New Orleans is no stranger to fabulous fetes when it comes to debutantes, but during the past Christmas holidays, there was a plethora of impressive parties, many of them productions. Not only were there nine outstanding ones, but smaller ones rallied the deb set to intriguing venues: family camps, a bowling alley, restaurants and popular hotel lobbies.
“It’s unusual to have so many big parties,” commented someone intrinsically connected to the debutante scene. “We probably won’t see that many big ones all together for quite a while.” Another individual summed it up as the “perfect social storm.”
Among the features of these gala events has been an uptick in invitation design, many with save-the-date teasers and dance cards; themes carried through in exciting elaborateness and elan; event planners, several with global renown; and valet parking. A few of the bashes that just occurred were in the planning stages for almost a year.
New to the scene was the controlled check-in and wrist bands. Crashers beware! Once within the party premises and past the receiving line (when there was one), guests were wowed by the décor that transformed homes and private clubs, thanks to drapery, lighting, flowers (maybe millions!), cloth cocktail napkins and tenting.
This was not your country fair, white staked tent. Oh, no. These were pavilions with translucent ceilings hung with chandeliers. In one case, an entire building was built to house the second phase of the bash and the music. The first phase was in the family home across a narrow neutral ground.
As for the music, bands were often imported from away with headliners appearing after other musical groups played. “Big name” labeled two of the imported groups.
Specialty acts, such as mimes, jugglers, and performance artists, made many a scene; costumes and bling became a thing; and to conclude, the honorees almost always got on the stage to sing and boogie with the band. Lots of attendees stayed until the wee hours of the next day. And then rested up for another round.
Fueling the collective appetite were extensive food spreads. Laid out at a few of the fetes were raw oysters, lobster, game, caviar, foie gras and, for the late-night trippers, such feel-good treats as sliders, hot dogs, mac and cheese, and grilled cheese sandwiches. Entire rooms were devoted to desserts, many done to reflect the theme.
Security, some obvious, some not, was booked to monitor the comings and goings of three generations of partygoers, whose ranks topped 1,000 for three of the events.
The earliest one in this lot of nine bashes, all of which had the debs’ parents as hosts, was titled “Destination Celebration” and honored Ellen Curry, Sydney Lowe, Greer McKendrick, Caroline Reed and Danielle Tolar. The Chicory was the site and, to further the theme, a number of vintage suitcases were suspended from the ceiling.
Then came the Audubon Tea Room-housed hobnobbing for Avery Hinrichs and Jamie Pellerin with a beautiful peacock motif.
“Un Soir” at the home of Ashland Hines featured her and Ellie Davis in an ambiance recalling the French Opera House of decades ago, and the following evening, another deb duo, Laney Langenstein and Katie Whann, was showcased at the New Orleans Country Club for “Twilight in the Tuileries.”
Just one evening later, the first of the three grand at-home galas in honor of one debutante started with Grace Catherine Cary as the name to know and “Bal de la Chasse” as the bannering.
Then came the “Alice in Wonderland” wonders for Clare Conwill. Back at the New Orleans Country Club (after a hiatus of two days for Christmas), a deb quintet, consisting of Sarah Agnew, Evie Bories, Caroline Geary, Katherine Hodges and Emory Lopiccolo, reveled during “Dance the Night Away at Our Winter Soiree.”
“Viva Las Vegas” turned the spotlight at The Civic on Caroline Drennan and Sage Laborde, and two evenings later, Karoline Patrick rated raves as Marie Antoinette at “Bal Masque.”