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I rarely think about weddings, even in June, but I admit being excited for my friend Charlotte Wyatt who’s soon to marry Gordon Smith, her best friend since middle school. Since Charlotte and I both hail from Tennessee, I started thinking about some of the extravagant Southern nuptials I attended back in the ’60s when June weddings often looked like animated flower shows. They were pretty, very showy affairs but none remotely compared to an extravaganza in antebellum Louisiana that still has people talking. It was the brainchild of one Charles Durande. Durande was a rather mysterious Frenchman who appeared in New Orleans around 1820 and multiplied his already considerable wealth by becoming one of Louisiana’s largest sugar planters. He not only...

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