Southern Antebellum Weddings
A Southern Antebellum wedding is guaranteed to make any bride feel like a princess, no matter which side of the Mason-Dixon line she's from. Southern weddings were usually extravagant affairs with hundreds of guests and at least four attendants for the bride and groom. So if you want to have a Southern Antebellum wedding theme, you're going to have to think big. The main reason Southern weddings were so extravagant is that plantations were spread far apart, and weddings were an occasion to bring everyone together to socialize. There weren't many opportunities for day-to-day interactions, so weddings served as a gathering place for Southerners. Clearly, this is no longer the case, so your guest list doesn't have to be nearly as large to fit with the wedding theme. You can tone it down a little if you want.
In the 1800s, Southern brides did not wear white wedding gowns. Their gowns were usually either brown or dove gray, and they were made so that they could be altered and worn again, often to other people's weddings. These wedding dresses had tight bodices, low necklines, and low shoulders with flowing sleeves. Often the dresses incorporated several different colors. The bride's attendants wore white dresses with pale pastel colored veils. However the attendants dresses were adorned with tulle, sashes, gloves, and slippers all in white.
Now that you know how the brides were really dressed, you can think about what you want to wear. A little bit of historical accuracy is all that's really needed, and a gown with a hoop skirt, petticoats, cap sleeves, a train, and a v-neckline will fit the bill. Luckily, since Antebellum brides wore colored dresses, you can choose any type of sashes, ribbon, or other adornments in a variety of colors. Southern Antebellum style wedding dresses are often decorated with taffeta, lace, or satin ruffles, and lots of ribbon. Your dress, and your attendants dresses, can be any color you want them to be. The Southern Antebellum theme will shine through as long as the cut and style of the dress brings to mind Old Southern Traditions. Slippers, gloves, and hats are a must, since Southern weddings strictly adhered to the guidelines of etiquette. For an additional personal touch, have your attendants carry parasols in lieu of bouquets. Your groom should wear a tuxedo shirt, vest, bow tie, and possibly a stovepipe hat, depending on his taste. Traditionally, he would wear black, but an all-white tuxedo would look gorgeous if you are wearing a deeply colored wedding gown.
This type of wedding theme would be best carried out on the lawn of a mansion, with towering oak trees draped in Spanish moss and tiny white Christmas lights. There are many plantation style and historical homes that offer wedding packages. Their huge columns, towering ceilings, and sweeping staircases provide the perfect background for a Southern Antebellum wedding. If you don't live near a place like this, a cathedral or your own church would work perfectly. Other options include outdoor weddings with flower-covered arbors or gazebos. Outdoor weddings will also allow you to make a grand entrance in a horse-drawn carriage.
The best flowers for this wedding theme include lots of magnolia blossoms, orange blossoms, calla lilies, gardenias, and freesia. The bride's bouquet should definitely include either magnolia or orange blossoms. Veils for the bride and her attendants can be colored to coordinate with their coronets, if you choose to have them.
Decorations for the reception should include the above mentioned flowers, but also moss, white candles, silver, antique china, and silver wedding charms. White table cloths set with silver and china will look beautiful, and floating flower shaped candles or magnolia and fern centerpieces will enable your guests to see each other over the decorations. Tulle ropes gathered and pinned with magnolias can set off pews, staircases, or mark designated “off-limits” areas.
Make sure you serve plenty of southern food at your wedding. Some popular traditional Southern foods include:
- Bread pudding
- Fried Green Tomatoes
The list goes on, but in order to be sure that your guests will enjoy the food, don't serve too many unfamiliar dishes. Mint Juleps, Mimosas, and sweet tea are typical southern drinks, so be sure to have some ready for your guests. Most Southern Antebellum weddings had a silver wedding charm baked into the bride's cake. A groom's cake in an opposing flavor was also served. For example, offer a white bride's cake, and a chocolate groom's cake. The groom's cake should be cut into squares and boxed individually for each guest. The cake boxes should be white with the bride and groom's initials monogrammed on them. Feel free to deviate from these customs as you see fit, and as your budget dictates.
As you can see, a Southern Antebellum themed wedding offers a lot of opportunity to incorporate your own personal taste into the planning. These weddings are some of the most sentimental and nostalgic, because they make one think of his or her ancestors and family history in this country. Now that you know the etiquette and traditions of an 1800s wedding, you can come up with more ideas to make your wedding an event to remember!