Trip-ping the Nights Fantastic!
All Aboard for a Bash!
“An Evening aboard the Orient Express” titled the imaginative fete given by “conductors” Mr. and Mrs. Louis McDaniel Freeman Jr., Mr. and Mrs. Philip Nalty Hodges and Mr. and Mrs. Edmund England Redd for their debutante daughters, Sarah Jane Holbrook Freeman, Jane Talley Hodges and Mary Fleming England Redd at the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad. The clever Scriptura invitation, replete with “tickets” for the thematic train ride, folded out to depict the romantic route. Thirteen stops, running a Londres-Bucarest gamut, were listed, while three dated suitcases with the debs’ initials in subtle off-gold were also shown.
Coincidentally, in the site’s front tent there were vintage trunks and luggage, including some belonging to the debutantes’ grandparents. More decorative features were the front entrance tent with its oriental lanterns and bamboo roof; the main space’s transformation into a train station with large lighted trusses, a giant floral globe by Dunn and Sonnier, and large drum shades depicting vintage maps; and echoes of the invitation’s artwork. The nearby, stationary Pullman rail cars drew party travelers for a momentary experience of erstwhile luxury. Yet another visual attribute was the photo booth with a backdrop of the train station. Kenny LaCour (Grand Events) was the acclaimed event planner.
The hosting dads elicited smiles from the many guests as they greeted them wearing Orient Express formal attire. For the ladies’ looks, Suzanne Perron St. Paul designed the dresses of Sarah Jane, Talley and Fleming, along with those of Courtney Freeman and Anne Redd. Jane Scott Hodges turned out in Etro couture.
Noted within the black-tie set were Sarah Jane’s siblings McDaniel Freeman and 1st Lt. Pierce Freeman, as well as grandparents Judy and Louis Freeman and Carol and Wayne de la Houssaye. Similarly, from the Hodges family came Talley’s brother, Philip Nalty Hodges Jr, who answers to Nalty. Elizabeth “Lizzie” Redd and grandparents Ella and Walter Flower and Josephine and Uhland Redd partied with Fleming.
All relished the passed hors d’oeuvres by Ralph Brennan Catering & Events, and then made tracks to the various food offerings, most thematic. A special hit was the double gyros station. Later, a Café du Monde truck nodded to New Orleans with hot beignets and coffee.
Milling, too, were Evelyn and Martin de Laureal and Dick and Lise Montgomery and their respective family members, Gail and Ned Bergin and daughter Reid, Julie and Ted George with Ellie, Tink Friedrichs, Dana and Steve Hansel, Caroline and Murray Calhoun, Liz and Dunbar Healy, Beth Trotter, Dathel and John Georges with their family, Stacy and Jeremy Head, Elly and Merritt Lane, Dorothy Clyne, Anne and Bill Goliwas, Courtney and Ted LeClercq, Winnie and Mark Brown, and Shane and Fenn French.
And Dick Simmons and Betsy Nalty, Monsignor Christopher Nalty and mom Jane, Louis and Ruthie Frierson, Webb Offutt, King and Grandison Offutt, Will and Renee Hodges with Rachel and William and Katherine, Lucille Joy Hodges, Mathilde and John Sateri with Madeleine and Hamilton, Cathy and Graham Drennan, Melissa and Alfred Rufty, Alex and Amy Beard, Pam Georges Dongieux, Alex Papachristidis and Scott Nelson, and Leslie Culbertson and Hillary Cooper. A number traveled from various compass points, all well Orient Express-ed. With a backdrop of an old Pullman car, Jessie’s Girl mapped out music making with “Johnny B. Goode,” and its "Louisiana" lyrics, as an early number.
Mapping out merriment were Laura Freeman, Catherine and Peter Freeman, Virginia and John Rowan, Sarah and Richard Freeman, Aimee and West Freeman, Ted and Adair Freeman Parr, Caroline and Bo Reily, Kyler and John Selser, Lynn and Beau Box, and Anne Lynne and Storey Charbonnet.
A silent disco wrapped — maybe rapped! — up the revelry. The late-night trippers boogied to three channels of music while wearing light-up headphones, giving them and the honored debs a choice ticket to ride.
The resort-pink background of the invitation and the eggshell lettering with a front overlap of palm trees indicated the bounty and bonhomie of vacation when Mr. and Mrs. Michael Bright White honored their daughter, Shelby White, at a fabulous fete both in their Old Metairie home and then across from it in a huge tented space. The debutante’s birthdays have been spent in the Bahamas, so the theme came easily.
Within the partying pack were deb siblings Michael and Ellie White and grandparents Hunter and Lynne White, as well as Kim and Paxton White, Win and Evans White, and Terry and Kathleen “Frog” White and children Hunter, Forrest, Bere and Jane. Also, Edgar and Ashley Bright, Marion “Manny” Bright, Amy and John White and parents Jack and Anne White, Susan and Timothy Bright, Elinor Bright, Holly and Terry Kavanagh, Margie and Tony Benjamin, Matt and Margaret LeCorgne, Gibbons Burke with daughter Isabell, Mary Shea Burke, Ellie and Billy Lieder, Adele and Pearce Layrisson, Willie and Megan Nelson, Caroline and Bo Reily, and Dathel and John Georges. Many of the men sported the “encouraged” white dinner jackets, which suggested island formality and played on the family’s surname.
Waiters dressed in pink guayaberas and serving rose bubbly greeted arriving kith and kin along the driveway leading up to the pink and white striped entrance tent of the Whites’ home. After going through the receiving line — and complimenting Shelby and mom Virginia on their pretty Suzanne St. Paul dresses — guests moved on to another tent, in the backyard, for drinks and dinner. Similarly, it was lined with pink fabric on the ceiling and white frond sconces along the edges. Lying poolside were three mermaids. Floral credit tapped Dunn and Sonnier for the arrangements in the home and Lance Hayes from Baton Rouge for the flowers in the backyard, as well as those in the tent across the street.
Musical florescence came first from the Jimmy Maxwell Orchestra (at the home site) and then a lively Junkanoo group from Nassau that led the party pack across the torch-lined boardwalk to the tent complex. Another tent — pink and white striped to mimic the entrance to the Little Club at Lyford Cay (pronounced Key) in the Bahamas — served as an entrance to mega merriment. Bartenders and “cabana girls” in vintage-style bathing suits concocted the famous Lyford Cay “rum dum” in a bar that evoked Ernest Hemingway. On the wall was a gallery of Bahamas photos.
The next tent in succession was the clear-top dining room one with wall panels inspired by the Little Club’s wallpaper, a long ice-sculpted table for the seafood dishes, and chandeliers of white fabric and rattan. From there, the social sprint was to the pool cabana-inspired tent area with a poke bar in front of a wall of orchids, the main octagonal bar, lounge furniture, palm trees, and an aerialist mermaid bartender, who poured champagne to fans in the crowd. Flanking the stage were a dessert bar and a cotton candy one. Both custom-built bars were atop fish tanks. With fish.
In the neon-lighted “Shelby Shack,” chess, picnic and ping-pong tables, ring toss, and wooden swings were placed on a sandy beach. Netting and ropes hung from the ceiling and thematic flags (Shelby Cay and the Bahamas) were positioned in a flag pole at the entrance. Photos were joyfully clicked. As decorations, shells permeated the premises and directional signage highlighted the family’s sentimental destinations. Raves targeted AN.GLE Events (Anna LeCorgne Schaefer and Glenny Parker Beahm) for the event design and planning that ensued for well over a year.
Margo Bouanchaud (of Baton Rouge and Hayes’ wife), purveyed all the party’s delicacies, such as lobster bites, caviar, and beef tenderloin. Hot dogs, beef sliders, french fries, and doughnuts fed the late-nighters.
More making rounds throughout the evening, some coming from away, were Shelby and John Saer, Kitty and Stephen Sherrill, Penny and Jim Coulter, Christy and Kia Brown, Cathy and Rivie Cary, Tina and Barry Kern, Jennifer and David Ducote, Walter Roda, Jennifer and David Ducote, Walter Roda, Sarah Louise and Scott Ham, and Liza Topping.
Before the final band, Az-Izz stepped up to further the boogieing, Party on the Moon from Atlanta rendered Whitney Houston’s spirited “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.” Not long after, the whole White family got on the stage for Outkast’s “Hey Ya!”
As have all the debutantes who’ve been honored at this point by their families, Shelby thanked her “wonderful parents for her beautiful party,” continuing, “It was the best night of my life because I had all the people I love dancing and enjoying themselves.” Yep, also gobsmacked and reveling in the Cay connection.