For a Great Wedding it’s Location, Location, Location

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For a Great Wedding it’s Location, Location, Location

By Betty Darby

Once upon a time, a bride didn’t have much worry (or much choice) about where her wedding took place: weddings were held in the bride’s family’s house of worship. It was a familiar place, where the bride had whiled away the duller portions of sermons since childhood by mentally decorating the place for her Big Day. The bride would have known since the age of six exactly where she wanted the floral arrangements and that the church’s own stock candelabra just wouldn’t do.

Times change. Even faithful churchgoers feel comfortable taking their wedding ceremony outside church walls these days. So relax – the tangerine color scheme you’ve always dreamed of doesn’t have to clash with your church’s maroon carpet!

Previous generations had just three basic options for wedding sites – a church, a hotel or a civic office like a judge’s chambers or a Justice of the Peace’s office. Those options still abound, of course, but have been expanded to a much wider universe of choices – including the Great Outdoors.

In Savannah, we’ve got plenty of the great outdoors, and the city is willing to roll out the green carpet for bridal parties. An average year sees as many as 300 weddings in the City of Savannah’s historic squares, and this year, the bookings have set a pace that may come closer to 400 before 2009 draws to a close.

A mere $175 gets you the square you reserve for three hours (one to set up, one for the service, and one to dismantle), said Pearson Deloach, who has been with the city’s Leisure Services Department for the past 40 years. If you’re from out of town (and lots of brides are) expect to pay an additional $100. The only catch is when several brides want the same park on the same day. When that happens, it’s usually over Forsyth Park, the biggest and arguably the prettiest of Savannah’s historic outdoor spaces. The first week of both May and June are particularly popular, and there have been cases where folks have had to draw numbers for their chosen spot and time.

There’s plenty of options with all the squares Gen. James Oglethorpe set up for us— probably more public, tree-canopied “outdoor cathedrals” than anyplace in the country (although we will concede to New York’s Central Park on the grounds of acreage.)

Savannah’s squares are surrounded with a thriving bed and breakfast industry, where most innkeepers have carved out some corner of the wedding industry. Take Presidents Quarters, for example, a B&B contained in two connected historic mansions, along with a courtyard and a gazebo.

“We do a ton of weddings,” said Jane Sales, innkeeper there. “ What we do are elopement packages and we do as many as two or three a week. We do a lot of second marriages, a lot of military from Hunter (Army Airfield in Savannah) and Fort Stewart (in nearby Hinesville). They work well for young people who don’t want to spend a lot of money.”

The point here is not to tout the wedding virtues of Savannah’s squares – that’s just not practical unless you live here (in which case you know this stuff already) or if you are planning a “destination” wedding (in which case we welcome you and your wedding budget with open arms). The point is to look at the public open spaces available around you.  If where you live collects property taxes, it probably offers something in the way of a town square, a riverfront park, a public garden or landscaping around a bandstand. Maybe there isn’t a tradition of renting these out for weddings in your area – but one advantage of a down economy is that everyone, governments included, is probably willing to think positively about a little additional revenue.

A whopping percentage of Americans live within striking distance of a beach, even if it is a manufactured beach on a lakeshore. Why squander the opportunity for a waterfront wedding? It makes for great wedding pictures – which, aside from the marriage itself and the bills, are about the most tangible long-term result of a wedding.

As an innkeeper at a bed and breakfast on Tybee Island just outside Savannah, Ann Last quickly learned what people want from an outdoor wedding. Her Romantic Weddings of Savannah firm sells wedding packages that capitalize on the interest in being outdoors and the desire for good wedding pictures. Her latest unexpected venue? The Tybee Light, the massive historic lighthouse that dominates the north end of the island. If your wedding party is small enough, say a dozen or less, you can even get married at the top of the lighthouse, provided everyone’s got the breath to master the 178 spiraling steps. It makes for a perfect spot to toss the bridal bouquet.

Last is always on the lookout for additional special touches that are grounded in the wedding settings she uses. One day, out on the beach, she noticed a local man making elaborate sandcastles. “I found him out there, and he was just doing it for fun,” she remembers, “so I hired him to do it for us for a fee. He makes big ones and little ones, and they last really well and they get in a lot of the pictures.”

In Savannah, when Paula Deen married Michael Groover in 2004, the bride opted for the beautiful and intimate chapel at Bethesda Home for Boys. Brides in most cities in the country could find a similar site by thinking of the private schools and similar facilities in their area. Most have an ecumenical chapel, just as Bethesda does. And if at least one half of the happy couple works or practices at a hospital, most come with beautiful (if small) chapels. These chapels without specific denominational ties are well suited to couples of different faiths, or for those who want a religious atmosphere for their wedding but don’t have a particular church home.

Thinking creatively about where to hold your wedding opens up a whole new world of choices in wedding planning. You can escape those worrisome covenants that link the place you want with a caterer you don’t. More importantly, you can seek out and share with your guests some of the special aspects of the city or town you call home.

Betty Darby is a writer/editor based in Savannah. She is the co-author of The Insiders Guide to Savannah and Hilton Head, now in its seventh edition. Her e-mail is

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Reader Comments:


i need help my husband craig and i are having our twenthieth anniversay party on oct12,2013 it is our second marriage for both of us and we are excited. but we want to have roast beef and fried chicken , mashed potatoes and gravy homemade dressing nd green beans and corn or brocolli and cauliflower , and rolls with butter and a cranberry salad or relish dish with an anniversary cake and appetizers we thought corn chips and salsa and cheeses or refried bean dip but we are not sure and then we thought wine with beer tea and coffe and pop lemonade and i am a diabetic. can you help me please???

By paula deen on February 25, 2013

interesting read. thanks smile
want to improve your muscle tone? check out <a href=“”>Deer Antler Velvet</a>

By deerantlervelvet on November 13, 2011

Early on I purchased your children’s cookbook because of the detail and the emphasis on safety in the kitchen.  The boys used it, but had not seen your show.  In the fall of last year the 10 year old saw a show where you had a gingerbread house and a snowball cake and insisted he have a snowball cake for his birthday in December.  They are now getting your cookbooks for their mom for holidays.  They are 8 and 11 now.

I have two of them from several years ago.

By Sue Tong on March 26, 2010

I with you agree. In it something is. Now all became clear, I thank for the help and I hope to see more such articles.

By Margrett on November 11, 2009

Where can I get photos or buy magazines which have Paula Deen’s newest home remodel….which showcases her living room, kitchen, etc?

I’ve seen a little of it on tv and just love the decorating….just trying to find pictures of it!!

I would really appreciate any of your help in this!

By Mrs. Parette on August 07, 2009

Hello,  Will you please please tell Us where We can buy the fresh Wild Shrimp that Paula cooks with ?? We will look forward to your Welcome email reply.  Thank you very much.  Leona Boddington

By Leona Boddington on August 03, 2009

Dear Paula,
I’ve been “checking you out” lately as I’m helping to prepare for my daughter Kylie’s bridal shower on Aug. 8th. She requested a “Paula Deen” shower. The menu will feature some of our favorite recipes of yours; prizes will be “Paula’s Picks”; and one of my crazy sisters is dressing up like you. She will make a grand entrance carrying your cake stand/reverse deviled egg tray with treats for the guests.  Take care and God Bless!
Marchell Phillips
Trail City, South Dakota

By Marchell Phillips on July 23, 2009

Speaking of pound cake and weddings, here’s an idea for wedding favors or gifts.  We made little sour cream/cream cheese pound cakes in a jar for the favors for my son’s wedding last year and everyone loved them.  We used half-pint jars and baked the cakes right in them, then put the lid on and added a fabric circle and ribbon on top.  One recipe makes 12.  It was nice to give something that we made personally and they were economical, too.

By SouthernDesigns on July 13, 2009

I had your wedding pound cake for my wedding cake!!  It was wonderful even a year later!

By Robyn Baily on June 29, 2009

Mavis, what lovely thoughts.  All of us here at Paula Deen Enterprises congratulate you on your anniversary!

By Libbie Summers on June 24, 2009

Dear Paula,
I love your cooking show and magazine! I need to renew a subscription for my sis also.
My husband and I just celebrated our 43 wedding anniversary and just returned from a trip to our honeymoon place in Eureka Springs, Ark.  Where we stayed on our honeymoon is no longer there, butour memories are just as fresh as the first visit.

By Mavis Wilks on June 23, 2009

Location makes all the difference. When it’s one that matches with the couple it makes it that more unique and personalized:) Love the photo! Just got married myself this past year and it’s honestly been wonderful. Love the show!

By Wedding DJ on June 22, 2009

Paula, thank you so much for all of the inspiration you share in your newsletter, magazine and show.
I know how you love Gail Pittman and I’ve seen many of her pottery pieces in your kitchen.  I’d just like to let people know they can get her hand-painted pottery through Southern Living at Home. They can get info and browse our online catalog on my website at
Looking forward to seeing you on the cruise!

By Diana Roberts on June 21, 2009

PS We would travel to Savannah at no additional cost o the wedding party. We love the area! Our preference is the smaller, more intimate weddings.

By Bruce and Vida Larson on June 20, 2009

We would be honored to somehow fit on your list of recommended wedding and event photographers. How may we go about doing that?

By Bruce and Vida Larson on June 20, 2009

My husband and I were married in Savannah, GA last year.  We were married in Whitefield Square, which is perfect for intimate weddings.  We had a very small wedding and we loved it!  We are celebrating our one year anniversary tomorrow.

By Megan Martindill on June 20, 2009

Hey Caroline!  We posted some wedding reception appetizer ideas on the food section of I hope this helps.

By Libbie Summers on June 19, 2009

Hi Paula! June 1, 2008 I married my best friend. I was 57 & he was 61. He & I have been friends since high school, 40 yrs ago. Alzo was a groomsman in my 1st wedding..but each of us married others. We hope to take a belated honeymoon this fall & plan to eat at your restaurant.

Your greatest fan!
Jeanne Elliott

By Jeanne Elliott on June 19, 2009

Hey Paula, love the newsletter, your shows and your magazine. I am currently in the planning stages of our youngest sons wedding. He and our future daughter-in-law would love to have an intimate outdoor affair with a reception of all their home cooked favorites (many of which are your receipes). You are such an inspiration. Love from my home to yours. Roxanne

By Roxanne Waterfield on June 19, 2009

Hi paula, first of all let me say that i love your show, your so much fun and your full of energy you inspire all of us on a daily basis, even when were so tired and dont want to cook. just seeing you with that big georgian laugh cheers us up. thanks for all the wedding tips
and all the love for your beautiful family from beautiful BELIZE central america. come visit our country some day.

By andrea blease on June 19, 2009

Hi Paula,I’m 41, woke up one morning & said get up & do something with myself I began a Stencil Co. 2 yrs ago so others could bring out their creative side.I have a Customer(The Back Porch Shoppe)that paints signs & will be in Brides magazine with her Chic Signs,so as you can tell your inspiration has now gone world wide with me.I will soon have the largest web site selection of Primitive Stencils in the world.Some of which could be to paint & use for Weddings.
Many Thanks
Karen Bailey

By Karen Bailey on June 19, 2009

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