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Southern Weddings Magazine

Author: Emily

I can clearly remember it: August rolled around, and suddenly, I was one month out from our wedding. (How did that happen??) The to do lists seemed to be multiplying before my eyes, and the thought of pulling together the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner details in addition to wrapping up ceremony and reception details seemed impossible. Thankfully, I had a gracious and capable sister-in-law who stepped in and took some of the pressure off me, but I know I’m not the only one who’s found herself in a similar situation.

Out of all the details you’re planning for your big day, the rehearsal itself might not seem like a terribly important one. However, because it will likely be the first time you’ll see many of your guests that weekend, emotions will be running high, and you might be just the teensiest bit stressed (though we hope not!). If you’re not working with a planner, it will fall to you to take control of your rehearsal, and even if you will have a planner on hand, there are steps you can take to help it run smoothly. Here are our best tips!

The Nolans from Katie + Evan’s wedding

1. Set a hard-stop for projects. The goal should be to arrive at your rehearsal calm, happy, and ready to welcome your VIPs. In order to do this, I suggest setting a goal of having all details, DIY projects, and arrangements made one week before your wedding day. That way, you’ll be free to enjoy the folks coming into town early, to savor your last week with your fiance, to have the headspace to deal with the last-minute snafus that inevitably pop up, and to still be calm when your rehearsal rolls around.
2. Communicate early and clearly. Send out an email at least two weeks in advance of your wedding weekend to all of the ceremony participants (bridal party, family members, readers, soloists, etc.). Let them know where and when you’d like them to arrive, and what, if anything, they need to bring or wear. Be gracious if some folks can’t make it – rehearsals are often in the afternoon on Friday, during the normal workday. Communicate the same details to your vendors (officiant, musicians, etc.) so they know what to expect, too.
3. Prepare for the rehearsal. Decide in advance who is going to stand in what order at the altar, who is going to participate in the processional and recessional, if folks are sitting or standing… try to think through any questions that might come up so that they can be dealt with quickly and clearly. Print multiple copies of your ceremony timeline to distribute.
4. Arrive early to the actual rehearsal. I’d suggest arriving at least a half an hour before you’re asking participants to arrive. That way, you’ll have time to scout the ceremony space, making sure it looks like you’re expecting it to; greet the “church lady,” if you’re marrying in a chapel; and greet each beloved friend or family member as they arrive.
5. Rehearse with purpose. Depending on whether you’re working with a church lady, with a planner, with a day-of coordinator, with a friend who’s officiating for the first time, or with a pastor who’s presided over hundreds of weddings, the leader of the rehearsal can vary. In general, it’s good to give your officiant a chance to give any direction he’d like (our pastor reminded us all not to lock our knees!) and the church lady a chance to issue any directives for the use of the space. Then, read through the “bullet points” of the order of the service so everyone knows what will happen when (i.e. “first Lila will give her reading, then John will give his reading”). Next, practice the processional and recessional (see below). Finally, go over any musical cues with your musicians.
6. Start with the recessional. Processing and recessing can raise the most questions, even though it’s pretty simple! To rehearse in the most painless way possible, start with everyone where they’ll be for the bulk of the ceremony: bride and groom at the front, bridesmaids and groomsmen lined up in the right order, parents in their seats, etc. Then, have everyone recess up the aisle, staying in order. Once you get to the back of the church/space, you’ll be all set to practice the processional.
7. Make the hand-off. After your rehearsal wraps up is a great time to hand-off any wedding items a friend, planner, or day-of coordinator will be setting up the next day. Make sure everything is securely packed (big Rubbermaid tubs are helpful!) and clearly labeled. I also printed off a packet list (with diagrams and photos!) for our day-of coordinator of where things should go and how they should look.

With a smooth rehearsal under your belt, I hope you’ll be feeling finer than a frog’s hair split three ways and ready to dine at your rehearsal dinner! Putting in just a little effort on the front end to start your wedding off on the right foot will pay off handsomely in the days that follow.

Love this advice? We promise, there’s so much more in the Southern Weddings Planner, a must-have for every bride!

emily Written with love by Emily
3 Comments
  1. avatar Julie reply

    This is such the perfect timing for me. My wedding is in 11 days, and I am definitely feeling the to do list looming over my head. These tips are very helpful!

  2. avatar Amy reply

    Great article – enjoyed it! I create original wedding poems and speeches, for wedding rehearsal dinner – totally based on the customer’s input. I’d love to write for you today. Visit the site for details.

  3. avatar Wedding Rehearsal – Spunky Sapphire Events reply

    […] experts at Southern Weddings shared their best tips for conducting a flawless, smooth, and relaxed wedding rehearsal last week, […]

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I think it’s safe to say that the entire Southern Weddings office, led by yours truly, is smitten with Abby and Alex. We had the pleasure of featuring their beautiful wedding in our latest issue (you must pick up a copy to see it if you haven’t already!), and after getting to know them a bit, knew they’d be perfect for our Southern Newlywed column, too. Even with just eight months of marriage under their belt, they have lots of wisdom, as well as the coziest home, to share. Friends, please enjoy this holiday tour! P.S. You better believe that if their Chattanooga move goes through, we’ll be knocking on their new door in a few months to see their new digs!

Big hugs to our friends at A Bryan Photo for these sweet photos!

The couple: Abby Bowlin, 26, and Alex Bowlin, 25
Years married: 0 years, 8 months!
Where you live: Birmingham, AL
Tell us a little bit about yourselves. Alex and I are settling into married life, meaning we are still thrilled by Chinese takeout on the sofa, and we squeal when we get to buy things like house plants (okay, only I do the squealing). Alex is a true outdoorsman who would give anything to grow a beard, and I’m a wannabe foodie who recently launched a calligraphy business. We are bonded by our faith and intense love for our families, and we think marriage is just about the best thing ever.

Tell us your love story in one sentence. We pretty much agreed on our first date that we could get married, so he put a ring on it five months later.
What is your favorite part of being married? We love that time together gets to be our default mode. It hit us on our honeymoon that synchronizing schedules was a thing of the past. No more driving across town to hang out or meeting for a quick coffee date before work. Our coffee dates now happen on our own front porch, and it is quite glorious.
What has been the most surprising thing about marriage? I have been the most surprised by just how much fun boy roommates can be. I was scared to trade in my BFFs with their fully accessible closets for wet towels and drawers full of camo. As it turns out, Alex is tidier than I am, and he kills bugs like nobody’s business! Double whammy!

Tell us a little bit about where you live. We rent our little bungalow, and we’re already sad about moving out one day. Our church is in our neighborhood, along with a handful of close friends, so we’re pretty much set in the community department. Birmingham has really boomed in the last few years and has incredible restaurants and a thriving artistic community. We love our city for its culture and our neighborhood for its small-town feel.

How do you remember your wedding in your home? Thankfully, our photographer is also my employer (hey Bryan!), so we have an incredible collection of fine art prints from our wedding. Most are in frames, some are in a fine art box, and we also have a stack of Polaroids from that day sitting in our living room. I love to see friends and family go straight to that stack when they visit; we all get to relive the day together!
What most makes your house feel like home? Our wall of Found Frames is like a permanent scrapbook. It tells the story of our families, our travels, and our road to marriage.

What’s your best tip for balancing your relationship and other life priorities? We’re definitely still trying to find that balance. Our greatest tip is to over communicate and be really honest about needs/expectations of time spent. We have found that if we secure a couple of nights each week to be at home, just the two of us, then we both feel rested and connected. When we feel connected, we also feel free to work on personal projects or hang with family and friends.

What is your approach to decorating your home for the holidays? Since we are just beginning our collection of Christmas decor, simplicity is our theme this Christmas. I am a huge fan of greenery, so I stocked up at my local wholesale florist for eucalyptus garland, lamb’s ears and all things evergreen. Alex and I picked leaves from a friend’s magnolia tree for our mantel adornment, and I finally let Alex move in his prize buck (Buckey) to join in the reindeer fun. I have found that I really lean towards understated Christmas decor, although I doubt that will last as we just ordered chicken ornaments in honor of our girls!
What is a favorite holiday tradition your family has created post-wedding? Since this is our first Christmas as a married couple, I’m curious to see what traditions will “stick” over the years. So far, I’ve been making homemade Chex Mix like my mom always did, and we’ve been enjoying our church’s daily Advent devotional. Christmas movies at the Alabama Theatre are up next!
How do you navigate the holidays with your extended families? Thankfully, both of our families live in Alabama, so we’ll be spending the couple of days leading up to Christmas with Alex’s family and will head down to be with mine on Christmas day! We are fortunate to have flexible families who are simply thankful for the times we can all be together.

Where do you splurge and where do you save when decorating? Since we are renting, we vowed to only invest in items that we can take with us to our next home. That means no to painting the walls and yes to refinishing an inherited buffet. I am an avid antique hunter (I can’t say no to ironstone), and I think vintage treasures make a home’s furnishings feel collected over time. At the same time, I love modern design elements, and hit up Target and Domino Magazine’s online storefront to find trendier pieces.
What is your favorite memory from your wedding? We totally agree on this one. Our favorite moment took place during our ceremony; our family and friends joined as we collectively sang “Come Thou Fount,” our favorite hymn.

Tell us about the process of moving in together. Poor Alex. He graciously goes along with my design ideas and style (usually). Thankfully, cowhide rugs and antlers are very much in style, so those are basically his only decor items that have found permanent places in our house. Our most famous design compromise to date was our dining room chairs. I was craving ultra-modern metal, while Alex is a big fan of cross-back farm chairs. After he announced that our future children would NOT be forced to freeze on metal seats, we compromised on our modern (but not cold) acrylic ghost chairs.
Which room in your home is your favorite, and why? We love our dining room because it is right in the center of our house; everyone congregates there. Hosting family and friends is our favorite thing to do, and we have been known to squeeze up to seven people around our four-person table.

Which items from your wedding registry do you use the most often? We registered for beautiful Italian pottery that sits in our china cabinet. We use it to serve guests for special occasions, but get to enjoy it as decor every day!
What different decisions, if any, would you make for your registry if you knew then what you knew now? There are a few random kitchen gadgets that I never thought I’d use but have bought since our wedding as I become a bit more kitchen-savvy. My list includes a citrus squeezer (hand squeezing is for the birds…and those pesky seeds!) and a pastry blender (I’m trying my hand at homemade quiche!).

Who cooks dinner? I’m tempted to say that I usually cook dinner, but it’s probably 50/50. My cooking usually involves a researched recipe, new-to-me ingredients, and a sink full of dishes. Alex, on the other hand, has this crazy awesome talent of impromptu meal creating. He somehow uses whatever food we have and only a cast iron skillet to make dinner. It’s always delicious, and his “House Scramble” is something to write home about.
What is your go-to weeknight meal? Weekend meal? We’re all about the bowl movement for the weeknights. Haven’t heard of it? You just make food and place it all in a bowl. Our favorite combo is quinoa + black beans + veggies + pork. Try it. We like to splurge on the weekends by visiting our favorite restaurants. You can’t beat a burger at Melt or El Barrio’s Saturday brunch.
What’s your favorite place to find recipes? We would eat all organic, farm fresh food if possible, and we love to find chefs and cooks who create recipes with whole foods. I love the Sprouted Kitchen blog, and Alex and I are currently obsessed with Vivian Howard, the star of A Chef’s Life. I made her raw veggie salad for Thanksgiving, and only a few family members turned their noses up at the brussels sprouts. Oh, and Alex is currently looking into buying a heritage hog to butcher and eat?!?!

Do you have a favorite date night idea to share? We have made it a Sunday tradition to head to Whole Foods after our church’s afternoon service. We eat at their central restaurant for dinner and shop for groceries afterwards. Our bank account isn’t necessarily loving this tradition, but what can we say? We’re suckers for cheese samples.
What is one small way you love or serve your spouse? Alex is service-oriented by nature. In fact, when Bryan came over to shoot us in our home, I admitted that the most natural setting would be Alex making us coffee while I chat away at our counter. Knowing that Alex feels deeply cared for by acts of service, I try to surprise him with a swept porch or freshly folded laundry (it’s the little things, right?). Oh, and I try to never leave the grocery store without a sweet treat for my man.
Do you have children? We don’t have children yet, but we’re both hopeful for a big family (and feel called to adoption as well).

Before getting married, I wish someone had told me… that marriage is sooooo much better than engagement. Whew.
This year, our family is most excited about… our potential move! As sad as it will be to leave Birmingham, Alex has a job opportunity in Chattanooga, TN. We’re both Alabama natives, so this season will be full of adventure as we explore a brand new (but still Southern) state!
Is there anything else about your home or family life that you think our readers would be interested in? Alex is a hardcore animal lover. He also loves his parents’ farm. So how do you fulfill those kinds of loves in a small house with no yard and close neighbors? You build a chicken coop and adopt the stray cat from down the street. We started with two hens, Ina Garten and Martha Stewart, and we have since added Ree Drummond and Boots with the Fur (Boots has lots of feathers on her feet. What a cutie). We feel like such hipsters with our fresh eggs, just living the urban farm life. In actuality, Alex takes care of the chickens, and I just decorate their coop and collect the pretty eggs.

We’re so grateful to Abby and Alex for sharing their hearts and home with us! Be sure to follow along with them:
Abby’s calligraphy
Abby on Instagram
Alex on Instagram

P.S. We’d love to hear from you! Our hope is to feature REAL couples in the South – your inspiring friend, super talented cousin, or neighbor with the cutest house – the kind of person everyone would love to “e-meet.” If that sounds like you or someone you know, take a peek at our Southern Newlywed submission page and shoot us an email!

emily Written with love by Emily
7 Comments
  1. avatar Lisa reply

    Seriously, Abby and Alex are the coolest. So inspired by their marriage, their friendship, and their style!

  2. avatar Christy reply

    Abby & Alex, we would love to welcome you in Chattanooga! Our little city is growing in great ways, but doing everything it can to keep its small town feel. If you ever need advice, please let me know!

  3. avatar Kristina reply

    So pretty! Love your wall display of wedding photos!

  4. avatar Laura reply

    Although I am a born and bred North Carolinian, Chattanooga is my favorite southern city. I think you’ll love it! Speaking of love, that magnolia leaf garland on your mantel is to die for!

  5. avatar linda reply

    I just love these two.

  6. avatar Stephanie Creekmur reply

    Such a beautiful home and what a treat to spot my Hey Y’all print in that gorgeous gallery wall! So happy to play a small part in your home! <3

  7. avatar Kelly reply

    The chicken names!! Ina Garten and Boots with the fur!!! I’m dying. :-)

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There’s so much classic Southern style in today’s inspiration nugget that I almost can’t stand it! Spanish moss, a statuesque plantation home, pineapples, a lace gown, and last but certainly not least, a sweet couple celebrating their first anniversary who knows the wedding is just the beginning. Big hugs to Blue Ribbon Vendor Sapphire Events for making our morning a little more lovely!

From Valerie, the planner: Earlier this spring we invited a real couple, Christine and Jordan, to collaborate with us on an anniversary shoot to capture the couple one year after they exchanged vows. The photographers and I wanted to bring out the beautiful light this couple shares for each other. We also gave the couple an opportunity to talk about their love after the first year of married life together, who they look up to as an example of a strong relationship, and what a marriage means to them now that the wedding planning process is behind them. I love the Southern Weddings mission to promote the marriage as more important than the wedding, and the results of Christine and Jordan’s brief interview with us in sharing those same values.

From the bride, Christine:

The most special moment about your wedding day: We were both so anxious before mass and the reception felt like a blur, but while we were at the church, it felt like it was just the two of us. It was nice to have that time to focus only on one another. The silly conversations we had and laughing and sharing in that moment together is something we will never forget.
What do you all look forward to in your next year of marriage? Continuing to get to know one another, grow and work together. One of the characteristics of people with happy marriages is that they never stop working on their marriage. They never stop learning about each other and never get complacent with their relationship. I cannot wait to continue to put in work together and learn something new to love about each other every day.
One piece of advice you would give to someone getting married right now? Don’t stress about your wedding day and all the details. Although it may seem like it now, your wedding day is not the most important day of your life and it will not make or break your marriage. You and your significant other decide that. Take a moment to remember why you’re getting married in the first place and that the incredible amount of love you have for one another will count for way more in the long run than what flavor the cake is or what you give out as favors. Focus on each other and try to remember as much as you can about that day, because it goes by fast!

Photography: GK Photography | Design and styling: Sapphire Events | Flowers: Nola Flora | Linens: Perrier Party Rentals | Invitation: Scriptura | Bridal Salon: Wedding Belles | Groom’s attire: John’s Tuxedos | Hair and Makeup: Bleu, a Blow Dry Bar | Venue: Houmas House Plantation

Sapphire Events and Nola Flora are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

emily Written with love by Emily
3 Comments
  1. avatar ashley bateman reply

    Love Love Love!! Love their Love!

  2. avatar Friday Fresh Squeeze #168 – Floridian Weddings reply

    […] Totally inspired by these centerpieces: pineapples nestled on gilded leaves! […]

  3. avatar Genevieve reply

    This makes me want to get married all over again!

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From moms, to sisters, to best friends, there’s no shortage of Southern gals to gift this season. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite options (starting at $12!) to make the hunt a bit easier. Tuck our suggestions away for bridesmaid gifts, too!

A. Star Chambray Cocktail Napkin Set ($38) | These napkins can be dressed up or down, and we love that the star pattern is appropriate for holiday gatherings but subtle-enough to be used year round!
B. Charleston Map Print ($24) | Evelyn’s colorful hand-painted map prints feature tons of Southern cities, including Athens, Atlanta, Auburn, Austin, and on down the alphabet!
C. Twist Scarf ($20) | These glamorous scarfs can be worn tied in a bow, as a headband, around your neck, or as a bracelet!
D. Pink Pineapple Watercolor Art Print ($24, 8×10″) | This colorful print would brighten up a dorm room or girly office.
E. Colorblock Stripe Monogram Phone Case ($28) | Add a splash of color and personalization to your life with Pencil Shavings’ bright accessories.
F. Callie’s Biscuits and Southern Traditions ($23) | The SW gals are huge fans of Callie, and know her cookbook would make a great addition to any Southern shelf.
G. Mason Jar Soap Dispenser ($24) | The perfect hostess or white elephant gift – but don’t forget to pick one up for your own powder room, too!
H. Hugs and Kisses Appetizer Plate Set ($54) | Keep the love flowing with this colorful entertaining staple.
I. Volatile boots ($52) | A perfect starter pair of cowboy boots for those inching into Southwest style.
J. Southern Phrase Calendar ($12) | Bring Southern cheer to every month of the year. The perfect price point for gifting to all of your girls!
K. Southern Belle Volumizing Mousse ($25 ) | For a little help with the perfect Southern bump, we love this product from Dry Dar.
L. Molly Beads jewelry (prices vary) | Our own Kristin Winchester is a huge fan of this Raleigh designer. Keep an eye on her Facebook page for store locations and sample sales!

emily Written with love by Emily
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It’s really a joy to get to introduce y’all to a new set of Blue Ribbon Vendors each month, because I just know any one of them would be a joy to you if you choose to work together! This time around, we’re introducing you to a few of them through their answers to some of our favorite BRV interview questions. Click through to their listings to find out more about them!

Name: Amanda Day Rose Paperie
Where you call home: Richmond, Virginia
Favorite thing about weddings in the South? Southern weddings are so rich with family, friendship, Southern culture, and memories. I love how I can see a little piece of my own family background and culture in each and every Southern wedding I’ve worked on.

Name: Candace Nelson Photography
Where you call home: Troy, Alabama
Early bird or night owl? I guess I have to say early bird. I get up almost every morning at 4:30 to workout – commitment and dedication, right there!!

Name: Cote Designs
Where you call home: Aiken, South Carolina
Favorite thing about weddings in the South? The elegant and understated charm of each event.

Name: Dannon K. Collard
Where you call home: Charleston, SC
Favorite part of a wedding day? Everything! I feel like I’m part of the family the moment I walk in the door. I get to hear the bridal party reminisce on the good ole days, see the bride read the letter from her groom, watch the mother of the bride help her daughter into her dress… it’s so emotional, and I thank God everyday that I get to be a part of it!

Name: Ever Thine Events
Where you call home: Augusta, GA
How I got into weddings: I was always a lover of antique and vintage things. I rented vintage for my wedding three years ago and I became enamored with the idea. I started collecting and renting pieces out of my garage. From that point it was just a slow evolution from the rentals to what now is a full service styling/planning/floral design company!

Name: Green Bee Floral Designs
Where you call home: Winston-Salem, NC
Favorite thing about weddings in the South? Great outdoor wedding weather! We squeeze a little more warm weather out down here… which means more tea-sippin’, fan-waving, biscuit eat’n, outdoor wedding goodness!

Name: I Do I Do! Wedding Planning
Where you call home: Birmingham, AL
Favorite thing about weddings in the South? I love all the personal details we incorporate into weddings here – the custom monograms, special paper details – I love it all. I also think, in the South, the guest experience is very important. Southern hospitality is of utmost importance to our couples.

Name: Jacqueline Dallimore Photography
Where you call home: New Orleans, LA
Favorite part of a wedding day? My favorite part of the wedding day is the bride and groom’s first dance. I often find myself tearing up behind the camera!

Name: Jeff Hall Photo
Where you call home: Greenville, SC
How I got into weddings: I’m really a documentary photographer at heart. I gravitate towards authentic images that have meaning. Weddings offer me the opportunity to make something that means something to my clients and their families. Wedding photos are priceless by nature, and having the chance to capture something both momentary and invaluable is thrilling as a person and a photographer.

Name: Jen Dillender Photography
Where you call home: Austin, TX
How I got into weddings: There are three things my husband and I love: Jesus, each other, and (being true Southerners) college football. Shortly after we got married, I wanted to pursue photography, but being newlyweds, we couldn’t afford a nice camera. My husband and my brother ended up making a friendly bet on a football game (Texas A&M vs. Baylor), and if our beloved Aggies won, my brother would buy us the camera I’d been eyeing. If Baylor won, we’d name our firstborn after him. As luck would have it, the Aggies pulled out a victory, I had the camera a week later, and the rest is history!

Check out all of our favorite vendors in the Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory! I also wanted to mention that we’re working particularly hard to expand some of our areas of slim pickings – namely, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and West Virginia. If you would like to recommend someone (or nominate yourself!) for any of these states, please email emily at southernweddings.com!

emily Written with love by Emily
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