Michael Caswell Photography

Destination Weddings in New Orleans

New Orleans is one of the top destination wedding and elopement cities in the country, and in fact typically over half of my commissions each year are from couples who do not live in the New Orleans area. It's not hard to understand why this is such a popular place to get married: a fascinating city overflowing with rich history and unique culture, breathtaking architecture, awesome music, great food, and a wide assortment of amazing event venues large and small. And there is an undeniable romance associated with this city. I frequently have couples where one or both of them went to college here, fell in love with the city, and decided that it would be a natural choice to get married here!

What I love best about photographing weddings in this area is the incredible diversity of how we celebrate here, and, quite simply, how much fun people have doing so. When I look through wedding pictures from other parts of the country and the world, I'll admittedly sometimes have a slight bit of envy at some of the gorgeous environments these photographers have at their disposal. Beautiful mountain scenery, unimaginably opulent ballrooms, amazing looking desert landscapes, lush prairies, beaches with white sugary sand and crystal clear water.

But what I enjoy shooting most of all are people – specifically, people having fun. And as you look through my portfolio and those of my fellow wedding photographers in New Orleans, you'll see that it's abundantly clear that no place in America has weddings that are more uniquely fun than here. And on top of that, we still have plenty of beautiful churches, fabulous event venues, and gorgeous scenery!

I overhear it often while I'm shooting: "this is the best wedding I've ever been to!" While gracing a bride with a compliment like this may be the polite and expected thing to do, and thus should be taken with a grain of salt, it should be noted that I frequently hear those kinds of comments made just among guests themselves, and typically with a lot of colorful adjectives (and occasionally expletives!) thrown in, so there's not really a "I'm going to tell the bride that her wedding was great just because I feel obligated to" factor there.

Often when I hear these kinds of compliments, it's during destination weddings where most or all of the guests are from out of town. Not that locals don't also love New Orleans weddings and have a great time, it's just that they've perhaps previously attended events here, so they already know what to expect and perhaps aren't quite as easily blown away.

Another thing I sometimes hear from my couples is the story of how they ended up deciding to get married in New Orleans, how they were visiting the city, perhaps on a business trip, a convention, or a vacation, and they stumbled onto a second line parade marching through the streets of the French Quarter with a bride and groom and their guests clearly having the best time ever. Their response to witnessing this is always some variation of, "when that parade roared by, I turned to my fiancé, and I said, I want that, I want us to get married here, because I. Want. That!"

Cost Factors

On a more practical note, I've been told by brides and grooms from bustling metropolises with a high cost of living such as New York or Los Angeles that even with travel expenses factored in, their destination wedding in New Orleans was less costly than it would have been in their own city.

What Makes a New Orleans Destination Wedding Different?

Because nuptial celebrations here will often have many guests from out of town, this makes our unique cultural traditions even more enjoyable to document, as for a wedding photographer the only thing more fun than shooting a chaotically festive and raucous second line parade through the French Quarter is shooting one that consists mostly of guests who are not from this area and have never experienced anything like it! A very frequent phrase I overhear among guests at these events is, "this is THE BEST wedding I've ever been to!", spoken in an enthusiastic manner that clearly indicates the compliment is not merely a platitudinous and obligatory remark that they'd make no matter where the event was or how how good it was, but rather is a genuine expression that reflects how much they enjoyed it.

Second Line parades are also often what draws couples to have their wedding here in the first place. On a number of occasions, I've had a bride or groom tell me some variation of "we were visiting the city, and as we were walking down Bourbon Street, we saw one of those parades go by led by a newly married couple... we looked at each other, and I immediately said I want that!".

New Orleans weddings tend to be shorter (but more fun-packed) than in many other cities, which will often have receptions lasting 6 hours or more, with a cocktail hour and a seated dinner taking up about half that time before the real fun even begins. Instead, receptions here are usually three hours (sometimes four hours, but rarely longer), with a buffet style meal consisting of a great variety of food of which guests can eat as much as they want and when they want, and with the action beginning almost immediately. And the end of the reception often doesn't mean the end of the party, it just means those who want to continue the celebration move it to one of the many bars in the city (which range from grungy dive bars to upscale and elegant clubs). This more condensed timeline appeals to many people, whether they be guests or the bride and groom themselves.

Couples also often tell me that they received a surprisingly high number of positive RSVPs compared to what they expected based on reported national averages. The reason is simple, as people are more likely to carve time out of their busy schedules to attend a wedding if they realize that they can also get the added bonus of a vacation getaway to an exciting and culturally-diverse destination like the Crescent City.

It can be challenging and stressful to plan a large event from across the country. Hiring a good planner / coordinator who is experienced with working with destination couples can be very helpful and work wonders for alleviating this, and as one of the most experienced wedding photographers in New Orleans, I am also happy to assist you with other vendor recommendations and with determining the ideal timing of your special day to achieve the best possible photographs and least amount of stress.

Vow Renewals

I also photograph vow renewals in New Orleans. A vow renewal is a beautiful way to reconfirm your lifelong commitment to each other. A significant anniversary (10 year, 20 year, etc.) is great time to do this, and sometimes couples choose to renew their vows after they've perhaps made it through a difficult time in their marriage.

A renewal ceremony can be a small, intimate, and informal gathering with just a few close friends and family members in attendance (even just the two of you and your kids!), or a full-blown, elaborate event with a reception very similar to a traditional wedding with hundreds of guests. But big or small, you'll certainly want beautiful photographs to remember this milestone!