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Following New Orleans Tradition, This Couple Had a Strolling Wedding Reception at the Old Ursuline Convent Museum

By Cathleen Freedman | Photography by 

Greer Gattuso

|Planning by 

Elyse Jennings Weddings

Four years after first meeting on their first day of new employee orientation at Google, Kalon Zandbergs proposed to Abby Kamensky during their annual New Year’s trip to Sea Island with her family. Her parents told the couple to meet them for a few family photos on the beach; but right before leaving, her family said they were running behind schedule. “Go ahead and scope out a good spot,” they asked Abby and Kalon.

While walking on the beach, Abby saw her family lurking in the distance. Confused, she turned around and found Kalon on one knee. He asked her to marry him as her family cheered from afar.

The couple knew their wedding would be somewhere in New Orleans, a city that has been a home away from home for the Kamensky family and has proven to be a special place in Abby’s relationship with Kalon. “It’s always been a bit of an unspoken agreement that’s where this big memory would be made,” she says about the Big Easy. “I wanted the wedding weekend to feel like one of my family’s trips to New Orleans or our annual beach trip with food and entertainment at the forefront.” When she explained the rest of her hopes for the event, her planner, Elyse Jennings of Elyse Jennings Weddings, described it as “a whimsical coastal garden party in a wildflower-filled, New Orleans dreamland.” Julie King Studio designed the invitation suite, and Greer Gattuso expertly documented the whole ethereal event.

Abby’s favorite aspect of planning was selecting her bridal outfits. For each of the outfits, she found something that “just felt so right.” Her Brock Collection rehearsal dinner dress was a physical manifestation of her personality in gown form. Plus, the print ended up being the inspiration for the entire reception’s aesthetic: light greens and blue tones, a mix of block prints and wildflowers, and white furniture with clean lines. She paired the dress with the Bridgerton-esque Amina Muaddi glass slippers.

Abby wanted a fun and funky outfit for the equally fun and funky welcome party. “When I saw this Oscar de la Renta jumpsuit online, I felt like there couldn’t be a better night-out-in-New-Orleans-before-a-Garden-Party-wedding vibe,” she sums. For her wedding dress, she had another Eureka moment when she saw an Oscar de la Renta off-the-shoulder gown with whimsical embroidery online. For the after-party, Abby donned Miu Miu. The one item she struggled to source was the shoes for the welcome party and wedding, but stylist Allie Hendee found her options that were appropriate for the New Orleans streets. Beth Washington styled the bridal party’s hair as the girls got ready at the Windsor Court Hotel. Melissa Vaccaro finished the bride’s beauty look off, and Jessica Carnley and her team applied makeup for Abby’s 14 bridesmaids.

Six months before the wedding, a tree fell on the couple’s original venue during Hurricane Ida. “It ended up being a blessing in disguise because Maison Dupuy gave us a lot more space,” Abby admits. “Before, we weren’t going to be able to bring everyone to the ceremony!”

The wedding celebrations began with a Thursday night rehearsal dinner by Calcasieu Events and florals by Doris Ione. The weekend kicked off with a Friday welcome party at Port Orleans Brewing Co. for beer and cochon de lait, followed by live music at the storied Tipitina’s.

On March 19, 2022, Abby walked down the aisle to a string version of Gryffin’s “Nothing Compares to You.” She couldn’t stop smiling when she saw Kalon waiting for her under the chuppah. But before joining her groom, she and her father launched into their secret handshake. Abby’s rabbi officiated the charming courtyard ceremony. “It was so special to hear our love story through his lens and hear all of our friends and family laughing and cheering along in the crowd,” Abby says. “The highlight of the ceremony was when Kalon kept getting ahead of himself and trying to kiss me. It happened three times, even the rabbi couldn’t stop laughing.”

When the newlyweds were finally allowed to kiss, they recessed to the New Orleans String Quartet playing “Cut to the Feeling” by Carly Rae Jepsen, which is Abby’s favorite song. They led the way to the second line outside with the Kinfolk Brass Band in full swing. “We felt like celebrities dancing through the French Quarter,” Abby recalls. “People came out of their houses and hotels and lined the streets cheering and dancing.”

“The reception was where the coastal New Orleans garden party vibes came to life,” Abby shares with a smile. Perrier Party Rentals, Distressed Rentals and Revival, Lovegood Rentals, and BBJ La Tavola Linens turned the historic Old Ursuline Convent into the reception of Abby and Kalon’s dreams. Danika Herrick’s block print fabric draped across the ceiling brought the whole design together. The Pistil & Stamen neutral flowers were selected to contrast with the more structured block print of the green and white fabric. The same dichotomy between structured and wild played out with the lattice band backdrop.

As soon as guests stepped into the tent, they were transported. “It’s a New Orleans tradition to have a ‘strolling reception’ versus a seated dinner, which we loved so we could spend more time on the dance floor and give everyone the opportunity to try more New Orleans fare!” Abby recalls. Joel Catering served some of their regional favorites: a raw bar with raw and chargrilled oysters, bowls of chicken and andouille gumbo, and a gnocchi station complete with a massive Parmesan cheese wheel.

There were no toasts at the reception because Abby had one request: once the music starts, it doesn’t stop. “I used to joke that I didn’t care if there was a flower in the place, all I cared about was having an amazing band,” she shares. “And Pure Party Band delivered! They were epic.”

Everyone of all ages partied on the dance floor. Abby and Kalon shared their first dance to “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. The bride and groom stopped dancing just once—to cut their Chasing Wang cake.

The after-party commenced at the Gold Mine Saloon, powered by the New Orleans’s mainstay’s signature Flaming Dr Pepper Shots.