New Orleans | Serena to tie the knot today
The big day has arrived for Serena Williams, who is to be married in New Orleans after giving birth to her baby daughter 11 weeks ago.
She and her fiancé Alexis Ohanian, together with around 250 guests, will tie the knot today, Thursday 16 November, at the Contemporary Arts Center in the Big Easy, with nuptials thought to be costing around $1million in short change.
Serena and Ohanian reportedly started dating from 2015 and announced their engagement in December 2016.
Notably, the former was pregnant when she won the Australian Open earlier this year, and she is reportedly set to defend her title in January 2018 in Melbourne, just three months after giving birth.
They just told us to show up at a certain time and expect to stay late. Un-named guest
Ohanian, who is co-founder of social media platform, Reddit, is the father of her child and the new parents welcomed their baby, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr, in September.
They have reportedly left no stone unturned to make their wedding a grand spectacle but want to keep the ceremony and celebrations as private as possible, with their guests only being informed of the wedding venue on Saturday morning, according to the Daily Mail.
The wedding planning has been shrouded in secrecy and guests will not learn the full details of arrangements until Thursday morning.
Also, guests will not be allowed to carry their mobile phones inside the venue as an exclusive photography deal has been signed with Serena’s friend Anna Wintour to feature pictures from the event exclusively in women’s fashion magazine Vogue.
Among the 250 guests invited to the grand wedding ceremony are famous singers and personalities of the likes of Beyoncé, Jay Z and Kris Jenner, who are expected to grace the occasion alongside stars from stage and screen featuring among the A-listers reportedly convening in New Orleans.
Suits actor and girlfriend of Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, will also be joining the big names on Thursday, as will sister Venus and the whole Williams family.
Celebrity wedding planner Preston Bailey was commissioned for the event, which will see the Contemporary Arts Center filled with crystals and flowers.
Selected guests attended the rehearsal dinner at New Orleans on Wednesday evening at Meril, which was closed to the public.
The guest list included Desperate Housewives’ Eva Longoria, Teen Wolf star Colton Haynes and William’s agent Jill Smoller among the close group of friends and family invited to the event at Emeril Lagasse’s most casual and most affordable spot, with specialties such as fired rock shrimp tacos, yellow fin tuna wraps, smoked pork belly and candied pork ribs on the menu, and room for about 100 to 150 diners.
Top Chef star Lagasse was spotted at the venue on Wednesday afternoon preparing for the feast.
Earlier in the evening, Williams treated her guests to some New Orleans specialties when a beignet truck pulled up, and the driver was spotted taking hundreds of the delicious fried dough balls inside the restaurant.
An employee at the restaurant, who declined to be named, said that he and the rest of the staff signed iron-clad confidentiality agreements.
“We’re all sworn to secrecy,” he said. “The confidentiality agreements are pretty tight.”
A bartender, who also said she didn’t want her name used, added that the lower level staff weren’t even told about the party until they arrived at work.
Serena wore a full-length ivory coloured dress with pearls for the elegant rehearsal dinner, which kicked off at 6pm, followed by the after party, also at the Meril, which began at 9pm.
“They just told us to show up at a certain time and expect to stay late,” said one un-named guest.
Serena was accompanied by Venus, who wore a silky dark blue dress, and their mother Oracene Price, who wore a short, purple dress in velvet, with a diamante feature, and matching diamante shoes.
The happy bride-to-be couldn’t stop smiling as she left the event at around midnight, climbing into a black chauffeured Cadillac with her family, and retreating to a $1.6 million mansion in the edge of the French Quarter at 1725 Esplanade Avenue.
The property has been rented for that occasion and the couple appear to have taken to separate properties for the night before the wedding as Ohanian was nowhere to be seen.
Earlier on Wednesday, preparations were underway at The Contemporary Art Center to make sure the 36-year-old’s wedding goes off without a hitch.
Air-conditioned tents were being erected throughout the parking lot, while tableware and cases of wine from Chateau Smith were unloaded along with a giant carousel.
It seems that the most important lady in Serena and Ohanian’s life will be playing a very big part in the ceremony.
“Alexis will have a babysitter on hand just for her the entire night,” the source told DailyMail.com.
“Both parents wouldn’t dream of not having her there. She will be a part of the wedding as much as possible for an 11-week-old. They are totally and utterly besotted with her.”
Serena clearly knows how to throw a party.
In early November, the 23-time Grand Slam champion gathered with her friends and family for an all-out girls’ weekend in New York City.
The ladies went to the opulent Baccarat Hotel & Residences, the first hotel from France’s eponymous crystal brand, and the luxurious weekend included five-star spa treatments, trapeze’ing, tea brunches, and dancing out on the town.
The weekend concluded with pampering by the luxurious Spa de La Mer at the Baccarat Hotel and lounging poolside in the cabanas inspired by the Côte d’Azur, all dressed in white.
There is no word yet on Serena’s wedding dress, however, but given her red carpet choice for this year’s Met Ball and at the Glamour Women of the Year Awards on Monday, it seems likely that the bride will walk down the aisle in Versace.