Wedding Reception at Academy of the Sacred Heart NOLA
Michael Caswell Photography

Wedding Reception at Academy of the Sacred Heart NOLA

While wedding ceremonies in the chapel of Academy of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans are common, many people don't realize that Sacred Heart can also host wedding receptions, as was the case with this wedding on a gorgeous spring afternoon.

The ceremony had taken place right across the street at St. George's Episcopal Church on St. Charles Avenue, and the reception was held in Sacred Heart Academy's spacious courtyard. There's no denying the pleasing symmetrical architectural beauty of this distinctive building, which was constructed around 1900. A highly regarded Catholic school for girls, I always love when brides who were educated here return to be married in the school's beautiful chapel, and although I've photographed wedding ceremonies at this church in the past, this was my first time shooting a reception at this venue.

A Joyous Moment Captured

This particular shot was one of those instances where I know right away I had captured a very memorable and special image. The enthusiastic guests with streamer sticks provided a wonderful send-off for the bride and groom at the end of the event. The energy and excitement of the friends and family was transferred to to the bride and groom as they ran through the streamers, and I love the resulting expressions of pure happiness on their faces.

And, certainly not any less important, the timing of the departure was absolutely perfect in terms of light, being about twenty minutes before sunset. I'm not sure if this was specifically the intention and was planned to take place at this exact time, but I appreciated it nonetheless!

Streetcar Departure

This couple had another unique element to their send-off. Rather than being whisked away by limousine, they instead walked to nearby streetcar stop, boarded, and off they went! While it's not uncommon for a wedding to feature one or more chartered streetcars to carry off the newly married couple with perhaps the bridesmaids, groomsmen, some family members, and some of the guests, that was not the case here, as they did not charter a streetcar and just intended for the two of them to hop onto one at a regular stop.

But as as anyone in New Orleans can tell you, while streetcars are supposed to pass about every 15 minutes, it's virtually impossible to predict exactly what time one will come. If one happened to pass just before you arrive at the stop, you might be in for a bit of a long wait. Or in some cases, the timing of the streetcars is off, and a few in a row will pass by, with a long gap between then and the next one coming by.

Ordinarily this isn't a big deal, but in the context of a grand and festive wedding send-off, it would have been a bit awkward and anticlimactic to have just departed the reception by running through a cheering crowd of guests, and then have to stand right across the street from them for 10 minutes or more, waiting for a streetcar to eventually arrive. Obviously the preference for such a send-off would be for the couple to be able to hop right on to a waiting streetcar, but unless you have specifically chartered one (knowing that it will arrive close to the specified time, and then will wait for a few minutes), there's no way to plan ahead of time precisely when one will pull up.

So, the couple's simple and practical, yet brilliant solution was to enlist the help of one of their friends who was assisting with the coordination of the wedding. He drove several blocks up St. Charles Avenue to wait and watch for an incoming streetcar. When one approached his position, meaning it was a few minutes away from Sacred Heart, he conveyed this information by phone back to another coordinator standing by at the venue, who had already rounded up the guests, handed out the streamer sticks, and got them lined up for the send-off, and just had to take the final steps to set the send-off into motion with the bride and groom.

The result was a perfectly timed ending, with the couple leaving through the cheering crowd, and a streetcar pulling up to the stop in front of Sacred Heart moments later as if right on cue.

Here's the review this bride subsequently wrote for me:

We hired Michael for 6 hours on our wedding day. He took pictures of bridal party pre-ceremony and also did ceremony and reception. He got amazing pictures that our families have not stopped raving about. He is very organized and kind. I loved that we never knew he was taking our picture. Very, very respectful during the ceremony to the point where we didn't know if he was there but he was and he got beautiful shots. Highly recommend him to any bride.

Location: 4521 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans LA 70115.