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A Southern Living Bridal Experience - Craddock Terry Hotel

Southern Living is a widely read lifestyle magazine aimed at readers in the Southern United States.  Started in 1966, the magazine is approaching its 50th Anniversary, and over the past half century, the publication has expanded to become a symbol of the South.

The Southern Living Hotel Group, made up of 52 properties scattered across the South, features properties that exemplify southern traditions and the regional lifestyle that we have come to expect from this part of the country.  One of these properties, Craddock Terry Hotel in Lynchburg, Virginia, will be holding a Southern Living Wedding Event November 14-16.

Sandee Swearingen is a Hospitality Consultant who is helping Craddock Terry Hotel put this event together with Southern Living.  I took some time to talk with her about this can’t-miss experience for every future Southern bride.

RAL: Could you give me your own description of the Southern Living Wedding Event?
SS: What really excites me about this event, because we are part of the Southern Living Hotel Collection, is that we have an opportunity to collaborate with Southern Living in hosting one of their big wedding weekends, to do something that is very inspiring and of the Southern Living taste and style.

Unlike other bridal events or bridal shows that future brides typically attend that are more like a tradeshow format, this is really more of a weekend getaway education workshop, if you will.  Our idea was to design this event so that a mother and bride, a bride and matron of honor, or even a matron of honor and a BFF, might want to come spend some quality time together.  They can have a fun time together; spend a little weekend away with each other while being able to learn about planning a true southern wedding with workshops about hair and makeup, decorating, and southern traditions.

RAL: How does Southern Living determine which properties are included in their Hotel Collection?
SS: Members of the Southern Living team actually go out on the road and visit properties across the South. They have a high level of quality and uniqueness that they are looking for in a Southern Living Collection property.  It may not be a huge mega resort (they may have a handful), but in many cases they are more intimate, quaint, boutique properties with a certain amount of “Southern Charm” about them.

RAL: Does Southern Living put on other wedding events? Is this an annual event?
SS: They give each property the opportunity to brand with the magazine, and depending on what type of resort and style your property possess, you could certainly do different things.  For example, if we were a big resort with elegant gardens, we might have a Southern Living Garden event, or gardening workshop.

There are also some food shows or what they call “Food Tasting on the Road”, where they actually bring in one of the celebrity chefs from Southern Living to do a cooking event.  Each hotel basically has access to the resources to do these, but each hotel like every hotel could do a wedding workshop but how they put these events together are uniquely different for  each property.

O.Henry Hotel in Greensboro did one just a couple of weeks ago and turned it into an afternoon tea. Everyone is really putting their own distinct spin on things, creating something unique and different.

RAL: So what sets the Craddock Terry event apart from those at other Southern Living properties?
SS: We were looking to do something intimate and quaint.  We will be holding two events, one that runs from Friday to Saturday and one from Saturday to Sunday, but the maximum number of people we will be able to accommodate for each session is 70.  It is going to be a very intimate affair where you are really going to get hands-on treatment.   You have the opportunity to interact with Kim Whitman and these other speakers.   This is not just a sit in classroom kind of thing; this is a true learning environment.

RAL: What type of experience can each future bride expect when they attend?

SS: Our first session begins with a 6:00 PM check-in time on Friday night.  This group will experience our workshops on Friday night.   As an example, one of our workshops is called “That’s Entertainment”.  We bring in an Emcee/DJ that teaches different dances or other activities that you might want to do at your reception.  This is a great way to find ways of getting the mother or father of the bridge engaged.  It may be something crazy, or it may be something traditional, but you will definitely get plenty of ideas.

On Saturday morning, everyone will have an opportunity to meet Kim Whitman and Amanda Gray, our two headline speakers for the Saturday session.   They will share great ideas and examples on how to create a southern wedding. At noon, we will hold this big gala luncheon on one of our patios, and we will be tenting the patio for an outdoor affair.  We want people to realize that just because it’s winter in some parts of the South, doesn’t mean you can’t have an amazing outdoor event.  Hopefully, we will have some people coming out of the event saying, “Hey, I can get married outdoors in November if I want to and I can have a Southern wedding in the middle of winter.”

RAL: Does this event have a large impact on the city of Lynchburg?

SS: Well I think people of the city are excited because Southern Living is attached to this event.  The people and vendors that we are working with to execute this event are all locals.  When you talk to many of the locals, especially in the bridal industry, you begin to realize that there are so many more destination weddings (I use the word destination lightly here) taking place in Lynchburg.   People are coming in from Charlottesville, Washington D.C., and New York to do weddings in the Lynchburg area because there are quaint spaces and unique venues that can provide all of the lodging and venue space, while offering a high caliber of talent.  The best part is that it’s costing a lot less than if the wedding is held in these larger cities.

Emily Garbee-Harris, a local hair and makeup artist who has done a ton of events for people across the country, says she really feels like Lynchburg is a huge destination market that is getting ready to pop.

Obviously, we would love to sell a lot of rooms, but our intent as a hotel is to hype up the Lynchburg area and get a lot of collaboration going with the talent that’s there.  We want to show brides how they can create a true southern wedding experience. Best-case scenario:  they will select the Craddock Terry for a future wedding, or somebody two years from now may say “Hey, I really enjoyed going to the Craddock Terry for that event, let’s go spend a night there, or let’s send our parents there for a great weekend getaway.”

Learn more about Craddock Terry Hotel and the Southern Living Wedding Event here.