The Great Outdoors

New Orleans is home to many idyllic settings for an al fresco fĂȘte.

Elms Mansion

For couples brave enough to bet on good weather, the payoff can be huge. An outdoor wedding in March or November would be unthinkable in most parts of the country, but here in New Orleans your guests can dance under the stars with the alluring smell of jasmine wafting through the air. Add to that the one-of-a-kind beauty, culture and historic aesthetic of our city, and it’s easy to see why New Orleans has become a top choice for destination weddings.

But where to host an outdoor wedding? New Orleans has a wealth of lush, romantic outdoor locations, but we narrowed it down to an assortment of ten places spread across the city, from the Bywater to the shores of Lake Pontchartrain to the historic Garden District. There is a fabulous outdoor location to suit every bride who dreams of getting hitched al fresco in the Crescent City.
 

Cinematic Greenery

Nestled inside Audubon Park, one of the city’s most beautiful and beloved natural spaces, is the Audubon Clubhouse (6500 Magazine St., 800-774-7394, auduboninstitute.org). This replicate of an historic Acadian home includes wide verandas that look out onto an expanse of green with gardens, a wide lawn, oak trees, a lagoon and the Audubon golf course beyond.

For the ceremony, the bride and groom can choose from several romantic green spaces just a short walk away from the Clubhouse, such as The Newman Bandstand, the dreamy setting on the edge of the Audubon Park lagoon. It is often ranked the “Best Place in New Orleans for Poetic Inspiration” and even served as a stunning backdrop for one of the more romantic scenes in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Those with a small, informal wedding in mind often opt for a daytime affair at the Clubhouse. Though the restaurant remains open, wedding guests have free reign over the veranda, adjoining gardens and a small brick patio. Nighttime weddings are private and include the use of the entire clubhouse, including the dining room, veranda, patio and gardens. The dining room is ideal for a seated dinner of up to 90 people or a cocktail-style reception for up to 200 people.

 Good To Know: Because the Audubon Clubhouse is inside a public park, weddings must end by midnight and the band must be inside the Clubhouse in order to comply with city noise ordinances.
 

Elegance with a Wild Side

Those who dream of a large, lavish wedding with the secret garden ambiance of Audubon Park are drawn to the Audubon Tea Room (auduboninstitute.org). This freestanding ballroom boasts elegant details like shiny wood floors, silk drapery and a view through double doors of the gorgeous Tea Room Garden. The Tea Room is adjacent to the Audubon Zoo, and this unique location comes with equally distinctive options for scenery. Have guests enter through the zoo’s main entrance, where they will be greeted with dazzling lighting, serene music and the zoo’s flamingos! Or stage your ceremony in front of the Elephant Fountain, softly lit and ethereal at night. Incorporating the Audubon Zoo will give your guests an exclusive nighttime glimpse of this beloved New Orleans institution and will enhance the aesthetic of your wedding with an inimitable magical quality.

The Audubon Tea Room can host a cocktail-style reception for 175 to 300 guests; if the Tea Room Garden is tented, it can host as many as 700 guests. Weddings at both the Audubon Clubhouse and Tea Room are catered by the on-site culinary department, the only green-certified caterer in the state of Louisiana.

Good To Know: Since the Tea Room is not technically inside the park, city noise ordinances do not apply and music can be played outdoors, either in the zoo or the Tea Room Garden.
 

European Opulence

The magnificent Elms Mansion (3029 St. Charles Ave., 895-9200, elmsmansion.com) has an unrivaled location on the corner of St. Charles Avenue and Eighth Street in the Garden District. Built in 1869 in the Italianate style of architecture, its historic flair and European grandeur make it one of the city’s more sophisticated wedding locations.

The mansion features a quarter acre of carefully groomed gardens with lush palms and eye-catching statues. This serene natural beauty is enhanced by the soothing sounds of a fountain and glimpses of the St. Charles streetcar as it rolls down the avenue. The mansion’s large porch is framed with columns and sheathed in wrought iron and a free-standing deck can be put to use in creative ways. “Some couples bring in lounge seating and set up a cigar station,” says Judy Fern, the mansion’s event manager. The centerpiece of the grounds is an enchanting gazebo where couples exchange vows in front of guests seated on a stone patio.

Good To Know: The mansion’s event planners will be on site the day of your wedding to keep the celebration running smoothly.
 

Greek Revival in the Garden District

A beautifully restored Greek revival mansion, The Opera Guild Home (2504 Prytania St., 267-9539, operaguildhome.org) is situated on a corner in the heart of the Garden District. A small plaque is all that differentiates the property from the other grand Garden District mansions, and couples become enchanted with the authentic, uncommercial feel of the property, its charm and elegance immediately apparent.

The lawn and gardens that wrap all the way around the Guild Home can be the setting for cocktail-style receptions of up to 200 people or a seated dinner for 50. The expansive green space is bordered by a traditional black wrought iron fence, as are the property’s two porches and balcony. The large front porch is perfect for greeting guests with glasses of champagne, and many brides choose to throw their bouquet from the upper balcony to the gardens below. The grounds can easily be tented, which is a lovely option in the case of rain or simply for the aesthetic appeal.

But it’s not just the outdoor space that appeals to brides. On what makes the Guild Home unique, Manager Lynda DePanicis says, “It’s like a museum with antiques and artwork—light, airy and beautiful in its own right. Our brides appreciate that the interior is already so appealing that they don’t have to spend a large part of their budget on flowers and other decorations.”

Good To Know: The wedding package includes a security officer to be on the grounds during your wedding.
 

A Well-kept Secret in the Warehouse District

The large courtyard of the Hilton Garden Inn (1001 S. Peters Street, 525-0044, hiltongardeninn.com) is a hidden gem in the fashionable Warehouse District. The oblong space is studded with landscaped beds of verdant tropical plants and trees, a fountain and a gazebo. It is ideal for a reception, and can be used for a seated dinner of up to 100 guests or a cocktail-style reception for up to 250 guests.

All catering is on-site and Caitlin Hatley, the hotel’s catering sales manager, is happy to act as wedding planner. “Our courtyard is a great option for brides who want a downtown wedding, but without the enormous price tag,” Hatley says.

Good To Know: One advantage guests enjoy is that the Hilton’s courtyard is adjacent to The Metropolitan, a popular Warehouse District night club.
 

Bohemian Rhapsody

Maison Macarty (3820 Burgundy St., 267-1564, maisonmacarty.com) is a classic Victorian home in the avant-garde Bywater neighborhood that has been lovingly converted to a bed and breakfast. The charming property features an exquisite and intimate outdoor space on both sides of the home. On one side, a large square deck set among a grove of tropical banana trees and a pool makes for a perfect dance floor. The other side features a traditional brick patio adorned with greenery that has the feel of a tropical paradise. “The bride and groom typically like to exchange vows on one side, and then move to the other for the reception,” explains Kurt Goodman, co-owner of the Maison. The pool blends seamlessly into the outdoor splendor when it is decorated with floating candles or covered to provide more room for dancing.  

Maison Macarty is an ideal location for small weddings of 75 to 100 guests. “Oddly enough, most of our weddings have been destination weddings, and most of the couples come from Brooklyn,” says Goodman. The Maison’s whimsical, laid-back environment is the very definition of casual cool, and is perfect for the couple who simply wants to enjoy their time with friends and family.

Good To Know: Renting Maison Macarty for a wedding includes the use of the six guest rooms and two private cottages for two nights and 44 hours of exclusive use of the property.
 

Bygone Romance

Weddings hosted at the historic New Orleans Board of Trade (316 Board of Trade Pl., 262-0412, neworleansbot.com) are infused with the grandeur of days gone by. The unique Central Business District location is the site of the former St. James Hotel, built in 1859. It features several striking and interconnected outdoor spaces like the “arcade,” a covered promenade ornamented with wrought iron gates that is actually a remnant of the St. James Hotel. This outdoor yet covered space can accommodate up to 70 guests. In the case of rain, canvas drop cloths are available to enclose the open arched side wall.

The arcade leads to a beautiful courtyard, the centerpiece of which is a tiered fountain that is often decorated with candles. The courtyard is framed by raised planters and distinctively southern crepe myrtle and sweet olive trees that provide a delicate scent. The courtyard can accommodate a seated dinner for up to 60 people or a cocktail-style reception for 250.

Good To Know: The New Orleans Board of Trade works exclusively with Pigéon Caterers of New Orleans.
 

Quintessential French Quarter

The upscale hotels of the New Orleans Hotel Collection (frenchquarterweddings.com) are interspersed throughout the French Quarter and are the settings of some of the loveliest and most iconic weddings in New Orleans. These properties are perfect for smaller weddings with the timeless allure of the historic French Quarter.

A respite from big, well-known hotels, properties such as the Dauphine Orleans, the Hermann House and the Audubon Cottages offer the ultimate in private, intimate ceremonies. Renting one of these locations for a wedding includes all guest rooms or cottages, so that the couple of honor and their guests have exclusive access to the property and grounds. Each of these locations is built around a traditional brick courtyard where both a ceremony and reception can be held.

The luxurious interior courtyard of the Bourbon Orleans plays host to larger weddings of up to 100 people. Luminous evening weddings are set alongside the hotel’s famous pool. Small weddings can be held at the St. Ann Cottage, a traditional Creole cottage that adjoins the hotel and features its own private courtyard.  

Hotel Mazarin is another popular choice for larger weddings. Elegant ceremonies are held by candlelight in the hotel’s spacious courtyard, followed by an indoor reception in either of the hotel’s two ballrooms. An additional advantage of this location is that the courtyard can be covered in case of rain.

Hotel Le Marais offers a hip, cosmopolitan ambiance for semi-private weddings of up to 100 people. This chic boutique hotel is perfect for the laid-back couple whose number one priority is having fun. It is situated next to Latrobe’s on Royal, an architecturally significant building and a favorite spot for romantic ceremonies. “We’ve found that couples getting married at Latrobe’s appreciate being able to stay next door, and will even host a pre-ceremony event at Le Marais,” says Director of Marketing Marc Becker.

Good To Know: The New Orleans Hotel Collection also includes several bars that serve as great spots for a bachelor or bachelorette party.
 

Four-Star Luxury

The luxe tropical courtyard of the Royal Sonesta (300 Bourbon St., 586-0300, sonesta.com/royalneworleans) features orange and palm trees, a constantly evolving rainbow of flowers and a three-tiered fountain with floating lily pads and water lilies. “We have a horticulturist on staff who is a renowned expert on subtropical plants and has been with the Royal Sonesta since 1972,” says Wedding and Social Events Manager Wyeth Furlong. The courtyard is a sought-after location for large weddings of up to 250 guests.

Another option for a wedding of up to 150 guests is the second-floor Acadia Suite that overlooks the courtyard and features access to a private terrace.

At the Royal Sonesta, all food and beverages are prepared on-site and the menu selections are frequently updated to reflect seasonal, local produce. Custom designed wedding and groom’s cakes can be created by the hotel’s executive pastry chef, Solandie Exantus.

Good To Know: For every outdoor wedding, the Royal Sonesta guarantees an indoor space of equivalent size in case of rain.
 

Southern Charm

A bucolic outdoor wedding at an authentic antebellum plantation inside New Orleans city limits? It is indeed possible at Southern Oaks Plantation (7816 Hayne Blvd., 230-0689, southernoaksplantation.com), which sits on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain. After the bride makes her way down a candlelit aisle, she exchanges vows with her groom on the peach mansion’s stately front porch. “Most of our weddings take place at night because the way we light the mansion and grounds is so magically romantic,” says Administrative Director Kyle Madorin. From spotlights to outdoor chandeliers and sconces to twinkling string lights to the candles set up around an impressive fountain, Southern Oaks becomes a luminous showstopper come nightfall.

Good To Know: The mansion’s grand ballroom provides a solid back-up plan in case of rain.
 

On The Water

If you’re a lady who likes to divert from the usual path, think about the Creole Queen (1 Poydras St., Riverwalk Marketplace, 529-4567, creolequeen.com). The boat is a popular spot for brides because it is something so different from the norm, says Kristen Newman, the Creole Queen’s wedding consultant. “It’s a great way for your guests to see the city skyline from a different point of view,” Newman says. “We sail past the heart of downtown while taking in historic sites such as St. Louis Cathedral.”

Just like any other outdoor location, weather is something to consider. Newman says in the event of bad weather, weddings can be moved into one of the private rooms, though Newman adds that she hasn’t had to use this back-up plan yet. There is also a covered area on the Promenade Deck. If the weather is too bad per Coast Guard regulations, weddings can be held dockside. If you’re interested in booking your wedding with the Creole Queen, Newman recommends booking about seven months in advance, depending on the season.

Good To Know: The boat stays dockside during the ceremony.

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