan. There initially were plans for a fountain of indeterminate size in what would be the location of the intended altar. Ultimately (and at the last minute) no fountain was built in the courtyard, alleviating design concerns on our end but creating a need for a last-minute revision to the design be necessity.
Since the ballroom was not large enough for a seated dinner for the anticipated guest count plus ample room for a dance floor and stage, our clients determined that a cocktail hour prior to the cocktail style-reception would give the formality of a seated dinner flow of events, and allow more time to engage with guests prior to the reception taking place. The clients wanted a “room reveal” for the event space, and had hoped there would be a way to section off the reception room and then pull back a curtain of drapery for a dramatic effect in the reception entrance. Whether this would even be possible depended upon final construction plans, which we could not determine until the hotel was able to provide answers as to the specifics of the event space.
Not only was our design team working with a revolving cast of points of contact at the hotel until the director of sales had been hired, because the venue was under construction there were no scaled CAD-ready floor plans of the space that had been created at the property, let alone tested for accuracy. Without a floor plan containing accurate dimensions of the reception space, we were limited in our ability to present to the clients an accurate counts for tables and chairs, as well as bar placement and location of food stations. This proved challenging for financial planning purposes as well, without the ability to confirm accurate counts of tables, chairs, and linens necessary to solidify orders from all of the creative vendors supplying inventory for the event.
Our Strategic Solutions
Our design team conducted several site visits during the construction phase to keep an eye on the courtyard development and stay in touch with the hotel on the status of the potential fountain installation. Determining the location of the gate into the courtyard from the street access would help play a determining role in the location of the potential altar, and in the alternative serve as access for the wedding party processional. With so much hinging on the location of the gate access and the installation of the fountain, we developed two possible design schematics to present to the client in order to prepare fully for contingency plans for the ceremony. As it turned out, about a month prior to the event, the construction plans for the fountain in the courtyard had been abandoned, leaving us with the best possible solution for the ceremony: assembling the wedding processional inside the foyer of the hotel opening up to the courtyard, walking down the length of the courtyard for the long aisle the bride wanted, and positioning the altar at the gate location with sheer gray drapery and green vines that the bride had originally envisioned.
Since the cocktail hour would take place within the foyer of the hotel after the ceremony, we were tasked with designing the space just as beautifully as the ceremony and ballroom spaces. Incorporating a collection of soft seating vignettes through the long, unfurnished space helped soften the hallway and create an inviting and cohesive aesthetic for guests before the grand entrance into the reception ballroom. Not knowing what the scale and functionality of the doorway into the ballroom from this foyer hallway space would be, we arranged for a collection of drapes to camouflage over the less-than-attractive double doors with automatic swing hinges. This provided a flexible barrier with which to provide a concealed entrance to the ballroom during cocktails, and a wow factor to pull the drapes back and allow for a definitive reception grand entrance.
Because it was difficult to acquire accurate, scaled dimensions on a floor plan for the reception ballroom until the construction was completed, we created an approximate floor plan for use in our design presentation. We spent several days throughout the construction timeline checking in on progress and determined a rough floor plan based on the only digital copy of the architectural specs available to us. Having formulated an exciting arrangement of tables and featuring a 360-degree pit bar in the center of the space, positioned between structural columns in the room, we devised and presented a floor plan for the reception to our client that we believed would work well given the space. As we approached the grand opening of the hotel, it came to our attention that the planned-for pit bar would not be able to fit in the space, as construction of concrete pillars surrounding the architectural beams in the middle of the room would be just a few inches too small to configure the modular bar pieces we had planned for the focal point. So, we were able to rework the seating arrangement and fit the bar along the side of the ballroom for a semi-pit bar accessible from three of four sides for guest service. This worked well in practice for the event, and we were able to maximize the seating as well by incorporating long farm tables down the length of the room in addition to larger rounds.
Our commitment to excellence and ability to lead allowed us to deliver peace of mind and creative solutions-oriented results to Kathryn and Anna Kat for the big day. Entrusting our abilities to build contingencies based on variables beyond our control, the clients had peace of mind knowing that whatever the final result with construction would be, we had a plan in place for their ceremony that would be optimal, regardless of the final layout of the courtyard. Likewise, giving us creative liberty to design in the large foyer hallway for cocktail hour to incorporate the space connecting the ceremony and reception allowed for a cohesive and consistent design scheme that transitioned seamlessly for the guests as they moved through each location. Finally, our ability to craft floor plans as accurately as possible with our CAD system, given as much information as was available to us during construction, provided our clients with a visual sense of the flow of their event space. Even as the final layout of the venue construction came to fruition, our ability to foresee potential issues with the plans and pivot toward a more optimal solution in advance of the event itself allows for maximum efficiency and optimized use of the venue space form beginning to end.