Destination Weddings in New Orleans

Weddings from the Pros

Episode 65 with Nathan and Michelle Norwood

If the idea of traveling to a meaningful place to spend quality time with people you value the most, resonates with what you’ve envisioned your wedding to be, then this episode with Michelle Norwood will enlighten you.

With an ample experience on destination weddings, she discusses some of the key aspects in planning the perfect wedding of your dreams at the destination you desire.

Check her website at and connect with her on Instagram @michellenorwoodevents

Check out Nathan’s Wedding Photography Studio

Also Find Angled Light Photography here on Instagram & Facebook

In This Episode We Cover:

  • Why Couples choose New Orleans as a Wedding Destination.
  • What is the meaning of “Wedding Destination” and what are the things you need to know before planning your wedding on your favorite location.
  • How important a Wedding Destinations Designer role help you plan your Travel, Design your Wedding and find the perfect Location. 
  • How your wedding Planner evaluates your ideas and make it into a reality.

Listen to the Full Podcast Here!

Read the Full Transcription Below!

Here at Angled light photography. We believe marriage is an amazing adventure and your wedding is the jumping off point. We'll explore planning an authentic and meaningful wedding experience as we connect with real life couples and the industry's top professionals. We're here to inspire and encourage you as you begin this journey of a lifetime. Hey, everybody welcome back to another episode of weddings from the pros. I am happy that you're here and I am excited to introduce to you today's guest, which is Michelle Norwood from Michelle Norwood events. She is located in the beautiful Nola that is new Orleans part of Louisiana and she and her company specializes in destination weddings.

So Michelle, thank you so much for being on the podcast. I appreciate you coming in everything that I've seen about you everywhere has just been absolutely phenomenal. Yeah, and I want to touch a little bit more on the kinds of weddings that you do and what you specialize in. But first off, just thank you for being here. I really appreciate it. And today's topic of conversation is going to be all about destination weddings and honestly, when I think of destination weddings, Michelle, I think of you. So I'm really glad that you're here.

Thanks, thanks for your time. Thank you. Thank you for having me. So let's start off with if you can just kind of tell the audience a little bit about who is Michelle Norwood and Michelle Norwood events. How did it start? And how did you start doing destination weddings? Who is Michelle, I don't know if I want to tell my age, but I'm in it now, so I have to, I am 42, like personally I'm 42, I'm a mother of one, I am married, have been in a long relationship for 20 plus years.

Gosh, I am aging myself today. Um yeah, I started my career as an accountant, have a degree in accounting so I can count money very well and spend it equally as well. Um I actually worked for American Honda and I did, I started with them as their floor plan specialists, which there's a lot of car dealer shop basically, I don't know if this is relevant, but basically no dealership owns any of the cars on the lot, what they do is they financed them through this thing called floor plan.

So essentially you borrowed billions of dollars from whatever the distributor of the vehicle is, Honda, Nissan blah blah blah. So I audited those billions of dollars to make sure dealerships were on top of like their payoffs and things like that, so I really can't count money very well, I mean that and I again, I can spend it equally as well and so they were having an upcoming golf tee for the biggest dealerships that had basically had spent the most money and interest and so they didn't want to hire a planner, they didn't see the value in it and so they asked if someone wanted to do it and I was like sure I'll do it like a break from regular life and I didn't and I enjoyed it.

I loved it so much. Like it was just I don't know, I just got to all the fields you know like oh my God, this is so exciting. It was like it was just great to do and like interact with people and I got to be creative and it was really fun. The flipside of that is every time they had an event because that one went so well, they always came to me because still they didn't want to pay anyone, they're already paying me to count their money, why not give me a second job.

And so it just ended up kind of being a thing where they ended up hiring me an assistant and then I started doing more events and my assistant was actually doing the job that I was getting paid to do and so it just kind of became a thing. And so I did that for 14 years and then true story, my boss and I got into an argument over a football field tickets. I felt like I should have had them, he felt like he should have paid them, he won, he won the argument and I quit my job.

And so that is how Michelle Nordea's story my company started because it was my son's, my son's birthday and so the game was on my son's birthday and like what better gift to give a kid then like field tickets to a football game. I recognized the story is very boujee because the ticket alternative was to go being a sweet. So like there were no bad options. I just wanted the field tickets to give my son that experience. And so I was very, I was angry and so I was like, you know what, I'm gonna quit and start my own business.

He told me verbatim, good luck with that. And so I was like, oh, you just wait and see. And so I I did. I resigned December 1st and I left December 31st and that is how Michele Norris events started. So tell me why weddings, I mean, you know because I mean, I've worked with planners that do all kinds of things from non charity events to, you know, high dollar corporate events. So why do you guys choose weddings and decide that that's what you want to specialize in.

Okay, I don't know how PG I have to be here. I know there's some editing, so you decide what you want to share or not. When I was doing corporate events. My basic job was a professional beggar. Billion dollar. Companies don't want to spend any money. They want everything given to them. So basically I go around and you know, you owe us, you need to give us this. And so for years, I was, I mean I put on lavish events, but they were basically like, we're spending $500.

I mean I'm exaggerating but they were like we're spending 30,000 and you need to get 200,000 worth of free stuff and it was just like every day it's just like you just beg and people see you and they go in the opposite direction because they know you're not coming to give anything, you're coming to X or something. So I felt like I was just over that part and I mean like corporations have changed drastically now. They want their events to be experiences. And there are days like I said yesterday, I'm like maybe I should get back into corporate events because things have changed.

Like they understand guest experience. But back then it was like we have a budget, we're not spending up anymore and you need to go back and get everything from everybody else to put this event on and it needs to be a great event or we're gonna be mad and I'm like you're paying me to do this, what do you mean? So, so that's why I chose weddings. I thought weddings were personal. People cared about the details, they wanted it to be special and the cost was second to all of the emotional parts of it.

So that's why I chose wedding. That's amazing. So you are located in New Orleans, right? I mean one of my favorite cities in the country. Did you grow up in New Orleans? Born and raised? Born and raised. Yeah. No, it was one of my favorite places to visit and go to the culture. There is unlike anything else that you're going to find anywhere else in the country. And I think to me that's what makes no a super distinctive and very, very different. But I'm curious for the couples that you work with that end up choosing new Orleans as a destination to get married in to have their wedding.

Why does it feel like a lot of the couples choose new Orleans? What is it about New Orleans that really draws them to the place. Good music, great food. I mean like you come here, it's just a good time. Like you can walk everywhere. Nothing is more than 15 minutes apart. Like you eat sleep, drink repeat. Like you know you're coming here for a good time. So people choose it because they're like we want the new Orleans experience, we want to be in the French quarters, we want to have a parade, We want to have a second line.

They just want the new Orleans experience. So that's why people choose to come here And then some of my clients, it holds a special place in their heart. Maybe they met at college here. I have a couple, they went on their first day celebration in the oaks and so their wedding is going to be at Noma. So it also could hold a special place in their hearts for them or some people just are like I came here for college, I love it. This is definitely where I'm getting married.

Yeah, 100%. So one thing I want to do before we kind of really start diving in is make the distinction when we say destination weddings because there's kind of two different ways to look at it, right? Or there's two different kinds of destinations and they kind of become interchangeable a little bit. Do you want to kind of tell the couples out there when we're referring to destination weddings? What does that mean? I mean it goes kind of two ways, Right? So destination weddings to me means for clients that are coming to me in New Orleans to host their destination wedding or flying me out to a destination where either you live for a destination wedding in your city or we're all packing up.

Going somewhere to have a destination. That is just you pick a place that either you went on your first vacation or you just love. So there are three different types of destination weddings. So my business, we do about 50% reverse destination, which in my opinion means that you are coming to me and I'm giving you the destination experience in new Orleans and then 50% I'm going to them or we're going somewhere else. Gotcha, that's perfect. Thank you so much. Okay, so when couples are planning, they say, hey, we have an adventurous spirit or there's a place in the United States, maybe it's new Orleans, maybe it's elsewhere, you know, that really resonates with us for whatever reason.

Maybe they're super outdoorsy people, maybe they want to visit. You mentioned that you had done weddings in Alaska before. Maybe they have a very adventurous spirit that's a part of who they are. And the idea of going somewhere like Alaska just really resonates with their story and resonates with who they are. And so they give you a call. You know, it's funny that destination weddings is like one of the few things when it comes to weddings, it's one of the few things that most couples don't have a lot of resources for, it doesn't feel like like if you do a search on google and you just start searching destination, like things pop up, but it doesn't feel super helpful, right?

Because it's a monumental task to plan a wedding when you're not living. I mean, the destination weddings that I've gone and I've covered, it's funny, you know, in talking with a couple afterwards. Usually the thing that they always say is I didn't realize it was gonna be quite that hard or I didn't know it's gonna be quite that big of a deal or that big of a job that theme tends to come up often. Right, So I do encourage couples anytime I'm talking with somebody and they say, hey, we're really thinking about having a destination wedding.

The first thing, I mean, it becomes even more important that they're leaning on somebody like you who's a specialist in all things destination wedding. I mean we're talking like lodging travel, like, you know how to rent in places that you're not around, how to vet and how to pick, you know, a venue that you've never seen before. Maybe, you know, like, and you may not see until you actually get to the wedding. So it's such a big deal to find a fantastic wedding designer who really does specialize in all things destination wedding planning.

So the question that I wanted to get to is for the couples who come to you, what seems to be kind of the biggest issue they feel they're facing like, what's the point that they say, okay, listen, like we need to find somebody who really specializes in this location or really specializes in destination wedding travel to be able to handle this force or at least help us. What tends to be the thing that feels overwhelming for couples when they're trying to plan their destination wedding weddings are so emotional and they're romantically charged.

They need someone with like boots on the ground or the ability to like hop on a plane and go and check out things when they can't, most of my clients are like clients in general. They have full time jobs. Like this is my full time job. I can drop everything and jump on a plane tomorrow and go scout venues to put my eyes on it. So when a client comes to me and they're like a lot of time sidebar, a lot of times I don't meet my clients until the week or two weeks before their wedding because it's just impossible for them to get here.

So like having them reach out, not know anything about the destination where they wanted to get married or maybe they've just been there once or twice. Like come to me, they want to know what I think about the venue. They may give me three things that they want and then I just go and I make it all happen for them. But the concern when they're looking to book a place that they've never been is like, we just want someone that we know knows about destination weddings know about permitting customs, any covid protocols and that they can trust that the information I'm going to give them is accurate and that it makes the process easier with one of the biggest compliments I received during covid from a bride that I did not meet until Tuesday before her wedding and we're planning for two weeks when she was like, you made this process so easy in a pandemic, like changing dates, getting new contracts, sending everything to her in a venue.

She had never seen, she saw the venue, she did a makeup trial and saw the venue on Tuesday and she was getting married on Saturday, never tasted the food, never tasted a drink, never tasted the cake. Like she just completely trusted that I knew what I was doing. I mean it was in New Orleans, so I didn't know what I was doing, so she wasn't sure. But yeah, they just need to know that the person that they're reaching out to is going to give them that comfort.

That what they're expecting in the end is what they signed up for. That's amazing. And I say it all the time, the weddings that I've documented, I'm a photographer, the weddings that I've documented and we get to the end of the wedding day, it's funny that the couples that walk away more fulfilled, right, tend to have had less stress during the process and one of the biggest things are one of the biggest factors I think in the amount of stress that they're facing or the amount of stress that they felt like they had during the wedding day, is having a coordinator and having the designer, somebody who's going to be able to swim upstream, so to speak and be able to solve a lot of problems before you even get to the day and you start experiencing those problems right?

And it's funny that right and all of the weddings that I've been and I say this so many times for couples who are planning their wedding, there tends to be two things that a lot of couples try to go without. And I saw this a lot more early in my career, but even now I still encounter couples who's trying to think about ways that they can do something and not the other thing. And I've encountered couples who they're like, I don't know that I really need a wedding planner because maybe the bride feels very type a right?

And she's like, hey, I'm a spreadsheet queen and I know how to keep track of things and you know, you do have this amazing resource now called the internet, right? And they feel like that they can really wrap their head around it. But what I feel like a lot of couples fail to realize is how many moving parts there are, like how many small things are constantly changing in the wedding planning process leading up to the wedding, and then especially on the day itself, how many moving parts there are?

Right. And so to add another layer of complexity to that, which is, you're in a place that you have no idea, like you don't have resources that people to lean on in that location. So again, it just makes it all that much more important that they're talking to somebody who knows how to, like I said swim upstream and get ahead of problems. So I think that that makes a lot of sense to me, so talk to me about Nola's specifically, you know, what's maybe three pieces of advice for somebody who's interested in getting married in new Orleans, what's maybe like three pieces of advice that you would give or maybe three reasons why you would say because you mentioned the food, you mentioned the music, you mentioned the really unique culture and atmosphere that the place has.

Its maybe three pieces of advice that you would have for a couple who's thinking about coming to New Orleans to have their wedding higher Michelle. No, I mean definitely you need a planner. New Orleans is a very specific market and by that, I mean we have unlike New York or L. A. We have a lot of standalone venues and buy standalone venues. I mean if the venue is $15,000 you are getting the venue and nothing else. So then you literally are now building your wedding and coming here like we have a lot of old new Orleans charm with that comes a ta issues.

So if you book a venue that is upstairs, there's probably not an elevator. So if you have a planner, you would know that because that's not gonna be like lined item out on a certain document that you signed or people sign contracts all the time without reading them. You need a planner to even read your contracts just to make sure, especially now with covid and so many things changing and so many procedures being in place like you need a planner because if you're coming to New Orleans 88 is going to be one of the biggest battles for you because what you may love a venue, but if your person is on a walker, they can't come, they simply can't make it.

And then to, you could absolutely love a venue online, but then when you get there and see it, a lot of things here are broken up and like spaced out, there are not many, all one room places and then just all of the rules, like in New Orleans is a fun party city, but like most venues here and at 10 o'clock. And so if you're coming here thinking you're events going to go until midnight or one in the morning, you are sadly mistaken. We are out by 10 and our, most of our events are only four hours because we're cocktail style receptions.

We don't do a lot of seated dinners. So if you wanted to do a seated dinner now you have to pay for more hours, more money more. You know, like it's just all the logistics of specifically doing an event in New Orleans, I'm sure like in new york they're used to seated plated dinners and they have receptions that are eight hours, that's just not what it is here. Most of our receptions are three hours and 30 minutes for a ceremony, but you don't know that and you don't know what you don't know and people want to come here and second line down bourbon street.

You can, but you can't after seven o'clock so it's like you go to submit your permit, which that's a whole another situation, you need a permit for everything here you go to submit your permit and then it's rejected. So there's just a lot of nuances that come with getting married in new Orleans that you definitely need and there are people that bring planners in from other places, but you definitely need a local because I had planned or friends that have come here to plan events and I end up helping them, you know, do the work because they don't know in new Orleans is a very specific market. Yeah.

That's awesome for the couples who tend to come both to Nola but any destination. Do you find that a lot of couples tend to just use that destination also as their honeymoon location. I guess what I'm trying to say is like do they come to the location, they choose that location and then they want to have, you know, let's say they'll be there starting on that Thursday or Friday and then they'll stay for the entire next week or next two weeks or whatever for their honeymoon at that same location or do you find that people will come to the destination wedding location, have their wedding and then travel to another, another location for their honeymoon from my experience clients come here, have their wedding, then leave and go to a different destination for their wedding.

Now that's specifically for, no, no matter where I go, people typically do that. Cool. Yeah. That's awesome. That's awesome. So do you, typically, this is just a question because I've encountered some that do and some that don't, do you help couples, you know, with their engagement plans as well? Like do you tend to help with travel when it comes to what happens after the wedding? Or do you really just focus on the wedding ceremony itself, The wedding day itself? No, so, no. So we actually help clients with all levels of it.

Like we do engagement planning sessions, We traveled with clients to do their engagement photo sessions. We do their entire wedding weekend, which is their welcome parties. They're rehearsal dinners there, Goodbye guests, brunch their weddings, their after parties after after parties. And then there are clients that we assist. I am also a travel agent. So there are clients that I assist with their honeymoons as well. Awesome. That's cool. Yeah. And another question for everybody who's up again, they're just trying to figure out if this destination thing is for them.

And I know that there's not like there's a far less typical when it comes to destination weddings than there is with normal local weddings, but what does a typical timeline for a destination wedding look like like you mentioned like a welcome party and you mentioned, I'm covering, there's, there's a couple who's coming in to Asheville north Carolina and I'm gonna be covering there. That's gonna be a four day event there expats as in the U. K. Right now and they're coming to Asheville and they'll be here in Asheville for four or five days.

It's a it's a really long uh wedding event that they got wedding week that they've got with their closest family and friends. So I'm just curious in your experience, like what does that typically look like as far as a schedule, What do a lot of couples tend to do when it comes to having a destination wedding because again it is much more than just the wedding day right? There's things happening both before and after. So right so most clients coming in, they're going to have either a sip and see or welcome party or some people like to switch it out.

They'll they'll do a rehearsal dinner, like a private estate rehearsal dinner and then the next day have a sip and see or welcome party, which a sip and see is where you show up basically, get drunk, see the couple and then go out on your own after so that our welcome event and then there is either any activities happening the morning of the rehearsal which will help with the bridal luncheon or the groom's lunch before the actual rehearsal than the rehearsal dinner. Then after the rehearsal dinner there could be an after party.

Yes that is a thing and then there is the actual wedding, the reception. My weddings are larger. So like most of my weddings are six or eight hours. I even have one this year, that's 11 hours. So they will do the ceremony, then we'll go to a different location for cocktail hour, then we'll go to a different location for seated dinner, then a different location for the dance party. And then from there they could go to an after party that could go into a four a.m. Then brunch the next morning than a goodbye guest party that night.

I mean we just find reasons to have party, but the weekends are full weekends. Yeah, well, and I think in my experience with destination weddings, that's the reason, right? Like typically to be able to go to a beautiful place or to be able to experience an interesting culture. Sure. Like that's the icing on the cake. But to me, the people who's done destination weddings that you're talking about, where it is a larger gathering of people, it really does revolve around, they want to spend real quality time with the people.

That means the most to them. I mean to me that's one of the biggest benefits of having a destination wedding, right? Because typically when you're traveling somewhere they're coming in from out of town, everybody's gonna be there for three days, four days and that's very different than having a local wedding where you know, you show up. It's like everybody walks in, you shake hands, you have a few drinks, you do a little dancing and then you take off, right? And for a lot of couples, I think there's a lot of people now that's really realizing that the downside to that is that and everybody hears this all the time the wedding day flew by, right?

And there's this idea that I was just talking to a couple last night sitting here, we were chatting about the fact that the wedding day does move very fast if you're not intentional about how you spend your time, right? If you're not intentional about doing things that really matter to you and that are meaningful for the people who are around you, your friends, your family, then Yeah, it will fly by, you know, and I encourage couples all the time. Like, don't sit on the sidelines, like for for your own wedding.

Like don't sit on the sidelines and wait be intentional about the things that really resonate with you do things throughout the wedding experience. It might be a day, it might be to four or five, but do things that are going to help you slow down time that you're going to be able to learn in the moment and actually appreciate, like all the effort that you went through and the amazing thing that's happening, which is you're getting married to the person that means the most to in the world.

You need to slow down time in every shape, form or fashion that you can write, especially when it comes to your wedding. And I think that the amazing things with destination weddings, all the weddings that I've participated in that have been destination oriented. I mean that's the biggest reason why they're choosing to do it. It's that they want to have a space and they want to have a dedicated time that they can spend with people. That really matters to them, you know? And so I think that's cool that like, does that resonate with you?

Have you seen that too? Does that tend to be one of the big things for the couples that you work with? Absolutely. And that's why they have so many events because they want to make sure they're spending as much time as possible with all of these people that have changed so far to celebrate them. Yeah, 100%. That's awesome. So Michelle tell me with your experience doing destination wedding design, what was probably the most inspirational wedding that you had last year in 2021 a wedding that you think will stick with you for the rest of your life.

And I know that they all do, but I have three. That's a hard question. Okay, well for three different reasons, but please tell us, okay, oh man, I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. They're going to be like Michelle envisioned my wedding man last year was so good. That's a hard question. The one that immediately pops in my head is marigny Opera House for jasmine and Glenwood because we brought 15 ft. trees into already iconic venue with huge ceilings and we filled it with trees and that was the main focal point of the ceremony and like the guests dance between the trees, we set up a little lounge vignettes, so like guests got to enjoy dancing under the trees.

And so that was just a moment. And also when the bride walked in, I remember if you're not going to put 50 ft. trees in the marigny Opera House, then why are you here? Like, she just loved it. It was, it was a big investment, but she, she loved it and she was like, she said, I'm obsessed with my wedding. And this was the bride that I didn't meet until two days before her wedding. So like there was a lot of trust along the way that like, you know, again where the rubber meets the road, that what I put on paper and like renderings actually, you know, they walk in and you're like, do they love it?

But that one will stick with me because I'm like, okay, who's going to put trees in marigny Opera House next. So, so yeah, because I mean it's a big investment to like 15 ft. trees and have them deliberately. It was a good moment, but there were others, but that is the one that stuck with me? But there are others that were great and there are places where you have maybe some photos from that one that people can go check out if they're interested in seeing what that might have looked like.

Absolutely, yes, it was featured on brides. So if you go in google, jasmine and Glenwood, you can find that wedding on bride. It was also a wedding of the week on brides. So you could see all of it. It was a beautiful wedding. Okay, that's epic. So as we're kind of closing out, kind of tell us just a very, and this is gonna be specific for you and Michelle Norwood events, but just a general big 30,000 ft. overview and you don't have to get too deep into the weeds, like that's really for somebody to reach out to you and to get more information.

But what's the general process look like? I mean, if somebody says, you know, I think I want to go to New Orleans or I think I want to go visit, you know, I want to go to Alaska or I want to have my wedding in aspen because I grew up skiing there every weekend when I was a teenager, if they want to have a destination wedding and they decide that they want to reach out to you, what does the general process look like from the moment they reach out to you and they decide to book to the wedding day, how does that work?

So when they reach out there actually not going to get me, they're going to get either brie or Shelby and then they go through the questionnaire process with them and then they actually do the vetting to see if it's a good fit. If you have made it to Michelle, then it's a good fit. We just have to see if everything else works out. Once you are officially a client, you receive your welcome letter and we go over what the timeline is going to look like for how we work together.

We start with design because the design drives so many things. Once we designed your event, because we already have designs for events for 2023. Once we've designed your event, we then align it with the best creative partners to make sure the aesthetic that we have on paper matches what we're going to get in real life and then we finalize everything with management, which is where my team steps in. They run all of the show for the day of or the weekend or for all of your events. So that's the short version of the process.

Yeah, that's awesome. Well Michelle, this has been really amazing. I can't tell you how much I appreciate you coming on being on the podcast. Again, this is a topic that I think a lot of couples it occurs to couple and they're like, well should we do it a destination wedding? And I think you really helped outline a few of the reasons why they would want to make sure that they reach out to somebody who really specializes in this. So I thank you for that. I really appreciate it.

Where can people find more information about you and Michelle Norwood events? Well, my website, Michelle Norwood dot com or Instagram at Michelle nord events. You want to find out more about like where I've been featured or articles that is all on LinkedIn at Michelle Norwood. Yeah, just google Michelle Norwood. You'll find me. That's awesome. Well, Michelle, thank you so much. We really appreciate you being here. Thank you Nathan, Thank you for having me. Your welcome guys. I hope you enjoyed this episode with Michelle Norwood from Michelle Norwood events.

If you're looking at traveling, if you're looking at having your wedding and being intentional about finding a place that means something to you and spending quality time with the people that mean the most to you, then make sure you check out Michelle Norwood can go to our website, You can check it out just like she said earlier and you know, of course, as always, thank you so much for listening. It means the world to me that you gave us your attention and your time and hopefully you learned just a few things in this episode today that's going to help you in your journey of wedding planning.

I hope you have a great day, a fantastic week, stupendous month and a fantastical year until next time. Thank you so much here, angle life photography. We believe marriage is an amazing adventure and your wedding is the jumping off point. We'll explore planning an authentic and meaningful wedding experience as we connect with real life couples and the industry's top professionals. We're here to inspire and encourage you as you begin this journey of a lifetime.

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