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Something Old 

How one couple infused their wedding with a theatrical, vintage-inspired aesthetic

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ELIZABETH RAY PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Photo by Elizabeth Ray Photography
A wedding signifies different things to different people, including cherished memory, awkward intersection of family and friends, or the only time you've been to church in the past decade. When Kerry Jessica Brown Richards and Robert Ramsey Richards designed their wedding, held last December at the French Quarter bar Pravda, they added another item to the list: conceptual art project.

  "(Our wedding) was definitely a reflection of how we feel about each other, how we feel about our friends, and our aesthetic," Kerry says. "We were very particular with everything — we wanted it to look a certain way, we wanted it to have a certain ambience."

  Ambience is probably the first quality one could ascribe to Pravda, a dimly lit space decorated in intense maroons and Depression-era furniture. It is also a meaningful space for the couple. When the bar opened, Kerry helped create its design, and she met Robert there in 2007. These connections made it a natural choice for a wedding reflecting the pair's unique sartorial sense, which Kerry describes as a "dark-inspired vintage with a twist of theatrical."

click to enlarge Crimson shoes coordinated with Pravda's red color scheme. - PHOTO BY ELIZABETH RAY PHOTOGRAPHY

  "My wonderful partner in crime (and I) have the same aesthetic. ... I'm more flamboyant, he likes to wear old suits," she says.

  Kerry, a costumer at Biloxi, Miss. costume shop Josette's who previously worked at Fifi Mahony's in the French Quarter, spent six months searching for her 1930s-era wedding gown. After acquiring and restoring it, she and Robert looked through Josette's collection of 1930s replica men's suits to find the perfect complement.

  "One of the things that was pivotal in the wedding was ... what we were wearing," Robert says. "It was a really good contrast between me and her." The contrast and coordination shows in the details. Kerry's formal dress was offset by red-hued jewelry, crimson lipstick and the fascinator (a small headpiece popularized in the 1930s) adorning her long, dark dreadlocks. The groom's pinstripe suit appeared sober and elegant against her ornate accessories.

  The couple made and installed most of their own decorations, using a beige, white and red color palette to tie in with the venue's color scheme and their outfits. Kerry says this saved money and granted them complete artistic control over the ceremony. When designing the ceremony's layout, they also emphasized something important to them: the inclusion of family and friends.

click to enlarge The bride wore a 1930s-era gown from the Mississippi vintage shop where she works as a costumer. - PHOTO BY ELIZABETH RAY PHOTOGRAPHY

  "(At some weddings) there is this great distance between the family and friends and the people getting married," Robert says. "We didn't want that at ours. We love our family and friends very dearly. We wanted them to be just as much a part of the wedding as we were. When you look at the seating arrangement, they were ... feet from us."

  Deciding on these common values proved to be an important part of planning the ceremony. For a couple who desires an unconventional venue or wants their wedding to project a unique aesthetic, Robert suggests having straightforward conversations about functional and stylistic goals. Also, couples should know what elements they're willing to give up.

  "(It requires) absolute honesty on both people's parts. (Fortunately) we both came to the table with the same kind of idea in mind. We had a very open dialogue," he says.

click to enlarge Red-hued jewelry, crimson lipstick and a fascinator (a small headpiece popularized in the 1930s) adorn the bride. - PHOTO BY ELIZABETH RAY PHOTOGRAPHY

  When considering atypical venues, Kerry recommends approaching the owner or manager as soon as possible because many businesses may not be able to accommodate such a request at short notice. Also, consider the needs of the establishment. At Pravda, the couple held their wedding during the week at a time the bar wasn't typically open, so lost business wasn't an issue.

  Family resistance also can be a challenge when stepping off the beaten aisle. For this problem, Kerry again suggests honesty, paired with a healthy dose of tact.

  "Be forceful but always polite," she says. "The parents mean well. (The) wedding is such a big part of our society; it's such a traditional thing. They feel like that's just how it has to be, and it's not."

click to enlarge The ceremony was held in the courtyard of Pravda, where the couple met in 2007. - PHOTO BY ELIZABETH RAY PHOTOGRAPHY

  Weddings as creative as Kerry and Robert's may be the next big thing in terms of bridal style. Robert calls their wedding planning "one of the most positive, pivotal moments in my entire life," and Kerry hopes to attend more nuptials like theirs in the future.

  "It would be nice for people to actually be more hands-on and do a different type and have more of their style infused in the wedding," she says.

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