Stretching all the way from Georgia to Texas, the Deep South is a region where family tradition and good manners are still the norm, and taking it slow is definitely preferred—think mint juleps on the porch on a lazy summer day. But if the South’s gentle way of life is not enough to pique your interest, consider its fascinating natural beauty: Mississippi’s moss-covered trees, the Louisiana bayou, Texas hill country. There are, in fact, a plethora of pretty places south of the Mason-Dixon line to say “I do.” Here are just a few.
Set on the banks of the fabled Mississippi River, Natchez, Mississippi, has more historic homes on the National Register than any other place in the South. Since it was never a Civil War battleground, its grand antebellum mansions escaped a sorry fate. With formidable columned verandas presiding over endless expanses of verdant lawn and manicured gardens, they make perfect settings for any wedding. Monmouth Plantation is one of the exquisite landmark homes that offer amenities for gatherings of all sizes. You can exchange vows in the gardens in an arbor of flowering trees or in the brick courtyard just steps away from a picturesque pond. Larger parties may be hosted on the oak-shaded lawn of the 26-acre property. Take photos by the fountain and enjoy an intimate dinner beneath the gaslit chandeliers in the mansion’s main dining room. Guests will enjoy staying in the 30 individually appointed rooms, decorated with local antiques (ceremony site fees startat $800, catering costs start at $25 per person; monmouthplantation.com).
Zydeco jazz, restaurant tables and, of course, partygoers themselves all spill onto the streets of New Orleans, infusing the city with a special spark. But just because the Big Easy is a fun-loving place doesn’t mean that tradition is forgotten. The city’s St. Louis Cathedral is one of the more popular places to swap vows, while the Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans, located in the famous French Quarter, is often the host for elegant receptions. Inside the historic building guests can sip bubbly in a glass-domed hall and enjoy dinner in the grand Lafayette Ballroom, which has enormous crystal chandeliers. The hotel also offers spa amenities and brunch packages. But arguably the best part of having your celebration here is the fact that you can have the on-call Ritz-Carlton honeymoon concierge coordinate your trip of a lifetime (wedding packages start at $35 per person and include buffet meal, cake and coffee and a three-hour open bar; ritzcarlton.com).
Set amid the rolling landscape of Texas Hill Country is the mammoth Barton Creek Resort & Spa, a full-service property that encompasses four championship golf courses, 11 tennis courts, three pools and an amphitheater. And that’s just on the 4,000-acre grounds! Inside, the enormous resort boasts 312 oversize rooms, an award-winning spa, a fi tness center with an indoor track, three restaurants and five wedding venues. The smallest, the Palm Court, overlooks the manicured fairway and accommodates an intimate number of guests. Midsize parties can be accommodated in the Live Oak Room and Wildflower Atrium, while the Darrel Royal Ballroom is designed for up to 450 guests. No matter the size of your function, you can choose from a delectable menu featuring such Texan delights as chicken and roasted corn quesadillas and Cajun-bronzed snapper blended with traditional favorites, such as beef medallions in a port wine demi glacé and honey-glazed pork tenderloin (ceremony site fees are $800; catering costs start at $54 per guest; bartoncreek.com).
MISSISSIPPI: Couples need to present photo IDs only in Mississippi; Social Security cards and birth certifi cates are recommended. Applicants can have the 72- hour waiting period waived by any judge from their home district. There is a license fee of $22 in this state, and both individuals must be screened for certain STDs within 30 days of their application. Blood test results from any authorized laboratory in the U.S. are accepted. Don’t forget to have both sets of parents’ addressesand mothers’ maiden names handy. Mississippi marriage licenses are valid indefinitely once they’ve been issued.
NEW ORLEANS: Y’all who are planning to tie the knot in New Orleans must bring drivers’ licenses (or State IDs), certified birth certificates and Social Security numbers. Official copies of divorce papers are mandatory where applicable, and parents’ full names, maiden names and states of birth must also be provided. There is no blood test requirement, and an officiant of the New Orleans parish can waive the 72-hour waiting period. Marriage licenses in the Big Easy are valid for 30 days, and the $27.50 license fee can be paid in cash.
TEXAS: In Texas, applicants are required to present one form of valid ID (a driver’s license, birth certificate or passport would be fine) and their Social Security numbers. Blood tests are not a must, but there is a 72-hour waiting period that can only be waived for active military personnel. Make sure to earmark at least $41 for the application fee, and bring any relevant certified divorce decrees. Once obtained, marriage licenses in Texas must be used within 30 days.