Jan 20, 2021

Planning a Wedding During a Festival Weekend (Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, French Quarter Fest)

There are 5 things to think about if you are planning to have your wedding during French Quarter Festival, Jazz Fest, Mardi Gras, or any other busy festival or parade weekend in New Orleans. If you planned your wedding and then a festival was moved to the same weekend, these tips can still help.

1. Consider Lodging

Xistence Photography

Hotels and Airbnbs are more expensive and often have a 2-3 night minimum during these weekends. Booking early or booking outside the French Quarter can help. However, it’s likely your guests will want to be part of the action, so even if you offer something off the beaten path, also offer a hotel in the middle of the action. Also, consider that wedding blocks are hard to come by during these festivals.

2. Send Save the Dates Early

Save the date NOLA
Emily Green Photography

Send save the dates early and give guests a heads up about hotel availability. A full year’s notice will help guests in securing hotels before they book up. This also gives them their best chance at lower priced airfare. If the festival was moved to your weekend after you already sent save the dates, send your guests an email or text to give them a heads up about the festival dates as soon as possible.

3. Book Rehearsal Dinner and Welcome Reception Early

Brennan's Rehearsal Dinner
Caitlin B. Photography

Often the rehearsal dinner is booked 3-4 months out. But for a festival weekend, consider booking your venue early. I’d book it closer to 6-8 months out. Restaurants are more crowded in general and less willing to give up large spaces for a reservation. Look to book a private dining room, rather than trying to buy out a local restaurant.

4. Quickly Book a Band

Brocato Photography Collective

Clubs and bars book bands to keep the music going all night during these fests. That will make bands less available for your date. It may also make the booking fee more expensive. Make sure you have a contract with your band that holds them to your date and does not allow them to back out for a better-paid gig. If you have already booked your band, check in with them again and confirm your date.

5. Figure Out Transportation

Police Escort
Dark Roux

Think about how you and your guests will get from hotel to venue and back. Check to see if street closures, parade routes or traffic might affect your travel. If you are already booked at your venue and believe it will be affected, consider hiring a police escort. This is especially important for longer routes. If you have a short distance to travel, look into pedicabs. With reduced space on the streets, pedicabs can often get through traffic much faster than cars and limos. Do not plan to hail a pedicab when you need it. You’ll need to reserve in advance, and there is an added fee for that.

Ridesharing costs are also a little higher because of high demand. They are also less available and have longer waits. They work for leaving the reception, but are not so good for when you need to arrive on time!

If you can find lodging within walking distance of your venue that’s a major win! Walking is by far the easiest option during festival time. But if that doesn’t work, hire professionals and they’ll keep things moving for you. Still expect increased travel times due to traffic and street closures. You can increase travel time on your wedding day timeline to accommodate that.

If you are local, think about where your guests will park and how much they’ll have to pay. You may be able to get a permit for the street, hire a valet, or offer transportation from the ceremony to the reception and back. Either way, communicate with guests about what is available. I’ve seen permitted lots go unused due to poor communication with guests!

If you are already booked for a festival weekend, embrace the fun of it! Your guests get the added benefit of being part of the festival in addition to attending the wedding. Plus festival weekends (but not Mardi Gras) are chosen because of the likelihood of great weather, so live that up too! Every wedding faces obstacles in planning, this is no different. Do your best to take it with stride.

If you are not booked yet but are considering one of these weekends, do so with these considerations in mind. Thank you so much for reading and Happy Wedding Planning!

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