Women at bridal shower
Once you've made it to this stage of planning your perfect Southern wedding you're a well-oiled machine of a bride or groom.
You've tackled the etiquette of engagements, how to set the foundation for your perfect Southern wedding and Southern wedding to-do's and traditions. Now you're ready to plan your honeymoon and attend all of your pre-wedding events. This is where the real fun begins.
Bon voyage, y'all!
Planning your honeymoon is the most fun part of wedding planning. Check the date you’re getting married and make sure it’s not during hurricane season if you’re considering the Caribbean or Mexico for your destination. Adventure seekers may want to explore Mayan ruins while those trying to see the world could backpack throughout Europe.
A relaxing vacation will be a welcomed reproach after a wedding weekend so ensure you have everything you need in order. Don’t change your last name before you leave if your flight is booked in your maiden name, and if you’d like some time to enjoy married life as a couple before a baby carriage is in the cards, have any prescriptions you need packed safely.
Booking excursions through your hotel is an easy way to have fun in paradise but do your research and see what’s available outside of your resort as well. Never forget the food — read reviews of restaurants thoroughly and make reservations for your nice dinners out during the honeymoon. Don’t be scared to mention that it’s your honeymoon — they’ll be thrilled to see newlyweds and likely to give you a complementary dessert and/or glass of Champagne (cheers!)
Get ready to be showered with love
I briefly discussed the etiquette to bridal showers in my guide to the Sip and See party. A bridal shower should be hosted by the maid/matron of honor, along with the aid of the bridesmaids in order to avoid seeming too focused on gifts. This adage has been a part of wedding etiquette for centuries. The timing of the bridal or wedding shower is between two months to two weeks of the wedding date. Multiple showers may be thrown, but guests are only expected to bring a gift to the first and it is courteous for the bride to mention a guest’s previous gift while opening the gifts at the latter shower(s). Of course, guests can bring gifts to both if they please.
Most bridal showers are daytime affairs which evoke the rule that if held from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m., a light lunch should be served, including tea sandwiches, such as Benedictine, but the meal does not need to be hot. Fresh fruit, mixed greens, chicken salad, cheese straws, deviled eggs and pimento cheese are also standard fare. If the event runs between 1 and 5 p.m., the host can get away with simple hors-d'oeuvres and cake.
Many bridal showers are hosted at venues that provide a menu from which the host can choose. My own bridal shower was hosted by my maid of honor at Atlanta’s Swan Coach House and featured an array of personalized desserts accompanied by a plated lunch of their famous chicken salad, cheese straws, frozen fruit salad and Key lime pie for dessert. Mimosas are, of course, essential at any bridal shower. This is the perfect opportunity to display a mimosa bar!
A tradition that dates back to Victorian England but still holds popular in New Orleans is the charm cake. Before serving, single bridesmaids (as all were in the past) pull ribbons from a cake to reveal charms that foretell each lady’s future. Find the key in our story on how to make the perfect New Orleans charm cake.
At any event with the word “shower” in the title, you’re expected to open gifts. You’ll need to show your gratitude to each gift-giver as you discuss what you’ll do with their gift and how much you love it. Guests are traditionally encouraged to stick to the wedding registry, so clearly you will love each gift since you picked it out! If you want to stray from the registry it is more than acceptable to select a personalized, thoughtful gift assuming you know the bride well enough to do so.
This will be the bride’s first foray into sending thank you cards so it’s a great opportunity to practice! Her maid/matron of honor will want to keep a list of who gave what at the party (this will be the bride’s responsibility when it comes to the wedding) so that when it comes time to write notes, the bride can mention what she’s showing her gratitude for and how she will use it in the life she is building with her new spouse.
In addition to keeping an accurate list of gifts given, the maid/matron of honor is also charged with collecting each ribbon or bow from the gifts and crafting a bridal shower ribbon bouquet for the bride to use during her rehearsal in lieu of a real floral bouquet. Each ribbon, which is never cut with scissors during the gift-opening process, signifies another child that she and her husband would have, at least according to Southern superstition.
Games are often the highlight of a bridal shower and can range from the toilet paper wedding gown game, where participants have to craft a wedding gown from TP in minutes, to the classic newlywed game, where, prior to the shower, the bride and groom each answer questions about each other, like their favorite food, and the object of the game is to match the answers.
Time to party, singles!
A night, or more commonly today, a weekend, of celebrating with your respective bridesmaids and groomsmen is in order four months to a week ahead of the wedding date. Bachelor(ette) weekends are arranged by the best man or maid/matron of honor in consultation with the respective wedding party. Once a few dates that work for the wedding party are chosen, outside guests can be invited. Consulting the bride or groom on any elements that they would like to avoid being present is most respectable. Depending on the location and budgets of the attendees, you could head to a nearby city or far-off destination. Common cities to hold bachelor(ette) weekends in the South include New Orleans, Austin, Charleston, Nashville and Miami. You can even consider smaller cities like Greenville and Chattanooga for that last getaway of your single life.
Consider the style of the person-of-honor when choosing the location. Are they looking for a relaxing spa weekend, a night club-hopping on South Beach or earning beads along Bourbon Street? We’re lucky to have such a wide variety of different types of travel destinations in the South.
Treat your 'maids
A bridesmaids’ luncheon is held a day or two ahead of the wedding date to show the bride’s gratitude to her bridal party and present them with any gifts that she is chosen. Since being a bridesmaid can consume a good deal of time and money, this is a nice gesture of appreciation. Traditionally, it’s a luncheon, brunch or afternoon tea and the gifts are items that the bridal party will wear on the wedding day, such as earrings. My personal bridesmaids’ luncheon was held at Astor Court at Atlanta’s St. Regis Hotel and I treated my bridal party to afternoon tea with a bevy of tea sandwiches and desserts. Gifts like earrings are ideal if you’d like your ladies to coordinate on the big day, and personalized Champagne glasses and silk robes make perfect photo props when getting ready before the ceremony.
Often, the groom and his groomsmen may go golfing or head to a baseball game while the bride is at her bridesmaids’ luncheon. These events add to the excitement of the wedding weekend and allow for more quality time spent with loved ones ahead of your married life.
Next up: It's your wedding weekend!
Hone up on Southern wedding to-do's and traditions
Go back to the beginning
Photo credit (hero): Karen Michelle Clark Facebook
Photo credit (ring and passport): MySparkly Facebook
Photo credit (monogram cookies): Sogi's Honey Bakeshop Facebook
Photo credit (gift boxes for bridesmaids): Port + Palm Co. Facebook