How to Host a Southern Style Wedding

A bride and groom standing in front of a barn with lights above them.

If you’re a fan of classic movies like Gone with the Wind or The Notebook, you can’t deny that there’s something charming about the South. Even to the modern day, the southern states have retained their je-ne-sais-quoi, which is why they continue to be popular for weddings and many other events. As a true romantic at heart, if you’re reading this, you’re probably considering hosting a southern-style wedding. For a theme, it’s a fantastic idea and not a difficult one to implement. Depending on how authentic you want your wedding to be, you can choose to incorporate a few bits and pieces or go all the way.

Venue

If your budget allows and the guests don’t mind, why not actually fly to one of the top destinations for southern weddings? And if you live nearby already, even better! You can find numerous spectacular venues in nearly every state. Some popular cities, however, are Savannah, Georgia; Charleston, South Carolina; New Orleans, Louisiana; Charlottesville, Virginia; and Lexington, Kentucky. And if traveling out of state is impossible, you can recreate a similar atmosphere by booking a winery, barn, or country club as a venue instead. You can also look for a private estate if you’re set on a formal affair. Look for one with an old-fashioned feel or one akin to a plantation.

Flowers

A bride holding a bouquet of white roses, cotton, and greenery.

Flora is undoubtedly a crucial aspect of decor that cannot be passed over. If you’re lucky, some southern-style venues may already be rich in flowers, so your work will be minimal. However, you’ll have to at least think of what to put into your bouquet. Since you’re having a southern wedding, it only makes sense to have native southern plants. Whether as general decor or as individual bouquets, some ideas that are foolproof include cotton, magnolia, weeping willows, cattails, and oak leaves. Roses, gardenias, hydrangeas, and any oversized flowers are always a good choice. You can often mix these with your own flower picks to make the style truly your own.

Decor

What type of decor you choose will depend on what kind of “southern” you want to be for the day. Generally speaking, any mix of formal classic and rustic or country is a win. Monograms, surprisingly, are usually found everywhere as well. But, for example, if you’re leaning towards Texas, cowboy hats and boots are a must. You don’t have to wear them (but do encourage your guests to if they wish)—you can also use them in lieu of other decorative pieces. For a plantation setting, parasols will be very chic, and considered a traditional accessory at a southern wedding, especially for bridesmaids.

Food

A table of pies at a wedding reception.

Of all the aspects of wedding planning, food has to be one of the most important. This is especially true if it’s a southern wedding. Again, there’s lots of flexibility on how you can go about this, so looking up or asking your caterer about southern dishes is a good idea. Some suggestions include baked ham, shrimp, BBQ, pot roast, and steak for the main course. For an appetizer or side, go with deviled eggs, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, or corn. For dessert, a homemade pie is a no-brainer, especially if it’s apple, peach, or pecan. Bananas foster is a unique alternative for something sweet. And, of course, whatever you do, you can’t go wrong with spicy or cajun-flavored anything.

Southern Traditions

There are plenty of wedding traditions and superstitions that people abide by, whether they believe in them or they’re just for fun. The South, perhaps not surprisingly, has its own set of peculiar customs, such as burying a bottle of bourbon at the wedding venue a month before the couple wed. Another thing that’s common at southern weddings is for the bride to bake the groom a personalized cake; it’s a way to show that you truly know your future husband.

A fun alternative to the bouquet toss is the cake pull. This is when members of the bridal party and any single guests pull out a ribbon from the wedding cake, which reveals a charm that predicts their near future of love, luck, or wealth. Since there are so many age-old traditions, you might want to do a bit of research into which ones speak to you the most.

Drinks and Cocktails

A server at a wedding reception holding a silver tray of crystal cocktail glasses.

Last but not definitely least: the drinks menu. The south is famous for a few signature cocktails that are classics to this day. Does the Old Fashioned, Gin Fizz, Mint Julep, or The Sazerac ring a bell? Many of these can also be made in non-alcoholic versions if you wish. For extra style points, serve all cocktails in mason jars instead of regular glassware. And, of course, who can forget about sweet tea? There are plenty of variations on the recipe, but it’s definitely a must-have drink for a southern wedding. Although the original version is booze-free, it can also be spiked with a shot of bourbon.

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