This story originally appeared in the Weddings issue of Domino. Subscribe to be the first to receive each issue.
She had him at a “hello” emoji. In June 2016, Bri Emery, the creative powerhouse behind the blog DesignLoveFest, swiped right on animator Justin Bakies’s Tinder profile, waving hi. Seconds later, he replied: “You look like a pretty girl I’d like to cook a meal with.” She typed, “What would we make?” His answer? “Steak au poivre. I’ve never had that and it sounds fancy.”
One dinner led to another, and on April 27, 2019, after a nine-month engagement kicked off by Justin’s candlelit proposal in their Los Angeles home, the couple enjoyed another steak au poivre meal–this time with 100 of their nearest and dearest, who gathered in New Orleans to celebrate their marriage.
The city is Justin’s hometown and “so important to him,” says Bri. But it was a natural pick for her, too, as she loves what she calls its “magical, Southern, Art Deco vibe.” When one of Justin’s friends texted them a link to Race + Religious, an indoor-outdoor events space formed by two 1800s homes in the Lower Garden District, she knew she had found their venue. “It was unique and comfortable, with a backyard that was exactly what I had been looking for,” she notes.
All the major design details were inspired by the location and what Bri calls her custom-made “Gatsby-esque” engagement ring. To fit in with “that old-world feeling,” she wore a crystal-studded Jenny Packham gown, paired with an ostrich plume-trimmed Naeem Khan cape, and had the site decorated with dried flowers and pampas grass.
In order to keep things “light and fun,” says Bri, “we told everyone that we were getting married privately in the morning,” and only sent invitations to an afternoon reception. But at the party, the pair surprised guests by exchanging vows on a bridge that crosses the property. “When I told my stepdad that he was going to get to walk me down the aisle, he started crying,” she recalls.
Post-ceremony, a brass band led everyone into the streets for a traditional New Orleans second line parade, then back to enjoy Southern-accented appetizers, including crab hush puppies and fried green tomato banh mi. Next came the steak dinner and a dance party-turned-silent disco that ended when guests jumped into the pool before heading to a local bar. All in all, the night was a real, well, lovefest.
Bri worked with Los Angeles-based floral designer Felisa Funes from Of the Flowers to design a “wispy, romantic vibe” with pampas grass, crystal balls, and candlelight. For months in advance, Funes bleached, dyed, and dried wild grasses, leaves, and flowers, then made the 27-hour drive to Nola to make sure everything arrived in picture perfect condition–including the groom’s boutonniere of air plants and dried wildflowers. Guests surrounded the pool to watch the ceremony–then jumped into it at the end of the night!
Bri’s Art Deco-style engagement ring inspired Bittersweet Confections to create a hexagonal almond and buttercream cake. Bucking tradition, the newlyweds cut it privately. Post-ceremony, guests had their fortunes told and took a turn in a masquerade-themed photo booth. During cocktail hour, partygoers helped themselves to smoky old-fashioneds from a vintage food truck.