New Orleans hosts destination weddings every week. But the ceremony that was slated for Thursday night at the Contemporary Arts Center takes the cake.

Tennis titan Serena Williams, 36, married Alexis Ohanian, the 34-year-old co-founder of the web site Reddit, during a lavish, star-studded shindig at the sprawling Warehouse District venue.

If it were a tennis match, the score would be love-love.

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Their courtship was exhaustively chronicled in the August issue of Vanity Fair, which featured a pregnant and naked Williams on its cover. The couple first met poolside at a hotel in Rome in May 2015. She was there to play in the Italian Open; he was there to speak at a tech conference.

After a romance played out across the globe around her schedule of crushing opponents on the court, they got engaged in December 2016. In January, on the eve of the Australian Open, Williams discovered she was pregnant. She and Ohanian planned a fall wedding, after the baby’s birth.

They could have gotten married anywhere in the world. But New Orleans apparently is one of Williams’ favorite cities. She is a longtime client of local trainer and fitness guru Mackie Shilstone. That New Orleans' primary industry is letting the good times roll doesn't hurt, either.


The decorated entrance to the Contemporary Arts Center in preparation for tennis star Serena Williams and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian's wedding in New Orleans, La., Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017.

While in town this week, Williams has been staying at a private residence. No word if it was booked via Airbnb.

The celebrity wedding of the season has pitted a frenzy of global media interest against a Secret Service-worthy level of security. British tabloids, and the full spectrum of tabloid paparazzi were in full-court press mode Thursday, breathlessly reporting on deliveries of wedding supplies to the CAC — cases of Chateau Smith wine! Tableware! — and potential guests. 

At least one rumored attendee was unlikely to make it to the ceremony and/or reception: Rapper Jay-Z was scheduled to perform in Charlotte on Thursday night.

However, many other A-listers woulds. Jay-Z's wife, Beyoncé, was snapped by paparazzi from afar as she exited a private plane at a local airport with daughter Blue Ivy and mother-in-law Gloria Carter. Kim Kardashian was also photographed at the airport on Thursday, and inside an SUV pulling up to the CAC on Thursday night. One particularly star-studded vehicle carried the singer Ciara, Beyonce's former Destiny's Child bandmate Kelly Rowland, and TV personality and author La La Anthony to the CAC.

The members of R&B group New Edition, sans Bobby Brown, were also on premises, apparently to perform a brief set during the reception.

Actress Eva Longoria popped into Wednesday night’s rehearsal dinner at Meril, Emeril Lagasse’s casual eatery on Girod Street in the Warehouse District. The restaurant was closed to the public; Lagasse himself was on hand to oversee the dinner.

The Daily Mail noted that a truck from Café du Monde delivered beignets — or, as the story described them, “delicious fried dough balls” — to the rehearsal dinner guests.

The prowling press corps mostly had to settle for scraps of information collected along the periphery of the festivities. The block of St. Joseph Street between Camp and Magazine was closed to traffic Thursday to accommodate the wedding's load-in and keep non-invitees away.

Later Thursday, the reception spilled onto the barricaded street. Guests in formal attire sipped cocktails outside, sampled a food truck's offerings, and listened to the Paulin Brothers Brass Band. 

Large white tents enclosed much of the CAC's parking lot. Vehicles could pull into the tents and drop off famous guests completely out of view of onlookers and cameras on Camp Street.

Employees of Meril reportedly signed confidentiality agreements that required them to stay mum about what they witnessed.


Marlon Torres Facetimes with a friend outside of the Contemporary Arts Center just before the nuptials of tennis star Serena Williams and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian's in New Orleans, La., Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017.

Williams also reportedly banned cellphones from the rehearsal dinner and ceremony. Vogue magazine, various media outlets said, will have exclusive access to the official wedding photos. Vogue editor Anna Wintour was on hand at the CAC. 

The budget for the blowout, sources told the Daily Mail, is in the $1 million range. That figure apparently included the rental of a carousel ride, which was spotted under wraps in the CAC parking lot. According to Entertainment Tonight, the wedding would have a "Beauty and the Beast" theme.

Ohanian and his partner sold Reddit in 2006, not even two years after launching it, for an estimated $15 million or so. A decade later, Reddit’s value has skyrocketed into the billions.

But even if Ohanian shortchanged himself to the tune of a couple billion bucks, he and Williams should have no trouble paying for their wedding. According to Vanity Fair, she has earned more than $80 million in prize money throughout her career, and twice that amount in sponsorships and endorsement deals.

That's because Williams and sister Venus have for more than a quarter-century stood astride the tennis world like twin Colossi. The only person capable of temporarily halting Serena’s dominance turned out to be a tiny one: her daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., born Sept. 1.

Still, Williams has said she plans to return to the court in early 2018 for the Australian Open.

She’ll do so as a married woman, thanks to a memorable few days in New Orleans.

Follow Keith Spera on Twitter, @KeithSpera.

Keith Spera writes about music, culture and his kids.