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As y’all know, I normally talk about Southern wedding traditions – from the sweet to the kind of wacky! Well, today’s tradition is not necessarily associated with weddings, but it still features a lovely lady (ies) in a gorgeous white gown, so we thought y’all might be interested!

Photos by Beatrice de Gea for the New York Times

That’s right, today we’re discussing the Debutante Cotillion. Also known as the Deb Ball, this Southern tradition is a formal presentation of young ladies – debutantes – to society. During the ball, the young ladies are to be wearing white gowns with satin gloves. Each is formally introduced individually to the audience in standard way: her full name is announced, she is walked around the stage by her father for the official presentation, and then her younger male escort joins her and escorts her away.

Recognize that gorgeous redhead? That’s our Editor in Chief Ms. Lara Casey at her own Debutante Cotillion! Isn’t she stunning?

Back to business! A debutante is a young lady, traditionally from an aristocratic family, who has reached the age of maturity. Now that she is an adult, she is introduced to society at a formal “debut” presentation. Interesting to note, while doing my homework, I found that Wikipedia offers Southern Belle as the synonym for a debutante!  In another fun fact, the Christmas Cotillion in Savannah, Georgia, is the oldest debutante ball in the United States, beginning in 1817.

Photos by Beatrice de Gea for the New York Times

I’m a bit partial to cotillions, not because I was a debutante (I’m still sad I was never able to be an Azalea Trail Maid!), but because my sister in law’s debutante ball was my husband’s and my first official outing as a couple! And yes, my husband rocked a pink bow tie and cummerbund set!

Were you a debutante? Did you have a cotillion, or have you ever attended one? 

P.S. Looking for a laugh? Take a gander at what my beloved Azalea Trail Maids wear! Yes, they wear those to this day! SO awesome! :)

marissa Written with love by Marissa
  1. avatar molly stillman reply

    LOVE it. i was never a debutante, sadly… but kinda always dreamed of being one (my 17-year-old self would not have admitted that at the time…)

    but OH MYLANTA those Azalea Trail Maids are out. of. control. hahahaha i want that dress. to wear. all over town.

    just kidding.

    sort of.

  2. avatar Katie O’Keefe reply

    I was born in Mobile and as I little girl I always wanted to be an Azalea Trail Maid. However, due to my father’s military service we moved out of the country when I was eight. Such a shame…I always wanted the “Gone with the Wind” gown!

  3. avatar Andi reply

    Marissa~ Are you from Mobile?? I am from Fairhope and always wanted to be a Dogwood Trail Maid but didn’t quite make it! I was in the Nutcracker Charity Deb Ball in Mobile a few years back! Great fun!

    • avatar Marissa reply

      Hi Andi! Yes, I am from Mobile!! I moved before I was old enough to be an ATM! SO sad! I was actually one for Halloween for like 3 years in a row! I never went to the Nutcracker Ball, but I WAS in the Nutcracker for the Mobile Ballet!! xx

  4. avatar Patti reply

    I’m sorry you were never an Azalea Trail Maid, Marissa – but I do remember you rocking an Azalea Trail Maid costume for Halloween one year!

    • avatar Marissa reply

      It’s okay, Mom! I’ve come to terms with it! : ) I loved that costume – such a great thrift store find! I love you!

  5. avatar Lara reply

    Oh my! HAHA! Yes, that is me in a wedding gown at the age of 17 (I think). It was fun!

  6. avatar Ashley reply

    My best friend’s little sister was an Azalea Trail Maid a couple years ago…so adorable!

  7. avatar Courtney {pizzazzerie} reply

    So cool! I was a deb in North Carolina during sophomore year of college. Very hilarious to put on a wedding dress then. Excited to wear my real one in a few months, but at least the days of “debbing” got me prepared! haha

  8. avatar Desiree reply

    True Story – I was kicked out of debs!! And I later came to find out that my mother was kicked out as well when she was a teenager! Completely different reasons but it’s still our own “family tradition” :) The secret’s in the sauce y’all! wink wink LOL

  9. avatar Holly Gardner reply

    Oh, dear heavens this made me laugh. I have to confess that I was an Azalea Trail girl! It was horrible, but I’ll probably make my daughter do it when she gets to that age too. Hilarious! :)

  10. avatar Ashley Daniell {Ashley Daniell Photography} reply

    OMG, how embarrassing is this picture?!? I’m mortified it’s on the world wide web! Hahaha Ahh, memories Lara!

  11. avatar Wendy Robinson reply

    Ah…the memories! I was a deb in 19**…ahem…and I remember my dress was exquisite! My mother took me to the best bridal shop in town and let me choose my favorite. I’ll always remember the look on the salon owners face when I told her how old I was. When I told her that I was 17, her jaw dropped! She looked quite shocked that we were there for a wedding gown! Mom explained that it was for my cotillion, but I couldn’t resist a good laugh! LOL

  12. avatar Wendy Robinson reply

    Oh and practicing that curtsy for so many weeks prior!! Yeesh!!

  13. avatar Sierra reply

    You would never guess it, but I was in Cotillion until we moved from Tennessee to rural Ohio in middle school. I remember my mom taking me to Hallmark to pick out the nicest formal stationery they had to learn the etiquette of writing thank you letters and addressing envelopes (this was in third or fourth grade!). We also had timed place-setting competitions, a topic in which I need a refresher course for sure. In high school, I was often other people’s date for the Cotillion dances, but I never officially rejoined. Being a Deb is certainly an important Southern tradition for many girls I’m friends with. Thanks, M!

  14. avatar Kelly Cummings reply

    Oh my, those dresses for the Azalea Trail Maids make me thing of Rainbow Row in Charleston! Also, how gorgeous is Lara?!

  15. avatar Kim Ross reply

    Yes, I was a deb back in 19??! It was a great experience!

  16. avatar Kacey Hanslik reply

    So why do debs sometime referred to as “duchess”? I just had a friend post something about her being a duchess now?

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

Reply to:

Y’all know we love sparkly diamonds and gorgeous bling around these parts! Emily and I in particular are a little ring-obsessed, and from the looks of the comment section in our past engagement ring posts, y’all are, too!

Naturally, we love every sort of tradition and story involving sparkly things, so when Lauren, one of our dear readers, sent us the loveliest of stories about the estate diamond in her engagement ring, we knew we had to share. Take it away, Lauren!

“The center diamond in my engagement ring belonged to my great grandmother. She was given it as a gift from my great grandfather on their 50th Wedding anniversary. On the day I was born, my grandmother set aside that ring to give to me one day. My grandparents have been married for almost 60 years, and their marriage is one that I admire and look up to. It is an honor to me to wear an heirloom diamond with a history of love from two faithful and long lasting marriages.”

Now that y’all have wiped your tears, let’s talk about the Southern tradition of the estate diamond!

Tec Petaja

Estate jewelry is defined as “previously owned jewelry that is of a vintage and/or antique nature.” I’m sold already! Tradition dictates that women in the South pass their engagement ring diamond, or their entire engagement ring, onto their first born son to be given to his future bride. Once she becomes a mother, the tradition continues as the diamond or ring is passed from generation to generation.

According to my mother in law, many women in the South are given an additional band on their tenth (or more) anniversary as a sort of replacement for the ring given away.

Don’t have an estate ring in your family? These days, there are great sources online for authentic vintage rings (one of our favorites is EraGem!)

Now it’s time to talk about your pretty, pretty sparklers, ladies! If you have a diamond engagement ring, is it an estate piece? Or did your beau (or you and your beau!) pick out something entirely new? Share, share, share away!

P.S. We love these Southern traditions, too:
A moment of prayer before the ceremony
Carrying a white Bible in lieu of a bouquet
The sorority sing

EraGem is a delightful member of the Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory and an SW sponsor!

marissa Written with love by Marissa
  1. avatar Ali reply

    My engagement ring is also an estate ring. It was my fiance’s great grandmother’s ring, given to her by his great grandfather. It is an aquamarine set in a white gold band. His mom had been holding it in her jewelry box for just the right girl…and it ended up being me! I love the ring itself very much, but I love the history behind it and what it represents so much more.

    • avatar Marissa reply

      Oh Ali, that sounds gorgeous! Even if you’re a Gator! ; ) I am obsessed with vintage jewelry and the stories behind them! Hopefully you’re able to continue the tradition! xx, Marissa

  2. avatar Brittany R reply

    My ring is not an estate ring, but I love it just the same! It’s a 2 ct. emerald cut in a cathedral (very high) setting. My band is super thin, as is my wedding band (that I will get on April 14! eek!) I really do love this tradition, though. My fiance’ and I have talked about starting that tradition for our family…I would be honored to know that my diamond is treasured long after I am gone!

    • avatar Marissa reply

      Hi Brittany! That is such a sweet idea to start the tradition with your ring! I’m sure that your daughter in law would absolutely LOVE a 2 ct. sparkler! xx, Marissa

  3. avatar Erin reply

    I know I’ve shared this story before but probably over 1 1/2 years ago. My engagement ring is an estate piece–it was my man’s mother’s, grandmother’s, AND great grandmother’s ring. It’s an antique setting with a single band but the top has two rows of five diamonds each (I don’t know all of the correct terminology, sorry!). Since I’ve always thought it looks more like a wedding ring than an engagement ring we’re going to actually use my grandmother’s diamonds to design an engagement-looking wedding band! This way my hand is full of his family AND my family’s history, as well as our own ideas!

  4. avatar Anitaa reply

    I have always loved estate jewelery. Sadly no one in our families had rings to pass on thus I decided to start this tradition.
    I picked an authentic 1920s Art Deco ring for our engagement. 2.14 ct old mine cut in a square detailed filigree platinum setting. I love it so much I picked a plain wedding band to wear on my right hand as we did not want anything to “steal” from the beauty.

  5. avatar Angela Alpaugh reply

    My engagement ring is a three-stone diamond ring that has been in my now-husband’s family since the Civil War era, beginning with his great-great-great-great grandparents. When I tried on the ring for the first time, there was no re-sizing needed. It fit my ring finger perfectly. I remember the joy and sense of wonder in my heart that day as I tried on the ring for the first time, knowing that a proposal was soon to come. I am so honored to carry on this family tradition and wear this beautiful piece of history that I will one day pass down and continue the family tradition.

  6. avatar Katie reply

    Neither one of us had an estate ring in our families; however, many have commented on the ring Matt picked out as looking very vintage and very much like an heirloom! It’s a round cut with sidestones, and a halo surrounding all three diamonds. The band is very thin and has diamonds as well–in short, it is very sparkly, which is exactly what I wanted! Matt and I definitely want this ring to stay in our family, passed down from generation to generation.

  7. avatar Kelly reply

    While my engagement ring is new {pear-shaped with a halo and pave-diamond band}, I will definitely be incorporating estate jewelry from my fiance’s and my family’s lines on our wedding day! With my wedding dress, I’m going to wear my grandmother’s engagement diamond on a pendant around my neck, and Drew’s late mother’s and grandmother’s engagement rings on my right hand. It’ll be a lovely way to have a little piece of them with us on our special day.

  8. avatar Becca reply

    My ring is also an estate ring. My great-grandmother was given the ring in 1923 and was happily married for 56 years. When my grandmother died I got it from her estate. It is a beautiful solitaire set in white gold and was the perfect fit! My fiance got a ring wrap custom made to make it even more beautiful without having to change my great-grandmother’s ring at all. I am so happy to continue the legacy because all of my fiance’s grandparents were married over 50 years as was mine. I’m planning a beautiful June wedding here in NC. : )

  9. avatar Emily reply

    My fiance’s sister has always wanted the “family ring,” which belonged to their grandmother, so I insisted that it was hers to have when the time came. My fiance proposed last July, and gave me a ring that he “built.” Rather than using the family ring, he took his grandmother’s diamond watch to our jeweler and had the main stones removed. He then purchased my center stone, and added the remaining family watch diamonds to create an absolutely beautiful “new heirloom.” The three stone, pave set engagement ring that he created specifically for me is a perfect combination of family and future! Gee do I love that man :)

  10. avatar kristin reply

    I’m not sure mine is quite old enough to qualify as an estate diamond, however, it is the same stone that my fiancé’s father proposed to his mother with about thirty years ago. Matt, my fiancé, had a new band designed to hold the solitaire diamond for me. He actually carried it around in his pocket for a month before finding just the right moment to propose! I just love it and it really is that much more special knowing the love stories behind it.

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

Reply to:

Happy Valentine’s Day, dolls! I’m excited to let y’all know that Katie will be back guest blogging with us on a more regular schedule! Some of you long-time readers may remember our friend Katie, from the wonderful and hilarious blog Marriage Confessions, and some of you might just recognize Katie from MC, apart from SW! Katie drops by to share her funny, smart, and poignant perspective on life after the wedding, and we know you’ll love her as much as we do!

I know that Valentine’s Day gets a bad rap, as far as holidays go. I have friends who are violently against Cupid and his plethora of love arrows and conversation candy. “It’s a holiday invented by the card stores to make money!” they say. And I get that. But it’s a holiday that revolves around chocolate and jewelry. It just goes against my being to reject those kinds of themes. Diamonds and chocolates are the way to my heart. But diamonds hidden INSIDE chocolates are pretty much the way to my soul.

I’m shallow. I can’t help it.

As much as I love the candy, gifts, and general lovey-dovey-ness that comes with Valentine’s Day, I am actually a fan of the holiday for more than just those reasons. I think love gets a bad rap, especially in marriage these days, and so any holiday that stops and says, “Hey! Love is important, darn it!” is going to be fine by me.

I remember when Chris and I got married, we were told by so many people, “It takes more than love to make a marriage!” And, foolishly, we thought they were fools. We loved each other. We had each other. We could take on anything else. I’ve learned over the years that love don’t pay no power bill. And love don’t clean up no sick baby in the middle of the night. And love certainly don’t exempt a husband from a good butt whoopin’ when he forgets to call and say he’s going to be working late on your anniversary.

Turns out, there’s a lot of stuff that love won’t do in a marriage.

But there are a lot of things that love does do in a marriage. In my marriage, love is how we forgive. It’s the reason that this morning, after a blow up with my love muffin as I left for work, I couldn’t even get out of the neighborhood before I called him on my cell to tell him I was sorry. And love was the reason he said, “Me, too.”

In my marriage, love is how we learn patience. The first week that we brought our sweet, perfect son home from the hospital, we were giddy with excitement. But by 3:00am on the third day, I remember standing next to Chris at the crib, both of us just about in tears from exhaustion and frustration, and every fiber of my being wanted to turn and whack him in the knees with a hairbrush. HOW COULD HE HAVE JUST TURNED THE LIGHT ON IN THE HALLWAY?!?!? DIDN’T HE KNOW THAT WOULD WAKE THE BABY?!?!?! And yet, I let him live. Because when you love someone, you’re patient as they learn things. Like how to change diapers in the middle of the night without turning a light on.

In my marriage, love is how we make decisions. Love is that binding force that draws every decision we make back to our family. Should I take that job? Should we make that big move? Should I take a half day at work so that I can attend my two-year-old son’s Valentine’s Day party at his daycare? Love is at the center of all of those things. Because we love each other and we love the family that we have made together, everything else is done within the context of that love.

In my marriage, love is even how we fight. Isn’t that weird? It’s true, though. Love is what makes us so darn frustrated with each other sometimes. It would be so much easier to be married to Chris if I wasn’t in love with him. But that silly love thing means that I simply can’t live without him. And sometimes, that’s so inconvenient! I wish it didn’t make me mad when he worked late, or when we haven’t had a date night in a while, or when the weekend classes for my teaching certificate take up all my time. I wish we didn’t fight about those things, but we do. And when the dust settles, we find that at the very base of those little fights is the fact that we just love each other so much that we get irritated when other things get in the way.

No, love don’t pay no bills. And, yes, it takes more than love to make a marriage work. But at the root of everything that exists in a marriage, there is love. So, I celebrate Valentine’s Day. I buy the cards and eat the candy and make those slice-and-bake cookies with the little red hearts in the center. I’m a sucker for it all because I believe that there should be a day that makes us stop and say, “I love you.” Because as important as everything else is in marriage, love is how it all started and how we keep it going.

(A note to my husband: While love is important, so is that beautiful necklace I showed you last weekend at the jewelry store…)

Isn’t Katie awesome?! Check out her past columns for Southern Weddings:
Change is the Name of the (Newlywed) Game
My Wedding Registry Changed My Life
Working it Out With the In-Laws
Managing Your Money
Come on Baby, Light My Fire
On Moving

All photos by one of the most romantic photographers we know, Elizabeth Messina

P.S. Congratulations to Katie for being nominated for the 2012 Bloggies awards! This is a huge honor, so be sure to give her some love and vote for her here!

marissa Written with love by Marissa
  1. avatar Patty reply

    Beautifully written, Melissa! I think we would be great friends!!

  2. avatar Patty reply

    and i just called you melissa….i meant marissa!

    • avatar Marissa reply

      Hey Patty, it’s okay! I forgive you because my mom’s name is Patty! But, I didn’t write this – Kate at Marriage Confessions did! But I do think we’d be great friends! : )

    • avatar Patty reply

      Marissa: I probably should have read more closely! Well, great! More friends for me :) Happy Valentine’s day!!

  3. avatar Lindsey reply

    Hilarious post – LOVE KATIE!!

  4. avatar Sarah H. reply

    Coming over to support my blog friend Katie!! Wonderful post :) Ever since having a baby I think Valentine’s Day is even more important–some times you need that commercial nudge to carve out time for just you and your husband and say “I Love You” with glitter cards that sing.

  5. avatar Meggie reply

    Congratulations Katie! Love this post and totally agree with you! Love is at the root of it all… even the fights. I’m pro Valentine’s Day too! =)

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

Reply to: