10 Things a Southern Woman Does

10 things a Southern Woman Does, etiquette tips by Austin Blogger By Hilary Rose
Dress: Bardot | Bag: Rebecca Minkoff | Heels: Steve Madden

If you’re a Southern girl like me (born in Georgia, raised in North Carolina, Florida, and Texas), there are certain habits, manners, and traits you pick up on or that are passed down to you with intention. While these guidelines exist, a Southern woman also knows that being true to herself is the most important thing she can do, and ignoring a rule is her right. These are a few things that I have found to be true of the Southern women I know and guidelines I try to always follow myself.

  1. You Mind your P’s and Q’s: (A phrase which no one seems to know the meaning of). Manners are everything in the South. If you’re a Southern woman, you say “yes sir” and “yes ma’am”, you have perfect table manners at a sit down dinner (napkin in the lap, no elbows on the table, one hand in your lap when you’re not using it to eat, no slouching, napkin in your chair when you leave the table but are coming back, napkin to the left of your plate when you’re leaving for good), you always say thank you when someone does something for you, you say please when you would like something, and you treat the servers at a restaurant with respect and kindness. Great manners are the best way to make a good first impression and a wonderful way to make everyone feel comfortable. If someone does something embarrassing (whether it be a spill or a joke that offends someone), a Southern woman knows that covering for them is the best thing she can do and never draws attention to the error.
  2. You Send Thank You Notes: There are times when a thank you note is absolutely required (such as when you receive a wedding present) but if you’re a Southern woman, there are other times when a thank you note can be sent. Did someone send your family food or a gift after a hardship? Did someone throw you a lovely bridal shower? Did someone let you borrow their car when yours was in the shop? Did someone bring you flowers to the hospital when you were sick? These are all times when it’s definitely not required to send a note, the person who helped you loves you and wouldn’t want you to have a second thought about it, but it’s a nice way to show someone how grateful you are and that you are happy to have them in your life.
  3. You Know How to be a Gracious Hostess: A Southern woman always makes people feel at home when they visit her. If you are having guests visit you, one way to make sure they’re comfortable is to stay in the guest room one night, that way, you can immediately see what they might need. Are the pillows too soft? Is there an extra phone charger in case they forgot theirs? Is there a spare blanket in case it gets cold? Are there clean towels in the guest bath? These are all good things to check. If you’re just having people over for dinner or a party, make sure you have enough settings for everyone, you’ve accounted for dietary restrictions, and there are non-alcoholic options available for drinks (you never ask someone why they aren’t drinking, and having the option readily available for someone to choose eliminates any embarrassment they might have in asking for it). Always treat others how you would want to be treated if you were their guest, it’s a small gesture that people really appreciate.
  4. You’re a Football Fan: This is a given, but worth mentioning. You proudly sport your team colors, you brave the heat and tailgate, and you shotgun a beer if you feel so inclined.
  5. You Never Chew Gum at a Public Event: It’s really not appropriate to chomp gum when you might be making new acquaintances. If you’re worried about fresh breath, use mints instead and save the gum for hanging out with your close friends.
  6. You Were a Deb and Your Daughter Will be too: I wish I could go back and change the way I did my hair at my debutante ball, but it’s still one of the fondest memories I have from high school. I learned how to waltz, proper table etiquette, and how to mingle with people I’d never met. If I have a daughter, she most certainly will be a deb, and it will be a very proud moment in my life as a mother.
  7. You Wait For an Invitation: Parties, weddings, and other social events require a lot of very careful planning on this host’s part, and you should never attend anything without an invitation. Invitations can range from a “hey we’re having a wine night, come over!” text from your friend, to a Facebook invite, to formal wedding invitation in the mail, but they should all be equally respected. If you’re not invited to a wedding, the bride’s family could be on a very tight budget and simply couldn’t afford to invite everyone they wanted to. If someone doesn’t invite you to a party, maybe your ex will be there and they are saving you from any awkwardness. If someone intentionally is leaving you out, who cares? You don’t want to be around that person anyway! The point is, there is always a reason why an invitation was extended to you or not, and a Southern woman always respects the decision of the host and does not make them feel guilty or embarrassed about their choice.
  8. You Dress Appropriately: There’s a time for that bodycon dress and it ain’t at your niece’s Christening. It’s important to be modest when you should and save your fun, going-out outfits (that you have every right to wear) for nights out with your friends. You also cover your chest at church, you wear a modest black dress to a funeral, and you don’t wear anything too gaudy or show-stopping to a wedding. For more specific style rules for wedding attire, you can check my Southern Lady’s Wedding Attire Guide post.
  9. You Always Respect and Love Your Family: They’re your rock, and they are the most important people in your life. You respect your parents’ wishes, you try not to disappoint them, and your brothers and sisters will always come before any friends or relationships.
  10. You Use Sweet Southern Terms of Endearment: Sugar, honey, darlin’, baby, sweetheart. My favorite is sugar. Even better, someone asking you to “give them some sugar”. My dad has been calling my mom darlin’ as long as I can remember, and it’s just the cutest thing ever.

A Southern Lady’s Wedding Attire Guide

Blue lace dress for the elegant wedding guest

Blue lace dress for the elegant wedding guest

Blue lace dress for the elegant wedding guest

Blue lace dress for the elegant wedding guest

Blue lace dress for the elegant wedding guest

Blue lace dress for the elegant wedding guest

Blue lace dress for the elegant wedding guest

Blue lace dress for the elegant wedding guest

Blue lace dress for the elegant wedding guest

Blue lace dress for the elegant wedding guest

Blue lace dress for the elegant wedding guest

Dress: Goodnight Macaroon c/o| Heels: Calvin Klein | Lip: Anastasia | Clutch: Kayu Design (similar) | Sunnies: Quay

So, you’re invited to a wedding, yay!! Someone you know and care for has found the one and you’ve been invited to celebrate with them. One of your first thoughts is probably “Ah! Everyone I know is going to be there, I have to look awesome!”. While that’s true, as a southern woman, I have also learned that there are a few other things you should keep in mind when preparing to attend a wedding. Here are some guidelines to go by when picking out wedding attire (as taught by my mother and Emily Post) to make yourself the perfect guest on someone’s special day.

Dressing appropriately is the most important thing a lady does on any occasion. You know the expression “there’s a time and a place”? Well, I couldn’t agree with that more when planning your outfit for anything. Being ladylike doesn’t always mean dressing in knee-length dresses and pearls, it’s all about wearing the appropriate thing for the occasion. For example, there’s a time and a place for crop tops and shorts, and that’s a musical festival or football tailgate and not for a bridal shower or church. The same thing goes for a wedding!

I’ve broken down dressing appropriately into 3 categories: A. dressing appropriately for the occasion, B. dressing appropriately for the season, and C. dressing appropriately for the formality.

Let’s start with A. dressing appropriately for the occasion. This is probably one of the most important rules in my opinion because not doing it right can reflect the worst on you as a lady. When picking out what to wear for a wedding, you should always remember that this is someone else’s day. It is a day that this couple and their loved ones have planned for months most likely, and in most cases, is a very important and meaningful ceremony that may take place in a house of worship or will be conducted by a religious figure. Therefore, knowing this, it is very important to pick an outfit that has no chance of either taking attention away from the bride or offending her or any of her family members. You never want to be the girl in the tiny, tight dress that reveals too much who the bride’s mother wishes she never would have invited. Try to think to yourself when you’re shopping for a dress “would Kate Middleton wear this to a wedding?”. Obviously, you want to be stylish, though, so it’s not like you need to wear anything matronly or unflattering, either. A good way to check yourself when you’re not sure if a dress is okay is to think about all the things you’ll be doing at the wedding. Is your hemline long enough so that you can bend over and sign the guest book without showing everyone your cheeks? Is your neckline high enough so that you can dance the night away without worrying one of your girls will fall out? If so, you’re probably good. This also will really help you feel more comfortable the whole night, anyway.

Okay, now let’s go to B. dressing appropriately for the season. This one is probably the most simple, but in the south, it’s very important to make sure you’re wearing the right fabrics for the season at a wedding. Nothing sticks out more than a pastel linen dress at a December wedding. Here are a few fabrics that fall exclusively in a certain season:

Spring/Summer fabrics (after Memorial Day): Linen, cotton, seersucker, rayon, jersey, chambray.

Fall/Winter fabrics (after Labor Day): Wool, velvet, tweed, velour, corduroy, faux fur.

Some fabrics can be worn throughout the year, such as silk or lace, if paired with the right shoes and accessories. The dress I’m wearing in this photo would be good pretty much year-round depending on the formality of the wedding. 

And finally, we have C. dressing appropriately for the formality. While most weddings are simply casual or semiformal, which is easy, nothing is worse than showing up to a formal wedding in the wrong attire. If you’re going to a formal wedding, chances are the bride and groom thought a lot about whether or not to make it formal, and if they decided yes, then it’s going to be at a very elegant location. Not only will you want to look the part because everyone else will, but it’s also respectful to the couple. Wearing a day dress to a formal wedding either says “I didn’t know” or “I don’t care” and you never want that. So, to avoid that, here are the typical dress code guidelines for every wedding:

White Tie: Floor length formal gown, (optional to add long gloves)

Black Tie: Floor length formal gown, fancy cocktail dress

Black Tie Optional: Floor length dress, cocktail dress, dressed up separates

Semiformal: Short cocktail or afternoon dress, LBD, dressed up separates

Dressy Casual: Dress, skirt and dressy top, dressy pants and simple top, nice jeans and dressy top

Casual: Sundress, long or short skirt (not too short), nice jeans and a top

And there you go! If you follow these guidelines, you will be the epitome of an elegant wedding guest. If you’re interested in tips for men so you can help out your date (boys can be totally clueless) then leave me a comment below! I might be able to convince Mike to do a shoot with me…

Thanks for reading!


Photos by: Carlos Barrón Photography

Sources: The Emily Post Institute Emilypost.com