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This post marks the beginning of my new series, "Wedding Planning for the New Orleans Bride". If you're a NOLA bride (destination or local), this series is for you!
How to Choose Your Wedding Date (NOLA Bride Edition)
So I'm sure you're thinking, "Seriously, is this a joke? Why the heck do I need to read a post about picking a wedding date? Can't be that hard."
Trust me, I get where you're coming from. I thought picking the date was the easy part too...
"I love the fall, and October is my favorite month, so...we should totally get married in October! Yay!"
"What do you mean, 'October is already booked?!'"
Kidding! Well, sort of...some places were already booked a year out. And while I was able to find an awesome venue, you should know that October is the most popular wedding month in NOLA. (More on that later.)
I've learned that choosing a wedding date in New Orleans requires more thought than a lot of other destinations for two reasons: weather + special events.
Let me break it down: NOLA has a lot of special events and a lot of nice weather--> special events and nice weather mean more people in town--> more people in town means a higher demand for hotel rooms--> therefore, room block rates increase.
This also true when applied to weddings: nice weather means more weddings booked--> more weddings booked means more demand for venues and hotel rooms --> more demand means higher prices for room rates and venues.
So basically, when planning a NOLA wedding, you're competing with not only other brides, but with a boat-load of tourists, too. Hello, higher minimums and limited availability.
Still think I'm crazy for writing this post?
So here's your guide on navigating the festivals and weather changes, while still finding the perfect wedding date for you.
Choose a Date That Fits Your Wedding Vision (Important, Ya'll.)
Alright, so what does this actually mean? Basically, your vision for your wedding (theme, colors, etc.) needs to be consistent with the time of year its taking place.
Because the date can really set the tone for the ENTIRE wedding.
Seriously. Your date can influence everything from your color scheme and your wedding dress, to the food your serve and the flowers in season.
Think about it. Does it makes sense to wear a heavy ball gown or have an outdoor wedding when its summertime and 97 degrees?
No way. That's 50 shades of crazy in my book. (Especially if you want to do a Second Line! And trust me, you do.)
Now, I'm not saying you have to totally compromise on your vision, or your ideal date, but a little planning and some research can go a long way. I promise you'll save yourself a mess of headaches by being realistic about the time of year that best fits your vision.
*Side Note: This is just a guideline for brides trying to coordinate their vision. If your heart says to wear a black dress in an outdoor, July wedding, have at it! I'm all for being uniquely you!
General Guidelines for Narrowing Down the Date
1). Okay, the first obvious step is to consider what's important to you and your fiance. Do any significant dates come to mind? For example, when thinking about your wedding, do you envision keeping the same anniversary that you currently celebrate? Some couples can't imagine straying away from their original date. Decide if this is important to you.
Also, consider your situation and think hard about your future goals. Are you planning on going back to school? Or are you wanting to starting a family soon? What about finances? Are you currently able to take on the expense of a wedding? If not now, when might you be able to afford it? Your answers to these questions will likely influence the length of your engagement and your ideal wedding date.
2). The second step is to speak with your VIPs (parents, future in-laws, siblings, and future bridal party) and confirm any important dates in their lives.
Some questions to ask yourself:
- Are there any family dates I need to avoid?
- Will any of my VIPs experience 'milestone' events within the timeline of my ideal wedding date (like baby due dates)?
- Would picking a date within a certain season ensure that more of my family is able to attend (like siblings in college)?
*Side Note #2: Yes, this your day, so why the heck am I telling you to schedule your plans around other people? Simply put, if you really want the very important people (VIPs) in your life to share your big day with you, you should be conscientious of their future plans as well as your own; within reason, of course.
This also applies to the groom's family. This means, if you know future sister-in-law is set to graduating from medical school in May, you probably need to adjust your vision for a late spring wedding. Trust me when I say that showing consideration for your future in-laws will do good for your marriage (not to mention future holidays).
3). A final step would be to narrow down your vision for the wedding; then, decide what season would best suit that vision. Think about what you like. Are you a flower-lovin' springtime bride? Or do you prefer the crisp air and golden leaves of fall? Read wedding magazines and browse Pinterest for inspiration. Honing in on your vision will help you decide the ideal time of year for your wedding to take place.
*NOLA Bride Tip*
If you can't narrow down a specific day, but you know the general time of year that you would like to have your wedding, start calling venues. Discussing your ideal time frame with future venues will give them the opportunity to outline some available dates. They'll also be able to tell you about their required minimums during that time of year (which can be a deciding factor in itself). All of this will give you a better understanding of what to expect as far as price and availability of services during your chosen season. This trick also works for brides who have a list of dream venues, but no real preference for their date. Wedding venues in NOLA are a hot commodity and it is never too early to start your search.
Seasons in New Orleans + What They Mean for Your Wedding
As I mentioned above, there are two major elements to consider when setting a NOLA wedding date: weather and special events. Here's a little breakdown on the seasons:
Summer in NOLA
The weather: HOT AND HUMID. As in thick, sticky air that causes your hair to become a tangled mess of fly-aways, your makeup to run faster than the Mississippi, and your body to sweat in places you didn't even think possible. Ew.
I may be slightly exaggerating, but really, summer in the South isn't something to mess around with. Average temperatures for June through August range from the upper 80's to low/mid 90's (Fahrenheit), with humidity rates just as high. Check out this article from NewOrleansOnline.com for more NOLA weather info.
Because of the extreme heat, tourism is generally down in NOLA during the summer. However, there are still some festivals that take place. Overall though, if you are inclined to host a summer wedding, your costs will usually be lower than other times of the year; this means lower minimums, increased availability, lower hotel room block rates, and decreased vendor prices. August is especially slow, and exceptionally hot. Definitely something to consider for those on a tight budget.
*Side Note #3: If you are a true summer girl and absolutely must have your wedding then, keep in mind the heat and humidity, if not for the sake of your hair/makeup/dress, but for the comfort of your guests. Your wedding should be indoors if at all possible, and with lots of a/c and water to go around.
Fall in NOLA
The weather: The BEST time of year! Okay, I'm a little biased, but with good reason... Cool days with low humidity and mostly clear skies- what's not to love? It's actually probably the most sought after weather for weddings. Average temperatures for the end of September through November start with highs in the low 80's (Sept.) that taper off into the low 70's (Nov.). These averages come with an asterisk of sorts, though, because I have spent the past two Octobers in NOLA (one visiting, one living), and experienced lows that I was not at all prepared for. I'm talking 40 degree weather, people! My point being: you may a experience a wide range of temps during fall in the Crescent City.
As I previously mentioned, October (and end of September) is the most popular wedding time in NOLA. Any vendor you come across will tell you this (as I experienced). Hotel room rates will be higher; actually, depending on the weekend, some hotels won't even honor a room block! (This is especially true during Voodoo Fest, which takes place the last weekend of the month.) Venues may be already booked, or, if available, will have much higher minimums than any other time of the year. Trust me when I tell you that planning a wedding during this time will definitely be more difficult, but NOT impossible.
*Tip: If you haven't experienced Halloween in New Orleans, put that on your bucket list immediately. It is absolutely worth it!
Unfortunately, this is just the nature of the beast. If you have your heart set on a fall wedding, be prepared for this by adjusting your budget where you can and by starting your planning early. Or, if you are flexible, have your wedding in November, when rates and minimums usually drop. Had I not had my heart set on October, November would have been my next choice.
Winter in NOLA
The weather: Cooler (sometimes much cooler) days with slightly higher rain chances. There are accounts of snowfall in the past, but it is extremely rare. Average temperatures are usually in the mid to low 60's with some 50 degree days. Overall, it is nothing like what you might experience up North.
As far as events, the city really comes alive at Christmas time, with lavish decorations and 'Christmas New Orleans Style' taking place throughout December. While there are activities constantly being held this time of year, it is nothing like the crowds you would experience during other major events. Hotel rates, minimums, and availability are all generally more reasonable during this time as well, with the exception of Mardi Gras, which starts at the end of January and goes all the way through Fat Tuesday. Overall, winter weddings in NOLA can be absolutely magical, and those brides with dreams of saying "I do" outdoors can generally expect decent weather.
Spring in NOLA
The weather: Warm(er) days with an increase in humidity that is definitely not unbearable. Average temperatures range from low 70's to mid-80's with some rain chances. This time of year is ideal for brides who want that summer vibe without the extreme heat.
After the month of October, March, April and May are probably the heaviest tourists months of the year. In large part, this is due to the amount of festivals that take place, including the popular French Quarter Festival and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fest. While it is an absolutely awesome time to visit the city, hosting your wedding during these months will definitely be trickier. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, plan for this in you budget and start early!
Special Events in New Orleans
NOLA is THE city when it comes to special events and celebrations. Actually, if I'm being honest, its probably more difficult to find a time when there isn't something going on in the Big Easy! However, there are a few events that you should be aware of:
- Mardi Gras [End of January-Fat Tuesday]
- St. Patrick's Day Weekend [Mid-March]
- New Orleans Spring Fiesta [Mid to end of March]
- French Quarter Music Festival [Mid-April]
- Jazz Fest [End of April/beginning of May]
- New Orleans Food and Wine Experience [Mid to end of May]
- Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival [Beginning of June]
- Fourth of July & Essence Festival [Beginning of July]
- Satchmo Summer Fest [End of July/beginning of August]
- Coolinary New Orleans [Throughout August]
- Southern Decadence [Beginning of September]
- New Orleans Film Festival [Mid-October]
- Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival [Mid-October]
- Voodoo Fest & Halloween [End of October]
- Oak Street Po-Boy Festival [TBA November]
- Celebration in the Oaks [End of November through Beginning of January]
- Christmas New Orleans Style [Throughout December]
As you can see, New Orleans doesn't mess around when it comes to having fun! One of the main reasons I fell in love with this city is the pride that they take in celebrating their heritage and their enthusiasm for having a good time. It is an incredible thing to experience!
If you want to learn more about the events in New Orleans, or to get a more detailed list, check out this link at NewOrleansOnline.com or head over the the New Orleans CVB interactive Calendar of Events here.
A Note About Saturdays And Second Lines
One thing to know about wedding planning is that Saturdays are the most popular wedding days, hands down; NOLA wedding or not. In New Orleans, wedding venues (like this one) charge significantly more (25-50%) for Saturday events than they do for events held on Friday or Sunday. The same goes for weekday weddings. That being said, if you don't have a preference, or if you have a really tight budget, getting married on an alternative day of the week is a great way to save some cash.
You can also save money by getting married at a non-traditional time of the day. Many venues offer special prices for brides willing to say their vows at morning or afternoon weddings. Again, if you don't have a preference, this could be a great alternative for you. Keep in mind that venues tend to have more availability for earlier weddings; so, if you're venue is booked on the night of your ideal wedding date, look into hosting an afternoon event.
Also, for all of you awesome ladies planning on having a second line, take these tips to heart. Keep in mind that the time of year and day of the week that you get married can effect your ability to host a second line. Depending on which special events are in town and where you would like to second line, a police escort (required for most) may be difficult to comes by. This is especially true if you're hoping to parade through the French Quarter during a large festival. (I'll give you one guess on how I learned that one.) Getting married on an alternative day of the week, or during an off season, will increase your chances of being able to second line down your ideal route and book the appropriate officials.
Planning your wedding is stressful. Choosing a date that won't break the bank, allows your VIPs to attend, and works well with your vision is key to smoothing the entire process. (Well that, and to start planning as early as possible. I can not stress that enough!)
Plan of Action:
So how are you feeling? Have any dates jumped out at you? If you're having trouble starting, here's my suggested plan of action:
- Take 15 minutes and write down every important or favorite date that comes to mind. (Including ones to include and ones to avoid.)
- Send all of your VIPs a quick email or text message asking them if there are any specific dates that would absolutely not work. (Make sure they know it should be extenuating circumstances...graduating college, a baby due date, deployment...things of importance.)
- Think long and hard about what time of year/type of season you want for your wedding day.
- After you single out a season, visit this link, and discover any major events in that time frame. (Hint: try to pick an 'off' weekend.)
- Discuss all of this with your fiance! (Probably a no-brainer, but it needs to be said.)
- Share your decision process or how this post helped you in the comments below! Better yet, find me on Instagram and Twitter (@NewlyNOLABride), and let me know when you've set your date!
- Once you've set the date, start checking out venues. Here's a review of one of my favorite venues!
So tell me, lovely brides, was this post helpful in trying to narrow down a NOLA wedding date? What about the brides that have already set a date, how did you go about deciding?
Share your experiences in the comments below. I love hearing your feedback!
And if you need more help brainstorming, here are a few more articles to browse:
That's it for now! Join me next week for Wedding Wednesday, where I share another post in the series: your wedding timeline. I've even got a freebie heading your way! (Hint: it's printable!)
-The Newly NOLA Bride