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Bride walking down the aisle

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Bride walking down the aisle

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Southern wedding to-do's and traditions

You've reviewed our guide to the etiquette of engagements and followed our rules to set the foundation for your perfect Southern wedding. Now it's time to launch your wedding into the modern world.

You will be sure to throw the perfect Southern wedding if you nail your wedding website, find the best vendors from your photographer to tasty catering, choose a gorgeous wedding dress or tuxedo and get yourself quality wedding bands.

And (yes!) you can do this without losing your mind, maintaining proper Southern etiquette and upholding our dear traditions.

Spread the word and plan your Southern kitchen
It’s 2018 and this is the modern Southern guide to planning a wedding, so you know a wedding website will be needed. A well-written and informative website with a consistent look and feel to the wedding is essential. Your wedding website should provide guests with everything that they need to know to thoroughly enjoy your wedding weekend.

Woman setting table with blue and white dinnerwareThe information that you should include first is the date, time and location of your ceremony and reception. It is always helpful to include any helpful tips if guests’ GPS may be misleading (add, “don’t miss the turn at the red barn,” for example). Include the dress code as well, which today can range from “casual,” to “cocktail,” or “black tie invited” to even “white tie” or “festive.” Rules around dress codes have become much more relaxed, but it is always proper guest etiquette to abide by the code listed and not break the cardinal wedding dress code sins of wearing red or white. Donning a black dress, especially as a print, has become more than acceptable recently, but red or white may give others the impression that you’re trying to gain more attention than the bride, which is never acceptable or polite.

In addition to these basic pieces of information, you’ll need to include hotel block information for out-of-town guests and a link to your registry. It’s always nice to include photos of you and your significant other throughout to ensure that the tone of the site is of love and togetherness.

When registering for gifts, if you’ve lived together for a few years, take stock of what you already have and what may need to be upgraded. You’ll want to include a wide range of gift prices to accommodate for every guest’s budget but that still do with your home decor style. We know you may not be thrilled at the prospect of fine china today, but you’ll be happy you listed it in 30 years. And always register for a new vacuum — just leave the high chairs and toddler toys to the baby shower, unless you’re currently expecting.

A registry is so important because it keeps track of what guests have already purchased so the couple doesn’t end up with 15 whisks and mismatched place settings. Registries are also imperative if the couple has lived together for a few years and may already own what you may want to gift them; they likely put a good deal of thought into what they chose to list.

Choose the best Southern vendors for food and beyond
Once you’ve chosen your favorite venue and nailed down a date in your contract, you may be presented with a list of preferred vendors, or you may have free reign to choose your own. Again, consider your atmosphere. Think about the formality of the event when choosing a food vendor and menu. If you’re throwing a beach wedding, tiny tacos and tequila shots as hor d'oeuvres during cocktail hour is as appropriate as barbecue pork sandwiches at a barn wedding, but neither should be served at a white tie affair. Instead, invite guests to dine on tuna tartare and mini beef Wellington and opt for a plated dinner instead of buffet. (Buffets are, by the way, completely appropriate for every level of formality other than white tie.)

For cocktail hour, consider a bacon or biscuit bar because it's also proper to serve food when you're serving alcohol. If you’re melding different cultures, the menu is a great opportunity to personalize the event to you as a couple. Do you know that your guests will want to sip straight Knob Creek all night? Ensure that there is an open bar available. If that’s not the case, you can certainly serve only beer and wine, alongside creative themed signature drinks. Cash bars are never recommended if Southern hospitality is what you're going after.

When choosing your officiant, consider each of your religious backgrounds or if you’re going to convert. If neither of you are religious or you just want a close family friend to officiate the wedding, you can personalize the wedding even more. Many couples opt to have premarital counseling by a pastor, priest or a counselor prior to embarking on this great journey. This can provide couples the opportunity to reflect on their dynamic and talk through their feelings with a third party who may offer advice and guidance in return. It’s also required by some churches to have the couple marry under their roof but, by tradition (and in my opinion), counseling is a wonderful opportunity to get to know yourself and your couple’s personality on a deeper level, creating a stronger foundation for your marriage.

When choosing vendors like photographer and videographer, you’ll want to ensure you review their previous work and the contract closely. Discuss with the vendor the aesthetic you have in mind and a shot list of moments in time you want to be captured. For your florist, consider your budget when choosing the quantity, volume and type of flowers used in your arrangements. If you’re eyeing a floral chandelier with a type of flower that is not in season, expect to pay *even* more. Flowers can easily range from $1,000 to $15,000. Remember: If you’re tying the knot on a beach, you’ll need less decoration than if you’re saying “I do” in a blank-slate-of-a-ballroom.

The band versus DJ debate is a commonly divisive examination. Do you want a variety of music that sounds just like it does on the radio? DJ is for you. If you prefer to hear one genre with people to entertain your guests, a band is in your future. Don’t forget to consider ceremony and cocktail hour music too; you don’t want to walk down the aisle to crickets. If you're having your wedding in the French Quarter, you have the perfect opportunity for a brass band second line! Having fluffy beignets as your guests' late night snack is a must.

We highly suggest also considering a day-of coordinator if you’ve forgone a full wedding planner – trust me! This person really helps for an entire month and often involves three meetings. They will be a great advocate on your behalf when working alongside the event coordinator and will do everything they can to execute your vision.

Man with boutineerGet fancy and put a ring on it
Traditionally, wedding dress shopping occurs around nine months in advance of the big day. You will want to allow enough time to order the gown and have it arrive in roughly six months, then have two to three rounds of alterations to ensure the perfect fit. A similar time frame should be minded when ordering bridesmaids dresses.

Invite your mama, grandmama and a bridesmaid or two but don’t fill the room with too many opinions as to drown out your own. More mimosas are in order!

When choosing your wedding bands, don’t feel that they have to match your soon-to-be spouse’s, but they should coordinate with your engagement ring and the metal should match in order to avoid platinum scratching gold, for example. 

Every true Southern belle is invested in keeping with tradition and loves adding a little extra luck to her big day. The Old English rhyme “something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue, a sixpence in your shoe” lives on today in the South. Something old represents continuity; something new offers optimism for the future; something borrowed symbolizes borrowed happiness; something blue stands for purity, love, and fidelity; and a sixpence in your shoe is a wish for good fortune and prosperity.

Ask your mother or grandmother for a brooch for your something old and pin it to the ribbon around your bouquet or borrow sapphire earrings. Many items, but at least one, should be borrowed from someone currently enjoying a thriving marriage; many brides often wear blue satin pumps on their big day, as well.

Blue wedding for bride's "something blue"For the groom, consider the dress code for the guests. Is your affair black tie invited? Then the wedding party should be the best-dressed in black tie. If your wedding is cocktail attire, matching suits are the most appropriate. In a true black tie wedding, the groom can don a white jacket while his groomsmen wear black tuxedos. Don't forget to have boutonnières that coordinate with the bridal party's bouquets!

Burying the bourbon is an old Southern tradition that I am convinced saved my outdoor golf course ceremony from being drowned out by Hurricane Irma. Bury a full bottle of bourbon (can be an airplane bottle) at your wedding ceremony site upside down exactly one month before your wedding day to keep this tradition alive and ward away any bad weather!

With these Southern wedding traditions in your back pocket your big day is sure to be filled with luck.

Next: Learn the proper Southern guide to every pre-wedding event
Read up on setting the foundation for your Southern wedding
Go back to the beginning


Photo credit (hero): Charleston Weding Planner Facebook
Photo credit (woman setting table): Williams-Sonoma Facebook
Photo credit (bacon bar) Make Memories Daily Facebook
Photo credit (man with boutineere): Honey Creek Farms Facebook

Photo credit (something blue bridal shoes): Sarah Ainsworth Photography Facebook


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Lindsay Davis is the Digital Audience Development Specialist at Southern Kitchen. She is the czar of all things content distribution with a background in digital marketing and analytics. She has worked with brands including StarbucksVeuve Clicquot and Florida Department of Citrus. A native of the Empire of the South itself, proud former Georgia Bulldog and American University alumna, she returned to Atlanta after exploring her education and career (and the food scenes) in Washington, DC and New York City with a fresh perspective on life and dining.