Shakespeare would have swooned, but the true nod was to a Louis-Lewis brace. Two of the recent debutante-season parties, among a series of joyful events, celebrated a royal and a writer: Louis XIV of France and Lewis Carroll of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” Themes drawn from them marqueed the merriment given by families, both with surnames starting with a “C,” who entertained for their daughters two nights apart. Coincidentally, each deb has Catherine in her name. Both revels had party planning by the New York-based Van Wyck & Van Wyck and their coterie of collaborators. At each glorious fete, family played a major role.
Fun, Rabbit, Fun
“I wanted the theme because it is whimsical and we could be so creative with it,” said Catherine Clare Conwill during the course of the at-home party given by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Daniel O. Conwill IV.
Wonderland was the underlining theme, and, according to deb Clare, everyone’s Wonderland is different.
Inspiration for the decor came not only from the Lewis Carroll book of Alice’s adventures, but also from several related movies — all given some Van Wyck-planning flair.
Upon arrival, guests (who were darting the pluvial punctuation) basked in the hospitality of the hosts in their Christmas-decorated home, where the Conwills held out hands to welcome them. The dinner table on which the buffet fare was placed included an impressive flower installation done by Van Wyck of red peonies, dusty miller, plums, artichokes, champagne grapes, and mums.
Then it was on to Wonderland and its thematic treasures, starting with the Drink Me Potion Bar and a glorious profusion of oversize handmade flowers, fog and a unicorn. The Conwill pool was covered over to add more space. Subsequent peregrinations were to the Rabbit Hole tunnel, through which attendees walked to The Cheshire Cat Forest (a room featuring striped walls, exotic foliage, red glass chandeliers and a grinning huge Cheshire Cat), and then into Wonderland itself and the tented area.
Every eye turned to the labyrinth backdrop on the stage, lounge vignettes with dice side tables, a mirrored bar done in colors of red, smoky gray and black, more red chandeliers, hanging banners with Alice in Wonderland characters, and projected snippets from “Alice” films. Across the way was the Mad Hatter’s Tea Lounge with “flying” tea cups and saucers.
As the night progressed, folks moseyed to the Caterpillar Den, created as a tree house of sorts so guests could look down on the partyscape.
To nourish the Conwill crowd, Joel Catering and Sucre, and Felix’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar were tapped, all with delicious delectables. To serve the sounds, there were Roots of Music, the Rebirth Jazz Band, Irvin Mayfield, Trombone Shorty, Bobby Rush, and DJ Zen Freeman to whom the younger set danced and danced.
Further features of the evening were the invitation that was composed of four Alice-motif cards; the long dresses of Clare and mother Mary Clare, respectively by Alice and Olivia and by Yvonne Counce; and the attendance of many of the Conwills’ nearest and dearest, starting with deb siblings Marcia, Mary Elizabeth, Caroline and Daniel Conwill, and grandparents Dr. Daniel and Adrienne Conwill. A few others, among the many, were Chloe Post, Terry and Kathleen “Frog” White, Joel and Gretchen Dondis, and Cathy and Rivie Cary and Grace Catherine.
“A great success,” was how Clare described the gallivanting in her honor. As have so many debutantes of the season, she thanked her parents for the party and the occasion to experience it with family and several generations of friends, who used superlatives to describe it.
Good Will Hunting
Louis XIV, France’s Sun King, radiated in his royalty, but he was also attracted to what the sun shone upon: outdoors. He could hardly be indoors and spent hours every day hunting or shooting, leaving his country “seat,” the Chateau de Versailles, to ride with the hounds. The chateau, which became one of the most stupendous buildings on the planet, was built on the king’s father’s little lodge with a view that was a “great cutting through the woodlands.”
Great views awaited for guests at the gala party given by Mr. and Mrs. George Rives Cary III, Dr. and Mrs. George Rives Cary Jr. and Mr. and Mrs. Prentiss Clement Havens in honor of Grace Catherine Mallette Cary. It was titled “Bal de la Chasse,” (Ball of the Hunt) and held at the home of the debutante and her parents, Cathy (nee Havens) and Rivie Cary. A Gallic theme was fitting for Grace Catherine, who has spent summers in France since she was a child and recently studied at the Sorbonne.
Hostess Cathy worked closely with Scriptura to design the unique, hunting-motif invitation that had an envelope liner of a painting of Versailles and was closed with a custom wax seal of the family’s monogram honoring three generations.
Guests responded with gusto.
Arrivals were welcomed on Freret Street, very near the Carys’ Audubon Place home, by valet parking and the John Parker Jazz Band. Within the home, guests meandered and mingled, moving outside to the garden tent-pavilions that were inspired by the orangerie at Versailles and included topiary garden “rooms.” Lounge seating in the dinner tents, decorated with French toile, allowed for comfortable conversation and a relaxed way to admire the fabulous flowers and enjoy the sumptuous cuisine by caterer Margo Bouanchaud. As for the pleasures of the grape, a French Burgundy bar filled the bill. And the glass.
Deacon John and the Ivories, Crescent City favorites, supplied the dinner-time musical menu with a gamut of tunes.
Two heralding horn players in period costume of Louis XVI signaled the beginning of the after-party across the street, following the announcement, “Welcome to Versailles,” where a tent-building with a façade reflective of Versailles housed later-evening excitement, supping and sipping, and musical thrills.
Among the many features were huntsmen on horseback, five fire performers provided by Carl Mack, period-attired actresses, a dozen models as bartenders, and footmen. All sported costumes designed by Van Wyck & Van Wyck.
The rooms of the “chateau” included the Gallery of Stags with 50 pieces of unique taxidermy, malachite walls, reproductions of oil paintings from Versailles, and antiques; and the central dance hall, echoing the Hall of Mirrors. Therein were a recessed dance floor, 15 cut crystal chandeliers, and jewel-toned side rooms. A generous buffet of suckling pig and tenderloin followed the theme gastronomically, while a suite of sweets capped the noshing.
Making lovely statements in their party ensemble were Grace Catherine, Cathy and grandmother Beth Cary, whose designers were Suzanne Perron, Georges Hobeika and Yvonne Counce. Grandmother Dee (Mrs. P.C.) Havens was unable to attend. The hosting men, along with deb brothers Rives and Havens, wore matching royal blue plaid dinner jackets.
Additional family in attendance were former Orleanians John and Terri Havens, who came in from their home in Houston, as did dozens of others, including Stevie Pitt. Multi-generational families from New Orleans joined the fun, including close friends, the debutante set, and neighbors, who were collectively invited. All relished the extraordinary revelry, which occurred the night of the winter solstice and concluded hours later into the next day. All along was the momentum of the music, starting with the above John Parker and Deacon John, and moving into the after-party premises, Simply Irresistible from Atlanta, Maroon 5, Wiz Khalifa, and DJ Mia Moretti and violinist Margot gave the gala a groove.
The grandparents were duly proud of their radiant debutante, exclaiming, “Oh, what a night, and one where we were able to honor and celebrate Grace Catherine.” After the festive French fact, Grace Catherine reflected on the revelry and its refulgence, noting her appreciation for the wonderful party and adding she was “blessed to enjoy this special evening will all my grandparents, family and friends.” Everyone invited shared in that lovely largesse.