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New Orleans Themed Engagement Party

I'm throwing an engagement party for 200 people. The party theme is going to be New Orleans Style. I need any ideas on food, decor, etc. Thanks!

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  1. Just remember, if it's in Lent, you can't have any meat. Well, seafood is acceptable.

    3 Replies
    1. re: N.O.Food

      The rules of fast and abstinence during Lent were changed following Vatican II which closed in 1965. Meat is OK except for Ash Wednesday and Fridays during Lent.

      1. re: MakingSense

        True, it depends on if you adhere to Vatican II.

        1. re: N.O.Food

          Even before V-II, practicing Catholics were allowed meat at one meal a day during Lent, except of course for days of abstinence. In New Orleans and Louisiana, there were some other exceptions made, but they were strictly local and some were merely customary, not formal Church law.

          Since this party is in June, none of that should apply. Only a few people observe the Catholic rules of fast and abstinence on Fridays these days and the OP didn't mention that this would be a consideration.

    2. okay, here's what I'd do

      chicken and sausage gumbo
      creole tomato salad
      quail with mirlitons
      and bread pudding soufflé for dessert

      1. You can probably find fabric with fleur de lis pattern and use for tablecloths or window dressings. The food part is easy, there are so many dishes to choose from. Gumbo is a must but if it's going to be sitting in a chafing dish for a while I'd make chicken and andoille over seafood. Mini mufulettas are good too.

        1. I think there are actually a few recent threads on the home cooking board titled something like "Mardi Gras Party" where New Orleanians and other experienced folk suggested hors d'ouevres and things to make for Mardi Gras parties. You should check that out.

          I really like mini-muffalettas, which are often the first thing recommended.

          Depending what season the party is in and what's available where you are, you could do a crawfish boil or have raw oysters, both of which can be very festive and are very New Orleans. Doing a boil (crawfish, corn, potatoes, other veg if you want, all boiled up with Crab boil) would be very high yield -- one big pot could feed quite a few mouths (maybe not 200 in one pot, but better than making 400 mini muffalettas by hand... goodness... maybe you could just make a few really big ones and cut them into wedges).

          Bananas Foster is a festive food that is also a New Orleans signature item.

          I like the idea above of using a Fleur de Lis symbol in your decoration... I think that using the obvious, Mardi Gras Beads, as decoration would be appropriate as well. I think you also need New Orleans Jazz playing at the party (maybe someone else can recommend something good, though really we should be sticking to food here).

          1 Reply
          1. re: Adrienne

            If you do a "crawfish boil" (or crab, or shrimp boil) you must get copies of the Times Picayune (newspaper), to spread on the tables. Barq's Root Beer is a must. Nowadays, I think that Abita Springs' beer, of some flavor, has replaced the Dixie, and I know that Jax (good ridence) is gone. Last time that we had the Dixie, the Blackened (or Crimson) Voodoo did well, but I'm not sure that it's still around, especially post-K. Now, if you could do Regal, Falstaff, Dixie AND Jax, you'd really hit all the low points of NOLA beers. (note: still miss the smells of Jax Brewery, when doing my Café Du Monde coffee on a foggy night, regardless of what I thought of that beer.)


          2. What city are you in? What time of day will the party be? How long? How formal? Cocktails, sit-down, buffet, reception style? Dancing?

            5 Replies
            1. re: MakingSense

              The event will be in southern Georgia in June from 7-10 pm. It is cocktail attire, and we have a jazz band. I love getting these great ideas from everyone. Thanks to all!

              1. re: LBM329

                June, ahh.

                You must do something with creole tomatoes if you can get them. Not sure what, but you really should.

                Hmm. I'm thinking . . .

                1. re: tzurriz

                  We like to take creole tomato slices, top with asiago cheese and put under the broiler. We can still get creoles at a grocery by our house called Matherne's. It is the only place I can find them. A restaurant we love (LaBoca) did a creole tomato salad with blue cheese, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

                  1. re: tzurriz

                    of course you top those creole tomato slices with shrimp remoulade...perfect for June

                  2. re: LBM329

                    In GA, you should have no problem getting most of the fixins' for a great party. Maybe start earlier and ask the gentlemen to don white jackets.

                    Oh, and by the way - congratulations! Enjoy. Hire a good caterer, and enjoy your party.


                2. Hire a professional. It will save you money in the long run, you won't have the stress. Go to your favorite resturant and ask for recomendations for a cateror (sp). Trust me.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: SonyBob

                    shrimp stuffed mirliton. BBQ shrimp (look up this recipe b/c for a non-local, it's not what you think). Abita beer. DEFINITELY mini-muffalettas. Crawfish bread and/or crawfish monica (ask Jazz Fest-goers). Red Beans and rice.

                    Too bad crawfish isn't in season in June. I guess it's a cocktail party so you wouldn't want a big messy boil anyway.

                    Get a brass band, please! So much fun! You can have a second line pah-rade!


                    Have fun!

                  2. A close friend had her wedding in New Orleans. One of the dishes i remember well seven years later were the crabmeat beignets. mmmmm

                    1. Pralines! They are so delicious. Aunt Sally's is a good way to go if you did not want to make them yourself (www.auntsallys.com), but my Mom has made them at home many times, and are soo good. I actually just saw I think in the recent Martha Stewart magazine that they had these pralines as ideas for weddings. Yum!

                      1. I am fortunate. I grew up in Ohio but my stepmom was raised in Uptown. She is a fabulous cook and taught me how to make my first roux. So, other than all the good ideas that have been suggested I would say jambalaya,shrimp remoulade, etouffee? I'm trying to aim for things that don't necessarily involve crawfish because they may not be easy to get or expensive like up here in VA. I would say do po' boys but finding the right bread could be a problem.

                        If you serve coffee, Cafe du Monde. It can be ordered online, found in gourmet shops, or better yet(at least up here) in many Asian supermarkets for half the price of the gourmet shops.

                        Pralines..my stepmom makes this amazing praline sauce she serves over ice cream...yum....damn, I'm getting home away from homesick...

                        1. We do a King's Day Celebration, in lieu of a more traditional holiday party. This is usually open to 250-350 people, by invitation. While it not the most sought after invitation in Phoenix, it now ranks up near the top.

                          Wife brings in a chef from New Orleans, and hires a jazz band. Immediately after Katrina, I found the Tremé Jazz Band, which had immigrated from New Orleans to Phoenix. This last year, we hired a local band, as Tremé has gone back to NOLA.

                          For decorations, we usually mix in Mardi-gras colors and concepts, as this IS the official start of Mardi Gras. The caterer has a collection of masks and Mardi Gras-themed dolls, that are placed on each table. Doubloons are also in evidence.

                          For food, we did the standards, jambalaya, gumbo, red beans n’ rice, fried blue crab claws, boiled shrimp (peel n’ eat) and sausages from South Louisiana. Bread pudding was the main dessert but we had a dessert chef doing Bananas Foster from a mobile cart. Actually, they were flambéd bananas, as Bananas Foster is ™.by the Brennan family. Usually, the guest chef will do a special dish, or two. One year (last year at our home), the chef did a demo kitchen for BBQ shrimp to his family recipe. This was a big hit, but in most venues, there is not a demo kitchen.

                          In NOLA, the drinks of choice are usually mixed, like the Hurricane, Ramos Gin Fizz, Sazerac and Absinthe, but I always demand great wines, however untraditional these might be. We usually add Dixie Blackened Voodoo for a beer and Barq’s Root Beer for soft-drinks.

                          For entertainment, we usually have one Tarot Card reader, and added a “Voodoo Princess,” who also did “readings,” one year.

                          Now, for us, it’s an easy transition from the Holidays to Mardi Gras, and our decorators know how to incorporate these two themes well. Last year in the home, they placed a large Mardi Gras float in the pool and added spotlights from the upper level. Also, having our party coincide with the official beginning of Mardi Gras makes the task easier. We’ve also done videos of Mardi Gras on a big screen, away from the jazz band.

                          Some of this might well depend on where you are hosting the party. We have to scramble a bit, being in Phoenix, but my wife still has contacts in New Orleans, so it is not impossible. Also, when we go back to visit family, she’s always on the lookout for things, food, entertainment, etc., from NOLA, since this is an annual labor of love for her.

                          If I were doing this away from Mardi Gras, I’d suggest that the gentlemen all wear white, or Haspel seersucker suits. One year, my wife was Scarlett O’Hara and I, a poor version of Rhett Butler. Actually, I was more of a Mississippi river boat gambler and no where near as dashing, as Clark Gable, though wife DID look more like Vivian Leigh.

                          For ideas that are non-Mardi Gras, you might want to think of magnolias, Spanish moss, azaleas and similar. I’d also check out any costume shops in your area. Maybe the “wedding” party could go “in character,” and the guests dress, as they choose.


                          [Edit] Pick up a copy of New Orleans Magazine. Most issues have ads for folk, who do various NOLA and Mardi Gras themed things - place settings, decorations, etc. and you might pick up a ton of ideas.

                          1. Maybe some mini or individuals muffalettas

                            Oysters Rockefeller

                            Charbroiled Oysters

                            Remoulade Salad or Shrimp Remoulade
                            Fried Green Tomatoes with Shrimp Remoulade



                            Red beans/rice


                            Crawfish or Crabmeat Cheesecake

                            Bananas foster / cafe au'lait

                            lots of mardi gras bead, masks, fleur de lis; crowns; lots of purple and yellow; lots of vegetation - vines and greenerie; hurricane lamps;

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: dtud

                              Three of my most favorite meals.. Jambalaya, Gumbo, and Red Beans & Rice! Yum.

                              I have never heard of Crawfish or Crabmeat Cheesecake, what is that like, dtud?

                              1. re: Erinmck

                                it's like a savory cheesecake. somewhat like an extremely cheesy/creamy and seafood-y quiche that is about twice or three times as tall as a normal quiche. i'm pretty sure it has cream cheese and eggs. obvisouly it has some kind of shellfish. but other than that - i'm really not sure how it is made. i've only had it at wedding buffets in nola - and it is just absolutely amazing. it's so rich and delicious!

                            2. Mardi Gras themed parties are great for engagement parties. The decorations are colorful and fun and the food is great. Here in New Orleans the food can be anything from red beans and rice, fried chicken, shrimp dishes, jambalaya, bread pudding, king cake, pralines. No wonder we are heavier than anyplace else in the U.S. Some web sites that offer decorations and masks for parties are www.masksandmakebelieve.com and www.haydelsbakery.com for kingcakes. One party I was invited to send out small masks as invitations. Pat

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: patneworleans

                                You know, I was going to mention doing a variation on a kingcake but I wasn't sure how well it would go over. Instead of the baby, bake in like a plastic engagement ring or a tiny bride/groom. Whoever finds it has to do something fun...wedding related, Talk of invitations reminded me that my mom's bday usually hits around Mardi Gras. One year we did an invite. It was normal paper with a paper mask over it. You had to pull off the mask to see the invite,

                                1. re: rHairing

                                  There was a Creole tradition of small charms in the wedding cake, attached to ribbons, which were pulled out by the bridesmaids (plus a few single women) just before the cake was cut. Things like a coin signifying wealth, a ring for impending marriage, a baby for children, wishbone for luck, etc. There was a standard set of eight that you could buy in materials from silver at the good jewelry stores down to plastic at the five and dime. I even used to use these for my daughters' birthday parties when they were small and we've used them recently for family weddings. Hard to find now but lots of fun.

                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                    Nice call. I had forgotten about those! I've been too busy telling the folk in Phoenix, that there was a "baby" in the King's Cake, to remember. Wonderful tradition and one that my wife used, thought that was 37 years ago, so I should be allowed to have a faulty memory.


                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                      Here's a link for wedding cake charms

                                      Her's a recipe I posted for shrimp and alligator cheesecake, very easy to make

                                    2. re: MakingSense

                                      Great idea! I believe i've seen this at a bridesmaid luncheon once before. Thanks!

                                2. I am from NO and am getting married in Mississippi this summer. I too am having a cocktail party and the food and theme are NO-French Quarter style. Food inlcudes pick up items like crawfish etouffee served in phylo cups, jambalaya, fried catfish fingers, Mini Mufalettas made from Gambino's pistolettes and Central Grocery olive mix (find both online), shrimp and grits appetizers (great Southern Living recipe - make your grits, add chopped cooked shrimp a little cheese, garlic, however you like them, spoon into prepared mini muffin pans and bake. they pop right out are are just the right bite sized treat), antipasto plates, various seafood and crab dips, crab cakes, etc. Many ingredients can be ordered from real New Orleans restaurants and retailers.

                                  The full bar will feature a Hurricane Station with Hurricanes made from the famous Pat O'Brien's mix (also available on line.) We're not doing the bananas foster in lieu of bread pudding (my fiancee's favorite) The wedding cake has fleur de lis on it.
                                  We're doing this outside in a garden with twinkle lights and candles. Table decorations are wrought iron tall candle holders with red rose topararies and a working fountain in the middle of the food table. Add lots of hanging ferns for the French Quarter feel.

                                  A jazz ensemble and second line are a possibility, but be careful, you can go from elegant French Quarter to full-on Mardi Gras with beads, masks, etc. The real New Orleans/French Quarter is about lush, decadent elegance, not the Mardi Gras flash that outsiders think of.