North Meets South
Add A Little Southern Charm to Your New England Wedding
Weddings are all about traditions. New England is a charming region with a long history of traditions, but the South has some great customs, too. Whether you’re a New England native looking for something different, or a transplant with Southern roots, here are some subtle ways to add a little Southern charm to your Northern wedding.
Southerners are all about hospitality, and it shows in their weddings. Welcome baskets for out-of-town guests are a must in the South. These often include items that the bride and groom are fond of, or specialties from their hometowns. “It’s the whole idea of Southern hospitality and making your guests feel welcome,” says Nicole Speake, co-owner of the Chicago-based custom invitation and event branding company, Nico and Lala. “And showing your guests something about your family,” adds Lauren Staley, the other owner.
Have the welcome baskets waiting for your guests at the front desk of their hotel. Include an itinerary for the weekend, a list of your favorite restaurants, shops and sights so they know how to stay entertained during downtime, and be sure to add some local goodies. Guests will feel like they are a special part of your wedding before the weekend begins.
Linens and napkins might be a small detail at a wedding, but they play a big role in the mind of a Southern bride. Chattanooga, Tenn.-based event planner Dori Thornton Waller, owner of The Social Office, says white linen hemstitch napkins are a must-have for her most traditional Southern brides. They are basic, elegant and traditional, and a beautiful addition to any reception. Many brides have monogrammed dinner and cocktail napkins, and some even use the groom’s family crest. “[One client] had their family crest embroidered on napkins for her son’s rehearsal dinner on Nantucket,” Waller says, “as a way to bring Southern tradition up north.”
Southern cuisine is making its way onto menus across the country, weddings included. Steve Beauvais of Artisan Chef Catering Co. ( formerly Two Chefs Are Better Than One Catering ), has created several Southern menu items for weddings. “We’ve done Southern stations on a multi-station menu, and for a lot of outdoor summer weddings, we’ve done barbecue stations,” Beauvais says.
Louisiana fare, such as Cajun spiced shrimp, jambalaya and homemade beignets, is always a favorite. “We had a bride who had to have hush puppies similar to some she had just had at a restaurant down south,” Beauvais says. Whether your main dish is fried chicken, or you simply serve cornbread instead of rolls, Southern food can add a fun element to your menu.
While most Northern brides lean toward seated dinners, Southern brides prefer buffet-style meals that can be eaten sitting, standing or someplace in between. If you’re set on a seated dinner, you can change things up with the cake. “Instead of a seated course, I love to cut the cake and pass it out Southern-style in the lounge,” says Tara Guérard, a wedding planner with offices in Charleston, S.C., and New York City who has planned weddings on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.
Speaking of cake, another Southern tradition is the groom’s cake. Nina Fisichelli Gaffney, owner of Fisichelli’s Pastry Shop in Lawrence, says she doesn’t make as many groom’s cakes as she used to. “There was a time when everyone was asking for groom’s cakes,” Gaffney says. In the South, groom’s cakes are a given, and they are displayed almost as prominently as the main wedding cake. A groom’s cake is a great way to be creative and let the groom in on the decision making (because, let’s be honest, he doesn’t have much say about anything else). The cake is usually a flavor the groom likes, caramel cake being a favorite in the South, and often showcases a groom’s favorite hobby or sports team. One Tennessee couple’s groom’s cake was an exact replica of a Jack Daniel’s bottle, says Guérard.
If you’re a bourbon fan, there are plenty of other interesting ways to include it in the wedding festivities. One Southern bride had a bacon and bourbon bar, with a choice of top-notch bourbons, and instead of the usual stirring stick or straw, guests could grab a piece of bacon (or two) to accompany the cocktail.
Guérard’s favorite Southern tradition is definitely worth trying. Southern folklore says that burying a bottle of bourbon at the wedding site the month before your wedding will ensure that it doesn’t rain on your big day. “I had a client make me do it,” she says, “and sure enough, it didn’t rain!”
Artisan Chef Catering Co.
( formerly Two Chefs Are Better Than One Catering )
Fisichelli’s Pastry Shop