7 Things You Might Not Know Before Attending Your First Southern Wedding

There are weddings… and then there are Southern weddings.

Steel Magnolias
Photo: Pinterest

If you’re not from the South but you’ve seen Steel Magnolias, you might have a sense of what our matrimonial merriment looks like: flowers are plentiful, the number of family members in attendance is greater still, and the bride’s hair is teased up into a ‘do so high it scrapes the floor of heaven. But “blush and bashful” color schemes and armadillo cakes aside, there are also some key elements of Southern weddings that you likely wouldn’t expect. Here, we’ve outlined seven things you'll want to know before heading to our corner of the world to celebrate wedded bliss. 

Meals are often served buffet-style.

Rather than the seated dinner you may expect of such a momentous occasion, Southern couples often forego this more formal route (and assigned seating) in favor of stationed meals and a sit-wherever-you’d-like approach. This way of doing things is nice for two primary reasons: First, you get to choose the company you keep during mealtime (one experience with a bad seat assignment, and you’ll know why this is such a treat), and second, there’s nothing holding you back from hitting the dance floor once the band gets going. 

You may catch the couple with a shovel in tow.

No, they’re not doing yard work; rather, they’re likely unearthing the bottle of bourbon that they buried onsite exactly one month ago to ward off bad weather. We’ll toast to sunshine and wedded bliss any day of the week! (And if you’re from the South and haven’t heard of this one yet, it’s high time to embrace the fun tradition; just ask Southern Living Senior Editorial Producer Ivy Odom, who got married on a cloudless day in Georgia last spring.)  

The bar is stocked—with koozies. 

It wouldn’t be a wedding down here without plenty of libations to keep the party going—and to prevent the revelers from overheating. And because we don’t want our drinks to break a sweat either, we’ll often park a bowl of customized koozies (or “huggers,” if you’re from Mobile, Alabama) on the bar. Not only are they functional and handy in the summer swelter, but they’re also a lighthearted favor for guests.

There are bound to be attendants—and lots of them.

Southern couples certainly don’t have the monopoly on wedding parties, but we’d be willing to bet that the number of bridesmaids and groomsmen included in a Southern affair would outnumber the nuptials you’ll attend elsewhere. More than one of our staffers, myself included, have been in weddings where they were one of 20+ attendants. Blame it on our big families and countless cousins, or just call it what it is: our “the more, the merrier” approach. 

You might encounter a portrait of the bride at the reception. 

If you’ve never seen one before, this might be confusing—how’d they finagle a framed portrait of the bride in her Big Day best when the ceremony just happened moments ago? Many Southern brides will take formal portraits ahead of the wedding. It’s an opportunity for a makeup-and-hair trial run (all important with our humidity) and a chance to snap some timeless shots with a timeframe that’s a bit less harried than wedding day.

If you’re in New Orleans, you may become part of a parade.

The celebration of Louisiana weddings will sometimes include a second line, in which a brass band and parasol-wielding newlyweds lead their guests, who wave handkerchiefs or napkins, on a festive jaunt through the city (or around their reception venue). The musical parade is a lively way to send newlyweds into their married life with a little fanfare.

The dress code (sometimes) leaves room for flexibility. 

Don’t be surprised if you spot a Texas bride or groom pairing their finery with cowboy boots. While this isn’t a style choice you’ll witness at most Southern weddings, it’s not uncommon at a Lone Star State affair to spot the toes of shined-up boots peeking out from tuxedo pants or a wedding gown.

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