It’s Your First Southern Wedding—Here’s What To Expect
If you just moved from Jersey to Georgia, allow us to share a little nuptial know-how.
Southern weddings are a sight to behold, but if you’re a wedding guest from someplace else, you might find the flower girl wagon and other Southern wedding traditions a bit confusing. Never been to a wedding where half the church was occupied by family and you were constantly being hugged by total strangers wearing hats worthy of the Kentucky Derby? Never buried a bottle of bourbon to ward off rain or heard a Dolly Parton song played after the sand ceremony? Read on.
Prepare yourself for a ginormous wedding party.
Expect enough bridesmaids, junior bridesmaids, honorary bridesmaids, flower girls, groomsmen, and ushers to fill a choir loft. Also . . .
Bridesmaids will be sporting identical makeup, manicures, and wedding hair. (We’re partial to updos and half-ups.)
For outdoor weddings, the ring bearers and flower girls might be barefoot. We think that’s just precious.
Another favorite: Tots pulled down the aisle in a cute little wagon. This adorable wagon passenger could be the flower girl, tossing petals as she rolls along, or just the newest addition to the family, a child the bride wanted to include even though Little One isn't big enough to walk very far without tumbling just yet.
You can bank on a well-thought-out, seasonally appropriate color scheme and cohesive style for all wedding attire. Southern brides aren’t big on “just wear whatever you like.” No. The pictures will look heinous if you let the bridesmaids—or “his side of the family”—go rogue.
Chalk it up to our agrarian Southern roots. You show us a good-looking barn and we’re ready to call the wedding planner.
There are certain givens in a barn wedding: cowboy boots on all members of the wedding party, including the bride; cowboy hats optional on the groom and groomsmen, but they must decide, in advance, so that everybody's dressed the same; tastefully arranged bales of hay; quilts; a watering trough to ice down the beer (Cokes if you’re Baptist); outdoor reception lit by string lights and candles in Mason jars; barbecue on the menu—beef brisket or a whole hog, depending on what part of the South we’re in.
We like “I do’s” in the dunes.
When you have as much coastline as we do (11 Southern states touch sand and surf), it comes as no surprise that many Southerners are “beach people.” Heading to a beach wedding?
Everybody will be barefoot, including the bride.
Groomsmen will be wearing khakis and white shirts with the cuffs rolled up and the collars unbuttoned.
Bridesmaids will be carrying tropical flowers or some sort of bouquet built around a Mason jar with a sand-supported candle inside.
You can expect either mid-morning or sunset vows.
Unless it’s a private beach, lots of people drenched in Hawaiian Tropic will be gawking from what they consider a polite distance.
There will be a sand ceremony. Or the release of two doves (though this can get dicey in a place where dove shoots are a social event). Somehow, the bride and groom will find a symbolic way of saying, “You used to be you, and I used to be me, but now we’re us, y’all.” Music following could be anything from “Whither Thou Goest” to “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man.”
Sometimes, a girl just has to be married in her home church.
A church wedding in the bride’s hometown is FULL ON.
LOTS of flowers. LOTS.
The preacher who baptized her might be flown in to officiate.
Everybody remotely connected with the ceremony is expected to have read and committed to memory anything Emily Post ever thought about saying.
The bride and groom will light a unity candle. There will be no song following. Let us pray.
Mothers will be presented with a single rose and a kiss on the cheek from the bride and groom.
Only the star soloist in town will be allowed to sing. None of this sorority-sisters-gather-around-the-bride-and-sing-the-school-fight-song business. No. We are in a house of worship. Everybody behave or face the wrath of Mama.
Rest up for the reception.
The receiving line will be LONG. And there will be a long wait for it to begin because the bride and groom will be taking endless photos with their families back at the church. (We all know it’s bad luck for the happy couple to see each other before the ceremony.)
Southerners like “real food” at their wedding receptions: barbecue, mac ’n cheese, mashed potato bars, etc. One groom wanted potato salad at his reception—10 pounds of his Mama’s recipe and 10 pounds of Memaw’s.
Fall weddings in the South are absolutely planned around the college football schedule. Any couple foolhardy enough to schedule their nuptials on a big game day should provide ear buds for all and have flat screens in the reception hall.
The bride’s cake will be the show-stopper, but you’ll have more fun at the groom’s table, where you might find any of the following:
MoonPie groom’s cake
Groom's cake in his college football team colors
Banana pudding instead of the traditional cake
A Krispy Kreme tower and milk instead of a cake
A Yoo-Hoo fountain
P.S. Whatever you do . . .
Don’t wear white shoes unless the wedding is held after Easter and before Labor Day. Otherwise, Mama’n’em might have to call for their smelling salts.
WATCH: Alabama Bride Includes 15 Very Special Kiddos In Her Wedding Party
What an incredible story—and what a sweet bride! No doubt, these beloved little members of her wedding party will remember this day when they're all grown up.