Weddings are not to be left to chance, and no one knows that better than Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays, authors of the new Somebody Is Going to Die if Lilly Beth Doesn't Catch That Bouquet: The Official Southern Ladies' Guide to Hosting the Perfect Wedding.
Hays talked this week with USA TODAY about everything from what not to serve at the reception to the role of the groom, which appears to be negligible.
Q: This follows your book on hosting the perfect funeral. You say Mississippi Delta funerals bring out the best in people, while weddings, which should be happy occasions, bring out the worst. Why is that?
A: Because of the Delta mother. She's a wonderful creature, but she loses it over weddings. You smell her before you see her — we are people of many bottles. And with a funeral, you only have three days to prepare. With weddings, you have months, and that's very dangerous. It becomes an endurance contest.
Q: Is a groom really that necessary for a successful Southern wedding?
A: Still necessary, but the thing he needs to do is stay out of the way. He's an extra. It's a day for the mother and the daughter. He doesn't have a prayer, especially when that mother gets involved.
Q: You have 10 songs that should never be played at a Southern wedding, and Love Me Tender tops the list. What's wrong with Love Me Tender?
A: Well, we think you need a bit more dignity than Elvis. Sheep May Safely Graze would be a better choice for an agrarian society. Would you want the Elvis Presley-themed wedding? It's too much.
Q: You also list the top 10 foods never to be served at a wedding reception, including cocktail weenies and anything on a Ritz Cracker. I'm kind of fond of Ritz Crackers myself.
A: We love Ritz Crackers, too, but for a wedding, don't you think you should have something more than a Ritz and Cold Duck champagne? It's not the place. You don't want a Ritz Cracker at your wedding. Or processed cheese cubes on toothpicks. Please! Have them in private.
Q: What is it with you Southerners and cheese straws? You serve them everywhere.
A: There's no self-respecting Southerner who doesn't have a cheese straw at every important moment of her life. You just have to have them. You're not married if you don't have a cheese straw.
Q: Do Southern mothers really attend other weddings solely to spy?
A: Yes, that is true. You've got to see what other mothers are doing. If you want the champagne fountain, you've got to make sure other mothers don't have it first. But now they're into chocolate fountains, which aren't any better. Probably worse. People dip Rice Krispie treats in the chocolate fountains now. Not good.
Q: You've said Delta mothers are pros at torturing their unmarried daughters. How so?
A: They want you to do everything perfectly. The first form of torture is when they're sending the clippings of other friends' weddings. Another form of torture is the thank-you note (once the daughters gets married). And a thank-you note not written with a ballpoint pen, thank you. You have to say the perfect thing about the present. They torture you about every bit of the wedding. They're trying to avoid every mistake they made.
Q: You even have advice on what to do if your daughter brings home the wrong boy.
A: The best thing to do is to ignore him. Or let him know that he might have to pick up her college tuition. We had a classic case where the groom met with the bride's mother, who told him alcoholism was rampant in the family. He fled. Everyone was happy in the end. That was two marriages back for her. Also, it works if you can never quite get their names right. You know, Harry for Harvey.
Q: You have some advice for Yankees attending a Delta wedding. Can you share?
A: You never, never, never congratulate the bride. That's rude, rude, rude. Never, ever congratulate her for getting a man.
Q: How many times can a "mature" bride be married in a church?
A: Just once. After that, it's a country club or at the home of a friend.
Q: What about people who bring wedding presents to the reception?
A: Wrong, wrong, wrong. I hope people will quit doing that in real life and in the movies.
Q: What's wrong with dressing up the ring bearer like a miniature man? You seem very much against it.
A: They look silly and unattractive, and it's not nice. Dress him in short pants. They have the rest of their lives to dress up like grown men.
Q: You say it's considered all right to get drunk at a wedding, as long as it doesn't impede doing the right thing. Explain.
A: You can be a well-behaved drunk. You speak to the hostess and tell her what a nice time you had. If you stumble down the receiving line, that's fine, as long as you go down the receiving line. If not, someone will tell your mama, even when you're 60 or 70.