The morning of the wedding in New Orleans we were met by the dream team, Gail and film and sound crew, Jason and Jo of Imagine Photography and Terry and Joe of Studio Vieux Carre. Each armed with a camera or some form of equipment and all gathered around Peggy in the blazing sunshine as we got ready. I laced up my loaned boots (once again from Megan) with some red ribbon, Alex ironed his shirt and prepared his fabulous outfit loaned to us by the one and only Clockwork Couture (all while telling the story of Donna lending us our outfits for the Halloween wedding in Hollywood too). With everyone running around busying themselves and poking cameras through every possible window in Peggy we pushed aside our nerves, sucked it up and got on with getting ready.
As we got dressed we laughed and talked as we usually do, I replaced my boot laces with red ribbons and we helped each other to get dressed and titivated one another and I had the idea of using the bouquet from our Texas wedding for this ceremony as-well. We needed to offer a flower or two to the ancestors and spirits as thanks after the wedding. We had been given a list of things we needed for the ritual as offerings. A flower, a bottle of fizz and a piece of white sponge cake…not to mention a lock of hair and our promise not to freak out if ghosts appeared on our wedding pictures!
We dressed, packed Peggy up and set off in convoy to buy our offerings. The streets of New Orleans are narrow and cobbled and mainly one way so we trundled along and blocked traffic to run into the cake shop, the wine shop and then we were finally on our way to our 28th wedding in New Orleans, the heart of voodoo.
Jo and Jason squeezed onto our bed, Gail and one camera guy sat up front and we all arrived at Bloody Mary’s house and like sardines squished back out of Peggy and to the house.
The Garden during the day was a whole new world. The young spring green leaves dappled the sunlight over the serene square. The remains of the autumn leaves scattered the path and the rather spooky faces peering from the bushes the night before smiled upon us as we walked around this almost heavenly space.
Chimes tinkled in the breeze, mirrors shot light fairies across peoples faces and we instantly relaxed. Cameras set up around us and Bloody Mary introduced us to her husband, son and his girlfriend and a few priests and priestesses who would be taking part in the voodoo ceremony. We stood happily in the middle of it all hugging and beginning to feel the nerves of the day.
Before too long Jay arrived and as everyone was about ready he did the kindest thing and cleared up the one thing I had started to worry about.
He caught everyone’s attention and reminded them that although they were all present and expected to do a job, that this was about US, about OUR wedding ceremony and that no-one would interrupt the proceedings, ask us to do anything again or get in the way of Bloody Mary or the other priests and priestesses. I was truly touched by this as although the team had been fantastic and VERY respectful I had naturally worried how it would all work out.
We thanked him with a simple nod of our heads and the ceremony was under way.
Bloody Mary addressed us and explained every step of the ceremony. She used her sacred magic rattle of Voudoun to cleanse us and the space around us and also to welcome any ancestors, past, present and future to the ritual. Next, her son took a sword and as Mary and the other priestesses sang and chanted he walked around the garden slicing a path for the spirits to enter and join us to watch and take part in our union. From the North to South, East to West and even above our heads we all welcomed the unseen.
This is where the ceremony really began.
One of the priestesses drew a Veve on the ground at our feet in cornmeal. A veve is a ritualistic drawing to call the Lwas (Gods). Prayers are sung over it and then the Lwas that the Veve represents (in this case LOVE) joins the ritual to bless those gathered. In return for the blessing we offered the cake, opened the fizz and made offerings to the Lwas by pouring the champagne onto the veve and placing the cake onto the drawings too.
Bloody Mary talked to us the whole time. Explaining what they were doing and why, all in a calm, soothing voice. At one point she was talking about what she can feel from us as people, almost about what our ‘aura’ gives away about us when she said ‘and Lisa has a bee in her bonnet’.
Alex laughed and said, ‘you have hit the nail on the head there’ and she replied with ‘No, REALLY, Lisa, there is a bee in your bonnet’.
I was wearing a gorgeous little red top hat with a big red flower on its side and a bee was happily sat in the flower. Mary told us it was a great sign that the insect had landed on me and even as the ceremony went on a tiny moth (in broad daylight) made its place on my shoulder, a tiny grey blip on my crisp white blouse.
Soon Mary laid her pet snake over each of our shoulders, the head over my shoulder and the tail over Alex’s. Instantly, his head went to his tail and formed a perfect circle once again. Mary exclaimed how much we must be in love for all of these signs to be so apparent!
Next we shared in our offerings of champagne with the cake mixed in it to and jumped over the broom into the veve.
So much happened and I feel like I am being quite vague in my explanations of the ceremony but we were truly enchanted by the whole thing. The serene location, Mary’s soothing voice, the drumming and chanting, the creatures fluttering around and landing on me and we were even calm with the snake draped around our shoulders. It was so surreal and beautiful.
Once the ceremony had finished Mary completed our gris-gris bag and tied it alongside our Ju-Ju dolls to our newly Jumped broom. We were instructed to sweep away any bad luck from our home with the broom and to feed our gris gris regulary to keep it alive. The gris gris bag (or mojo bag) is alive with hot energy, spirit or purpose and regular tending and feeding of the bag keeps it, and its purpose alive. It is fed with whisky, hoodoo oils, cologne or bodily fluid…I think ours will get mainly wine!
Our next step was to bless the broom in the Mississippi in the live oaks park. We all jumped into Peggy and headed to first the live oaks and then to the graveyard to leave our flowers.
We wandered through the magnificent, enchanted, ancient trees dripping in the Spanish Moss and collected some along our way. We listened to Mary’s tales of the oaks and the Mississippi and dunked the broom before heading to the grave site to give our flowers.
As we waited for my bouquet (I had forgotten it and left it behind and Terry had kindly gone to get it for me) I stood in the sunshine at the side of the graveyard leaning on the iron fence when a huge moth landed on the back of my hand. I had never seen one of these moths during the day or this calm. He silently vibrated as he wandered back and forth on my hand doing his odd little voodoo dance. I was dumbfounded, so many creatures had been present at our wedding ceremony, (we had even spotted an orbweaver spider back in the garden) and most of them nocturnal. Bloody Mary insisted we were blessed and I was by that point inclined to agree.
We placed our flowers on the grave site and thanked our generations passed and said our goodbyes to Bloody Mary and Jay. We stayed behind for some more pictures as we had some fun ideas with Jason and Jo and of course to shoot some footage with Terry and Joe whom we had barely noticed all day, they were like stealth videographers!
As the sun disappeared behind the tombs we planned our reception! Drinks in the ‘local’ New Orleans. We didn’t fancy the riotous Bourbon Street but were desperate to witness some jazz and some laid back bars.
We drove through New Orleans to drop everyone off and even managed to get parked to have a wander through the streets. Terry was JUST telling us about the wedding marches that happen in New Orleans. Joining these marches is called ‘second lining’. The marches started being part of funerals and are now very popular at weddings and as a brass band walked right for us we couldn’t help but tap our toes…before we had to run to get out of their way! We were so thrilled to have witnessed it first hand!
Afterwards we all went our separate ways with a promise to meet up in a few hours to dance the night away.
Thanks so much to everyone who made our voodoo wedding day possible and thanks to 20/20 for your support in our adventure! It was an honour to work with Gail and to get to chat with Jay both on and off screen!
Bloody Mary, thank you for inviting us into your home and blessing us with a more indepth awareness of voodoo which is so regularly tied to black magic and horror movies when really it is beautiful, kind and healing.
Joanne and Jo, thanks so much for coming all the way to NOLA for us, for sharing our delight for food and wine and also for hanging with us and becoming fast friends! (not to mention the absolutely KICK-ASS pictures which we LOVE)!
And last but never least. Terry and Jo, thanks for introducing us to the ‘real’ local NOLA, to the bars we would have never found and of course for being the stealth ninjas of wedding videography and producing a perfect reflection of our day!
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