Mary & KaleyTransforming a large university cafeteria space into a warm, elegant white wedding reception
Mother-daughter team, Mary and Kaley, approached Ruby and Pearl to conduct design servicesin the space where Kaley’s family had a long history of support at Nicholls State University.Because the venue was located in a small town, many families had also hosted weddings in thestudent center, and with minimal resources available in the town, often used the samematerials and equipment. Mary and Kaley sought out a unique design that had never beendone before in the space, knowing that many of their guests had attended events at the samevenue time and again.
Having hired a local event manager, Mary and Kaley relied on the expert advice and keendesign eye of the team at Ruby and Pearl Events to make their vision come to life in a way theyhad never imagined. Readon to discover how we completely transformed a cold, sterile student center into a warm, inviting event space!
The bride and her mother, planning a wedding reception on their own, seeking fulldesign transformation, creative direction, and production leadership at auniversitystudentcenter in Thibodaux, Louisiana.
Mary and Kaley had booked the venue, the student center at Nicholls State University, which was the only available location in their quaint hometown to host a large wedding reception for 500+ guests. Since most of their guests had also attended many events and weddings in the same space, Mary and Kaley wanted the Ruby and Pearl Events design team to completely transform the venue into a warm and inviting, ballroom-like environment to bring their event vision to life. With such a large guest count for a cocktail-style reception, Mary and Kaley knew the event space would need a complete overhaul to meet their event expectations of setting their special day apart from many other special events that had taken place in the same location.
In order to create a unique architectural feeling to the student center, our design team sought out a layout incorporating warmer elements to soften the event space. Having just recently undergone a renovation, the student center was a clean slate; however, fire code and installation of the drop ceiling tiles prohibited installation of anything overhead that would provide a visual focal point in the room. Existing florescent lighting and sconces that had been installed could not be removed, yet there were not any sufficient hanging points in the room to install alternate lighting sources.
The student center was cold, sterile, and prominently featured linoleum floors and undesirable florescent overhead lighting. It would be cost prohibitive to recover the entire floor, and draping the ceiling to soften the harsh lighting would be impossible given the location of the fire sprinklers that were required to be exposed in the event of an emergency. Also, the client desired a completely different look and feel to the room from all other previous events that had taken place, and almost all other events draped the room in a predictable manner. We needed to avoid the prohibited use of the space, and also reimagine a draping schematic that would differ significantly from previous installations in the room.
Everyone used the same floor plan for events – we needed to convince both the clients and the venue that a new plan could work. Food tables, bars, and the cake display were always placed in the same location for each prior event. We immediately envisioned a new floor plan that would orient the room in manner optimal for facilitating guest flow, but we needed to convince the venue managers as well as the clients that a completely different floor plan would enhance – and not hinder – the overall guest experience.
Our Strategic Solutions
In order to achieve our design goal of a complete room transformation, we wanted to bring in unexpected elements to the room that guests would not anticipate as they entered the venue. We developed a chandelier installation using truss boxes in the middle of the room, centered over the location of the dancefloor and anchored by the existing columns in the space. Because this had never been done before at the venue (and thus, no photos existed to show the clients what this would look like), our design team put pen to paper and sketched the design by hand to illustrate the look of the installation. Using a variety of multiple crystal chandeliers of several sizes, and a truss structure covered in a complimentary sleek fabric, we were able to suspend nine large chandeliers in the room without compromising the permanent ceiling structure, and also create a visual lighting focal point that would primarily light the room so that the overhead florescent lights could be turned off completely.
The further our goal of a complete transformation of the ballroom we brought in draping to add warmth and texture, from the moment guests walked into the building and around the entire room. We recruited an expert drape company, Swag Décor, to complete a dual layer drape around the perimeter of the event space, and installed the drape to the inside of the built-in existing moulding surrounding the room. By avoiding running the pipe and drape all the way to the ceiling, we achieved a more built-in look for the drape than previous events had before, and created a very custom look to the room that softened the harsh lines of the walls and offer a softer, more feminine appeal.
We changed up the typical floor plan by moving the cake into the entrance hall, which had a perfectly placed nook ideal for setting off the cake in its own right. This allowed us additional square footage in the room to build out a large lounge seating area, designed with French inspired furnishings that the client loved, and also functionally added additional seating to the large room without crowding the square footage with large tables. We also strategically placed bars in two corners of the room, with one large double bar directly opposite the dancefloor to maximize guest access to beverages and minimize lines anywhere in the room.
Our clients were absolutely floored with the complete room transformation. The softening of the room by adding a beautiful, custom-designed drape brought warmth and an inviting sensibility to the room, while the large multi-chandelier installation created an impactful focal point over the dance floor that set off a fun and exciting atmosphere for the celebration. Changing up the floor plan also worked well toward our goal of reimagining the event space and creating an environment that the guests enjoyed throughout the night, creating new memories and achieving the unique, special aesthetic in a venue that had so much meaning for them and their community.