It's truly wonderful when the destination of a wedding holds not only beauty but also special meaning for the bride and groom. Such was the case for Kendra and Malik, who warmly welcomed nearly 100 guests to New Orleans, a city close to their hearts, to celebrate their love and union. Their wedding was a delightful blend of vintage charm, the radiance of a deeply in love couple, and timeless, delicate decor that exuded elegance. We had the pleasure of speaking with Kendra about the meticulous preparations and the journey of their love.
Tell us a little about yourselves.
Malik and I met in high school but did not start dating until he was a sophomore in college and I was a senior in high school. We've been together for 7 years, a classic high school sweetheart story. Malik plays professional football in the NFL for the New York Jets. I work for one of my best friends, Jocelyn Burks, doing content creation and creative planning for her branding and web design company. In our free time, we love to travel, go to dinner at our favorite restaurants, and stay active with outdoor activities and sports.
Where was your wedding? Why did you choose this venue?
Our wedding was at Race and Religious, a historical venue in New Orleans, Louisiana. We absolutely fell in love with New Orleans on our first trip there in 2021 and knew that we wanted to get married there. We love the rich blend of cultures, the delicious food, and the historical architecture. It truly feels like stepping into a different world when you’re there. Our venue was a set of three Creole cottages from the early 1800s. The property has been updated while maintaining the original charm, and the buildings are full of gorgeous antique furniture and decor. Also, one of my all-time favorite movies is "The Princess and the Frog", which takes place in New Orleans.
What was the concept behind your wedding, and how did you find your inspiration?
I am all about details and charm, and wanted to create a very laid-back and intimate "dinner party" feel for our wedding. The venue made achieving this concept easy because it is so naturally beautiful and full of character. We were able to rent the entire property for the night, so it truly felt like we were hosting a dinner party at our own home for all of our closest friends and family. We chose simple decor, filling the space with tons of candles, string lights, and minimal whimsical florals. The property really spoke for itself, and our guests loved exploring the three buildings.
How long did it take to plan your wedding? Did you encounter any challenges during the planning process?
We booked our venue in November, and the wedding was in early March, so we only spent 4 months planning. The planning process was pretty seamless on my end because we had the best wedding planner, Kirsten, who took the reins and brought my vision to life. Our venue did not include any vendors, so we had to seek out all of our own. We ended up with 13 vendors in total, and Kirsten was able to manage and coordinate everything. It was also a destination wedding, with most of our guests coming from over 1,000 miles away, so we planned the wedding from afar.
How many guests did you have? And what was the seating arrangement at the wedding like?
We had 95 guests, only closest friends and family. We had a cocktail-style reception, traditional to American Southern weddings, meaning we had no formal seated dinner. Instead, food and drink were served throughout the entire evening. We had many food stations as well as passed hors d'oeuvres and an open bar. We stuck with a traditional New Orleans menu, including dishes like crawfish mac n cheese, jambalaya risotto, Cajun NY strip, charbroiled oysters, beignets, and more.
Tell us about your outfits. How many different styles have you tried?
For our rehearsal dinner, which took place at a restaurant in the French Quarter of New Orleans the evening before the wedding, I chose to wear a beautiful Shona Joy low back halter midi dress. The dress was quite simple, so I dressed it up with pearl-accented shoes from Dolce Vita. Malik wore a tan suit which complemented my cream dress. For the actual wedding day, I chose the Halston Gown by KYHA Studios. It was the very first wedding dress that I tried on, and I knew instantly that it was my dress. I wanted something traditional but modernized, and something that I felt like a princess in. I paired the dress with Badgley Mischka heels. Malik wore a black tuxedo and bowtie to keep with the traditional feel.
What was your first dance song? Did you choreograph or improvise?
Our first dance song was "At Last" by Etta James. We improvised our dance.
Did you have any special performances or entertainment?
One of my favorite parts of our wedding was our jazz band, Kinfolk Brass Band, who played during our cocktail hour. They are very well known in New Orleans, and the live jazz was the perfect way to set the mood for the evening. New Orleans is actually considered the birthplace of jazz, so we knew we had to incorporate it in some way.
Did you have any special or unique elements at your wedding?
One of the buildings on our venue's property had a small room with a fireplace, and we turned this room into the cigar and bourbon room. My dad was in charge of providing the alcohol for the reception, and we let him take charge of the cigar and bourbon room. He ordered custom cigars from a shop in New Orleans, with some hand-drawn elements from our wedding invitations printed on the cigar band. The room was a huge hit with our guests, and the detail my dad put into the cigars meant a lot to me.
Did you make a gift for guests, and what was it? What did you give each other as a gift?
We did not do any guest gifts, as everyone had to travel and we did not want them to worry about having to transport anything. We focused more on the guest experience during the actual reception. I gifted Malik a new set of golf clubs, and he surprised me with Taylor Swift Eras Tour VIP floor tickets for my best friend and me (this is the best gift anyone could ever give me).
What was the most memorable moment from your wedding day?
The most memorable moment was definitely standing at the altar in front of all of our closest loved ones saying our vows.
Are there any vendors that you would like to tell us a little more about?
Every single one of our vendors was absolutely unreal and exceeded our expectations. My close friend, Mary Shelton, was our photographer, and she also helped me a ton with the planning process in terms of aesthetics and how I wanted the day to look and feel. She planned every photo to make sure that we really captured the day in the way that I envisioned. Our florist, Sara Gray (Violeta's), absolutely knocked our florals out of the park with very little direction. I described to her that I wanted colorful "garden party" inspired florals, and she chose everything to make that come to life. I cried when I walked out and saw my florals because I couldn't believe how perfect they were. There was a bridge above where we stood during our ceremony, and I had mentioned adding some florals to the bridge. Sara ended up covering the entire face of the bridge with the most beautiful white, pink, and yellow flowers and greenery that completely transformed the feel of our ceremony.
What advice would you give to couples who are currently planning their wedding?
I would say to stay true to yourself as a couple and your budget. As long as you love everything you have chosen, the day will feel and look perfect to you. Remember what the day is truly about and center everything else around that.
Couple @kendrathompson @malikktaylor
Bridal makeup @zoeskeltonbeauty
Bridal hair @haileystpierre_hair @antigravitysalon
Gown @belovedbridal @kyhastudios
Brass band @kinfolkbrassband2022