If you’ve read this blog’s ABOUT page, then you know that one reason I moved to New Orleans after 18 years in Los Angeles was to find my mate. “I followed my heart here. My gut told me that everything I was looking for, denying myself while I furthered my career, was right here where I always wanted to be.” I met Andy at the Lost Love Lounge (yes, really) 8 months after moving here and we’ve been slowly walking toward the altar ever since. A few weeks ago, we finally tied the knot – New Orleans-style with everything from DancingMan504 and The Roots of Music to the Pussyfooters and “The Dude” (okay, he’s not New Orleans, but he abides everywhere).
We gathered in front of the Armstrong Park arch, the birthplace of jazz, surrounded by family, friends and neighbors including WWL’s Bill Capo, Academy Award nominee Kimberly Rivers-Roberts, Grammy winner Derrick Tabb and Treme‘s Henry Griffin. I first met Jeff “The Dude” Dowd when we sat next to each other at premiere before I left L.A. and we’ve remained friends since. Anyone who’s seen the character he inspired in The Big Lebowski knows that chaos is his comfort zone but when Andy suggested we get him ordained so he could marry us, I surrendered to the adventure.
We chose our date just 3 weeks before the wedding so getting The Dude legal and here was only one of many things that needed to happen quickly and with help from local vendors, friends and gifts of fate. We knew we wanted to be married at the Armstrong Park arch. It’s a beautiful and recently-revitalized backdrop and, as the home of Congo Square and the birthplace of jazz, the most soulful spot in America. With it’s schedule of free concerts and festivals, it’s also a regular part of our experience of the city and holds many fond memories. The NOPD was supremely helpful in planning a route for the parade and securing officers to escort us from the park around the French Quarter.
We knew we wanted umbrellas and kerchiefs for the second line parade after the ceremony. Second line parades are usually long and in the sun, so though no one is certain how umbrellas and parasols became part of these parades since as far back as 1865, I’m guessing they did it for the same reason I carry a parasol on sunny days – portable shade.
The “first line” of the wedding parade is the bride and groom, the hosts and the band. The “second line” is all the people who join in, including tourists who luck into a local experience. These people don’t usually have umbrellas handy, so men would pull out pocket squares and women would find kerchiefs and they would wave them in the air to indicate they’d joined the parade. The tradition has continued today with cocktail napkins.
We decided to hand out kerchiefs with our names and the date as well as a fleur de lis. At Jazz Fest, a fellow Pussyfooter handed me a kerchief I immediately recognized as the ones I’d called from an online search. She said a woman from Second-line Handkerchiefs was passing them out. Yep, I’d liked them because they were local and had super-quick turnaround as well as the exact design I wanted. Done.
Speaking of The Pussyfooters, what wedding is complete without women in matching outfits? This is my first year as a Pussyfooter and I’ve loved dance practice and parading at Mardi Gras and all the other events we’ve done together so I invited the gang to join me and I counted well over 20 Pussyfooters and Pussyhandlers (handling security, beverages and personal items) dressed in pink and orange ruffles and fishnets. My Louisiana-born mother walked me down the “aisle” of St. Ann along with my friend since college, Pamela, a de facto matron of honor.
We didn’t hire a wedding photographer and we’d asked people not to fly in for such a “lunch break” wedding. So, we created a wifi feed on Livestream to connect us with family and friends all over the world. Whitney Armentor of Raintree Children & Family Services generously volunteered to be our live feed videographer. How wonderful to be able to have loved ones there without ever leaving their living rooms. The bonus was that many of my friends have never been to New Orleans and enjoyed “touring” the city a bit. Our musical friend Tree Battles taped most of the videos below.
The Pussyfooters formed an aisle for me as I arrived at the arch. I couldn’t help but be moved at how many had shown up and how beautiful, festive, sexy and fun they all looked. It made me so proud to be a part of this sisterhood. My stepfather asked a Pussyfooter why they all did this for me and she said, “We would have done it for any one of us.” Exactly. But I can’t express what a high it was, how supported and how much a part of something I felt as I walked down that tunnel of busty babes. I suddenly realized, I’d matched them in my corset and petticoat.
A word on the wardrobe. I jokingly called my dress a “deconstructed wedding gown” because I only wore the things that go under dresses – yes, I got married in underwear. And Andy wore a white linen short-sleeved shirt and shorts. Yep – shorts. In a city where the line between occasion wear and costume is perilously thin, I felt pretty in my glitter-trimmed petticoat and corset (glittering the trim was a VERY lengthy and messy crafting task) and my handmade fascinators. We called the event the “Do Watcha Wanna Wedding” after a favorite Rebirth Brass Band song.
Coincidentally, in our vows we paraphrased Rebirth’s trumpeter, Chadrick Honore, (along with Phat Word) from my favorite Saints anthem Black & Gold. For those who’d like to read the very NOLA-centric vows we wrote, I’ve included them below the very long photo album.
As we all know, “The Dude Abides” so he was as I hoped he’d be – unexpected and sincere and fun. He even got us some VooDoo gris gris to put under the bed and some magic oil.
We knew for years that we would choose The Roots of Music as our band so imagine our shock when their founder, Rebirth Brass Band’s Derrick Tabb said we were their first wedding! The non-profit band benefitting at-risk youth between 8 and 14 years old provides music training, history and theory as well as after-school tutoring, a hot meal and a ride to their front door. But we hired them because they’re awesome! They’ve been my favorite youth band since I first saw them in 2010. The crowds especially liked their versions of Billy Jean and Pherrell Williams’ Happy.
A second line needs a leader and our dear friend, Darryl “DancingMan504” Young generously volunteered his considerable services. Not only did he facilitate traffic and directions, he knew when to hype the paraders and when to engage the crowds around us. He even tended to details like remembering to pose our umbrellas in front of us for some photos. Most fun of all was when he’d do his jumps. Darryl is capable of jumping quite high – repeatedly. I loved when he got us all to join in – a bouncing bridal party.
At the end of our loop around the French Quarter down Royal Street and back via Bourbon Street, everyone was ready for our wedding cake-flavored sno-balls. Locally-owned and just-named 3rd “Best Hot Dog on the Planet” by High Times, Dreamy Weenies hosted our pre-wedding lunch and staging area. Far above the call of duty, they also allowed us to use their power and sidewalk for Nola Snow to serve sno-balls in a host of fabulous flavors. The Nola Snow folks been booked for the day but found a way to not only accommodate us, but treat us like family.
After the last sno-ball had been served and the crowd began to dissipate, we headed home to sign the papers and for a slice of the gorgeous white, black & gold cake made by my Django Unchained castmate, Monica Anderson’s Cakes & Desserts by Monica.
It took a city to pull off our wedding. In addition to our fabulous cake, many other friends made contributions. Our friend Suzanne and her family made our gorgeous umbrellas in one night of teamwork! My fellow Pussyfooter, Sarah, crocheted my gorgeous black and gold garter. Though we’d asked for no gifts, several people generously donated to Raintree and others ignored us entirely enabling us to pay for the wedding.
My mother and my friends Lola Dart and Wendy Talley (who also worked with me as wardrobe for Django Unchained and the upcoming The Loft) helped me with my bridal “dress” shopping. Generously photographing the ceremony and second line were Lindanne Lewis (who was the Paint Foreman on Django Unchained), Colton Clements, Carlos Gonzalez, performance painter Reuben Cheatem, and Pussyfooter and artist Niki Hampton and fellow Pussyfooter Catherine King of C8King Photography as well as many of our guests.
And thanks as well to local vendors who had all the kooky things we needed like the corset from QT Pie, the gold corset ribbon from Promenade Fine Fabrics and my blingy necklace from So Good. Andy owes his linen shirt and shorts to Southern Comfort Cotton, his hat to Goorin Bros. and his shoes to TOMS and their collaboration with Brad Pitt’s Make it Right Katrina rebuilding project. The vegan hemp and recycled polyester shoes feature a map of New Orleans and not only is a contribution made to Make it Right’s efforts, it is TOMS’ policy to give a free pair of shoes to someone in need for every pair of shoes they sell. Their “One for One” policy now extends to eyeglasses and coffee (buys one week of clean water).
I’ll be honest, I dared to dream I would meet Andy when I made the leap from L.A. to here but I never dreamed of having such a fun and love-filled wedding. As you’ll see in our vows, our love for each other is magnified by our shared love for our city. Perhaps the greatest twist of fate comes in the form of a gift from our beloved city. After Andy’s 8 years on the waiting list, 2 days before the wedding… drum roll please… we became proud Saints’ season ticket holders. WHO DAT!?!
Enjoy the wedding ceremony (CLICK HERE to watch the 10 minute version)
And the second line parade (CLICK HERE to watch the 15 minute version).
Remember the vows are printed below the gallery. After the wedding photos, I’ve included photos from the pre and post gatherings covering the Pussyfooter bachelorette party at Salu, and 3 fabulous restaurants. Our parents met for the first time at Muriel’s, Commander’s Palace surprised us with “Best Wishes” written in chocolate on our Ponchatoula strawberry shortcake’s plate and Bayona greeted us with heart confetti on the table and chilled champagne.