Down the aisle

Five Southern wedding traditions any couple can incorporate

Eamon Queeney—North State Journal
Van Winkle Special Reserve straight bourbon whiskey bottles wait stacked at Leeland Little Auctions in Hillsborough onFeb. 29

Time-honored Southern wedding traditions can be used in any wedding whether your big day falls below the Mason-Dixon line or not. Sarah Lindh suggests some staples of Southern nuptials to incorporate into your big day.Burying the bourbon — Legend has it that if a couple buries a full bottle of bourbon upside down one month before their wedding day at the location where they’ll say “I do,” they’ll be blessed with sunny skies on the big day. After covering up the bottle, don’t forget to mark the spot, as it should be dug up and enjoyed with the wedding party on the wedding day (usually after the ceremony), making this a win-win tradition, no matter the skies.The second line — Leave it to New Orleans, where the motto is laissez les bons temps rouler, to be the birthplace of one of the most lively and fun Southern wedding traditions! The second line stems from an old tradition at African-American jazz funerals, where a brass band paraded to honor the life of the deceased while loved ones followed the band, dancing to add to the spirit and celebration of the procession. Weddings with a NOLA connection have flipped this tradition on its head, using a second line parade to signify the beginning of new life for the bride and groom. A second line usually takes place between the ceremony and reception, with the newly married couple leading the way and a brass band and wedding party following right behind. Though second lines begin with just invited guests, they often attract passers-by to join the fun! Make sure to pick up a black parasol for the groom, a white parasol for the bride, and handkerchiefs for each guest to wave.A house party — Only so many bridesmaids can fit at the front of a church! But what to do if you can’t bear to leave any of your best girls out? Enter the house party — the South’s answer for big, extended families, sororities and more. Members of a house party are often assigned wedding day tasks, such as passing out programs or helping the bride get ready, and are invited to the bachelorette party and bridal showers. The only thing a house party traditionally does not do is stand at the altar with the bride — that spot is reserved for bridesmaids. HP gals can be seated in the first or second row, just behind family.Dress up — and have some options! For a more formal, coordinated look, some brides choose the same dress for all of the HP gals, in a color that’s different but complementary to the color of the bridesmaid dresses. Another popular option is to ask the house party to wear little black dresses, since most girls will already have an option or two in their closets. Finally, you can simply tell the house party your wedding color scheme and ask them to dress in something that coordinates.The cake pull — If you’re looking for a fun and sweet activity for your bridesmaids’ luncheon or bridal shower, try the cake pull. It hails from Victorian days, when charms of luck and good fortune (and sometimes not-so-good fortune) were set into the wedding cake by the bride to predict the future of her single friends. These days, pulls are often placed in a small cake at a pre-wedding get-together, and bridesmaids and close female friends (not only singles!) are given the opportunity to pull a charm from the cake just before it’s cut. A few of our favorite charms and their meanings: a hot-air balloon (adventure and travel), the fleur de lis (love and prosperity), the four-leaf clover (good luck), and a diamond ring (next to be married).The groom’s cake — While many wedding details err on the feminine side, a groom’s cake is a fun and (literally) sweet way to do something extra special just for the gent of honor. Collaborate with your baker to get creative and surprise your beau with a cake that reflects his hobbies, favorite sports team, occupation or alma mater, to be served alongside the wedding cake at the reception. Or try a “cake” that isn’t a cake at all — instead, set out a tower of Oreos, a stack of doughnuts or trays of his favorite childhood treats. If he’s a Southern boy through and through, go with the classic: a bleedin’ armadillo cake, just like the one in Steel Magnolias.