Mardi Gras ball perfect backdrop for surprise wedding proposal

Phillip Woods and Jennifer Sawyer met in Auburn, Ala., but after watching Disney's "The Princess and the Frog,'' which is set in New Orleans, they were convinced to move to the Crescent City, which is where they "fell in love with each other and south Louisiana,'' Woods said. "I also fell in love with her gumbo recipe, so that helped."

The couple live in Nashville now, where he is a paramedic and she is a nanny, but they plan to move back to New Orleans someday. And although they're not living in New Orleans right now, Sawyer is still a member of the Krewe of Iris, the oldest all-female krewe in New Orleans.

The Krewe of Iris is "one of her favorite organizations and something she looks forward to all year long,'' Woods said. So when he decided it was time to pop the question, "I felt it only fitting to incorporate that into my proposal as it is a significant aspect of both of our lives."

The Iris ball was Feb. 3. Woods decided to enlist the help of his mother and Sawyer's, plus Pam Pickett, queen of Iris in 2014, to help him surprise Sawyer with a ring.

Sawyer said, "It was my dream to incorporate our proposal or marriage into my favorite holiday (Mardi Gras) but I had no idea he would actually pull it off! Our parents and Mrs. Pam did a great job lying to me and hiding the surprise. I know it must've been nerve-wracking,'' since 1,000 people attended the supper-dance, "but he pulled off an amazing Iris marriage proposal!"

Sawyer said, "One cool thing was that my mother couldn't hold in the surprise, and she was afraid too many people would leave" around midnight. "So she went around saying a surprise guest would perform! Word got around and a rumor was started that Harry Connick Jr. was going to be there! The real surprise was much better though, in my opinion.''

Woods said, "I waited until the supper dance after the ball and with the help of the band, got up on stage in front of everyone and had a short speech in which I called Jennifer to the stage and on one knee asked her to marry me -- thankfully she said 'Yes.'

"In my proposal speech I discussed the great attributes of an Iris woman and made sure to integrate that into my proposal."

Woods said the wedding will be in New Orleans, sometime in fall 2018 --dependent on LSU and Auburn football schedules, he added.

"There is still a lot to plan of course, but in traditional New Orleans fashion it is guaranteed we will have a second line in the Quarter to celebrate."  

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The Krewe of Iris rolls Saturday, Feb. 25, at 11 a.m., Uptown. See the route here.

Did you get married or engaged at Mardi Gras, too? Please tell me about it! Email Melinda Morris at mmorris@nola.com. I'd love to hear your story and see your photos and videos!