How to Plan a Sweet Savannah Wedding
Summer in Savannah brings to mind all sorts of idyllic scenes: sipping sweet tea and mint juleps on sprawling porches, men in seersucker suits and strolling hand-in-hand beneath canopies of Spanish moss. If you're thinking about having your wedding here (and we can't blame you), don't let the sticky weather stop you. Just read our insider's guide and see how easy it can be to pull off a summer wedding in the "hostess city of The South."
pick a spot
Savannah is home to many wedding-worthy venues. Make things easier on yourself by starting your search with a good idea of your day's theme and vibe. For brides looking for a historic venue, Meredith Stroud, owner of From This Day Forward Weddings & Events (WeddingsFrom ThisDayForward.com), recommends Telfair Academy (Telfair.org) and Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum (ShipsoftheSea.org). For the more contemporary bride, Stroud says the white-on-white facade and floor-to-ceiling windows of the Jepson Center (Telfair.org/ jepson) are the perfect blank canvas.
put your weather worries to rest
"If you're about to ask 200 guests to sit through an outdoor ceremony, think again," says Tara Skinner of Posh Petals and Pearls (PoshPetalsandPearls.com). "There's not a fan, iced washcloth, or cool mint julep that can provide enough relief for any of your guests." Like many Southern cities, Savannah has certain months where it's best to stay inside until the heat subsides. For this reason, it's important to choose your venues wisely and consider the timing of your ceremony and reception. Also, isolated or scattered thunderstorms are often a daily occurrence. "They hit like clockwork at 3:02 p.m. and linger just long enough to possibly foil your outdoor afternoon plans," says Skinner. "But the good news is they come and go and very rarely overextend their stay." Because of that, most couples plan indoor affairs in July and August, "which is the best way for both the couple and their guests to enjoy a wedding in the summer months," Stroud says.
score off-season advantages
So, you're determined not to let a little hot weather foil your plans? This means you'll be able to take advantage of the cost-saving perks of a summer wedding in Savannah. July and August are typically considered off-season wedding months here, so many coveted venues and vendors will likely have more availability and may even offer their services at lower price points. Yeah, y'all!
hit the road
If you're one of the many couples planning a destination wedding in Savannah, actually visiting your venue at least once is an absolute must. "Choosing a venue is best done in person," says Stroud. "Use your scouting trip as an opportunity to not only see the location, but to also get a feel for the distances between the site and your hotel and the amount of foot traffic you can expect from tourists." If you can only make one planning trip, don't despair. Most Savannah vendors are used to long-distance planning for destination weddings. "Take advantage of the technology that surrounds you and put it to good use," suggests Skinner. "Try using Skype or FaceTime with your vendors if personal one-on-one meetings aren't an option. And when in doubt, email and good old-fashioned phone calls can keep the lines of communication open throughout the process. Bonnie Kaar of First City Events (FirstCityEvents.com) has even gone as far as shipping cake samples for a couple to taste.
check a local calendar (or two)
"Savannah attracts every walk of life, every month of every year," says Skinner. "Some festivities are so large that the entire city shuts down, while others make for transportation nightmares and limited hotel availability." Big Savannah events to consider include the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon (RunRocknRoll.Competitor .com) in November and the annual St. Patrick's Day parade—the second largest in the country. "St. Patrick's Day weekend is actually one of the only weekends we don't work," says Morgan Gallo of Morgan Gallo Events (MorganGalloEvents.com). "The traffic is so bad that it takes hours to get a few blocks." Local websites like VisitSavannah.com and Savannah.com can be valuable tools to help you plan accordingly. While most large events take place in the spring and fall, the summer is also Savannah's biggest season for tourism, so keep that in mind because it tends to drive up hotel prices. "The best way to mitigate this is to research group rates as early in the process as possible, so you can lock in a rate before the properties begin to fill up with weekend tourists," Stroud suggests.
figure out your transportation style
Parking and traffic can be major headaches here, but the good news is that Savannah is definitely walkable. Use this as an opportunity to investigate forms of group transportation for your guests. "We particularly love trolleys—they're such a charming way to shuttle your guests around downtown Savannah," says Stroud. "Pedicabs are another favorite for smaller weddings and, of course, they make a great send-off for the bride and groom!"
arm your guests with ideas
Thanks to the walkability and accessibility of this fair city, you need not worry yourself about entertaining your entire guest list for a weekend. This major Savannah selling point has eliminated a huge source of anxiety for a lot of destination brides and grooms choosing the locale. "Many couples find they don't feel obligated to plan events throughout the weekend to 'entertain' their guests," Stroud says. "Rather, they include a list of places to see and things to do around town in the welcome bags, and guests can then choose how to spend their time themselves."
walk it out
If you're uncomfortable with setting your unsupervised guests free to roam the city, schedule a walking tour for them. Check out Savannah Walks (SavannahWalks.com) or Savannah Dan Walking Tours (SavannahDan.com) for ideas. "The best way to see Savannah is to put on your walking shoes and explore," Stroud says. "Whether it's a daytime walking tour of the major sites or a nighttime jaunt through the various haunted pubs in the city, a walking tour is the best way to experience things up close."
It's amazing how a few thoughtful details can transform the experience for your guests—and it all starts with the welcome bag. "Fill up your welcome bags with local goodies to give guests a fully immersed experience," Stroud suggests. "One of our favorite additions is the ubiquitous 'to-go' cup. As long as your adult beverage is in a 16-ounce or smaller plastic cup, it's legal in Savannah to take your drink 'to-go.' " For your menu choices, shrimp and grits and hoecakes are local go-tos that guests are sure to love. Finally, send everyone home on a high note and give a sweet treat as your favor. "Nothing says Savannah like hot, fresh pralines from Savannah's Candy Kitchen (SavannahCandy. com) or River Street Sweets (RiverStreetSweets.com)," Skinner says. If pralines aren't your favorite, Stroud recommends cookies from Byrd Cookie Company (ByrdCookieCompany.com) or chocolate truffles from Savannah's own chocolatier Adam Turoni (ChocolatAT .com) that will "make you weak in the knees."
"Sometimes the sheer volume of talented wedding professionals in Savannah can be overwhelming, so do your homework," says Skinner. "Try to find one that you click with and see if they have any suggestions for other vendors they love working with. Chances are if they love working with them, you will too."
Find your sweet wedding spot here!