Whimsical Weddings

Sweet-smelling flowers. Rich, flavorful cake. Breath-taking atmosphere. The perfect white gown. And tear-jerking vows. This is a southern wedding.

After graduation I plan to become a wedding planner. Recently I’ve been searching for internships where I can learn all the in’s and out’s of the event planning industry.

I discovered that everyone has their own personal wedding style. Some like formal, black-tie ceremonies at museums of modern art. While others prefer outdoor ceremonies under a big oak tree at a ranch.

I feel like it is important, as a wedding planner, to be able to adapt your taste to fit that of your client.

But I can’t. Because my heart fully belongs to one style, and one style alone: southern weddings.

They’ve taken over my life and they’ve taken over my world. I read magazines about southern weddings. I browse blogs about southern weddings. I pin pictures of southern weddings. I make collages of southern weddings. And after I graduate, I will plan southern weddings.

I feel like I’ve actually learned a lot about them over the past four years of my obsession. So it is to the tune of “Here Comes the Bride” that I present the 12 tips to create a southern wedding.

1. The Bride

She’s polished. She’s classy. She looks like she belongs on top of a cake. She’s just that perfect. One of the most important things to a southern bride is her wedding dress. If the sleeves aren’t too hideously poofy, some brides will choose to wear their mother’s wedding dress. While others will opt for lacy designs, Cinderella skirts, or open backs. Southern brides tend to keep their dresses modest and as elegant as they are.

2. The Groom

It can be easy to get caught up in all the details while planning a wedding, but it’s important not to forget about the groom. After all, if it wasn’t for him, there wouldn’t be a wedding at all! Casual southern grooms usually wear lighter suits in colors like tan or gray. Bow ties tie in a little bit of cuteness to a handsome groom. Pinning boutonnieres can be difficult but if you can figure out how to pin a tuft of cotton onto your husband-to-be, you won’t regret it.

3. The Bridal Party

Also known as all your closest friends! These people are important. Choose wisely. Remember you’re going to be spending the next several months working closely with them. There is no set number of bridesmaids or groomsmen to have in a wedding, but it’s safe to aim for around four or five. Don’t forget to ask the toddlers to be the flower girl and ring bearer! As for attire, current brides are fans of mixing and matching. Having your girls wear the same exact dress is a little outdated, don’t ya think?

4. The Invitations

These few pieces of paper set the mood for your wedding. If you have cute invitations, your guests will expect a cute wedding. If you have formal invitations, your guests will expect a formal wedding. It’s the first thing people see and it forms their opinions about your big day. How could anyone regretfully decline to attend your wedding when your invitations look like this? But if you’re going to go all out with the stationary, make sure your ceremony and reception deliver as well!

5. The Ceremony

For most southern parents, the church is what defines the wedding. It’s the most sacred part. There are lots of options from huge cathedrals with high ceilings and stained glass windows to small chapels with creaky wooden floors and lots of natural light. My favorite is the chapel. I feel like it captures the beauty, simplicity, and history of the South.

6. The Ring

This little item is what starts the wedding festivities! After he proposes, your engagement ring will become your new favorite accessory. From this point on make sure you always have clean or polished nails. They’re going to be the stars of a lot of upcoming pictures. Trending styles come and go but nothing is more meaningful than a family heirloom ring. Today’s most popular style for southern brides is a square cut diamond with small diamonds surrounding it.

7. The Bouquet

So many options! With hundreds of different flowers blooming each season, it can be hard to choose which flowers you want in your bouquet. Florists can come in handy and come up with a few designs that they think would look best. For longer lasting bouquets choose flowers that are currently in season. Southern belles tend to opt for colorful wildflower bouquets!

8. The Traditions

The South was built on tradition. And southern weddings are nothing short of that. Technically grooms are not supposed to see their brides on the day of the wedding until she walks down the aisle. But many couples still want pictures together before the ceremony. So photographers have come up with a solution. The picture above is a perfect example. The bride and groom are on different sides of the house so they can’t see each other!

9. Something Blue

Something borrowed, something blue, something old, something new. This is another tradition that brides are encouraged to include in their wedding. And they’re getting creative! This bride stitched the date of her wedding onto the hem of her dress. By using blue thread, she counts this as her something blue!

10. The Reception

After the vows are said and the tears are shed, it’s time to celebrate! After all, that is why you invited all your friends and family. I think that the most beautiful southern wedding receptions are held in old, rustic barns and have an elegant feel. Lights can really break or make the atmosphere of your reception. Bulbs strung across the ceiling give off a warm glow that will last all through the night.

11. The Entertainment

Southerners love their yard games. And weddings have become a perfect opportunity to initiate a little competition. Having your reception on a ranch or field? Set aside an area for bocce ball, croquet, ladder ball, horse shoes, or cornhole! It’s fun for the adults and the kids. Personalize your equipment with your new couple monogram and the color palette of your wedding.

12. The Cake

Mmmm, who doesn’t love wedding cake? It seems to have its own distinct taste from other kinds of cake no matter what flavor it is. Throughout history southern brides used to favor tall, white, ten-layer cakes. And while these cakes are beautiful, they aren’t very conventional for actually eating. Today southern brides look for a few smaller cakes with colorful designs and innovative floral decor. After the cake is cut and the smiling mouths are fed, it’s important for the bride and groom to sit back and relax knowing that this is the first day of the rest of their lives together.

Finest Foods

Calories (noun) – Tiny creatures that live in your closet and sew your clothes a little bit tighter every night.

And in the South, we’ve got lots of them. Which makes sense considering our favorite ingredients to cook with are butter, butter, and more butter.

I’m not much of a chef myself. In fact, I can’t quite cook anything other than cereal. But I can eat! And there’s nothing I love more than a home cooked meal.

The South is known for its comfort food. And that’s exactly what southern food is. Food that makes you feel comfortable. Food that makes you feel cozy. Food that makes you feel at home.

Defined by rich flavors, second helpings, and sticky fingers, southern food has its own personality distinct from other subcultures in the United States.

So I invite you to experience and enjoy for yourself the top five southern foods everyone needs to try.

1. Grits

This food has inspired its own southern saying. Good as grits! So you know it must be good. As a picky eater, I don’t normally gravitate towards grits but my dad helped fill me in on this southern delicacy. “Grits are eaten at breakfast usually,” he informed me. “A good delicious breakfast: eggs, bacon, grits, coffee and orange juice.” Follow Paula Deen’s recipe and you can’t go wrong.

2. Fried Chicken

The sound of chicken being fried in a skillet on the stove is one of the most beautiful things. Every chef’s got their own tips, tricks and secrets. But if you haven’t developed your own yet, you can count on Martha Stewart to guide you through it. Everyone loves fried chicken. It’s perfect for people from age 5 to 95. “My grandma made fried chicken every Wednesday so that we would all come visit her,” my friend Ross shared with me.

3. Barbecue

The messiest of them all! Before you embark on this adventure make sure you’ve got a roll of paper towels and lots of Wet Wipes. In Austin there are quite a few places to get some good barbecue. It seems like each of my friends has a different favorite, ranging from Salt Lick Barbecue in Round Rock, TX, to Sugar Shack on the corner of 24th Street and San Antonio Street. Explore and find your favorite!

4. Chicken Fried Steak

Is it chicken? Or is it steak? It’s a common misconception. But it’s steak! It’s just fried like chicken. Think about it…it makes sense. Usually smothered in gravy, chicken fried steak is a staple of southern food. “Eating chicken fried steak feels like home even if it’s just at Jester City Limits,” my friend Emily reminisced of her freshman year. “They actually make really good chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese.” The southern trifecta.

5. Peach Cobbler

This famous dessert is as pretty as a peach! The colors are beautiful. The texture is ideal. And the smell is irresistable. I often find myself thinking one slice is never enough. Peach cobbler is definitely my dad’s and my favorite dessert. “It goes great with ice cream, especially Blue Bell Vanilla on the side, not a la mode,” he says while sharing his secret recipe. “And it doesn’t hurt to sprinkle a little cinnamon on it.” By passing down recipes from generations before, southern food brings families closer together. And in the South, family is the most important ingredient of life.

Antebellum Abodes

Two hundred thirty-five. That’s how many pictures I’ve pinned on Pinterest in preparation for my dream house.

I have no idea what city, state, or country I’ll even end up in. But when I get to where I’m going, I will already have planned out what colors I’m painting the walls, what shower curtain I’m hanging up in my bathroom, and what stools I’m placing around my kitchen counter.

I want a big southern home.

A southern home is more to me than just a front porch and shuttered windows. I’ve got millions of different combinations and options stored in my head that make me squeal with excitement.

On the lake, the farm, or the field?

Classic white or bright turquoise?

A few big windows or lots of little windows?

A front porch, a side porch, or a wrap-around porch?

Rocking chairs or porch swings?

I want it all! So to cope with my indecisiveness, I guess I’ll just have to own multiple houses.

Therefore it is after much thought that I present to you the top five houses that every southern girl should live in.

1. The Plantation House

This is the house that pops into everyone’s heads when someone says “southern home.” With it’s white paint, sturdy pillars, and black shutters, the plantation house is a true classic. The large oak trees guiding guests down the path to this house offer a bold welcome. Can’t you just imagine grandparents sipping sweet tea in rocking chairs on the front porch? Or toddlers wearing dresses and bowties playing tag in the front yard? This house is definitely my top pick.

2. The Farmhouse

A more relaxed version of the plantation house, I feel that the farmhouse is more conventional. This house is very versatile. It would include everything you would need if it you were living on a farm. Or it would fit in nicely with the neighbors’ houses in the suburbs. What makes the farmhouse so iconic is how clean and polished it always looks. It gives off an antebellum vibe while allowing you to stay up to date with modern amenities without taking away from the house’s historical demeanor.

3. The Townhouse

If you love color as much as I do, I invite you to visit Rainbow Row. This beautiful display of colorful townhouses is located in Charleston, SC, on East Bay Street. Every house is painted a different color. In addition to the bold colors, my favorite part is the side porches featured on many of the townhouses. I had never seen anything like them before and I immediately fell in love. Townhouses are the perfect way to bring a little bit of the South into the city.

4. The Victorian House

Good luck getting your husband to let you move into this one… It’s very girly. But I think that only adds to the beauty of this style of houses. Victorian houses are some of the most unique and detailed houses out there. I have a theory that no two Victorian houses are the same. Strange shapes and interesting carpentry captivate everyone’s immediate interest. When dealing with a house with such a big personality on its own, it’s probably best to use muted colors on exterior paint jobs. You don’t want it to end up looking like the house from Up!

5. The Lake House

Because where else would you want to spend your free time? Seated on a plot of land just feet from the dock, the lake house provides the perfect opportunity for a quick weekend getaway or a long summer vacation. The flag pole out back adds to the quintessential southern comfort of this house. You’ll know you’ve made it to the good life when you have a matching boat house at the end of your extended dock with a boat and a few jet skis housed inside.

Southern Soles

Recently I decided to clean out my closet. I wanted to update my style to be more preppy, more southern, more me. My goal was to get rid of old clothes and shoes that I no longer wear and hand them down to my younger sister.

Sorting through clothes was easy.

“Yes, I want this shirt.”

“Ew, why did I even buy this?”

“Oh, I forget I had this!”

But when I got to my shoes, that’s when things got tough. I couldn’t bring myself to give away a single pair. I have over 20 pairs of shoes in my closet and I couldn’t convince myself to give away even one pair. Did I really need all of these shoes?

The answer was simple: Yes. I did.

Each pair was specific to an individual event. Each pair had a different purpose. Each pair was special in its own way.

So it is with this groundbreaking realization that I present to you the top ten shoes that every southern girl needs in her closet.

1. Winter Shoes – L.L. Bean boots

These boots are the epitome of funky and functional. People aren’t usually on the fence about these boots. You either love ’em or you hate ’em. Along with many girls in the South, I love ’em. They provide enough room to wear your thick, fuzzy socks so your feet will never get cold. And their rubber soles are perfect for snowy or rainy winter days so your jeans don’t get wet. These boots are sturdy and strong, just like the South, and can withstand the winter elements.

2. Spring Shoes – Jack Rogers Classic Navajos

These sandals by Jack Rogers can dress up or dress down any outfit. Sandals can sometimes be deemed too casual for parties and events; however, Jack Rogers did a great job of creating shoes that are versatile enough to be worn at any respectable social occasion. You can’t go wrong with any of the classic styles or colors shown above. But there are hundreds of color options to choose from so you’ll never have to worry about finding a pair that will match your outfit.

3. Summer Shoes – Rainbow sandals

These flip flops are a staple for a trip to the beach. Comfort is key for Rainbow and they definitely didn’t let us down with these sandals. Their sizes range from itsy-bitsy baby sizes to a giant flip flop that can be found in some of their stores. Rainbow sandals last (almost) forever and will easily become your favorite flip flops. Invest in a pair before your trip to Destin, FL, for Spring Break and you’re sure to fit in with the rest of the well-dressed southern crowd.

4. Fall Shoes – Tory Burch leather riding boots

Ahhh, my absolute favorite. Leather riding boots have been the go-to fall shoes for the past couple of years and leave it to the ultimate prep Tory Burch to keep us coming back for more. Her classic and clean styles are coveted because they can truly go with any outfit in your closet. Sure, they can be a little pricey, but these boots are so well-made that you’ll be wearing them for years to come. Take care of these boots. They will be your new babies. Don’t wear them in the rain. That’s what number six on this list is for!

5. For Work – Tory Burch Reva flats

Living in a city like Austin, you should expect to be doing a lot of walking. Unless you want your feet to hate you, you probably shouldn’t do that walking in heels. Tory Burch’s Reva flats offer a professional look that will keep you feet (and your boss) happy. There are many color and pattern options to choose from to go with any formality of job you have.¬†Made out of genuine leather, these flats will slowly form to the shape of your feet. But make sure you break them before you do a lot of walking to avoid blisters!

6. When It Rains – Hunter wellies

What’s not to love about these shoes? With a name like “wellies,” you know they’re going to be cute. Hunter built up a wellie empire by perfecting the fit and style of rain boots. Although you can never go wrong with black, I suggest buying these boots in a bright color to add a little pep to your step during a rainy day. Accessorize by buying different sock inserts to match your boots. I pray for rainy days just so I’ll have an excuse to break out my Hunter wellies.

7. To Work Out – Nike Free running shoes

These shoes will make you want to work out. With so many color options, you have the opportunity to pick whichever color that matches your style. Don’t like any of the color choices on the website? You can create your own custom color combinations! Bright colors are sure to get you in a good mood to walk your dog, train for a marathon, or even just grocery shop. These running shoes have a pretty much nonexistent sole, making them by far the comfiest pair of tennis shoes I own.

8. On The Boat – Sperry Topsider Boat Shoes

So preppy and so southern for such a long time. My mom wore Sperrys when she was younger. I wear Sperrys. My sister wears Sperrys. Everyone wears Sperrys. And everyone will continue to wear Sperrys because they are sturdy and functional while also being incredibly easy to slip on and off. Even though they’re made of leather, you don’t have to worry about getting them wet because that’s what they’re made for! You will wear these shoes until they have holes in them and the soles are coming off. Literally.

9. For Parties/Tea/Brunch – Wedges

Wedges are one of the greatest inventions for women because they combine the height of high heels without sacrificing the comfort of a sandal. To find the perfect wedges, look for these three things. First, lean more towards natural colors like beige, tan, and brown, because they’re more versatile. Next, find wedges with ankle straps. They take the load off of your feet more than you think, so they’re definitely not something you should skip out on. And lastly, platforms add height without adding stress to your feet.

10. For Game Day – Cowboy boots

Southerners love their college football. It’s practically a religion. And if it’s a religion, well then, cowboy boots are a prayer. Almost everyone everywhere in the South wears cowboy boots to football games. They add a cute country touch to a game day sundress. You’ll always look appropriate in a plain brown style. But if you can find them, buy some that are specific to your school. While they can be a little obnoxious, you’ll treasure them more. They’re sure to remind you of lots of great stories. And in the South, stories are what keep the memories alive.