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Insider Tips for a Dazzling Mardi Gras Event

Thursday, February 28, 2019

By Samantha Lister

New Orleans is a special place known for always throwing a party, and there is no bigger party in the city than Mardi Gras. Most have seen the crazy crowds on Bourbon Street or the bright lights of the floats as the parades go by. This magical mix is actually tied to a religious holiday: Easter. Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is the final day to feast and “enjoy” gluttony. The day following is Ash Wednesday, the first of 40 days of Lent that lead to Easter Sunday.

For New Orleans natives, Carnival actually begins on Twelfth Night or 6 January — 12 days after Christmas — and goes until Mardi Gras Day. During this time, us locals will eat as much king cake as we can and go to parades with our families and friends to catch throws (beads and specialty items such as purses, glittered shoes or coconuts). Then, on Mardi Gras, locals and tourists alike will dress up in their best, most creative costumes to go to the parades and walk around the French Quarter. Why? Because everywhere else it is just Tuesday!

As an event planner, it is hard — but not impossible — to take this crazy, wonderful experience and sell it to a client. How do you explain to a client from Canada or South Africa that they can dress in costume on a day that isn’t Halloween and that isn’t odd?

It’s important to keep in mind that planning an event during Mardi Gras comes with its challenges. Local events professionals love this time of the year and want to share this experience with other people. For professionals from other states or countries, it requires a lot of trust — the things we do and the way our city works during that time period may just seem strange. I recommend reaching out to the ILEA New Orleans chapter for advice. We can show you where to eat around the city and how to get there, which can be quite difficult around the time of Mardi Gras because so many restaurants and roads are closed. A vital tip: Even if your location is nine blocks away, your guests will still need to walk there because the streets are barricaded and closed off for the parade.

Tips for Planning a Mardi Gras Event

  • Get tickets to the parade stands. Otherwise, your guests my struggle to find somewhere to use the bathroom, and access and availability are extremely limited.
  • Add the Mardi Gras Balls to the itinerary. You guests can dress up in formal attire and see the floats up close as they roll through the building. These parties typically go until 3 a.m.!
  • Buy out a balcony during the parade. Let your guests throw beads onto Bourbon Street to their heart’s content. Pro tip: Balconies can get booked up even a year in advance, so reserve yours as early as possible.
  • Beads, beads and more beads! Everyone wants beads to throw and nice beads to take home as souvenirs. Buy beads wholesale for your guests and get better prices than the souvenir shops.

Year-Round Mardi Gras Pizazz

That magic doesn’t work only between Twelfth Night and Fat Tuesday. That magic is created throughout the year. New Orleans is one of the few cities that can do a parade whenever and almost wherever you want! Want to ride on the same floats as the Mardi Gras riders in July? No problem. Local planners know how to find the floats, the beads, police escorts, even the high school marching bands and dance teams if you would like. You can do all this just to take your clients from the hotel to your restaurant or gala. Make your gala rain Mardi Gras from the purple, green and gold tablecloths and matching centerpieces to the masks, feather boas and Mardi Gras Mambo playing from the eight-piece jazz band.

We do Mardi Gras for guests year-round and don’t get tired of it. We will rock to the beat of every jazz band and throw beads with the best of them even in October. Leverage our local expertise, and your New Orleans event can really shine and sparkle!

Samantha Lister has been in the hospitality industry in New Orleans since 2003. She has served on the board of the ILEA New Orleans Chapter for six years. Most of Lister’s experience is in operations.

Tags: event planning , entertainment