Southern Girl Academy: Weddings

Southern weddings are like nothing you’ve ever experienced. Whether you’re the bride, a bridesmaid, a guest or just an innocent bystander, the pomp and circumstance that comes with a true Southern wedding is something to behold.

Right about now you may be envisioning a Southern wedding – lots of big hair, bridal bouquets bigger than the altar arrangement, seersucker suits and bowties, loads of pink taffeta or (God forbid) grooms dressed in camo. Since this is the Southern Girl ACADEMY, I will be schooling you in what exactly a Southern wedding means and what it doesn’t. First and foremost, camo is not cool. It’s not OK. And it’s definitely not proper. Leave the camo for the deer woods.

Southern Wedding montage

This includes the many and varying weddings where I have been a stand-up gal. The only picture missing is the wedding of my friend, Kristi, who is so old that there are no digital pictures of her wedding and the album is most likely missing among some attic stowaways, such as high school majorette costumes, college sorority paddles and her first child’s monogrammed bib collection. I’ll forgive her. Maybe. Also, please try to refrain from laughing too hard at some of my hideous hairdos. I know you have some of the same pictures hidden away somewhere.

Proper Southern weddings begin from the cradle, when, most likely, your mother has already picked out your groom, your dress and the color of your flowers. You grow up arguing with your girlfriends about the best shade of pink for the bridesmaid dress and whether or not you’ll allow whiskey at your wedding (basically, this can be pre-determined based on which church you attend – Baptists will have a punch-and-cookie affair, Presbyterians will have kegs, and Catholics will have lots of red wine and whiskey straight up).

From a very early age, you already know who will serve in your wedding party – from the 10 bridesmaids you’ll have to the never-ending parade of ring bearers and flower girls (because you can’t possibly tell Martha, your cousin three times removed who lives in another state, that sweet Lila Faye can’t be in the wedding). You will also, undoubtedly, already have a list of who will be hosting your parties – engagement, bridal showers, bridal luncheon and the all-important bachelorette party. These details are integral to the success of your Southern marital debut, and you can’t possibly wait until you’re actually engaged to make these all-important decisions.

For Southern brides and their moms, sisters, friends, cousins and acquaintances, it is all about the details, which is what makes it so incredibly fun to attend a Southern wedding and then gossip in detail for weeks about the music choice, her dress, the mother-in-law’s dress, the flowers, the cake, the band and anything else worthy of a thought. The bride knows that you’ll be gossiping, hence the massive breakdown three weeks before the wedding on whether you’ll be using navy or ivory ribbons on the programs. This stuff is life or death, and completely warrants throwing things and then huddling in a fetal position for 60 full minutes while you consider calling the whole damn thing off (not that I know any of this from experience, mind you).

This is about the time when the bridesmaids will be called in for a wedding planning therapy session (again, depending on your religious affiliation, this will mean a prayer group session, margaritas on the back porch or a night that you can’t remember that leaves you hugging the porcelain god at your fiancé’s house where your bridesmaids dropped you off because they couldn’t deal with you). This is why choosing your bridesmaids wisely is key. For brides getting married in their early 20s soon after college, it’s not shocking to have 10 thin, blond beauties accompanying her to the altar. For the rest of us getting married in our late 20s or (gasp) mid-30s, we’ve usually managed to pare it down to three to four key gals. Unless you’re me and get married at age 28 and still have seven bridesmaids and two “junior” bridesmaids. I wasn’t going to let all those girls out of having to wear a dress in the choosing of my color and style! Pay back is hell!

And then there’s serving as a bridesmaid when you’re no longer the maid of honor, but the matron of honor (I mean, could that make me sound any older?!). That was the case in 2009 and 2010 when both of my sisters got married. At least Becca just had her two sisters as bridesmaids (again, 30-somethings know not to go over the top). Unfortunately, with the youngest sister (who is 13 years younger than me), the old hag (me) was standing up there with the thin, 20-somethings (fresh out of college with actual waistlines and boobs). At this point, a proper Southern gal just has to put on her big-girl panties and make it happen. Buck up, put on the dazzling smile and squeeze yourself into the dress of their choosing (even though you swore 4 months ago when they sized that damn thing, you were two sizes smaller).

As any good Southern mom does, I couldn’t wait for the day until my children could be the stars of some girl’s wedding. Thankfully, their first gigs have been with my sisters, who (somewhat) put up with my stage mom antics. They let my kiddos walk by themselves down the aisle, wear bows bigger than their heads and turn up the heat on the dance floor.

At this point in life, as any good Southern mom does, I am turning my attention to my children’s roles in the weddings of the year. This is great training ground for the stage – costuming, hair and makeup, stage presence and song and dance skills. Of course, you don’t want your children to upstage the main attraction, but you want them to be a darn close second! You try not to be that annoying stage mom, but this is the role of a lifetime, and every move has to be perfect. If not, you’ll go down in history as the mother of that awful flower girl who stuck gum in the bride’s hair or that ring bearer who knocked over the cake after being told to stop running a 1,000 times.

A good Southern wedding is like the perfect show – full of drama (on stage and behind the scenes), pretty things and characters you won’t forget. Whatever role you play in your next Southern wedding, embrace it and break a leg!

Natalie Ghidotti, who finally got married after being a bridesmaid four times, served her last bridesmaid gig, hopefully, last summer – bringing the grand total to seven weddings. She has one bridesmaid stint left in her life, and she has made that friend pinky swear that she will do it somewhere warm, sunny and sandy (and that doesn’t mean her backyard). She lives in Little Rock with her husband (who eventually quit asking why she had so many bridesmaids), 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter (who says she’s having a Disney princess wedding come hell or high water).


5 Responses

  1. I love it! Natalie…you are so talented. How we all can relate to this story…it took me catching four bridal bouquets before I got a proposal. I am the oldest of three girls in my family and was the last to get married. I can not count the many weddings I was in as either bridesmaid or maid of honor. All in all, lots of fun and great memories….the dresses, the up-dos, etc……my next gig will be MOB (mother of the bride).

  2. I think when Elizabeth gets married I’m hiring you. Just tell me when to show up and what to wear…

  3. One word: elope!
    To be fair, none of my bridesmaid dresses I had to wear were really that bad. Some of them I actually liked.

  4. Oh, Sarabeth, I don’t know if that’s a good idea. I had a brief stint as a wedding planner, and it absolutely about did me in. I know PR was No. 2 on the Most Stressful Jobs list this week, but I can’t believe Wedding Planner wasn’t in the Top 10. That job takes the cake, pardon the terrible pun!

    Retta, I’m glad someone can share the pain, joy and excitement of being in so many weddings!

  5. Wow, this post is fastidious, my sister is analyzing these things, so I am
    going to convey her.

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