By Pamela A. Keene
Photography Courtesy of: Brandon Hall photo – Credit Ben Chrisman, Montrose photo – Credit Jessica Coulton, Cedar Oaks – Credit b. flint photography
Historic homes and former plantations make idyllic backdrops for the ultimate dream wedding.
Sweeping tree-lined driveways, large porches graced with elegant fluted columns plus landscapes with tall magnolias, swaths of azaleas and well-groomed lawns: These are the things that can add elegance to Southern weddings. The South is dotted with beautiful historic homes, many of which were former plantations that have found a new purpose as wedding and event venues.
Holly Springs, Miss.
When a bridal party chooses Montrose in Holly Springs, Miss., the property becomes theirs for the weekend, from Friday evening until Sunday morning.
“Montrose was created for a bride in 1858, and it’s still serving brides today,” says Lisa Childers, wedding planner. The original plantation owner Alfred Aaron Brooks built the home as a wedding gift for his daughter. The Greek Revival red-brick home has two-story white Corinthian columns and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“The setting is amazing no matter what time of year and it offers many wonderful places for the ceremony, the reception, and photos that will last a lifetime,” says Childers.
“We have preferred vendors, but brides can also bring in their own caterers, florists, bands, and whatever to make their day special,” says Childers, who, in addition to her job, is a member of the Holly Springs Garden Club which maintains Montrose. “They can host rehearsal dinners, bridesmaid brunches, and their wedding all on one weekend, which is perfect for bridal party guests and families coming from other areas, often from out of state.”
The property, owned by the City of Holly Springs, includes an historic arboretum, one of many settings for bridal events. Inside, a two-story curved staircase descends to a double parlor that can be used for a ceremony or reception.
Proceeds from events at Montrose Antebellum contribute to the continuing preservation and restoration of the plantation.
Shadowlawn Bed & Breakfast in Columbus, Miss., brings Southern antebellum charm to life. Its sweeping porch with six towering fluted columns is often the setting for weddings. A full-service wedding provider, Shadowlawn hosts indoor or outdoor weddings and receptions, bridesmaid events, and rehearsal dinners on site.
Also a bed and breakfast, Shadowlawn can accommodate members of the wedding party for overnight stays. Or the couple can spend their honeymoon night in the spacious Master King Suite, with a double-jetted whirlpool, stately antique furnishings, and 13-foot-high ceilings.
Cedar Oaks in Oxford, Miss., is a partnership between Oxford’s Historic Properties Commission and the Cedar Oaks Guild. Built in 1859 and nearly destroyed by fire in 1864, the home was saved by women’s clubs in the town and moved to its current location in 1963. Now owned by the City of Oxford, the historic home hosts events, including weddings.
“Cedar Oaks, in a pretty residential neighborhood, is very distinctive when it comes to antebellum homes,” says Martha Huckins, president of the Cedar Oaks Guild. “So many antebellum homes are privately owned, so having an intimate wedding here is very special.”
The home can accommodate inside weddings of up to 75 guests; outdoor venues can host up to 200.
White Castle, La.
As the South’s largest extant antebellum mansion, Nottoway is located on the River Road Scenic Byway on the edge of the Mississippi River. The AAA Four-Diamond property is a member of Historic Hotels of America.
“For five guests or 500, Nottoway has all that you need to create the perfect backdrop for your big day,” says Kirsten Acosta, director of sales and catering at Nottoway. “Setting Nottoway apart from other venues, the resort offers wedding couples the unique ability to stay on property, with 40 hotel rooms available to wedding guests.”
The former sugar cane estate in White Castle, La., continues to be a showplace that transports guests back in time in an elegant historic setting complete with modern amenities. Multiple venues range from the Grand Pavilion and the adjacent Randolph’s Ballroom to the elegant White Ballroom where the original owner’s daughters married nearly 170 years ago.
Guests arrive at Brandon Hall in Natchez, Miss., by coming down a winding, tree-lined gravel road and through an elaborate iron gate.
“There’s no doubt that you’re coming for a very special occasion when you pass through the gate,” says Kaiser Harriss, who owns Brandon Hall with his wife Ashley. Harriss returned to his hometown of Natchez specifically to purchase the historic plantation and create a wedding business and bed and breakfast with his wife and his mother, Pam.
“Pam’s the wedding coordinator; she’s been doing this for several decades and she knows how to help brides have an unforgettable experience,” he says.
The 45-acre plantation was built in 1856 for the son of Mississippi’s first native-born governor.
“It was always a political and social home, a place where people gathered for receptions and parties,” Harriss says. “Brandon Hall is still that way, a welcoming and fashionable place that people seek out for one-of-a-kind events.”
The home’s porches make a grand statement with 32 fluted columns adorned with decorative capitals. Nestled in a parklike setting next to the Natchez Trace Parkway, the landscape includes hundreds of traditional Southern plants, from stately live oaks to azaleas and camellias.
Terraced gardens, a front-yard pond, and a gazebo add to its charm. Wedding guests can also stay overnight in a variety of different rooms.
“Plantation weddings transport guests to a different world, and we’re seeing many brides choose to celebrate here from other parts of the country,” says Pam Harriss. “Their event becomes a destination wedding that captures the mystique of the South, and that’s our goal – a memorable day that’s stress-free.”
Tall magnolias surround the 9,000-square-foot Belmont Plantation in the Mississippi Delta’s Greenville. Built in the mid-1800s, it’s filled with elaborate decorative plaster molding and ceiling medallions created by European masters, massive wooden pocket doors, and high ceilings.
“One of the many assets of having a wedding here is that the mansion is so distinctive and ornate,” says Camille Collins, Belmont’s CEO. “It is indescribably a very beautiful place for a wedding, from the huge porches and verandas to the gorgeously appointed gardens. Many brides choose to feature the décor of the mansion, only adding very simple floral displays and arrangements.”
The L-shaped home’s four large downstairs parlors can be configured to host seated dinners or buffet receptions, or events can take place in the spacious back yard under a tent.
“Belmont is so versatile that we can accommodate weddings from 50 to 500 guests,” Collins says. “Additionally, because we are a bed and breakfast, many of our brides choose to stay here with their bridesmaids, family, and guests the night before their wedding.”
Belmont has eight suites, and it can house up to 26 people for overnight stays, she says.
“When a bride chooses a plantation wedding, she’s making a statement to her guests,” Collins says. “Here in the South, we know about hospitality and elegance. And when you invite people to your wedding at a plantation, they know it’s time for a party. It’s an occasion they certainly don’t want to miss.”