A Downhome Perspective on All Things Southern

Home About Us Blog Genealogy Recipes Gardening Manners and Etiquette  Destinations History Art   Photojournalism Southern Furniture Maker Inspiration Write Life Opinion Contact-Education

Manners and EtiquetteAnswer to Question on creating a Southern HomeManners and Etiquette
Q & A

Southern Wedding

Southern Mother of the Groom

Baby Showers

Parties and Showers

The Wedding Raising: Planning Ahead

The Wedding Raising: Implementation

Simply Southern Wedding Part II

A Southern Lady

Thank you Christina for your note from the Manners and Etiquette page. I've gotten several similar requests so I decided to ponder this and ask others to contribute as well. Christina wrote:

Hi Ma'am,

My husband is from the South and I am from California. I am wondering how to create a home that feels like southern hospitality for him, but since we currently live in Virginia because my husband is in the military I do not have any role models. Normally I would look to my husband's family but since they are not of the best economic circumstance they do not exhibit manners at all. If you could please direct me to a book or website I would greatly appreciate it.


Southern Hospitality

Cardinal rule:

Virginia Dixon: The host/hostess should make everyone feel welcome.

Faith, Family and Friends inspire Southern women and are the foundation of Southern Hospitality.

Resources on Southern Hospitality

Being Dead Is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral is a humorous look at Southern hospitality. Perhaps the best parts of the book are the recipes which are truly Southern staples. I would like to add my own pound cake to the list of recipes. This is also a reminder that Southern ladies like to have fun, even by laughing at their own eccentricities. Where else would the Red Hat Society, the Pulpwood Queens, and the Sweet Potato Queens flourish but in the South?

The etiquette and manners page on Southern-style, along with the books I recommended, are a pretty good beginning for a broad overview on manners, including setting the table.

I asked my friends which magazines they prefer for setting the stage for your hospitality:

Carole Johnston Brennan: Southern Living; Cooking Light,

Britney Godwin: Southern Homes magazine

I will add one of my favorites: Southern Lady Magazine

Being Dead is No Excuse




Pat Sabiston: When you cook, always cook more than you think you'll need. Take food to those who are grieving. Start attending "dinner on the grounds" at your church. Welcome strangers into your home. Always have sweet iced tea available. Learn to fix (and enjoy) grits. When you are invited into a home for a meal or an event, don't go empty handed. And when you return a dish (after someone has provided you with a meal), don't return it empty.

Sharman Ramsey: I suggest biscuits and cornbread as being truly Southern dishes as well

Deviled Eggs

Chicken Salad

Pimento Cheese

are all favored Southern dishes

Pat Sabiston: Put a welcome mat at your front door. Buy something with a pineapple on it (lamp?), which stands for hospitality.









Brass doorknockers come in pineapple as well. Notice the many historic motifs with the welcoming symbol of the pineapple. Southern women frequently use the pineapple as their inspiration. The picture to the right is of a dear friend of mine, Pat Renfro, making an arrangement using a pineapple on my own stairwell for my daughter's wedding.


Since gardening is a such a wonderful opportunity for creativity you might consider taking a Master Gardener course offered through the Agricultural Extension Center. You meet lots of great people, learn what grows in your area -- and you will learn the names of the flowers you will want to use in the arrangements you make for your home. Fresh flowers in the home are a big part of setting the stage for entertaining. Sharing "cuttings" of your plants and taking fresh flowers to friends is always a thoughtful thing to do. Visit my webpage Southern Monet Garden and the Southern Wedding page for some ideas on what to plant and how to use what you do plant in arrangements.

Lara Brewton Provencher: There are so many varying degrees of "Southern"! I think of monogrammed linens, embroidered hand towels & needlepoint pillows, casseroles in the freezer, candies in a compote, buttery sweets in a tin or a jar, hydrangeas & gardenias in the yard, fresh flowers in the house (never silk), blue & white china, sterling silver (usually tarnished around here), family antiques, and old leather books & Bibles.
(Lara's grandmother, Ruth Brewton, was a true Southern lady whose gift for hospitality was renowned in Panama City, Florida..)

Kathy Shirley: Lots of stuff in your house. My mothers home is full of collectibles, paintings, what nots. A very beautiful and cozy home.

Margo Dillard: Above all - learn how to properly set a table and what utensil to use for what - and how to eat/serve the food - what to do with the napkin - etc. I think the first give-away of people with "no couth" is their lack of southern table manners. And use real dishes - no plasticware or paper tablecloths....


Cindy Summerford Aman: As Celestine Sibley said, "you come by to visit us and we'll treat you so many different ways, one is bound to suit you." In other words, honor your guests: manners and hospitality.

Kaye Pledger: Be kind, polite and gracious. Manners, manners, manners!

Theresa Dauphin Sorrell: A Southern home has a hostess who cares about her guests - whether adult or children - and provides a gracious, welcoming environment where all feel comfortable and special.

Pearls are always in style. Pearl studs are the perfect accompaniment to any attire. Southern women love their pearls!

Two items frequently used that make good gifts for Southern ladies are a deviled egg tray and a trifle bowl. (If you are like me, your pound cake just might wind up being a trifle.

deviled egg platter

Trifle bowl

When I pledged my sorority, Delta Delta Delta, at the University of Alabama, we received a pledge handbook that emphasized behavior expected of a lady. The ones I remember best are:

1. No public display of affection
2. Never drink beer from a can. Use a glass.
3. If you smoke, sit. Never walk smoking a cigarette. In this day and time I would suggest not smoking at all knowing how your choice here affects all around you.
4. I am sure there must have been something in there about language because a lady does not use curse words or be vulgar and crude.
5. A lady dresses modestly, sits with her legs crossed at the ankes and her knees always together.

Refinement, gentility and warmth are marks of a Southern lady.

I have been told modern suggestions include wearing Spanx (invented by a Tri Delt, by the way), having hair that is a natural color with roots covered if dyed, eat well so you'll feel healthy, wear nail polish in neutral pinks, french manicures (toes can be a little brighter, but no blue or green, etc., wear foundation, concealer, somethink pinky/neutral for the lips (stain, gloss, etc., Blot powder/oil blotters, eyeliner (BLACK or BROWN only), mascara, neutral eyeshadows, bronzer, and blush, and well shaped eyebrows.

As a rushee don't wear anything too short, too tight, or too revealing. Don't wear flip flops to parties, but they are recommended for getting from one house to another if your shoes are stylish but not good for walking! Visit the University of Alabama Panhellenic website for suggestions.

Now, these are not written in stone rules, but they are an excellent guide for a well-groomed Southern woman. You may think this an imposition on your personal statement and an infringement upon freedom and your own unique style. I must tell you I have noticed there are very few truly "unique" statements of style. By your "style" you identify in one way or other with one group or another.

You do not have to follow these guidelines, but you are very definitely sending a message by the way you dress. I would also encourage you to forego tattoos and excessive piercing. Your choices in clothing and grooming are very definitely statements of behavior and signify your attitudes and beliefs. People around you will infer much about you by those choices.

Be very careful what you say about yourself by these choices. Sororities that kindly deliver this direction are in fact helping their members reflect the impression they want to make on their rushees. I share this with you so that potential rushees will understand what they reflect to those they might want to join in sisterhood.

Theresa Dauphin Sorrell: Manners ... And saying "ma'am". We were a military family and all the kids of military families said "Yes, Sir" because that's what they heard all the time. I had many teachers and other people remark that they knew we were from the South because our children always said "Yes, Ma'am." it's a sign of respect ... and good manners.

For those who are new to the South let me suggest:

Join a church. Don't be offended when you are asked what church you belong to, it is mainly a who do you know that I know question. People will ask you because they want to invite you to their church. That is a part of Southern hospitality. They want you to feel included. In the South, the church is pretty much the center of social life. In your age appropriate Sunday school and Bible classes you meet potential friends not only for yourself, but for your children as well. In addition, you meet older women who are valuable sources of advice since they've already experienced much of what you will be experiencing.

My grandmother, poor as she was having been widowed during the Depression with five children thirteen and under, enjoyed entertaining her Presbyterian Circle in her modest home. Her friends from all social stations enjoyed coming to her home for pound cake and coffee or tea. And she delighted in going to visit in other's homes for their monthly meetings. This is a great way to meet people and make friends. It is a particularly good opportunity for a military wife whose husband is away because there are many activities just for women.

Even outside of the religious aspects of church membership is the cultural literacy one acquires from participating in the activities. There is a great void in knowledge when one is ignorant of Scriptural allusions in addition to the social aspects of membership that are really a vital networking for people in a community.

Southern women find their strength in their church -- in their relationships with their friends as well as with their God.

Copyright 1996