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When a best friend’s daughter announced her plans to marry, I knew exactly the party I wanted to have for her.  My memories of the Thursday-before-the-wedding cocktail supper party, which our neighbor, Frances Cianciolo, in Memphis hosted for all 4 of my sisters, are rich.

Annle Mulgrew, the bride-to-be surrounded by her bridesmaids.

Not only did Frances have a wonderfully eclectic home filled with lovely antiques and local art, she understood Southern hospitality to the core. From the guest’s point of view, her parties seemed elegant, yet effortless. (Little do they know we hosts are taking anything that smacks of a human’s existence and cramming in the guest closet.) But to those of us who like to entertain, we understand how much planning it takes to host the perfect party.

Fortunately for me, I had a number of other hosts to help out with the particulars, a husband who cleaned the porch, checked light bulbs and iced down the coolers, not to mention a neighbor across the street who babysat my pooch and let her watch TV with his family during the party. (It never occurred to me that my golden might be overwhelmed with 100 new friends.)

Since the majority of the wedding guests were flying in from NYC, the menu and feel of the party needed to scream, “You’re in the South now, where we plan to gush over you with cacophony of ‘you look adorable,’ ‘when did ya’ll get to town,’ and ‘have a great evening now.'” Truth be known, the more we drink the more we drawl.

If you are superstitious, don’t be, Annie decided to have 13 bridesmaids.

The traditional theme called for lots of silver, white flowers with greenery cut from our neighbors’ yards (with permission, mostly)  and an elegant table. Since the party was held in the dead of winter, incandescent lighting was key, so the fireplaces were blazing, twinkly lights were strung in the trees and lit candles were everywhere!

White Flowers and candles make a perfect winter statement.

Don’t forget to bring out your grandmother’s silver if you want to add an element of sophistication to your party.

The vase is from Pottery Barn and the lovely flowers were purchased at Import Flowers

Guest arrived to a welcoming arch of white twinkly lights.

For the menu, a sumptuous buffet filled with Southern delicacies like shrimp and grits, chicken croquettes with mushroom sauce and, of course, succotash. And for dessert, hand-beaten caramel cake with fresh berries and whipped cream – one of my favorites.

Emily Frith and her team created an impressive buffet to wow the out-of-town guests.

Caramel cakes and fresh berries–the perfect end to the meal.

Instead of a specialty drink, I chose to have an open bar stocked with plenty of brown “waw-tah” (which is Southern code for bourbon and scotch) and three self-serve wine stations. I enlisted the bartending services of Don Flowers of Black Flower since he is a consummate professional and easily handles any unforeseen challenges. The Wine Chap continues to do an amazing job when it comes to selecting delicious and affordable wines, and our selections this evening were perfect.

If you want to create more flow for your party and eliminate a bar, consider setting up wine stations around the house.

In case you’re wondering, everything came off without a hitch, except for the heavy winds that squelched my plans to line the steps with luminaries. There wasn’t one chicken croquette left for a late night munch, all the guests had a lovely time and yes, the wedding was absolutely gorgeous!

The Griffins (the bride’s family) pose for a photo

In keeping with the “gracious theme,” we want to give equal billing to the groom’s family.


Emily Frith, Corner Market Catering (click here)

Event Planning: Libby Page

Floral Design: Brooks Mathews

Flowers: Import Flowers (click here)

Bartender Services: Don Flowers of Black Flower Services

Photography: Peyton Hoge (click here)

Caramel Cakes: Nancy

Wine: The Wine Chap (click here)

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