Wedding season is officially here. Time to put your party pants on! Okay, well, your party attire. You know what we mean. Weddings are a time to celebrate with friends and family, but there’s a lot of planning and care that goes into making the Big Day special. Don’t be the rude guest who doesn’t bring a gift or the embarrassing old college roommate who drinks way too many from the open bar. Otherwise, you can kiss your future wedding invites goodbye. And no one wants that. Weddings are way too much fun to miss out. If you’re headed to a Southern wedding this year, some of the traditions and expectations might be a bit different than other weddings you’ve been a part of. As long as you keep these tips in mind, you’ll end up making it a memorable day for everyone.
Weddings Are a Weekend-Long Event
If you’re headed to a Southern wedding, don’t even try making plans during the weekend. In the South, a wedding is a weekend-long event—not just the big day. Of course, if you’re part of the wedding party, you’ll have other obligations like the rehearsal dinner, but even guests are expected to attend other events planned before and after the party. A lot of Southern families will host either (or both) a welcome dinner or goodbye brunch for the out-of-towners. A few days before the wedding, many Southern brides also have a bridal luncheon with her bridesmaids and/or close friends and family as a thank you gesture for the support and help.
Follow the Proper Dress Code
Obviously, the dress code is always important at a wedding, but the South has a totally different kind of style, and if you’re not prepared, you may end up regretting your outfit choice. First of all, you need to think about the weather because summer weddings in the South can be truly sweltering. Southern brides love hosting a spring or summer wedding because these seasons really show off the beauty of the region. But it can be hot as hell, which is why a lot of guests look for lightweight materials to help keep them cool (or as cool as possible when you’re baking under a cloudless sky in July).
For men, a nice pair of seersucker shorts is perfect during the weekend’s activity and a light-colored suit for the actual ceremony. Even though dark greys, blues and blacks are popular for wedding suits, you are not going to like the result in the summer. Keep it fun (and cool) with a pastel or light grey suit over a traditional white button-down.
Ladies, you’re lucky that you’re probably going to wear a dress, which allows more of a breeze to circulate and cool you down. Southerners love bold patterns and shades, so why not go all out and try out some colorful dresses? Feminine dresses with a cinched bodice and lightweight fabrics are popular choices, too.
Brush Up on Southern Rules of Etiquette
No one likes hanging out with someone who never learned their manners. But, etiquette takes on a new meaning in the South. Ever heard of Southern hospitality? Yeah, it’s a real thing. Everywhere you go in the South, you’ll notice strangers sparking up conversations with you or people holding the door for you while you’re still awkwardly far away. It’s just the Southern way.
When speaking to people older than you, you should use “sir” or “ma’am,” even if your own mama thinks “ma’am” is for old ladies. In the South, these terms are a sign of respect. Before the wedding, you should also brush up on your table manners. Remember which size fork is used for which course, how to pass food at the table (always to the right) and, of course, always say “please” and “thank you.”
Do Not Wear White as a Guest
Okay, this is one unspoken rule at a lot of weddings that can spark controversy from time to time. Over the years, some people have said that wearing a white or cream-colored dress as a guest is okay, but most people still believe that this is a serious wedding faux pas. The wedding day is only about the bride and groom, and the bride has probably spent months (and a whole lotta moolah) on the perfect white dress. Don’t steal her thunder by showing up in the same color dress. White is for the bride and the bride only. No matter how great your tan may look in a lily-white dress. Opt for another light color like blue or yellow or go bold in a colorful dress.
Put Your Cell Phone Away During the Ceremony
Do we even need to explain this one? We know that we’re all super attached to our cell phones. Maybe a little too much. But, again, a wedding is about the bride and groom—not getting the perfect picture to post on your Instagram story. The family has probably spent a lot of money to hire a professional photographer with a seriously nice camera who is definitely going to get better shots than your iPhone 7.
During the ceremony, resist the temptation to lean out into the aisle for a pic. Some brides have actually started asking guests to leave their phones in a basket before the ceremony begins. It keeps people from getting distracted and prevents the photographer from getting pictures with a bunch of people hanging in the aisle squinting at their cell phones. It just looks tacky. Let the photographer do his job, and you’ll definitely get a link to the pics when they’re ready.
Let the Bride and Groom Leave the Reception First
We’re not sure why anyone would want to leave a wedding early. The reception is the best part of the whole event. And usually, we find ourselves wishing it would last longer when the DJ announces that it’s time for the last song. There are a few select situations that would make it okay to dip out of the party early—like needing to get your kids home. But, for the most part, it’s rude to leave before the bride and groom–especially because there’s usually a grand exit planned with a sparkler tunnel or confetti poppers. Stick it out to the end so you can be a part of the final moments before the newlyweds head out for their honeymoon.
We’re confident that you’re going to be the most interesting guest at the party. Don’t forget to use your Southern manners and follow the right dress code, and you’ll be chatting up everyone there. Just try not to get too crazy with an open bar. Everything in moderation.