Louisiana’s first daughter Sarah Ellen Edwards weds Christopher Bates | Entertainment/Life

After dating for seven years, Louisiana first daughter Sarah Ellen Edwards married her longtime beau, Christopher Bates on Nov. 18 at St. Joseph Cathedral in Baton Rouge with an indoor/outdoor reception following at the Governor’s Mansion.

As things turned out, the governor and his daughter ended up keeping her groom, the 34-person wedding party (including 11 ring bearers and flower girls, ages 1-9) and the rest of more than 500 friends and family who attended the event, waiting a bit longer than anticipated.

No one is quite sure how it happened, but right on time, the trumpets in St. Joseph Cathedral played their bridal fanfare and the crowd stood and turned expectantly toward the door — no bride on the arm of her father appeared.

Seconds that felt like minutes passed.

The crowd remained standing.

Mother of the bride Donna Edwards and the groom exchanged smiles.

The trumpets played their fanfare again — still no bride.

Whether or not they played the fanfare a third time or not is up for some debate, but finally someone realized that Gov. John Bel Edwards and his daughter were patiently waiting in a side room, oblivious to the multiple fanfares. Finally, someone let them know that the time had come (and gone), and the two appeared and walked down the aisle all smiles.

“I believe a bride is supposed to be fashionably late,” said Sarah Ellen Edwards, 27.

Bates said he was never worried. He knew she was coming — so did her mother.

“Sarah Ellen is notoriously late,” Bates said. “Mrs. Donna looked at me, and we both laughed. If she’s going to be late for anything, it’s going to be her wedding.”

The Rev. Joshua Johnson, who performed the wedding, joked that the bride had been waiting seven years to get married so she decided to keep the groom waiting seven minutes on the wedding day.


Even so, the first lady describes the wedding as magical.

“Several people used the word ‘magical’ to describe it, and I told them that I was glad they saw the magic in it, too,” Donna Edwards said.

Gov. Edwards agrees that the night was special. By all accounts, including his own, he stayed on the dance floor most of the night. He said his favorite part of the day was the daddy/daughter dance.

“I was worried about him and his dance moves,” Sarah Ellen Edwards said. “Dad is a good dancer. I told him not to do his tricks on the dance floor.”

The governor selected the father-daughter dance song and kept it a secret, despite his daughter’s best efforts in trying to find out what it would be. After dancing to “Tupelo Honey” for her first dance with her husband, she met her dad on the dance floor to “Sara Smile.”

The bride said she was pleased that during the father-daughter dance, her dad didn’t pull out his best moves and kept things slow. The governor said he was on a mission to do his best to make the night as magical as possible for his daughter.

“My daughter got married, and I was happy for her,” Gov. Edwards said. “I didn’t taste any of the food. Everyone seemed to have fun. 

Though Sarah Ellen Edwards wanted to plan all the details of her wedding, she realized a few months in that being a thousand miles away and working long hours in the White House as an associate director of agency liaison in the Office of Presidential Correspondence did not agree with pulling the event together. So, mom stepped in to do the lion’s share of the planning. 

“I had to trust my mom to make the decisions. I had to be reminded that everything would work out,” said Sarah Ellen Edwards. 

Donna Edwards said patience was a biggie for the planning of the wedding.

“It was hard. She wanted to be here,” Donna Edwards said. “Being my second time as mother of the bride, you’re older and you know the big picture. I walked with her and helped her to enjoy it and to realize that a lot of the little things are just little things.”

Courtship and life as newlyweds

The couple met when they were freshmen at LSU through a mutual friend at a Greek event. At that time, Gov. Edwards was running for his first term. 

“He joined the Students for JBE with me,” Sarah Ellen Edwards said. “He instantly started helping out with the campaign.”

Bates, who is from Benton (just north of Shreveport), recently resigned from his position as a land acquisition attorney with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to move to Washington, D.C., to be with his bride. Bates will turn 27 in January and is currently looking for a job in D.C.

A month after their wedding, they’ve managed to squeeze all of her clothes and his duck-hunting gear into a 600-square-foot apartment in the nation’s capital. Things are a bit tight, but, a month in, the newlyweds say they are enjoying building their lives together.

“I might have underestimated how many clothes she has,” Bates said. “However, once we got here after the wedding, I got the flu and strep at the same time. The way she cared for me while I was sicker than I had been in a long time showed me I made a great choice in a partner. She took care of me.”

Meanwhile, Sarah Ellen Edwards Bates said she’s also learning new things about her partner. 

“I knew he was a good cook, but he is a fantastic cook,” she said. “It’s been great to come home after a long day at work and eat together.”

The couple is planning a delayed honeymoon for the spring — a trip to Europe with stops in France and Amsterdam.

Louisiana through and through

The wedding was chock full of thoughtful Louisiana details through and through.

“So many of her friends from D.C. had never been to Louisiana,” Donna Edwards said. “We made sure it was very Southern.”

The first lady said that keeping her dearest friends close made a difference in the planning and her personal stress level. One longtime friend did the bride’s hair for the wedding

“Having friends from Amite who helped raise Sarah Ellen be here and be a part of the day, that was special,” Donna Edwards said.

One of the biggest hits of the night was the band — the Phunky Monkeys out of Metairie.

“They played everything from the deep country songs to whatever it is that y’all listen to,” said Donna Edwards.

The list of vendors for the wedding is long and very Louisiana. Drago’s oysters and Rock-n-Sake sushi provided oysters and rolls named after monumental moments between the bride and groom were also hits. Rolls included the Benton roll, the LSU roll, the West Wing, the Phi Mu/Fiji roll and the Lagniappe roll.

Other vendors read like a Louisiana wedding guide and contact list and include the Rylands, Desiree and Hunter, photographers; outdoor sitting area/couch by Jolie Rentals; flowers by Rickey Heroman’s for the church; flower design and decorating by Southern Seasons Decorating, Audry Hendry; the bride’s dress from Town and Country; makeup by Marissa Mizell; hair by Vicki Travis; rings from Anton’s Fine Jewelry.

The bride’s cake was by Sweet Stirrings and the groom’s cake by Kimbla’s Cakes; catering by Bev Inc., Bon Sake from Covington; photo booth by HD Photo Booth; invitations and graphic designs by Lamb Advertising; trolley by Luxury Limo; hotels Hotel Indigo, Watermark Hotel and Capitol Hilton; concelebrants the Rev. Jeff Bayhi and the Rev. Chuck Swanson; organist David Summers; cantor Shelby Aydell; the (overworked) trumpeter David Perkins; and the string orchestra of Borislava Iltcheva, Aaron Farrell, Grant Bedillion and Molly Goforth.

During the time of waiting between hair and makeup, the bridesmaids were given flowers to make their own bouquets.

The last of the ring bearers carried a white satin pillow with a lace heart in the center which had been used during the governor and first lady’s wedding in 1989. The inside of the pillow held rose petals from flowers the governor had given Donna Edwards during the courtship. 

The bride’s bouquet held a rosary from her father’s maternal grandmother. The bouquet also had a charm with photos of both of her deceased grandfathers, Frank Edwards and Bobby Hutto.