Mary Hollis Huddleston is be best known these days as Mrs. Southern Social, and one thing is clear: She’s found her niche. Supported by her extensive wedding planning background, the Nashville native used Instagram to propel her already successful career to the next level, focusing on the idea of easy entertaining for the modern Southern woman.
Also the founder of Please Be Seated event rental company, her expertise has opened the door for other ventures, such as her upcoming spring tabletop line in collaboration with Dillard’s and Southern Living. Not to mention, the upcoming release of her first book, Without a Hitch, a fictional story that also chronicles some of the hilarious (and often extreme) adventures she endured during the course of her wedding planning career. Please welcome entertaining guru and Instagram favorite, Mary Hollis Huddleston, aka Mrs. Southern Social!
What led you to become Mrs. Southern Social?
I never thought, in a million years, that I would end up here! I have an extensive background in ‘eventing’ and so many unexpected doors have opened throughout my career. I definitely have a passion for wedding planning, but that’s a very tough career to stay in long-term. It has taken me a while, but I finally found my sweet spot. It started out with an Instagram that grew very organically, and I really stayed true to the focus, which was all about easy entertaining. I honed in on this niche in the marketplace, which led to a lot of the success I’ve had.
You describe your style as “tradition with a twist.” What is the “twist?”
I joke that I’m the “modern Southern woman.” It all started because I realized there are a lot of us in the South that watched our mothers and grandmothers entertain. It looked effortless, but it was really a lot of effort. That’s not how the modern woman entertains anymore, in my opinion. Everyone is so busy. I still loved to entertain, and I didn’t want to give up a lot of the special traditions and memories that I had growing up, so I tried to help people find ways to cut corners — to make entertaining easy and effortless, but still as memorable and layered as the events our moms and grandmothers used to host.
Given that you’re a Nashville native, what are some of your favorite local spots that people often overlook?
Cheekwood. That’s really one of my favorite spots. I don’t know that people overlook it, but it’s this treasure box in Nashville. And since Jane MacLeod (the current President) took over, she has done so much for the museum and botanical gardens with the different exhibitions and programming she brings in. Also, Epergne! I love Epergne. It’s one of my favorite home goods stores in Nashville and it’s a hidden gem. They have some of the best-curated finds for entertaining that exist in the city.
Tell us about your book, Without a Hitch. How long has it been in the works?
I’m birthing my “third child” in December! I have been in labor with it for over five years. I never set out to write a book, but I was a journalism major and my co-author has made a career of being a journalist. I spent over a decade planning these over-the-top, ridiculous but fabulous events, and I would tell my friends stories of the things that I experienced and lived through being an event planner in Dallas. They couldn’t believe the stories were true, and they would ask to hear more. That kind of turned into the book; I have all of these amazing stories to tell. The book is a fictional account of my experience, but it’s just too good not to share!
With the holidays quickly approaching, what is one item or easy entertaining trick to make our celebrations more festive?
Greenery is your best friend — especially right now because there’s a flower shortage. It’s easy to decorate with even if you’re a novice floral designer (like most of us are). And it smells great, too! I love going to our local nursery to get trees and greenery in the winter. You can wrap a beautiful garland around a porcelain bowl, fill it with fruit, and you’re good to go. I also love styling tables with fruit when I don’t want to mess with flowers. I think a bowl full of oranges at the holidays is beautiful and easy.
Are there any holiday trends to take note of this year?
I see a lot of metallics. Right now, color is having a moment, too. I think people are setting holiday tables with colors that aren’t the traditional red and green. You’re going to see a lot of gold, purples, and blues. At the holidays, my dining room is always set in blue, white, and red — I always bring in my chinoiserie pieces, and then throw in some greenery and red berries and call it a day.
What is your favorite holiday hostess gift to give or receive?
An orchid! Maybe it’s expected, but I think a potted orchid is such a great gift. I love having fresh flowers in my home, but they don’t last long. An orchid is pretty easy to keep alive, and it’s really fun to use as decoration.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“Be quick to listen and slow to respond.” I’m type A, and I’m very opinionated. I’ve found that if I wait to reply, and really listen, I never regret what I say like I do when I say something off the cuff and have an immediate reaction to something. It has helped me so much in business and relationships. Recently, I was presented with something that I thought was very negative. I started to have a reaction to it, but I paused and did more thinking. I sat on it a little bit longer, and it has turned into something really fabulous. I’m glad I didn’t turn down the project just because my initial response wasn’t great.
Faith, family, and friends notwithstanding, what are three things that you cannot live without?
Crime dramas, Topo Chico, and microblading. I always get so many comments on my eyebrows, and it’s because of microblading — it has changed my face. When there was a rumor Topo Chico was going to be hard to get, I went and bought it like people were buying toilet paper. If there’s an apocalypse, I’m good on my stock of Topo Chico!
Thank you for the interview and for sharing your expertise, Mary! To pre-order Mary’s book, Without a Hitch, visit mrssouthernsocial.com.
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