Royal Sonesta New Orleans Hotel WeddingFlipping a ballroom from ceremony to reception with extensive design and limited time
Rebecca and Patrick recruited Ruby and Pearl Events to conduct design and event management services for a tall order at the Royal Sonesta New Orleans Hotel. With a large expected guest count for this local couple, the clients asked for an intimate ceremony in the round, which would only be able to take place in half of the ballroom reserved for the reception. Rebecca and Patrick also wanted 10’s across the board: the most amazing food and beverage, outstanding entertainment, and a stunning design for both ceremony and reception bridged by a stellar cocktail hour.
Knowing what they wanted from the start, Rebecca and Patrick relied on the expertise of the Ruby and Pearl team to bring to life their precise event vision and entertainment goals. Read on to discover how we created a compelling ceremony design, then transformed the same space for a spectacular, over-the-top reception celebration!
The bride and groom seeking complete design transformation, creative direction, production leadership, and event management at the Royal Sonesta New Orleans hotel ballroom with a large guest count and limited square footage on a busy holiday weekend.
Rebecca and Patrick wanted to blow their guests out of the water with over-the-top décor design, amazing entertainment, top shelf beverage services and outstanding food options. The ceremony and reception would have to be located in the same space at the Royal Sonesta New Orleans hotel, while a lengthy and lively cocktail hour during the flip of the ballroom kept guests comfortable for the duration.
The clients had their hearts set on a beautiful ballroom ceremony, and an extensive reception décor plan. In order to do both in the same square footage booked at the Royal Sonesta New Orleans Hotel, we would have to maximize the rentals and décor elements brought into the space that would serve dual functions in both the ceremony space and reception. The hotel was busy with holiday events and other functions using auxiliary space in the hotel, so we did not have the luxury of out-of-sight storage options available to house our many large décor setups and food and beverage activations. It was also necessary to use an airwall to divide the space between ceremony and reception. Airwalls are generally unattractive, so we enlisted the help of our expert drape company to install a detailed, textured drape along the entire length of the ballroom airwall to help soften the overall look. We needed as much time as possible to reset the ballroom, and required additional hands on deck from all our creative partners to make the transition as smooth and swift as possible.
In order to keep the large guest count out of the space while the ceremony was being “flipped” into the reception, we had to contain the guests in nearby meeting rooms that would look and feel consistent with the atmosphere of the rest of the ballroom. Keeping guests fed and watered was a huge priority for the clients, and the focus on cocktail hour food and beverage would be essential to maintaining a high level of comfort before guests would be able to enter the reception ballroom.
With a single loading dock available in the tight confines of the French Quarter, vendor access to the venue was extremely limited. For load-in and load-out, there was only a single space available for one truck at a time, so communication with each of the vendors ahead of time proved critical. We’d need specific information from each team member, including the number of trucks they intended to bring, how big the trucks were, how long it took to off-load each truck, and then getting each truck out to a parking location outside of the quarter so that the next vendor could come in. With limited time and events all over the hotel during the busy holiday season, we not only had to run a tight schedule for our own vendor team, but also coordinate with the load-in and deliveries that would be scheduled beyond our control for the rest of the hotel during the same time.
Our Strategic Solutions
Our design team planned to pull the airwall across half of the ballroom space in order to conceal the necessary entertainment and dance floor installation behind the ceremony space. We concealed staged guest tables, florals, and linens as well as out labor force that was ready to spring to action as soon as the ceremony ended and guests had retreated to the cocktail hour space. Since the dancefloor was a custom wrap, we could not place any items on top of the floor while waiting on the room reset to take place, so a cleverly orchestrated Tetris game of tucking in tables, bars, and other décor inventory around was a huge undertaking that worked beautifully. As soon as the airwall came down, the drape was removed, our labor force sprang to action putting chairs from the ceremony at tables, moving floral arches from the altar to the perimeter of the room, dropping floral centerpieces at each location, lighting candles, and cleaning and staging everything just so. In only an hour and a half, the entire room was reset, while guests were hosted nearby.
Since the cocktail hour necessarily took place over 90 minutes, we needed to be sure guests were not only comfortable, but had plenty of food, beverage, and entertainment options to keep them satisfied until the reception doors opened post-flip. We strategically placed several food and beverage activations that would serve as impactful points of interaction to elevate the guest experience during this time period: live oyster shuckers roamed among guests, each donning their own personal shucking setup on a belt; a self-serve beer tap wall with special selections chosen by the bride and groom; a champagne tower pour, for the bride and groom to ceremoniously kick off the celebration in an over-the-top fashion; and an array of delectable cocktails from mixologists demonstrating several flavor profiles that tasted as great as they looked. With roving entertainment from T-Ray the violinist, each spectacle served its purpose in elevating the mood and experience of the festivities for each of the guests.
Communicating early and often with our entire team of vendors and setting out a detailed truck manifest for load-in and load-out was an essential part of getting everyone into the ballroom and beginning install throughout the day. Also, critical to this point was specifying what order installations had to take place – from extensive floral arches, custom dance floor, custom bars and barbacks, and entertainment setup. Because of the flip and the limited square footage available for storage, we strategized specifically which vendors would be able to stage their items in particular locations, and went over the timing of the flip minute-by-minute to carefully coordinate what would be moved where and when. We were able to allow our florist on site the night prior to the event, when the loading dock would be quiet and her trucks could come in and out for the abundance of inventory she had to offload. Staging a space for her to process flowers overnight was key, and we utilized a nearby function room that became available at the last minute to increase her flexibility in workspace. Once she had completed floral processing, we used that same space to stage additional specialty glassware for the beverage team, and boxes and bins necessary for the room reset.
With our attention to detail, advance communication, and astute design eye, we were able to deliver on all of Rebecca and Patrick’s priorities. Utilizing the available space with a transformation made the square footage of the ballroom feel twice as large as it actually was. Guests were well fed, watered, and entertained throughout the 90 minutes for cocktail hour that they did not realize or notice a flip was happening just beyond the ballroom doors. We maximized the floral design in ways that allowed us to have impactful installations – like the floral arches at the altar – perform dual functions in the space for the reception. Vendors were able to deliver their very best work, because we took the time well in advance to discuss details about loading dock limitations and the time constraints given the busy holiday weekend. Our clients were thrilled with the experience, and we able to enjoy the night as the guests of honor, dancing away under the canopy of their wedding day dreams.