CULTURE SHOCK | Gulf Coast Mardi Gras (part 3)


Here it is folks - the final part of our big, loud Mardi Gras adventure. Here is PART 1 and PART 2 if you need to catch up.


As I'm sitting down to write this post and thinking about our third day of Mardi Gras, the wave of exhaustion I was feeling that Monday morning is washing over me all over again. We had been dancing, drinking, changing clothes, and lugging pounds of beads around with a 1000 or so other people, and we were definitely feeling like fuddy duddy old yankees.

Luckily, Monday during the day was pretty low-key because everyone was anticipating THE ROYAL CORONATION BALL. *Insert trumpet fanfare here* In fact, you should just keep those trumpet fanfares and royal marches playing in your head as you read this - it was pretty much the soundtrack of the day.

Unfortunately, Rachel had to get back to medical school on Monday, so she missed out on all of our Monday shenanigans (#smartgirlsmissparties) - so when she's suddenly missing from pictures that's why. We had a bunch of free-time on Monday for the first time since we'd been down there, so after helping to clean-up from some of the Sunday shenanigans, we ditched my parents and set out to see what each of us could make from $20 at the hotel's casino. Spoiler alert - we lost it all. But fun fact - Britney Spears slot machines are not very popular with the older casino crowd, and offer some great throwback Britney music videos while they take your money.

This is Haley basking in Britney's money-sucking glow.

This is Haley drowning her gambling sorrows with ice cream.

Anyway, let's get on to the main event. Which of course is the Royal Coronation Ball! The ball consists of two main components. The first is a ceremony. The second is just a really fun party - band, champagne, food - except everyone is dressed up. The ceremony is clearly the most foreign and over-the-top element to non-gulf coasters, so let's focus on that.

The Royal Coronation Ball is strictly black tie, so we all got dressed in our gowns and tuxes, and headed to the Coliseum where this all goes down. At this point, I only have one major complaint about this whole thing. We show up to the coliseum, check our coats, and promptly have to walk up four flights of stairs to get to the seating. You want to see something funny? Watch a bunch of women in tight, floor-length gowns wearing 4 inch heels (many of whom have obviously been pre-gaming) start their evening by walking up four flights of stairs. Dumb. Knock one of those courses off of the Queen's brunch menu and donate an escalator. (The building IS accessible, so I'm sure there was an elevator somewhere, just not anywhere near the flow of traffic.)

The good news is I made it up the stairs in one piece and the rest of the evening was extremely enjoyable! I will warn you that the program for this ceremony was pretty much a full magazine, so I won't cover every detail of the hour and a half program, but I'll definitely hit the highlights.

The ceremony started with the introductions of past royalty, a little history about the association, a dance number from a local dance company. The main event, however, are the presentations of the members of the court. As I mentioned previously, each pair of royalty represented a headline-making news event, and that's what their costumes and introduction video highlighted. Here are a few phone videos that I snapped.

Each couple's time on stage consisted of the following elements:

  1. Emerge from arches during very highly produced intro video
  2. Walk toward partner and bow/curtsy. Join hands and start walking as slowly and gracefully as you can while wearing 40 pounds of sequins and fabric while dragging a 20-foot train.
  3. Walk to one side of the stage while the announcers give a detailed biography of the Duke's business accomplishments, and list all 156 community boards he currently sits on.
  4. Official mardi gras double wave and smile.
  5. Walk to center of stage and wave and smile to your mom or wife.
  6. Walk to other side of stage while the announcers give a detailed biography of the Maid's high school and college accomplishments. You thought that nobody would ever know if you were voted most likely to succeed or girl with the prettiest hair by your 9th grade classmates? Well you thought wrong.
  7. Wave and smile
  8. Gracefully ascend to your pedestal where you will be standing for the next hour and smiling like crazy.

This is serious business folks. There are 8 pairs on the court, and while this takes a while, it is fun to see the various costumes and hear a little more about the royalty. The costumes!


Once all of the royal court is on their podiums, the King and Queen make their grand entrance. It pretty much follows the same pattern as the others, except they walk around the stage TWICE and each have small children trailing them to fix their 40-foot long trains.



With the pomp and picture taking out of the way, we went on to party the night away! The band was great, and everyone had a great time dancing in their fancy clothes (except Andy who had tux pants that were just a little too big to stay up :) ).

I can't thank my Aunt and Jennifer enough for inviting us down to experience all of this and for being such amazing hosts while we were there. I wish I had an equivalent experience in my life that I could invite you all to, but my life is much less glamorous and involves fewer sequins and more sweatpants.

If anyone ever gets the chance to get down to the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, whether it be for Mardi Gras or just to enjoy yourself along the beautiful beach, definitely do it.

CULTURE SHOCK | Gulf Coast Mardi Gras (part 2)


I'm back with the second installment of the recap of our crazy Mardi Gras weekend! If you need to catch up, the intro is HERE, and part 1 is HERE.

Anyway.. on with the show.


We woke up on Sunday to a beautifully sunny but chilly Biloxi morning at my aunt's house (which is insanely beautiful, hopefully she lets me share some pictures of it sometime).

We needed to all be back at the hotel by 11:30 or something, so we proceeded to all get ready and pack up our designated outfit changes (purple shirts for Sunday!). We just knew we were going to some kind of "royal reception" and a "bead parade" afterward. These Gulf Coast Carnival people really need to consider renaming these events to do them justice, because we had NO IDEA what we were in for.

As it turns out, the Royal Reception is where the royal court is formally presented, walks down their own red carpet, and stands on stage for the longest receiving line I've ever seen (and hopefully ever see) in my life.

You can see that this massive ballroom is pretty much completely packed with very nicely dressed people crowding the rope line and waiting to snap pictures and cheer on their favorite Dukes and Maids. The spotlights and regal entry music really added to it. Once everyone had managed to precariously make it up the stairs to the stage, and the new queen had been toasted, the entire crowd started forming a line and to go up on stage and congratulate each of them. Thank goodness my aunt had warned us to jump in the line early, because I think the entire royal court was still shaking hands an hour and a half later.

We knew once the Royal Reception was petering out, we were supposed to go upstairs to my aunt's hotel room and change clothes before helping with this bead parade, but all of a sudden Jennifer was frantically waving at us from the stage and telling us to get out of there NOW.

Well thank goodness she got our attention, because if we would have waiting 10 more minutes I think we would have been trampled by the frenzied mass of 1000 people that suddenly transformed from genteel royalty supporters to bead hungry party animals.

As soon as we stepped out of my aunt's hotel room it was like BOOM! wall of people. The hotel floor that the royalty and their families were occupying had been a construction zone for the last 3 days to accommodate literally thousands of people walking up and down it, dancing, drinking, and generally having a really good time.

Now, when I say construction zone, I don't just mean they had removed the beds and added some chairs. Some rooms had light shows, some had stages with dancers performing, some had DJs, one had a gatsby-esque champagne tower, all of them were decorated with beads, sequins, chandeliers, and thematic decor.

Background: Each year, the association or Krewe picks a theme for that year's Mardi Gras. This year, the Gulf Coast Carnival Association's theme was Extra! Extra! and each pair of royalty represented a different headline-making event. One was Team USA winning the Miracle on Ice game, another was King Tut's tomb being discovered. Jennifer's was the sinking of the titanic (wah wah), but if anybody can make a tragic event look good it's her! ;)

I can't do justice to the chaos that ensued for the next few hours. The idea is that people parade around to each of the rooms and collect the custom beads that each member of the royalty has had made for them that year, but it was more like a mixture of black Friday at Target and Animal House. There was a jazz band walking up and down the hallway, the booze was flowing, and people were shoulder to shoulder the whole time. My aunt said she went through 1800 beads. Anyway, pure crazy.

This part of the day was so fun, but I also was on serious sensory overload at this point. My siblings and I opted to head back to my aunt's house to watch the Super Bowl - but guess what?! My parents and Avonna and Jennifer still had another party to go to!

The King's Dinner is held on Sunday night, and because it took place during the Superbowl, it was themed that way. But this is Mardi Gras, folks, so you don't just roll in a TV and put some wings on the table.

If you're going to have a Mardi Gras Superbowl Party, you better have balloon arches, astroturf table runners, TONS of food, 6 projectors, and a bunch of former players there signing footballs and custom placemats. Duh.

We all slept reeeeeallly well on Sunday night, because we knew the biggest party was still to come on Monday! Part 3 is coming your way tomorrow!

CULTURE SHOCK | Gulf Coast Mardi Gras (part 1)


I just had one of the most surreal but most fun weekends ever. As I said in this post, my entire family went down to Biloxi, Mississippi last weekend to participate in the Gulf Coast Carnival Association Mardi Gras weekend festivities because my cousin Jennifer was a maid in their Mardi Gras court this year.

In approximately 72 hours I went to 8 parties or events, wore 4 dresses and 2 themed tshirts, collected a BAZILLION beads (no flashing involved. ew.) and drank approximately that many glasses of champagne. We really didn't know what was in store for the weekend, but each successive event was even more over-the-top than the last, and Mardi Gras certainly didn't disappoint.

To give you a full run-down of the festivities, I'm going to break this up into 2 posts. But I think they're still going to be long ones, so settle in, grab your own glass of champagne, and get ready to let the good times roll!


We flew into Biloxi late on Friday night, so Saturday was the first day of festivities. And just so you know, we is:

  • Myself and Andy
  • Sister Rachel and husband Andrew (confusing, right?)
  • Sister Haley
  • Mom and Dad

Anyway, we got up Saturday and got ready to attend the Queen's Luncheon.

Background: The Gulf Coast Carnival Association is an exclusive Mardi Gras Krewe, and every year they pick their King and Queen. The King is an established middle-aged man, and the Queen is a young 20-something year-old woman. (I don't know why this is, chalk it up to tradition.) The King and Queen have a royal court made up of Dukes and Maids. The King and Queen each pick 4 of their own members of the court, and the association picks the other 4.

Now, when I think luncheon I have quaint visions of a small party of women having a nice light lunch Downton Abbey style. That is not what this is.

We walked in to a ballroom elegantly set for the Queen, her maids, and 600 of their closest friends and family. A band was playing on stage, multiple open bars were stocked with lots of wine and champagne, and a hand-painted crown was wrapped as a gift at each place setting. Guests included the First Lady of Mississippi, wives of Senators, city councilwomen, and pretty much anybody who is anybody in Gulf Coast society. Oh, and we were there too - slightly under-dressed (it was a theme for the weekend).

While the ladies were enjoying a 5-course lunch, the boys donned their assigned Saturday Jennifer-customized shirts and hit the pier for a crawfish boil hosted by the Queen's father (I think). Halfway through my 2nd course of lunch, I got a text that the Andrews had already "destroyed" their first platter of crawfish. After the luncheon, we joined them so my sisters could have their first crawfish experience.

Look at how nicely Andy is helping Rachel... he's a fast learner, that one.


After the crawfish boil, we went back in to the hotel and sat and chatted for awhile since it was the first time we had all been together. Then the best thing that could have possibly happened happened. We made plans to all go to dinner at Mary Mahoney's, which happens to be my favorite restaurant ever.

Mary Mahoney's Old French Housecharm,Presidents,

My very favorite thing (next to the gumbo, which has ruined me for all other gumbo) is the Sisters of the Sea Au Gratin. Side-by-side creamy, cheesy, comforting au gratin dishes - one with crab, the other with shrimp. I can't spend too much time writing about it, it makes me hungry and sad that I can't have it more often.

They do ship their gumbo and a few other things on the menu if you're dying to try it now. (Hey Aunt Avonna - my birthday is in March! :) )

But guess what - our Saturday wasn't over yet! Mardi Gras isn't just about the parties, it's also about the (daily) after parties. We pretty much rolled ourselves back to the hotel ballroom which had once again been transformed - this time with more bars, buffets of food, a large dance floor, and an exuberant band called Bag of Donuts playing in full costume with a massive light show. I was a little disappointed that I didn't actually get a bag of donuts, but that could have just been the exhaustion. Stay tuned for part 2!

In the Mood for Mardi Gras


So I have this cousin Jennifer. Jennifer's life is totally different and MUCH more glamorous than mine. This weekend, she is a maid for the Gulf Coast Carnival Association's Mardi Gras Ball. If this doesn't mean anything to you, you should really give yourself a little primer on all the history, traditions, and totally over-the-top nature of Mardi Gras HERE. And here is the link to Jennifer's official Mardi Gras bio and some pics (hi Jen! Don't hate me for this! :) ) Suffice it to say, this is very BIG deal to folks in New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and it is a very big deal to my cousin Jennifer. So much so that my whole family gets to head down south and enjoy all the festivities this weekend!

Jennifer was queen for a different Krewe's Mardi Gras ball a few years ago, but this weekend is supposed to be even bigger and better. For reference, the picture up there is of Jennifer and her court from that last ball. Woah. right?!

Anyway, I will obviously take tons of pictures when I'm down there, and update you on all things Mardi Gras when I get back on Tuesday. Also - stand by for pics of Andy looking bewildered in a bow tie and tux.

See y'all later!