Sports

New Orleans abuzz over Serena Williams wedding

Saturday, November 18, 2017

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New Orleans, United States (AFP) — Star wattage abounded in New Orleans on Thursday as A-list celebrities gathered for the wedding of tennis superstar Serena Williams and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

Despite the media frenzy, the happy couple released few details of their ceremony. But unnamed sources told People magazine and the Daily Mail that some 250 guests were invited to the festivities at the southern US city's Contemporary Arts Center.

Music royalty Beyonce, legendary Vogue magazine editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, reality TV star Kim Kardashian, actress Eva Longoria and singer Ciara were all also seen arriving at the arts complex.

Security for the event, anticipated to last into the wee hours, was tight. An entire block in the Big Easy — a city known for its jazz music, good food and party atmosphere — was closed to traffic.

A steady train of black SUVs brought members of the wedding party to the event, as workers hurried final preparations for the festivities.

According the entertainment website ETonline, the wedding was to have a “Beauty and the Beast” theme. It said the tennis star's sister Venus was seen late Wednesday leaving the arts centre.

Workers could be seen early Thursday transforming the arts complex for the ceremony, while the parking lot beside the building was full of tents and trucks unloading flowers, tables, carpets, wardrobe, and musicians.

The locally popular New Orleans funk and jazz band Naughty Professor was seen arriving in the late afternoon, as was the traditional Paulin Brothers Brass Band.

Chefs cooked in an outdoor tent, with feasting options including two food trucks as well as an outdoor bar.

The Daily Mail said the event would cost more than US$1 million and guests would be asked not to bring their cellphones, because an exclusive photo deal had been signed with Vogue.

Williams, 36, a 23-time Grand Slam champion, and Ohanian, 34, welcomed their first child, daughter Alexis Olympia, on September 1.

They announced their engagement in December after meeting in 2015 in Rome.

While New Orleans is no stranger to celebrities and weddings, the star wattage Thursday stirred up extra excitement in the city.

Linda Davis and Cora Riley drove four hours from the small Louisiana town of DeRidder just to get a glimpse of the tennis champion. They waited outside the arts complex for hours.

“We love her. She's classy, she and Venus. They never complain,” Riley told AFP.

“We're so glad she found happiness. Little baby Alexis is so precious,” said Mary Huber, who was among a small group who took a break from work to observe the hectic scene.

Williams won this year's Australian Open while pregnant, and is expected to defend her title in Melbourne in 2018 — just four and a half months after giving birth to her child.

The Contemporary Arts Center is a large, four-storey, multidisciplinary complex boasting approximately 10,000 square feet (929 square metres) of gallery space.

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