By Rebecca Padgett
Through the oak trees draped in Spanish moss and sparkling lights, a rustic barn or stately plantation home is visible. The scents of magnolia and barbecue mingle pleasingly as guests sip lemonade cocktails and dance under the stars. It doesn’t matter if you’re born and bred in the South, a Southern soiree has an allure that welcomes all.
To properly host the theme, you first must enter a Southern mindset of pretty pastels, whimsical prints and romance as sweet as the tea you’ll likely be serving. Southern settings are often barns, gardens, plantations or wide-open spaces. These locations tend to lend themselves to natural beauty that’s only enhanced by the presence of lots of lace, big blooms and vintage treasures.
Cover farm tables in lace or gingham tablecloths, adorn them with Mason jars full of magnolias, gardenias or dogwoods and you’ve got a table setting that would please Reese Witherspoon herself. Wash bins containing drinks, large barrels for cocktail tables, burlap table runners and cotton wreaths make nice touches.
“Pastels, neutral floral elements, flowers and a lot of them, calligraphy, monograms, white dinner jackets, greenery, lace and lounge furniture tend to be most popular with the Southern theme,” said Cara Dollinger, event manager of Pebble Hill Plantation in Thomasville, Georgia. Top those tables with a versatile Southern menu that can range anywhere from down-home classics to downright delicacies.
Timeless and tasty options include: fried chicken, barbecue, cornbread, greens, mac and cheese, black-eyed peas, fried green tomatoes, cobblers and pie. Or go all out with chicken and waffles, a shrimp cocktail, alligator tail, oysters and a top-your-own buttermilk biscuit bar. Sweet tea and lemonade are obvious choices — accompanied by moonshine or whiskey, should you choose to partake.
Sip those beverages in proper Southern style — out of monogrammed Mason jars or flasks. Lawn games are ideal for cocktail hour or mingling after dinner. Think cornhole, horseshoes, ladder golf, bocce ball, croquet, lawn darts or other games you might play at a Saturday tailgate. Hay bails, tractors and antique trucks make for fun photo props for guests or a bridal party.
The Southern bride delights in all things lace, a neck adorned in pearls and cascading curls side swept into an updo. Think bright pastels or — even better — outfit the bridesmaids in floral and the groomsmen in gingham. Love Lily Pulitzer? A Southern wedding is the ideal occasion to wear the infamous designer. No matter the décor or the food, Southern can be a state of mind.
“We believe what makes a Southern wedding are family traditions that are passed down from generations and good Southern hospitality that brings everyone together,” said Heather Brown, venue coordinator at Pearl in the Wild in Tallahassee. The epitome of a Southern-style wedding is the mingling of family and friends creating a warm welcome and humble hospitality.
It invites you to gather around a meal, sip on something sweet and sit … or better yet, dance a spell.