From a Dixieland band in an antebellum home to massive tulip arrangements in modern drum chandeliers, a Louisiana wedding borrows from the past while looking to the future.
What began as a chance encounter at one wedding ended with another. Allison Berger, then a Washington, D.C.-based attorney, met Ben Tiller, a Tampa-based actuary, when the two were part of the same wedding party.
“It was one of his best friends from high school and my roommate from college; he was a groomsman and I was a bridesmaid,” says Allison Berger Tiller, currently the program director for a New Orleans non-profit social organization called Louisiana Appleseed. Allison and Ben dated for a year and a half long distance before Ben proposed during a kayaking trip off Long Boat Key, Florida.
In addition to a love of water sports and adventure, Allison and Ben also share a love of the outdoors, and they knew that this commonality would influence their own nuptials. “The vision of an outdoor mountain-wedding has always been appealing to me,” Allison explains. “The dream of an Aspen wedding, along with our love of the outdoors, really guided the choice go with a more relaxed, natural look.” While the two also wanted to be married in Allison’s hometown of New Orleans, they were determined that nature would still play a big role in their March 3rd wedding.
The converging influences of New Orleans, springtime, and the outdoors shaped the style of Allison and Ben’s wedding day from the start. Flowers both native to New Orleans and distinctly Southern—peonies, and camellias—filled the wedding and reception venues.
nted a wedding and reception that were full of Southern charm and grace,” says James Clawson of New Orleans’ floral design studio Urban Earth. “The flower selections were definitely very traditional, but our approach to their use was more modern. We prefer a bolder look, incorporating more stems of a few varieties of flowers rather than ‘the kitchen sink’ approach.”
Clawson, along with design consultants Darren Isabelle and Jessica Wilkinson, got a sense of Allison’s personality and taste and then worked with fellow Urban Earth colleagues including Creative Director Roland Montealegret and the Design Team of Phil McKineey, Perry Chunn, and Felicia Bellaire to tailor each piece of floral design for the wedding.
The church, themed in shades of ivory, pink, green, and brown, was decorated with rows of pillar and votive candles along with cherry branches, hydrangeas, and roses. The bride wore a silk and lace Vera Wang gown and carried a bouquet of pink peonies, cream Vendela roses, pink Grape hyacinth, Parrot tulips, ranunculus and a single gardenia.
Allison’s parents Darryl and Louellen Berger own a historic home on St. Charles Avenue, and it was the obvious choice for a reception venue. A beautiful harmony of the old South and modern aesthetics was evident throughout the decor—from the classic, painted mural in the Berger’s foyer to a very sleek, urban lounge area set up in the backyard.
“My parents’ home is directly across the street from my childhood and current church, so the choice of their home [for the reception] was easy to make,” Allison says.
In the dining room of the Berger home, pink French tulips, grapes, and nectarines were displayed in antique, family-owned pieces. Guests dined on standard New Orleans fare of shrimp, crabmeat, and fried oysters as well as mini empanadas and Cuban sandwiches in a nod to the specialty cuisine of Ben’s hometown of Tampa.
Outside the house, the Tillers also installed an acrylic floor over their pool and outfitted the space with modern white couches. “We called it the Water Lounge,” Clawson says. The overall effect was a luminous space for guests to relax and take in the beauty of the night sky, statuesque home, and inventive flowers.
In addition to New Orleans and the Berger home itself, “The Open Arms Oak,” a live oak named by the family and a prominent fixture on the Berger’s lawn, provided inspiration for the wedding’s floral design. Urban Earth designed three French tulip-topped barrel chandeliers to hang from the branches and welcome guests inside.
“They literally stopped traffic and the cars were backing up, circling the block to look at them,” Clawson remembers. “People were even stopping us to ask about them when we removed them. They drew a crowd, and many thought we were installing a movie set.”
Another showstopper was the curly willow finial chandeliers hanging from the center of the reception tent, an 8,000-square-foot tent erected in the Berger’s backyard.
“My parents have a beautiful garden and yard and the tent was clear so you could see the night sky above. My vision was ‘outside, but better’—almost like an enchanted garden,” Allison says.
To that end, Urban Earth built the three large chandeliers to hang from ceiling of the tent. “This is New Orleans after all and you are supposed to be up on the dance floor celebrating,” Clawson says. “We decided to put the impact up where everyone could see and enjoy it from all parts of the reception.”
Allison and Ben can’t help but smile when remembering the beauty of their wedding day. And they aren’t the only ones.
“People still talk about the baskets of tulips hanging from the front tree,” Allison recalls. “It’s a nice surprise when people mention your wedding flowers two years later.”
After it was all said and done, both the happy couple and the hard-working designers at Urban Earth agree that the wedding was a huge success. “Though I knew it would be beautiful, actually seeing the finished product was the best surprise!” says Allison. “Thinking about how beautiful the flowers were is very soothing to this day.”
TIPS FROM THE BRIDE AND THE FLORAL EXPERT
Make sure you are comfortable working with your floral designer. “Fit is important with floral design. Find a designer you can work with, someone who will enhance your ideas with their expertise,” Allison Berger Tiller advises. “We discussed the overall vision and I left the details, such as flower choice, to them. I also showed them pictures of weddings I liked from magazines. They drew some sketches and explained their interpretation of our vision. The exchange was in both directions.”
For a wedding on a budget, focus the flowers rather than compromising on quality. “Use the resources on one or two large elevated arrangements that anchor the entire room rather than spreading it all out so thin as to have little or no impact at all,” says James Clawson. “Put a big fabulous piece someplace where everyone can see and enjoy it and go simple on the tables.”