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Never been to a real Southern wedding? You might be surprised at some of the traditions practiced on the big day. Down South, people take tradition seriously, as a way to honor their past. Some customs even date all the way back to Victorian England. From what to wear to what games to play, traditions play a major role in southern weddings.
If you’re lucky enough to have been invited to one, it’s time to break out those pearls grandma gave you and throw on one of your best Southern dresses, or put a spin on men’s classic clothing with a bold bow tie or seersucker suit. Here are some of the best southern wedding traditions you just might get to be a part of.
This one’s definitely our favorite. Every couple worries about the weather on their big day, concerned that rain might be a bad omen—or it will just ruin everybody’s hair, makeup and fancy clothes. But, an old southern legend says that if a bottle of bourbon is buried in the exact spot where the bride and groom will be married, it won’t rain on their wedding day. Urban legend sticklers insist that, for the best results, the bottle should be placed in the ground upside down and buried one month before the wedding date. After the ceremony, the bottle is dug up and shared with the wedding party. Hurrah for tradition—now let’s drink!
Aside from kickass comfort food and fancy hats, the South is known for beautiful weather, even in the sweltering summer months. From plantations to rustic-chic barnyards, Southern weddings are almost always held outside, making that whole bury the bourbon thing even more important. The knotted branches of live oaks draped with Spanish moss make the perfect backdrop for couples saying “I do.” But, with the outdoor setting comes outdoor temperatures, which can be extremely hot in the summer. Dress for the occasion and stay cool by following the southern style of men’s seersucker shorts and seersucker jackets with bowties.
Pearls may be making a comeback, right now in mainstream fashion, but this classic gemstone has literally never gone out of style in the south. If you own a pair of pearls, work this accessory into your wedding attire. Southern brides almost always wear pearls on their wedding day, whether as a necklace, bracelet, or embedded in a tiara, and the piece usually has been passed down from their mother or grandmother. For men, the bow tie is the Southern fashion trend that dominates the crowd. Pastel colors and bright patterns define Southern style, so go bold and wear a bow tie that makes a statement. Don’t worry. You won’t be the only one.
During a wedding shower or a bridal luncheon (another Southern tradition), the cake ribbon pull is a game played among the bridesmaids or single friends—the rules can vary. Different charms are tied to the end of long ribbons or string and either placed between layers in the cake or underneath it, charm-side in. Everyone gathers around the cake and pulls a different ribbon to reveal charms that can be anything from a four-leaf clover to a wishbone, each having a separate fortune or meaning connected to it.
Because outdoor weddings are so popular in the South, spring and summer are common seasons for weddings. But the sun gets strong south of the Mason-Dixon line, so don’t be surprised to see women carrying elaborate parasols to protect themselves from the rays—and maybe also to try to stop all that sweating. Don’t shy away from this southern tradition. Find yourself a fancy parasol to match your Southern dress and keep you cool. Many southern summer weddings will also feature paper fans to keep the crowd from getting jealous of your super cool parasol.
In England during the Victorian Age, three cakes were served at weddings—one for the guests, one for the bridesmaids and one for the groomsmen. Though this tradition has pretty much disappeared from the usual wedding celebration, Southerners keep the custom partially alive through the groom’s cake. Along with the main wedding cake, a second cake is served to honor the groom, which seems fair since the bride tends to be the star of the day. Typically, the groom’s cake is more playful—a cake shaped like a sandwich, the crest of his alma mater or a nod to his favorite sports team, for example.
Seersucker is unofficially the fabric of the south because it’s designed to keep you cool. Most people recognize seersucker for its puckered appearance, which is created by weaving some sections of cotton tighter than others. The effect? The bunched material pulls away from your skin so more air can circulate. At any spring or summer gathering in the south, you’re definitely going to spot a lot of seersucker outfits. If you’re attending a wedding with a more casual dress code, throw on a seersucker dress.
We Southerners are used to the extreme summer temps, and we’ve learned how to adapt. For one thing, we own a lot of seersucker. We also gravitate towards light colors. You remember that elementary school lesson about how darker colors trap heat and light more than light colors, right? Well, guess what. It still applies.
While black tuxes may be traditional in other parts of the country, that doesn’t fly in Southern summers—unless you want your groomsmen to be dripping in sweat during every photo op. Light colored suits are the norm. And they may just be made out of seersucker, too.
As a guest of the wedding, feel free to ditch the usual black or gray suit jacket and throw on a pastel-colored outfit. For ladies, you can stick to classic dresses but may want to consider lighter fabrics and colors to combat the heat.
A Southern wedding is not an event you want to miss. Especially now that you’re a certified expert in Southern traditions. So, throw on your seersucker jacket or pastel sundress and make room for some down South cuisine. Oh yeah, and try to go easy on the Bourbon—at least until the party is in full swing.
This article was written in collaboration with Southern Tide.
Categorized in: Unique Ideas / Just for Fun