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june

CONTENTS 2018 • VOLUME 15 • NO. 6

features 46 Tying the Knot Far from Home Pros & Cons of Destination Weddings

62 Looking through the Lens Picturesque wedding venues

54 Making a Toast Choosing a Budget-Friendly Bubbly

71 Introducing the “I do” couples

departments 14 Living Well Financial Planning for Newlyweds

42 On the Road Again Orange Beach, Alabama

18 Notables Bride of Boaz

44 Greater Goods 88 Homegrown Delta Blues Rice

22 Exploring Art Wedding Maps

92 Southern Gentleman Pop Goes the Question

26 Exploring Books What Can I Bring?

96 Southern Harmony Dr. Zarr’s Amazing Funk Monster

30 Into the Wild Scalloping Season Begins

100 In Good Spirits Calcasieu Sunset

34 Table Talk Choosing a Caterer

102 Exploring Events

38 Exploring Destinations Honeymoons with Mother Nature

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104 Reflections A Love Story for the Ages

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editor’s note } june Details matter Planning a wedding is fun but also stressful. The small details can catch you off guard. I remember my own ceremony and how I yearned for an evening service by candlelight. I also wanted to get married on June 21, the longest day of the year. I hadn’t counted on bright sunlight streaming through the church windows at 7:30 p.m. Sunset was a good hour away. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful ceremony and that little detail – the summer solstice sun overpowering the candles – is now something that makes us laugh. Details are even more important if you are planning a destination wedding far from home. Mother-of-the-bride Polly Dean writes about her family’s experience when her daughter recently married in Mexico. Polly shares the pros and cons of planning a wedding long distance with readers who might be thinking about a wedding adventure that includes the entire family. Choosing a wedding venue is one of the most important decisions – if not the most important – a bridal couple has to make. Even setting a date usually centers around what venues are available and affordable. Judy and Len Garrison, owners of Seeing Southern and professional wedding photographers, tell us about some of their favorite venues for photographing weddings.

JUNE 2018 • Vol. 15 No.6

PUBLISHER & CREATIVE DIRECTOR Adam Mitchell PUBLISHER & ADVERTISING DIRECTOR Paula Mitchell EDITOR-AT-LARGE Karen Ott Mayer ASSISTANT EDITOR Andrea Brown Ross

From popping the question to planning a honeymoon, our annual “I Do” issue is filled with advice for newlyweds. Longtime married couples may even pick up a few ideas for renewing the sparks that brought them together. Finally, we want to congratulate Tammy Walker of Cleveland, MS who won our recent contest for a getaway at Chancellor’s House Hotel in Oxford. Thank you to everyone who entered the contest, which was our way to celebrate DeSoto Magazine’s 15th anniversary! We also thank Chancellor’s House Hotel for partnering with us for this special milestone. Happy reading,

Mary Ann

CONTRIBUTORS Robin Gallaher Branch Cheré Coen Polly Dean Mary Ann DeSantis Jason Frye Judy Garrison Gerry Glenn Jones Julia Miller Mary Carol Miller Charlene Oldham Karen Ott Mayer Heather Tate Karon Warren Pam Windsor PUBLISHED BY DeSoto Media 2375 Memphis St. Ste 208 Hernando, MS 38632 662.429.4617 Fax 662.449.5813 ADVERTISING INFO: Paula Mitchell 901-262-9887 Paula@DeSotoMag.com DeSotoMagazine.com

on the cover Kelsey Wilson graces our June cover. Kelsey Wright and Hunter Wilson were married October 7, 2017 at The Chapel at Oak Hill Stables Bed and Breakfast in Oxford, Miss. Kelsey was thrilled when asked to be our June cover and told us that we made her year! Read more about their wedding on page 80. Photography by Christen Jones Photography of Memphis, TN.

©2018 DeSoto Media Co. DeSoto Magazine must give permission for any material contained herein to be reproduced in any manner. Any advertisements published in DeSoto Magazine do not constitute an endorsement of the advertiser’s services or products. DeSoto Magazine is published monthly by DeSoto Media Co. Parties interested in advertising should email paula@desotomag.com or call 901-262-9887. Visit us online at desotomagazine.com.

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living well } financial advice for newlyweds

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Financial Advice for Newlyweds By Gerry Glenn Jones | Photography courtesy of gainspoletti.com

Marriage comes with many responsibilities and financial planning is one of the most important. Gary Gainspoletti of Gainspoletti Financial Services offers crucial advice for couples just starting their lives together in this Q&A session with DeSoto Magazine. We’ve all read about the stress financial problems can put on a relationship. Where would you rate this stress factor in a marriage? Gary Gainspoletti: Money is a stress factor in every relationship, not just marriage. Closely held businesses, partnerships, and – yes – marriages are put in a strain when the money doesn’t work out. Excessive concerns about financial uncertainty are just another one of those things that keeps you up at night.

A good line of communication is essential in everything we do, but is it more so in a marriage? Gary Gainspoletti: I haven’t met many people in my career that are true mind readers. That being said, how many arguments were started because one person did not fully understand the motive behind someone else’s actions. Communication is the best way to eliminate this dilemma. This is not good advice for planning, this is a good tip for everything we do. DeSoto 17


Should a discussion of each partner’s assets and debts be brought to bear before the marriage part of the communication process? Gary Gainspoletti: I find it very hard to imagine a young couple pursuing the prospects of marriage getting too wrapped up in a discussion about assets and liabilities. I also feel like that is the very reason that only two out of 10 people ever engage in serious financial planning. It is simply because the money or the finances by themselves are not sufficient motivation to get them to take action. It’s boring, couples would rather talk about houses, cars, pets, children, and other more interesting family matters. So why not let them? Wealth is more than money. We view wealth as being three dimensional and money is just one of those dimensions. The other dimensions are personal and social and when we carefully blend all three of these, it is then that we get couples to start thinking about their future in monetary ways. Eventually, it is all about a legacy, one that we live today and one that we leave for our family. What is your professional opinion on single or joint banking accounts? Gary Gainspoletti: Choosing a banking preference should be predicated on the best way couples can be held accountable for meeting obligations and saving money. Here again, a little communication can go a long way, but do remember this, “everybody’s business is nobody’s business.” The bottom line is that someone has to be responsible. With the addition of children, should the couple have an understanding of care for the children, such as using childcare or possibly one spouse staying home or only working part-time? Gary Gainspoletti: Childcare has and will always be a serious discussion. A lot of the decision surrounding child care versus the stay-at-home mother (father) will obviously depend on the earning capacity of each member of the marriage. As always, the greater concern in this matter is the safety and care of young children and offering them the best opportunity to grow to become healthy well-rounded children. Short of running a credit check on your future spouse, what are some other ways of making sure you and your partner are “on the same page,” financially speaking? Gary Gainspoletti: First of all, you should know the person you are planning to marry. While I am sure that there are some real players out there who have motives that are not so honest, most people are trustworthy. However, just in case I am too naïve about people, why not schedule a face-to-face meeting with a financial planner or any professional who has dealt with couples in business or legal matters. Many professionals will offer an initial complimentary meeting. This meeting should be a joint meeting of you and your prospective spouse. Let the professional question you and your honey about various aspects of marriage and your future. Pay attention to the responses, even your own. You may be surprised, hopefully in a pleasant way. Gainspoletti Financial Services LLC has offices in Hernando and Cleveland, Mississippi. Visit gainspoletti.com.

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notables } bride of boaz

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Donna Waddell and Lake France

A Ministry of Beautiful Weddings By Robin Gallaher Branch | Photography courtesy of Bride of Boaz

Bride of Boaz began as a favor for a friend’s daughter but has grown into a planning service that helps brides afford the weddings of their dreams. Donna Waddell and Lake France were asked by a friend to help with the wedding of her daughter, a young woman on a tight budget but one who, quite naturally, dreamed of something wonderful. Waddell and France, who had become friends while working together at a retail store in Southaven, Mississippi, agreed. This casual, “let’s-help-out-a-friend” gesture changed their lives. “We were amazed at how high everything was!” Waddell remembers. “We knew we could do better.” And thus, Bride of Boaz, a wedding rental business, was born. The pair quit their jobs and began an equal partnership. In its roughly three years, the business has done weddings at venues like the square in Hernando, Mississippi;

Graceland in Memphis; and multiple gardens and backyards. The company’s name comes from the book of Ruth in the Bible and Ruth’s statement, “Where you go, I will go” (Ruth 1:16). “We thought it was perfect,” Waddell says. France and Waddell not only share expertise in design, flair, and (they agree with a laugh) being able to get a lot of action out of a dollar. They also share their Christian faith. “We consider what we do a ministry,” Waddell says. “It’s a blessing to be part of the happiest day of two people’s lives and at the beginning of their life together as one.” For many a nervous bride and her family, the partners promise to “meet a bride at her budget and give her a beautiful wedding” often brings a grateful sigh. National figures estimate DeSoto 21


that an average wedding may cost $25,000. “For many brides, that’s too much,” Waddell says. “We decided we could help.” When a prospective client comes to Bride of Boaz, Waddell and France listen, get a feel for what’s wanted, and start brainstorming. The bride and her attendants tour the company’s storage facility for décor items. In general, the women suggest a bride start a year in advance but note, with a smile, that the firm gets “a lot of last minute calls.” “Once we understand the bride’s wishes, we tell her to leave the details to us.” Waddell says. By that, Waddell and France mean architectural backdrops, doors, chairs, tables and tablecloths, lights, cleanup, and whatever else it takes to make a beautiful setting. The firm leaves the invitations, flowers, refreshments, attire, and ceremony to others. Modern brides certainly know what’s trending. Regarding color, quite a few choose ultra violet purple. Woodsy and rustic settings are currently popular. Woodsy, Waddell explained, means natural but enchanting and with a bit of fairytale; rustic may mean a barn or somewhere pretty on a farm. For an outdoor venue, Bride of Boaz offers décor like barn doors, antique backdrop pieces, hay bales, columns, and a wrought iron gazebo. Two 10-foot doors made from a pipe organ from Ireland can also provide a marvelous backdrop. Waddell described an afternoon wedding last summer on the square in front of the DeSoto County Courthouse that was quite memorable. Even in a public venue, the ceremony was still intimate and charming. “It was a very nice, intimate, very Southern wedding for about 150 people,” she says. “Double doors with side panels and greenery that we provided concealed the bride for a few moments. The guests were seated on white, vinyl, padded chairs. The bride looked breathtaking when she made her grand entrance.” Another picturesque wedding occurred at the St. Columba Episcopal Conference & Retreat Center in Memphis. The 145-acre grounds are a beautiful combination of woods, creeks, fields, and a lake. The wedding, however, was a challenge because of three cold days of solid rain. Yet for the wedding, the rain stopped, giving Bride of Boaz “a few hours of peace” to decorate. Arriving the night before, the partners unloaded the equipment and décor. The women decorated a covered pavilion and even hung a chandelier. “We made a beautiful wedding and a fairytale-looking place,” Waddell says, adding with a laugh, “and people still talk about that chandelier.” And the bride’s reaction? Her mother-in-law Laura Smith, a Memphis-area resident who found Bride of Boaz on Facebook, says, “She was beyond pleased.” Smith continued her praise of the firm and its owners. “They’re two of the nicest women I’ve ever met. They’re amazing,” she adds. “They made it work. It was gorgeous. Bride of Boaz is really going to take off.” Something that impressed Smith and Suzanne Cantwell, who is in charge of sales and development at St. Columba, was the firm’s generosity. The partners had learned that another wedding was quickly following the Smith one and the new couple lacked many décor items. Bride of Boaz left the wedding decorations in place instead of cleaning up immediately. The second couple was thrilled. “It all worked out really well,” Waddell says. facebook.com/brideboaz

Robin Gallaher Branch freelances for Memphis-area magazines. A Fulbright scholar, she serves as an adjunct professor in the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Christian Brothers University.

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exploring art } wedding maps

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Cherished Memories By Julia Miller | Photography by Nicole Vander Zwaag

Memphis artist captures wedding celebrations through customized watercolor “maps” of the bride and groom’s big day. When a thick envelope slides out of the mailbox to reveal the latest wedding invitation, the search for the perfect present begins. For the wedding guest looking beyond the kitchenware and linens on the registry, Memphis artist Nicole Vander Zwaag offers the perfect gift full of love and sentimentality. And newlyweds can hang it on their wall for years to come. Vander Zwaag’s wedding maps capture the beauty and love of the entire weekend in watercolor. Each map typically includes five sites, ranging from the venues of the ceremony and reception to meaningful locations to the couple. These commissioned works include important city landmarks and personalized details including the couple’s name and wedding date.

The idea came about thanks to one of Vander Zwaag’s friends, who knew the artist did other commissioned watercolor works. The friend proposed this new concept as a gift for her daughter’s first anniversary. “She provided me with a list of places where her daughter had events and blocked out the wedding weekend for me,” she says. “The more she elaborated, the more excited I got! What was first a daunting proposition turned into something I was really excited about doing.” Each wedding map takes between three-to-four days to make. A lot of research goes into each map to curate multiple images into one cohesive unit that represents this couple’s wedding. “Wedding maps can be as simple or complex as the DeSoto 25


couple wants,” she says. “Weddings aren’t about just the ceremony. The celebration is bigger than that. It’s the places, the people.” The map captures the whole celebration from a grand church ceremony to a small, private home where a bridesmaids’ luncheon was held. Vander Zwaag believes every site is important because it was part of something bigger. Vander Zwaag offers other potential wedding gifts, such as capturing the bride’s bouquet or the couple’s first home. In 2001, when she got married, she made every attempt to save the flowers, from the bouquets to the floral cake topper. She soon realized this was a futile attempt. “People just don’t do that anymore,” she says. “The flowers fade and fall apart. A painting of the wedding bouquet helps you capture that piece of the wedding — without the mess.” She has also done a number of churches from a huge imposing facade to a small Civil War era chapel. Also, prints can be made of any of her watercolors. “The prints are so good you have to touch the paper to detect which is the real painting and which is the print,” she says. “This allows my clients to share their painting with others who share their love of the place.” Vander Zwaag first got her start as a professional artist with custom home watercolors. In fact, the emotions that make her wedding gifts so special is what drove her to custom painting in the first place. In 1994, she painted a large acrylic canvas of her sister’s apartment. After that, when her sister changed homes, she made her another, but this time it was in watercolor and smaller. “I saw then what I love to do now, a history of homes, or what I like to think of as the history of the family through their homes,” she says. For the next few years she made similar paintings mainly as gifts for friends. In 2015, her friend Kelley was moving into a beautiful East Memphis home, but they were leaving an adorable High Point Terrace home, a place with lots of memories for their family. “I gave her a painting of that sweet, little house, and immediately her husband commissioned me to paint their very first home and their new home as well,” she says. “Once the trio was all put together and framed, Kelley says, ‘You know, you could 26 DeSoto


sell these.’ My first reaction was ‘No! Wait... really?’ Word of mouth spread from there, and now here I am painting homes as a very real business. It’s hard to believe.” Vander Zwaag has a bachelor’s degree in art history and a master’s degree in applied art history from the University of South Carolina. In 2001, she received her certificate in appraisal studies from New York University. “You could say I have degrees in looking, really looking,” she says. “What makes something attractive? Is there balance? What is the effect of color? Do I like what I see? I’ve worked with so many great people academically and in the design field who taught me how to look.” This ability to look and see the beauty in buildings, whether homes or wedding venues, has gifted Vander Zwaag with the ability to not only become a professional artist but to give her clients pieces of art that celebrate their histories. “When I hand a commission to a client and their eyes swell with tears, I know I captured it. I know I got it right,” she says. For information: nvzwatercolors.com Based in Brookhaven, Mississippi, Julia Miller is the former lifestyles editor for The Daily Leader. She also freelances for the Mississippi Business Journal.

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exploring books} what can i bring?

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Debutante Farmer: “What Can I Bring?” By Karon Warren | Photography courtesy of Time Inc. Books/Alison Miksch Bacon Bites photo courtesy of Time Inc. Books/Hector Manuel Sanchez

The question every guest asks is not so tough to answer with “Debutante Farmer” Elizabeth Heiskell’s new book of recipes. Getting together with friends to visit and share a meal is one of life’s greatest pleasures, whether it’s a special occasion to celebrate or just a casual gathering for a backyard barbecue. And almost always, the invitee asks, “What can I bring?” In fact, as “TODAY” show contributor and “Debutante Farmer” Elizabeth Heiskell says, “If somebody didn’t teach you to ask, ‘What can I bring?’ then somebody didn’t raise you right.” Thankfully, she answers that question in her new cookbook, “What Can I Bring? Southern Food for Any

Occasion Life Serves Up.” “It answers the question everyone asks,” Heiskell says. “It shows you’re grateful to be invited, and it shows them you care. And I do think that it’s rather intimidating to go and to bring something to someone else. You want it to be your best, you want them to enjoy it, so it can be very intimidating. But if you have this book, it breaks it down chapter by chapter. For any occasion that you’re going to, you’ll have a great arsenal of recipes.” As Heiskell pointed out, each chapter focuses on a DeSoto 29


Bacon Bites

specific occasion, such as potluck dinners, football parties, helping out when someone is ill or welcomes a new baby, and dinner with friends. Heiskell drew on her own recipes, as well as those passed down to her by her mother, her grandmother and close friends. “These are all the recipes I bring,” Heiskell says. “Not one was made explicitly for this book. All these recipes we use over and over again. They’re my best-tried recipes.” Given she has been cooking since she was about 9 years old, Heiskell has had plenty of time to test and perfect those recipes. Heiskell grew up in the Mississippi Delta and started cooking after her parents divorced and her mom returned to school. As a result, Heiskell began cooking some meals: spaghetti, fettuccine alfredo, lasagna and such. “I’ve always really loved it,” Heiskell says. “We’ve always been one of those families that cook. It was just second nature. It’s what you did.” While she was in high school, Heiskell started working for her mother’s friend, Karen Carrier of Another Roadside Attraction Catering in Memphis. “That’s really where it all started,” Heiskell says. Learning to cook new dishes doesn’t always come easy, and Heiskell admits she had moments when cooking was stressful. Today, though, those days are few and far between. “I don’t get as stressed out as I used to,” she says. “I used to feel such anxiety when I was cooking or getting ready for parties, but over the years I realized it just all works out. It’s become a lot more fun than it used to be.” 30 DeSoto

Part of that fun comes from cooking with her three daughters. “My oldest, who’s in college, is a really great cook, and that’s one of the things we do when she comes home, and so do the other girls,” Heiskell says. “It’s a great way to spend time because it’s productive, and it’s just a good time to sit and visit and talk while you’re waiting.” With “What Can I Bring?” Heiskell hopes to pass along that fun and love of cooking to others, regardless of their skill set in the kitchen. “The thing I love about this is so many people are cooking out of this book,” Heiskell says. “It’s great for those just starting out cooking, but also those who have cooked all their lives.” And the cookbook also makes a great gift for new brides, who will be learning how to cook for entertaining, special occasions and opportunities such as those when friends come home with new babies. “They are at that stage where friends will start having babies,” Heiskell says. “Now they’ll have great recipes to bring.” Through it all, Heiskell wants to remind readers to not stress over their cooking. “Any effort is appreciated,” Heiskell says. “If it’s not a Martha Stewart masterpiece, you tried. God didn’t give us the ability to fry chicken. It’s practice. You have to practice. Every chef will tell you it takes practice.” And, she adds, things can’t be all bad if you’re sitting down to a good, home-cooked meal.


Elizabeth Heiskell’s Most Sought-After Recipe

Bacon Bites

We love these served in mint julep cups or silver goblets. Although this recipe calls for just three simple ingredients, there are a few tips that will make you a pro. Always line your rimmed baking sheet with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Watch the bacon bites, and, if they are cooking too fast on the bottom, roll them over so they can caramelize evenly. As soon as they are done take them off the pan, otherwise they will superglue themselves to the foil.  Once they are cool, you can stack them in an airtight container and they will keep for two days.    Serves 22 Hands-on 15minutes. Total 1 hour  2 cups packed light brown sugar  22 bacon slices  22 very thin breadsticks (from a 3.5-ounce package)    1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the brown sugar in a large pan or baking sheet. Wrap  1 bacon slice around each breadstick, starting at 1 end of the breadstick and barely overlapping  the bacon. Roll the breadsticks in the brown sugar, pressing to adhere. (At this point, you can cover and refrigerate overnight, if desired.) Place breadsticks on an aluminum foil-lined 12-x-7-inch baking sheet.  2. Bake in the preheated oven until bacon is cooked through and almost crisp, 35 to 40 minutes. Immediately remove the warm sticks from baking sheet, and place on wax paper. Cool to room temperature.   Recipe credit: Excerpted from What Can I Bring? by Elizabeth Heiskell. Copyright © 2017 Oxmoor House. Reprinted with permission from Time Inc. Books, a division of Meredith Corporation. New York, NY. All rights reserved.

Karon Warren is a freelance writer based in Ellijay, Georgia. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, Karon also writes for USA Today and her blog, ThisGirlTravels.com DeSoto 31


into the wild } scalloping

Polly Dean and scallops

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Summer Scalloping Story and Photography by Polly Dean

Snorkeling for scallops in the shallow, warm waters of the Gulf is a summer activity that is fun for all ages. And after a day on the water, there’s nothing better than eating this delicious delicacy. Slowly kicking my oversized fins, I glide along the shallows scouring the grass bottom for my first scallop. Aware of the sound of my breathing through the snorkel, I navigate the gentle current with a mesh bag in hand. There lying on the sandy bottom I spot one of the small mollusks with its ruffled edges. As I timidly reach for it, my snorkel fills with water – I gasp – and the little bugger swims away! Filling this net bag with these bivalves is going to be more challenging than I thought. I resurface, adjust my equipment and soon I am more adept at locating and plucking the bay scallops from their aquatic surroundings. With a tight grip on the bag, I

gather several more before returning to the boat with my tasty treasures. Florida’s Bay Scallop – A Delicious Delicacy The Florida Bay Scallop is a bivalve mollusk that grows and lives in seagrass beds in relatively shallow water. Once plentiful along Florida’s west coast, today bay scallops can be found only in isolated populations in and around the state’s Big Bend coastal area, from Port St. Joe down to the Pasco-Hernando County line just south of Homosassa. The towns of Homosassa, Crystal River, and Steinhatchee on Florida’s west coast come to life during DeSoto 33


Fresh Scallop Ceviche

scalloping season with people anxious to catch their quota of scallops for the day. (Yes, there is a limit to how many you can catch). My favorite is Steinhatchee (pronounced Steenhatchee), a small fishing village near the midpoint of the bay scallops’ range. The area’s expansive shallow grass flats provide ideal habitat for the mollusks, and the 3-to-5-foot average depth is easily manageable for snorkelers trying to catch scallops. With a population of less than 1,500, the tiny town bursts at the seams during peak days of the scallop season. Steinhatchee boasts a wide array of overnight accommodations, ranging from basic mom-and-pop motels, to rental houses in close proximity to the water and marinas, to the luxurious Victorian and Cracker-styled cottages of Steinhatchee Landing Resort. Many fishing captains switch gears during the season to guide scallopers, including Captain Mike Farmer of Salt Addiction Charters. He even joins in the fun of the hunt, providing tips while pointing out other fish and residents of the flats in the aquarium-like habitat. It’s evident that the captain enjoys his time on (and in) the water as much as his guests. “Swim against the current to better be able to see the scallops in the grass,” advises Captain Mike. “This also keeps any silt that is stirred up to be carried away behind you.” Swimming toward the sun helps to prevent a shadow being cast over the scallop, which they can detect causing them to feel threatened and then they swim away. If the current is swift, scallops move up higher in the water column, feeding on organic material as it drifts by. The captain refers to this time 34 DeSoto

when the scallops are in the tips of the grass and easier to find as their “happy hour.” For many people, part of the fun is learning how to extract the tasty meat from their shells. Still others will appreciate the roadside stands or folks standing ready at the boat docks who will clean the scallops for a small fee. The tender sweet meat is easy to prepare on your own, but it’s a treat to have one of the local restaurants prepare them in an assortment of cooking methods to sample. Your guide can direct you to the best options. Fiddler’s Restaurant is a popular eatery in Steinhatchee that will do the work for you. Recreational harvesters need a Florida saltwater fishing license. When you book a guided trip, the license is usually included. Refer to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website for regulations, harvest limits and season dates, which are bay specific this year. For example, the 2018 scalloping season near Steinhatchee runs from June 16 until Sept.10. In most other areas, the opening day for the 2018 season is July 1; in Gulf County near Port St. Joe, however, the opening date is not until August 17. Book a guide and accommodations early if planning a trip. Water conditions and depths may vary from place to place, as well as the abundance of scallops, so talk with your guide to make sure the youngest and the oldest members of your group will have a quality experience. myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/bay-scallops


What You Need to Know To successfully hunt for scallops, be sure to take a snorkel, mask, a pair of fins, and a mesh bag to carry the captured scallops while you look for more. You’ll also need a Florida saltwater fishing license. The size of your catch is limited. Each person is allowed two gallons of whole bay scallops in shell or one pint of bay scallop meat.

Fresh Scallop Ceviche Easy to make, scallop ceviche is a crowd favorite. Ingredients 1 lb. bay scallops, rinsed well ¾ cup lemon or key lime juice ½ yellow bell pepper, diced Salt and pepper to taste Cilantro for garnish 2 scallions, chopped fine 1 plum tomato, seeds removed and diced Directions Place scallops in a glass bowl (metal bowls do not work well with the citrus and the fish). Add lemon or key lime juice and the yellow peppers, scallions, and tomato. Lightly season the ceviche with salt and pepper. Remember, you always can season the ceviche again after the acid has done its job and cooked those scallops, so go light on your first round of seasoning and then finish up with an additional taste test. Cover your ceviche with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Do not hold on to the ceviche for longer than four hours as the scallops will start to get tough.

Polly Dean is based in Athens, Georgia. Specializing in fishing, hunting and outdoor adventure, she contributes regularly to Southern Saltwater Fly Fishing, Georgia Connector and Game and Fish Magazines.

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table talk } wedding caterers

Scotty’s Smokehouse Catering

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Say “Yes” to the Caterer By Heather Tate | Photography courtesy of Scotty’s Smokehouse Catering

Finding a caterer shouldn’t be a last-minute decision when planning your wedding. Now is the time to book caterers for this fall and 2019 weddings. What is the first thing a couple should do when planning their wedding? Most will not think selecting a caterer is one of the most important decisions they’ll make; however, by booking their caterer as soon as they get engaged, it could save them a lot of stress and even help the budget. Now is the perfect time to book a caterer for 2019 weddings, and we’re offering a few suggestions for the area’s most popular. First Choice Catering Horn Lake and Hernando, Mississippi Phone: 662-342-2559 For the last 25 years John Woods, owner of First Choice Catering in Horn Lake and Hernando, has been making a name for his company, which has catered events all over the U.S. and Canada. Woods says First Choice Catering

may specialize in catfish and all the trimmings, but other offerings range from casual barbecue to black tie events. He proudly claims, “If it can be cooked, we can make it.” The company has catered events with up to 10,000 guests, including catering for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. and events for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. The company has two full-service wedding venues where the focus is entirely on the couple. Those locations include the Red Barn in Hernando and a wedding chapel at the Horn Lake site. “We’re a one-stop-shop. Brides can get married here and have the reception on-site,” explains Woods. “When brides package their venue and catering together, they receive a discount.” DeSoto 37


Scotty’s Smokehouse Catering ribs

Another way couples can save money is by thinking outside the box on their date. Having a Friday night or a Sunday afternoon wedding or in an off-season month also saves money – sometimes up to 30 or 40 percent off on the venue and 10 percent off food. Each wedding is treated as a unique opportunity with Woods customizing his menus to meet the needs of the bridal couple. And his attention to detail is paying off. He is now beginning to cater to the children of some of his previous couples. He believes that says a lot about his reputation. Draper’s Catering Memphis, Tennessee Phone: 901-385-7788 Over 28 years ago, Gary Draper began his career in the food industry as the owner of Bluff City Deli, which has since transitioned from a sandwich shop to a full-service catering company. Now operated as Draper’s Catering of Memphis, the company is owned by Draper and his son, Matt. Recently named as one of Memphis’s top catering companies by the website Expertise.com, Draper’s is known to adapt to clients’ needs – whether it’s a 10-person bridal luncheon or an 8,000-count gala event. Generally, the company travels within a 2-hour radius of Memphis for events. Some of the menu specialties include mouth-watering bread pudding and award-winning shrimp and grits. Co-owner Matt Draper shares the secret to a successful wedding reception: fine-tuning the guest count. “The number one thing [with catering] comes down to the guest count,” he says. “Meshing the dreams of the couple with the logistics is primarily the responsibility of the caterer when it comes to the reception.” Matt also recommends the couple select the venue first and then secure their caterer around 11-12 months in advance although short-notice events can occasionally be accommodated. 38 DeSoto

Scotty’s Smokehouse Catering Nesbit, Mississippi Phone: 901-619-7867 In 2008, Scott Miller opened a mobile concession stand providing smoked barbecue for festivals and events throughout North Mississippi. As more and more catering requests poured in, the company moved to full-time catering and now specializes in weddings. “We strive to be the best we can be,” says owner Miller. He and his Italian wife, Niki, work hand-in-hand at every event. He says that he couldn’t run the business without his wife of 28 years. Her Italian recipes, including her spaghetti gravy and dips, are some of the stars of the show. They make everything themselves fresh the day of the event. The couple will travel up to 1.5 hours from Nesbit to cater events. Miller makes his own barbecue sauce and rub, but he is “not just a barbecue guy.” The company can provide menus that are rustic and casual, consisting of delicious yet delicate barbecue sliders and traditional sides. However, Scott says they can also provide elegant options like shrimp cocktail and smoked salmon or anything in between – whether it’s a party of 50 or 500. Miller says they recognize this is a special time in the lives of the bridal couple, but what should be fun can easily turn stressful. Their goal is to “make things fun and easy” for their clients. “It’s their party, and we’re very flexible,” he says.      Scotty’s Smokehouse has won the 2016 and 2017 DeSoto’s Best Caterer, Best BBQ , Best Ribs, and Best Pulled Pork. Heather Gausline Tate is a freelance writer, travel agent, and private English tutor. She lives in Guntown, MS with her husband Logan and their two boys, London and Christian.


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exploring destinations } nature honeymoons

Horseback riding on Amelia Island

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Blisswood Bed & Breakfast Wagon bed

Naturally Tied By Karen Ott Mayer Photography: Blisswood B&B/Conestoga Wagon provided by Carol Davis. Horses on beach provided by Kelly’s Seahorse Ranch

For many couples, staying close to nature and the great outdoors brings a greater sense of grounding and connection. Perhaps it begins with a wedding or honeymoon, but for some couples, the early tradition lasts a lifetime. When James and May Leinhart celebrate their 12th anniversary this year, they will have covered many hours together outdoors in the Southeast, the West, and in several countries. Today, they live in Greenville, South Carolina, with their two young children. “Unlike a consumptive experience like just going to dinner, I think something like hiking just stays with you the whole day,” says May. The couple spent their honeymoon in Mexico in a thatched roof, open air hut facing the ocean. Although sleeping under the stars is romantic, dealing with Mother Nature can be trying.

“It was a beautiful spot and we slept under mosquito netting,” remembers May. “When night fell, the entire place was filled with bugs!” Nevertheless, for outdoor types, the benefits of a nature-based honeymoon outweigh the occasional challenges. The U.S. is filled with private farms, ranches and state parks where fees, access, and lodging are reasonable. Here, we’ve collected a few nature-based pursuits found across the South to help spark your natural curiosity as well as romance.

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Blisswood Bed & Breakfast

Bliss in a Conestoga wagon Blisswood Bed & Breakfast located outside of Houston, Texas, serves as an interesting springboard for new couples hoping to capture a pioneer experience. When Carol Davis purchased the property 20 years ago, she opened a bed and breakfast inn. Today, the 500-acre ranch also boasts 13 cabins – and a Conestoga wagon! The wagon includes a king-size bed, small dining table and a private in-wagon bathroom with a shower. Somehow there’s even room for a mini-fridge, coffeemaker, toaster, hot plate, electric skillet and sink. Couples can spend the evening counting the stars around the outdoor fire pit. The property also has three large well-stocked lakes for love-struck couples hoping to hook a bass. The Grand Safari Tent is yet another perch to watch exotic animals and the sun set. “More people want to get out of the city and unplug. We have internet only in one building. I’ve had many couples say they connected again or we saved their life together,” said Davis. With cattle on the land, couples can even join the morning feeding tour or just enjoy the other animals like the miniature donkeys. blisswood.net Bound to the beach Dedicated horseback riders as well as beginners can take advantage of a romantic beach ride at Kelly Seahorse 42 DeSoto

Ranch located at Amelia Island State Park, near the charming town of Fernandina Beach, Florida. Kelly’s offers the rare chance to ride on the beach, something that is prohibited on most public beaches in the Southeast. A family-owned business, Kelly Seahorse Ranch leads riders through trails and along the romantic Atlantic beaches. Couples will find luxurious resorts nearby as well as B&Bs in the historic town of Fernandina Beach. kellyranchinc.net One foot after the other Hiking reaches across all ages, levels, and interest. From casual, easy hikes to an all-out week-long adventure in the wilds, couples can decide what works best for them. Popular trails for couples looking for secluded beauty and adventure include these Southern trails: The Foothills Trails — Just under 77 miles long, the Foothills Trails span across western North Carolina and upstate South Carolina. Hikers can choose from a day hike to a multiday through hike, depending on their abilities. foothillstrail.org Mount Magazine State Park, Arkansas — The highest point in Arkansas, Mount Magazine offers sweeping views of the valleys and the Arkansas River which winds across the state from West to East. Not only a favorite wedding destination, the park’s Mount Magazine lodge sits atop the


mountain offering a convenient getaway right at nature’s door. mountmagazinestatepark.com Amicalola Falls State Park & Lodge — A stunning location in north Georgia, Amicalola Falls can be as luxurious or as primitive as a couple chooses. The luxurious lodge – where many people stay before starting their Appalachian Trail adventures – offers a variety of on-site activities like paddleboard and fly-fishing classes, zip lines and archery. Hikers looking for something more rustic, however, can leave their cars behind and follow the easyto-moderate, five-mile path from the top of Amicalola Falls to The Hike Inn, which National Geographic Traveler has included on its “stay list.” amicalolafallslodge.com and hike-inn.com The tradition continues Since their honeymoon in Mexico, the Leinharts have trekked many miles together and later with their children. “Sometimes, it’s hard work. You’re not always talking to each other, but it’s peaceful and there are no distractions,” said May. As the Leinhart children have grown, May has discovered that continuing the trail adventures involves more than just the immediate family. “If it’s just Kate alone, she isn’t really excited about hiking,” May says of her 5-year-old daughter. “If we hike with other couples or families, however, she runs ahead and likes the trail.” And maybe that’s the point? What begins as a couple’s tradition between two people grows over the years to include family and friends along the way.

Karen Ott Mayer is a Como-based writer and editor.

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on the road again } orange beach, alabama

, h c a e B Orange Alabama

9:00 - Breakfast at Tacky Jacks on Cotton Bayou. Arrive “by land or by sea” for yummy food with a great view. Order the Wheelhouse pancake (it is bigger than the plate), shrimp and grits, or the Farmer’s Omelet loaded with potatoes, onions, peppers, mushrooms, sausage, ham and cheese. Pair with a refreshing mimosa or a Bloody Mary. Breakfast served from 7 a.m. until noon. 10:00 - After breakfast get your toes in the sand. Take a walk along the beautiful white sand beaches, collecting shells and watching the waves roll in. Noon - Lunch at The Gulf overlooking the gorgeous Gulf of Mexico. Try the mouthwatering Gulf burger, grouper sandwich, shrimp tacos or fresh oysters. Cocktails like the blackberry mojito or margarita are a great way to cool off while you relax on one of the white couches and feel the breeze. 1:00 - After lunch drive over the Perdido Pass bridge to the Flora-Bama, the area’s most iconic beach bar since 1964. Located on the Alabama-Florida state line, one side of the bar is in Orange Beach, Alabama, and the other in Perdido Key, Florida. Order the world-famous Bushwhacker while taking in the sights and sounds, including five stages with live music, a gift shop, and a special oyster bar. The Flora-Bama often has special events and even offers a Sunday church service. 2:30 - The afternoon offers tons of options whether you enjoy relaxing, shopping or being outdoors. A few ideas include: - Shopping at the Tanger Outlets in Foley. Dozens of stores with many name brands, including Michael Kors and Kate Spade. - Outdoor enthusiasts can take in a golf game, charter a boat for deep-sea fishing, try paddle boarding and parasailing, or hit the Hugh S. Branyon Back Country Trail for a hike or bike ride. You might even see an alligator basking in the sun. - The family-friendly Wharf offers shopping, dining, a Ferris wheel, putt-putt golf, movie theater and entertainment. Or visit the newly opened OWA with amusement park rides, shopping, dining and events. 6:00 - Franco’s Italian is a great way to end the day. Enjoy traditional Italian favorites at this award-winning family friendly restaurant. Dishes like seafood lasagna, sautéed grouper over angel hair pasta, or baked ziti make this a go to spot for locals and visitors. Each meal comes with a delicious house salad with house-made dressing that is also available for purchase to take home. Franco’s is open for lunch and dinner.

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To plan your visit: gulfshores.com tackyjacks.com thegulf.com florabama.com tangeroutlet.com visitowa.com alwharf.com francosorangebeach.com

Upcoming Events: Blue Marlin Grand Championship of the Gulf July 10 - 15 The Wharf Uncorked Wine & Culinary Event September 13 - 15 47th Annual National Shrimp Festival October 11 - 14 10th Annual Oyster Cook Off and Craft Beer Weekend November 2 - 3 World Food Championships November 7 - 11 34th Annual Frank Brown International Songwriters’ Festival November 8- 18 33rd Annual Christmas Lighted Boat Parade December 8

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greater goods } bridesmaids, groomsmen and wedding gifts

bridesmaids, groomsmen & wedding gifts

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1. Custom bride and bridesmaid caps, Paisley Pineapple, 6542 Goodman Road #115, Olive Branch, MS 2. Bride Squad stemless wine glasses, Nothing Bundt Cakes, 5338 Goodman Road, Suite 217, Olive Branch, MS 3. Assorted stemware, The Wooden Door, 6542 Goodman Road #104, Olive Branch, MS 4. Dock 6 Pottery trays and wine cork, The Wooden Door, 6542 Goodman Road #104, Olive Branch, MS 5. Willow Tree figurines, Center Stage Fashions, 324 W Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 6. Bowls and decortive beads, The Pink Zinnia, 134 West Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 7. Annie Glass and Royal Crown Derby china, The Square Cupboard, 328 W Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 8. Baguett tray and bread knife, Bon Von, 214 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 9. Monogrammed coffee mugs and glasses, Bon Von, 214 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 10. Picture frames, The Pink Zinnia, 134 West Commerce Street, Hernando, MS

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11. Initial bracelets, The Wooden Door, 6542 Goodman Road #104, Olive Branch, MS 12. Personalized wooden cutting boards, The Wooden Door, 6542 Goodman Road #104, Olive Branch, MS 13. MudPie monogram bar necklaces. Paisley Pineapple, 6542 Goodman Road, Olive Branch, MS 14. Keisha Long Goff Gospel Art. Merry Magnolia, 194 E Military Road, Marion, AR 15. Cheese board and knife set, Paisley Pineapple, 6542 Goodman Road, Olive Branch, MS 16. Lollia Candles, Lotions and Soaps, Mimi’s On Main, 432 W Main Street, Senatobia, MS 17. Whiskey Sticks, Merry Magnolia, 194 E Military Road, Marion, AR 18. Kendra Scott Jewelry, Mimi’ s on Main, 432 W Main Street, Senatobia, MS 19. The guys picture frames, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 20. Muddy Mae pottery picture frame, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 21. Three E Pottery initial tray, Mimi’s On Main, 432 W Main Street, Senatobia, MS DeSoto 47


t o n K e h t g n Tyi 46

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e m o H m o r f Far

By Polly Dean | Wedding Photography courtesy of JustWrightphotos.com; Welcome gift photo by Polly Dean

Though destination weddings are gaining in popularity, they are not always easy to pull off. One mother-of-the-bride shares her family’s experience.

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Weddings are exciting times and when our daughter mentioned that she was thinking of having a destination wedding, I was a little surprised. The oldest of three girls, she was the one that I imagined would desire the more traditional, and perhaps, the most elaborate celebration. I must admit, I was intrigued and wasn’t opposed to the idea. I’m always up for an excuse to visit a warm tropical location. My daughter Sydney’s and her fiancé’s reasons for wanting their wedding to be held at a resort was simple but meaningful. Not knowing when the opportunity would arise again, they wanted their families and friends – who are geographically spread out – to have the chance to spend time together and get to know each other. The entire experience of planning a destination wedding was a learning one for our family. The wedding was wonderful, but not without bumps along the way. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone who is thinking of going this direction. However, we should have considered a number of things that were not on our radar initially. Guest Experience Overall, the experience was fabulous. Honestly, it doesn’t get much better than having your toes in the sand and dancing the night away while surrounded by family and friends. However, being in this little slice of tropical heaven was much easier on some of us than others. We were fortunate that Sydney’s grandparents, who are in their early 80s, were willing and able to attend, but it was a great deal harder on them than we had imagined. Even in the best of conditions and health, travel can be difficult. Both my parents became ill and were not able to enjoy much of the food or functions throughout the long weekend. They were good sports, but in truth I was worried about them, especially when it took a few weeks for them to recover after they got home. Navigating shuttles, airports, hotel transfers and changes in diet can be challenging. Keeping up with documents and passports is difficult and stressful, as well. There is also the possibility of coming down with a bug of some sort when traveling by air, especially during the winter months and flu seasons. Another aspect of traveling to another country – in our case, Mexico – was the very real threat of Zika virus, a DeSoto 51


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mosquito-borne illness that can produce dire consequences for unborn babies. It’s likely the majority of wedding guests will be young men and women in their 20s or 30s who are thinking of, trying to, or are pregnant. It kept more than a few of the bride’s and groom’s friends from attending and who could blame them? Again, this was something we did not anticipate prior to the invitations going out. Hire a Travel Agent In the early planning stages, my daughter and I attended a bridal show where we met Tiffany Hines, president and CEO of Global Escapes Travel Agency in Athens, Georgia. Initially, Sydney was thinking about the honeymoon arrangements but realized it would be smart to reach out to Tiffany for the wedding itself. Tiffany’s services proved to be invaluable. She handled all of the travel arrangements for guests, including booking rooms, airfare, hotel shuttles and fielding the multitude of questions that arose – and we learned, that was only the beginning. Although she was not involved in the actual ceremony or reception planning (an on-site wedding coordinator handled those aspects), Tiffany was available by email or phone during the trip to handle any problems related to travel or accommodations. She made it her job to absorb any issues that arose and could cause the bride additional stress. Choose an agent carefully. He or she will be a main contact for all of your guests. A person who is good with details, knowledgeable and competent, all rolled into a pleasant human being is a must. Be sure that your travel agent has visited the resort and preferably recently. Misunderstandings in communications and terminology are common when traveling abroad, and the agent will help to dispel much of this as well. Beyond Your Control Planning a destination wedding requires family members and guests to prepare well in advance. Deposits must be made and airfare booked. Meanwhile, due to hurricane season or just the perils of travel in general – including travel safety advisories – your destination could be garnering more than its fair share of attention in the news. In our case, hurricanes ravished a good portion of vacation destinations in the DeSoto 53


A welcome gift for destination wedding guest.

Caribbean, Virgin Islands and more. Our chosen resort was spared, but many other vacationers were displaced and our destination booked up quickly. As the wedding date drew near, a few safety concerns pertaining to our destination appeared on the news. Normally, these items may escape you, but when several dozen or more people are making a trip on your behalf, be ready to field comments and questions. Of course, complications that are beyond your control can occur with any wedding plan. Your guests are friends and family who love and support you and will understand. A reassuring note from your travel agent to guests can soothe nerves as well. Expectations Naturally, when one plans to be wedded in a remote location, it is expected that many invitees will respond with regrets. Our daughter and future husband were knowledgeable of this fact. But, both admitted later, that they had missed those close friends and family members who did not attend more than they anticipated. If you are a control freak, a destination wedding may not be for you. There are many aspects of the event that you 54 DeSoto

will see for the first time either when you arrive at the venue or at the wedding itself. Food tastings, rehearsal dinner venue, hair and make-up artists, photographer, and officiant are just a few of the integral parts that you may have made decisions on from a distance. Having strong communication skills is a definite plus. Most venues will assign a wedding coordinator to you. Ideally, they will have a meeting set up for the couple shortly after arrival to review event details. All in all, our daughter’s destination wedding was a huge success. Sure, there were minor problems and plenty of them at times, but the warm tropical breeze, salt air and sunshine washed all those away. We blended and bonded with new family members, making friends and fond memories. We were able to accomplish what our children desired over a period of days rather than hours. And in following up with the travel agent, who collected our comments and complaints – our daughter’s words that “she would not change a thing” is what really mattered.


Etiquette For Wedding Couple

Send save-the-date notices 8-to-12 months in advance so that guests will have ample time to plan. As parents, don’t justify or put yourself in an intermediary position with friends and relatives who were not invited. Simply explain that the couple wished to keep the wedding small, but are grateful for well wishes. Include a welcome gift for guests as they arrive at the destination, such as maps, itineraries and a few goodies like sunscreen, slippers or hangover kits. Plan a post-wedding celebration for those who were unable to travel when the couple returns home. It’s acceptable but not necessary. For Guests

The bride and groom realize they are asking a lot of you with the invitation to join them at a destination. If you can’t swing it for whatever reason, be honest and tell them. They will understand. There could be hurt feelings if you avoid the subject. Again, realizing that a lot is being asked of you, most couples are grateful for your “presence” at the big day. Do not feel obligated to give a wedding gift as well or just make it a small one.

Polly Dean is based in Athens, Georgia. Specializing in fishing, hunting and outdoor adventure, she contributes regularly to Southern Saltwater Fly Fishing, Georgia Connector and Game and Fish Magazines.

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Choosing a Budget-Friendly

Bubbly

By Mary Ann DeSantis Photography courtesy of Tony DeSantis, Vindulge.com and Gourmet Wedding Gifts Blog

Selecting a champagne or sparkling wine for your wedding reception can be overwhelming with so many choices. Toast to happiness, love and good health with these suggestions for all budgets. Wine has been a part of wedding sacraments long before crystal flutes were invented. From Greek mythology to Old Testament scriptures, wine has symbolized life, vitality and abundance — all subjects of many toasts to the bridal couple. Centuries ago, the French made wedding toasts even more fun when they dropped toasted bread into the wine goblets just as the ancient Romans did. The Romans were trying to temper the taste of acidic wine, but in France the bride and groom were racing to get to the soggy lump first. The winner, supposedly, would rule the household.

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Photo by Tony DeSantis

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Luckily, champagne has come to epitomize romance more than who will be the boss. A picture-perfect moment is born when the couple, with arms twisted like pretzels, sips their beverage of choice from a flute. If it tastes “like the stars” – as the famed Dom Perignon supposedly described – then it’s all the better. To be legally called “champagne,” the wine must come from the Champagne region in eastern France. Sparkling wines from any other French region are known as “crémants” – a less expensive sparkling wine usually made from the same grape varietals as champagnes. A nice glass of “bubbly” is inviting and enjoyable, and while good champagne is always a hit, it can be expensive. More couples are discovering Italian prosecco instead of champagne – not only because it’s less expensive but also the sweeter taste more often appeals to American palates. A bottle of good champagne that’s not too sweet or too dry will average about $50. Prosecco, by comparison, runs about $25 or even less. Cost and complexity are not the only differences; the grapes are also different. Champagne usually contains chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier grapes, and American sparkling wines usually contain a blend of those same grapes. Prosecco, however, is produced primarily from glera grapes, which are native to Italy’s Veneto region. Therefore, the flavors will be different. Prosecco is often characterized by notes of tropical fruits, hazelnut, vanilla, and honeycomb. Champagne offers a “toastier” version of these flavors and more, including peaches, cherries, or raspberries. Once known as “the poor man’s champagne,” prosecco’s quality has improved so much that sales are growing. According to Nielsen.com’s Newswire, prosecco sales were up 32 percent in 2015 while champagne grew by only 8 percent that same year. In Britain, prosecco sales have already jumped ahead of champagne. In the U.S., prosecco sales account for 14 percent of all sparkling wine sales. Other regional specialties are also excellent choices for weddings and special occasions. If budget is a concern, consider Spain’s sparkler, called “Cava,” or Asti Spumante from Italy’s Piedmont region. The sweeter, lower alcohol Asti Spumante is typically used as a dessert wine. Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. DeSoto 59


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also produce some delicious sparkling wines at exceptionally competitive price points. With more than 4,000 champagne producers in France and even more sparkling wine producers worldwide, it’s hard to know which one to choose for your special day. Buying from a reliable producer whose consistency has been proven year after year is the best guarantee for getting a wine that your guests will enjoy. The following suggestions and suggested retail prices are by no means comprehensive, but these producers have excellent reputations: BUDGET FRIENDLY Domaine Chandon Brut, about $25 for non-vintage. The best French traditions and methods are combined with New World innovations to create this California sparkling wine. Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut, about $12. A full-bodied cava from Spain, the exceptional taste of apples, pears and citrus belies its reasonable price. Borgoluce – Rive di Collalto, Valdobbiadene, Prosecco Superiore DOCG, about $21. Borgoluce is dry, yet harmonious, with a fragrant bouquet of wisteria and acacia. ELEGANCE FOR UNDER $100 Moet & Chandon Rosé Imperial, about $50. A romantic and sensual French champagne that is fresh and fruity. Veuve Clicquot Non-Vintage Brut Yellow Label, about $50. Refreshingly smooth and creamy, this French champagne is not too sweet for the wine connoisseur nor too dry for the novice wine drinker. Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Brut, $40 to $50. Highly rated by both Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast magazines, this full-bodied and classic champagne is composed mostly of pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes from the region around Reims, France. LUXURY BUDGET Dom Perignon, current average price is $198; higher for some vintages. Considered the “champagne of champagnes,” Dom Perignon is a classic that is highly coveted and only produced from certain vintages. Some vintages can be cellared for many years. Wealthy parents have been known to buy a vintage from the year their child was born to serve at a wedding years later. DeSoto 61


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Champagne Trivia Wedding cake pairs best with sec and demi-sec (sweet and semi-sweet) sparkling wines. The brut and extra-brut are better as aperitifs or throughout the meal. All champagne was sweet until about 1850. A bottle of champagne contains 45 to 50 million bubbles. The late Marilyn Monroe drank and breathed champagne “as if it were oxygen,” according to her biographer George Barris. She supposedly once took a bath in 350 bottles of champagne. Vintage champagne must contain 100 percent of grapes from a single vintage year. Non-vintage champagnes are blends from several years of harvests; more than 80 percent of champagnes produced are labeled non-vintage. Drink non-vintage champagne right away; vintage champagne can be kept 10 to 15 years. TRIVIA SOURCE: “Windows on the World Complete Wine Course” by Kevin Zraly. Publisher Sterling Epicure, Copyright 2014.

From Toast to Toasting Toasts to the bridal couple are often the most memorable and cherished part of the reception, and usually begin with the bride’s parents welcoming guests, followed by toasts from the best man and maid of honor. The tradition of toasting began not as tribute to happiness, however, but rather as a way to offset the taste of bad wine. In ancient Rome, the Romans dropped a piece of burnt bread into wine glasses to temper the undesirable traits or excessive acidity of wine. The charred bread made the wine more palatable. Shakespeare’s Falstaff even said “put toast in it” when requesting a jug of wine in The Merry Wives of Windsor. At some point, the practice evolved to drinking in honor of fallen warriors by the Moguls in India and the Vikings in Scandinavia. The Greeks found it beneficial to offer toasts to assure their friends and comrades that they weren’t about to be poisoned. The host took the first swallow as a symbol of friendship to let guests know it was safe to do likewise. Editor-at-Large Mary Ann DeSantis has written a wine column, called “Saluté,” since 2011. Her favorite subjects are most often champagne and sparkling wines. DeSoto 63


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THROUGH THE

LENS Great Southern Wedding Venues By Judy Garrison Photography courtesy of Benfield Photography, Jenna Henderson, Seeing Southern Photography and Javen Photography

Telling your love story in the right setting is an expansion of your love. Your wedding venue is a major element in the storytelling that will live on for years.

Gaven Gardens, Benfield Photography

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Beau Jardin

Garvan Gardens, photo by Javen Photography

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American singer-songwriter Jack Johnson eloquently reminds us that we are “better together” and that most questions lurking in the heart can be answered by simply being together. And when together turns into a lifetime that originates with a wedding day, be ready, for this sets in motion a chain of events which are born from childhood dreams. Whether the wedding takes place in six months or 24 months, a bride’s first decision is always the venue. With the most favorable venues being snatched up as far as two years in advance, knowing your style, tone and the story you want to tell makes what follows easier. And when the photographs arrive long after the day is over, the story lives on. As documentary wedding photographers, curating a couple’s personal story means utilizing the venue as a major element in storytelling. After all, the venue becomes an extension of the couple, and its landscape, a major component. With that in mind, here are some of the most captivating venues in the South that offer amazing backdrops for photography and love. Beau Jardin Natchitoches, Louisiana Located in the heart of one of the most romantic downtowns in America, Beau Jardin can easily take your breath away. From a photographer’s viewpoint, it has it all: winding staircases, flowing waterfalls, wooden bridges, and live oaks surrounded by native plants and flowers. The staff prides itself in providing a natural canvas to make the bride’s wishes a reality. Whether it’s a large event or an intimate affair, Beau Jardin is the ideal location no matter the time of year. Christopher Place Newport, Tennessee Whether it’s only the two of you or the entire family joining you for the weekend, Christopher Place offers packages for any number. With 20 guestrooms on site, it’s a grand location for keeping the bridal party together to enjoy every moment. With a hostess that is described as “unflappable” and a gourmet chef preparing the food, assurances like this make the entire weekend smooth-sailing. And then, there’s the view. For the epitome of stunning, come DeSoto 67


Barn at Sycamore, photo by Jenna Henderson

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to Christopher Place and be awed by the Great Smoky Mountains. Garvan Woodland Gardens Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas This botanical oasis is a wonderland, but when you take one look at the Anthony Chapel, it raises this destination to an entirely distinctive level. Floor-to-ceiling glass walls with iconic views of woodlands and gardens, it is the ideal setting for nature lovers. Seating up to 160 guests, the chapel is elegant, dramatic and intimate—the complete package. For a photographer, this is a gem with endless stories to tell. Mountain Laurel Farm Cleveland, Georgia Travel back to a turn-of-the century generational farmhouse situated on rolling hills with splendid Blue Ridge Mountain views at Mountain Laurel Farm. Innkeeper and owner Melody Lothridge provides personal guidance, removing all the guesswork and replacing it with a one-ofa-kind experience. Whether it’s a single day or an entire weekend on the farm, choose the perfect package for your budget and wish-list. In addition to historic charm and vintage elegance, Mountain Laurel Farm offers rustic chic in a comfortable setting; choose the barn loft, the main house lawn or the field by the creek for the ceremony. A very popular choice for brides from all over the southeast, it has also caught Hollywood’s eye. Oak Hollow Farm Fairhope, Alabama It’s the tunnel of trees that first snare your eye. Then, the rustic barn, which will accommodate up to 350 guests, is as inviting as it is charming. With all catering done in-house, Oak Hollow can provide everything needed for an entire weekend, from rehearsal to reception to overnight stays in the bunkrooms. Stanton Hall Natchez, Mississippi Taking up an entire city block, Stanton Hall, a Greek Revival Style mansion, captures elegance perfectly. With DeSoto 69


Mountain Laurel, Photo by Seeing Southern Photography

its massive Corinthian columns and marble mantelpieces, these touches add a historic ambience that are rarely found or are available for special occasions. Continuing in the tradition of the original builders and owners, Stanton Hall was built to entertain and that remains its purpose today. Their exclusive caterer is Chef Bingo Starr of the Carriage House Restaurant.

and outdoors, from which to choose—the lazy tree, the sloping oak, the main house steps or a row of 250-year-old oaks lined perfectly with the main house. Stay the day or make a weekend of it with overnight accommodations in the plantation house, ideal for the bridal party. And with no time limits, noise or permit issues, a fireworks or lantern sendoff is perfection.

St. Catherine’s at Bell Gable Fayetteville, Arkansas From an intimate elopement to an affair with up to 250 guests, St. Catherine’s provides personalized packages to meet the bride’s requests. From a creekside toast to a ride in a 1902 Mercedes limo, the venue creates a different world of serenity and calm with its stunning beauty and fairytale-like atmosphere. With over 2,000 weddings in its history, for owners Lowell and Ann Boynton, they take pride in the truth that “dreams do come true.”

The Barn at Sycamore Arrington, Tennessee With the Barn at Sycamore accommodating up to 400 people, it’s the ideal choice for large parties. Whether the “I Do’s” take place in the barn or on the island surrounded by a two-acre lake, this Southern setting offers endless charms including a 100-year-old sycamore tree, making it an excellent location for dramatic portraits. Whether your story is rustic, elegant, formal or casual, The Barn at Sycamore can bring your vision to life.

Stella Plantation Braithwaite, Louisiana For classic old-world charm and Southern grandeur, Stella Plantation is the ideal vista for beginnings. Their unique offering, a vast variety of ceremony locations, both indoors

The Jefferson Oxford, Mississippi If its space you require, look no further than The Jefferson. And once there, it is obvious why brides fall in love. The structure was built out of reclaimed materials from all over the

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southeast—cotton warehouse doors from Virginia, windows from South Carolina, steel beams from Georgia, chandeliers from a church in Tennessee, thus manufacturing its own unique personality. And with tall ceilings, some 36 foot tall, the ambience is electric.

Book Now for 2019 Most venues are completely booked for 2018, yet some have a few dates remaining. All venues are contracting for the 2019 wedding season, with many of the popular dates already reserved. Most have preferred vendor lists to share and welcome licensed outside vendors; some have exclusive caterers on site. For more information on these venues, including scheduling and reservations, visit

natchitochesweddings.net christopherplace.com garvangardens.org mtnlaurelfarm.com oakhollow.farm stcatherinesatbellgable.com stantonhall.com stellaplantation.com sycarmorefarmsevents.com thejeffersonoxford.com

Judy and Len Garrison are Seeing Southern, a writer-photographer duo based in Athens, Georgia. Judy’s words and Len’s photographs regularly appear in BBC Travel, Interval International, Blue Ridge Country, and AAA.

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“i do” 2 d18 edition

“I do ” D

Photo by Jamie Howell, Jus My Style Photography.

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Allyson Corley THE BIG DAY June 16, 2017 Heartwood Hall in Rossville, Tenn.

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Jordan Harwell

A GROVE PROPOSAL Jordan and Allyson met after they both graduated from one of the South’s most beloved colleges, Ole Miss. One of their mutual friends introduced them at the Kix Brooks concert in 2013. Maybe it was his Southern charm but Allyson knew Jordan was the one for her. Three years later on Saturday, September 17, 2016, Jordan gathered all of their closest friends and family in the Grove for the Ole Miss vs. Alabama game to propose to Allyson. The Rebels lost, but Jordan won the girl!

THE VENUE: Heartwood Hall in Rossville, TN BRIDE’S GOWN: Low’s Bridal FLOWERS: Kacie Cooper Floral Designs PHOTOGRAPHER: Kara Dickey with Thankfully Taken CAKE: A rounded three-tiered cake with fondant design and a cascade of light pink peonies THE EXIT: The couple walked under a tunnel of sparklers to the bride’s grandfather’s 1970 T-Top Corvette.

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Anna Adair THE BIG DAY

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Colby Newton

April 29, 2017 Montrose Antebellum Home in Holly Springs, Miss.

LITTLE RED SURPRISE On the weekend of April 24, 2016, the couple’s third anniversary of dating, they went to the river to stay at the bride’s aunt and uncle’s cabin to go kayaking with close friends. They love kayaking and being outdoors, so it was perfect. They stopped for a break at one of the islands where Colby got down on one knee in the water and proposed. Anna was so shocked she jumped back. She had no idea it was coming!

THE VENUE: Montrose Antebellum Home THE THEME: Art-Deco meets Southern Elegance. The ceremony was performed on the home’s front portico, and the reception was held in the back. The simple and classic decorations highlighted the beauty of the home itself. BRIDE’S GOWN: Madison James gown from Low’s Bridal PHOTOGRAPHER: Melanie Mansfield of Hattiesburg, MS and family friend John Elliott of Cleveland, MS THE FOOD: Catering by Dianne Greer and Maia Miller of Holly Springs, MS THE MUSIC: Anna walked down the aisle to Etta James’ “At Last”. The couple left the ceremony to “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” by Stevie Wonder. Reception music was their favorite band, Doctor Zarr’s Amazing Funk Monster.

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Ashley Strawn THE BIG DAY November 7, 2017 Sandals Negril, Jamaica

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Kyle Chunn

NO PLACE LIKE HOME After purchasing their first home together, the couple’s family and friends threw them a housewarming party to celebrate. The couple were about to open presents when Kyle got down on one knee and asked Ashely the most important question he had ever asked. She will cherish the day forever, because it was the day she said yes to her best friend.

PACKED BAGS: The couple had 40 guests travel with them to Jamaica to celebrate their big day. Jane Burkhardt with Starward Vacations in Hernando, MS took care of all the travel accommodations and wedding details. Jane and her husband also made the trip to make sure it was perfect. THE VENUE: A reception was also held at Olive Branch Country Club for family and friends who could not make it to Jamaica. BRIDE’S GOWN: A Morilee by Madeline Gardner ivory A-Lined gown with beading around the neckline from Low’s Bridal. THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Sandals provided the photography for the wedding and reception in Jamaica. Hemker Portraits photographed the local reception. CAKE: A beautiful, four-tiered cake with pearls and sparkles perched on an antique silver cake stand. THE HONEYMOON: A relaxing week at Sandals Negril with their guests. They enjoyed a day to themselves with cabana services and couple’s massages followed by dinner at Sundowner.

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Claire Downen THE BIG DAY

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Joshua Agner

January 20, 2018 Hernando Baptist Church in Hernando, Miss.

WHERE’S DESSERT? Josh took Claire on a carriage ride in Memphis and then to her favorite restaurant. Claire really wanted dessert, but Josh dissuaded her from ordering one because he had bigger plans following dinner. On the way home Claire’s dad had texted that he needed milk for the morning. When they arrived home, her parents and Josh’s mom were at the dinner table. Confused and still upset about dessert, and carrying grocery bags into the kitchen, Claire wondered why they were sitting at the table at 10:00 at night. Josh was on one knee asking her to be his wife. Claire quickly changed her mood and said yes and got dessert.

THE VENUE: Claire’s parents got married at Hernando Baptist Church 33 years ago, which made the ceremony more special. THE THEME: Shabby chic /rustic vintage. Décor from Commerce Street Market, House to Home, Hobby Lobby and Painted Tree in Little Rock, AR. BRIDE’S GOWN: David’s Bridal gown with custom sleeves and veil made by the bride’s mother. PHOTOGRAPHER: Karrie Breanne Berryman Photography THE FOOD: Cookie bar served buffet style compliments of Lorrie Downen. THE MUSIC: Jackson Avenue - a family group well known around the Mid-South.

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Kelsey Wright THE BIG DAY

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Hunter Wilson

October 7, 2017 The Chapel at Oak Hill Stables Bed and Breakfast in Oxford, Miss.

PICTURE PERFECT PROPOSAL In October 2016, the couple took a trip to Natzhez, Miss. for the The Great Mississippi River Balloon Races. Following the balloon races, Kelsey and Hunter went to dinner at a local restaurant behind the beautiful antibellum mansion Dunleith. After dinner, the couple began to take pictures around the mansion. In the middle of taking a picture on the front steps, Hunter completely surprised Kelsey and got down on one knee. DOUBLE RAINBOW: Although it rained on their wedding day and throughout the ceremony, the reception began with a double rainbow followed by a beautiful sunset. THE THEME: Romantic with vintage touches. Little details throughout to show the couple’s personalities, family values and love for music. BRIDE’S GOWN: An ivory Stella York gown from Low’s Bridal. The fit and flare silhouette featured a high neckline made of crystal beading and an illusion back with crystal buttons up the back. PHOTOGRAPHER: Christen Jones Photography of Memphis, TN. FLOWERS: Judith Miller and April Baker with Arlington Florist in Arlington, TN CAKE: Three-tiered with traditional vanilla, chocolate, and peanut butter flavors embellished with fresh greenery made by Lisa Williams of Memphis, TN

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Kenzy McDonald THE BIG DAY March 25, 2017 Heartwood Hall in Rossville, Tenn.

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Preston Poole

UNDER THE CLOCK Kenzy and Preston were visiting family for Christmas Eve in Hernando, Miss. As they were driving home, Preston said he wanted to get out and walk around the town square. As Preston, his son Hayden, and Kenzy were walking, Preston stopped underneath the clock. He got on one knee, and asked Kenzy to marry him! She said yes, and it was the easiest decision she had ever made. Her family was hiding the entire time and got to see it all happen, which she loved.

BRIDE’S GOWN: A Madison James mermaid style gown with an embroidered lace bodice, open back detailing with beading and tulle from Low’s Bridal. FLOWERS: Arlington Florist and Gifts PHOTOGRAPHER: Snap Happy Photography CAKE: Frost Bake Shop THE FOOD: Heartwood Hall signature salad, grilled teriyaki chicken, slow roasted prime beef, green beans and garlic mashed potatoes. THE HONEYMOON: St. Lucia

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Whitney Wadsworth THE BIG DAY December, 2 2017 Hernando United Methodist Church in Hernando

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AndyAcklin

AN EGG-CELLENT PROPOSAL The couple was enjoying an Ester Egg hunt at the home of friends when one of the groom’s nephews handed Whitney an Easter egg. Inside there was a note that said, “Turn around Aunt Whitney.” Whitney turned around to Andy down on one knee with a ring in his hand asking her to marry him.

BRIDE’S GOWN: The bride wore a Galina Signature long sleve illusion gown with appliquéd lace featuring a dramatic 101-inch tiered cathedral train from David’s Bridal. PHOTOGRAPHER: Mid-South House of Weddings, Cory and Tiffany Burks THE CAKE: Cakes by Danielle in Olive Branch, MS FLOWERS: Hernando Flower Shop in Hernando, MS THE FOOD: Scotty’s Smokehouse Catering, Scott Miller, Nesbit, MS THE COUPLE’S EXIT: The couple left the reception ringing their MSU cowbells while the wedding guests rang small cowbells. THE HONEYMOON: The newlyweds spent their honeymoon in the beautiful, new home that they built in Hernando, MS.

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Bridget Hunt THE BIG DAY

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Nicholas Chandler

March 3, 2018 Hewlett Barn in Starkville, Miss.

BIG EASY ENGAGEMENT On Monday, January 16, 2017, Nick asked Bridget to meet him at Jackson Square in New Orleans, Louisiana. This was the location where they had their first kiss, but this time Nick brought Bridget here to ask her to marry him.

BRIDE’S GOWN: The Bridal Path PHOTOGRAPHER: Jus My Style Photography – Jamie Howell VIDEOGRAPHER: Michael Alexander Films FLOWERS AND FOOD: Suzanne Lindley Catering Co. & Floral Design in Starkville, MS THE CAKE: Susan Darby OFFICIANT: Dr. John Pace, Pastor of First Baptist Church Terry, MS THE HONEYMOON: Sandals, Montego Bay, Jamaica

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homegrown } delta blues rice

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Delta Blues Rice By Pam Windsor | Photography by Rory Doyle

Returning home was the catalyst for David Arant Jr. to start a business that is truly farm-to-table as well as delicious. The Arant family has worked the land in Ruleville, Mississippi, for generations, but only began commercially producing Delta Blues Rice about four years ago. They had grown rice for years and given it away to friends and family who liked it so much they’d often ask for more. But it wasn’t until David Arant Jr. returned home after moving away to work as a civil engineer that the family decided to turn the rice they’d been making for years, into a business. “My wife and I lived in Jackson, Mississippi, for a while,” he explains, “and when we were there we really liked going to the local farmers market. We’d get to meet the farmers that grew our food, the strawberries, blueberries, peaches, and that kind of thing, and that made an impression on us. So,

when we came back to the farm and people kept telling us we had a good product, we put two and two together and said let’s see if we can build a business.” They combined the things that worked in the past, planting carefully selected seed in the rich soil of the Mississippi Delta, and using their own artisan milling process to create a farm-to-table product they would be proud to call their own. Their rice is now sold in stores nationwide, served in restaurants, and shipped out daily via online orders. “We didn’t really have any idea of what it could do when he started,” Arant says. “We just said we’d see what happens. We’ve been very pleased with what we’ve been able to do.” DeSoto 91


The rice-growing process starts in early spring with seed planting. This year, they had to stop for a while due to heavy rains and cold temperatures but finished planting by May 1st. It takes four-to-five months for the plants to reach maturity. “Growing the rice is really the hardest part because it’s hot and can be labor-intensive in terms of managing the water. You want to have one-to-two inches of water over the entire field once the rice gets to about a foot tall. Maintaining that water level can be difficult because few fields are perfectly flat. We have different ways of managing it.” The rice is ready for harvest by August or September. Once the plants are cut down and the grain separated from the rest of the plant, it’s stored in rice bins until it’s time for the milling process. “Rice has a yellow husk on the outside. Once that’s removed you get brown rice. If you want white rice you take the brown rice, polish off the bran layer of that grain, and that gives you white rice.” Delta Blues Rice sells both the white and brown variety. They also offer white and brown ‘rice grits.’ Their white rice grits are currently their most popular item. In a much earlier time in America’s history, rice grits were less desirable that regular rice. Today they’re more in demand and not often available in grocery stores. 92 DeSoto

“Rice grits are a by-product of the milling process,” he says. “They’re the broken grain you get from milling. That’s where they originated. Many years ago that’s what people bought when they couldn’t afford the good rice. Today we actually have a machine that breaks the grain. Rice grits cook up real creamy, so it’s a different consistency than regular rice.” That consistency works well in the recipes listed on the company’s website, such as Creamy Parmesan Cheese Grits, Shrimp and Rice Grits, and Delta Rice pudding. Their white rice grits received a “Best in the South” award from Garden & Gun magazine in 2016. “Alton Brown (chef and Food Network personality) was a judge for the Garden & Gun award,” notes Arant. “So, I’ve always thought that was a huge honor for us.” Their long grain white rice also got a prestigious award that year. It was named “Best Rice” in the Southern Living 2016 Food Awards. They recently added a new rice to their product line called Jasmine Rice. Arant says he’s proud of how the business has evolved and hopes to see continued growth in the future. His greatest success, he believes, is being able to work alongside his family and continuing the tradition of farming on the Mississippi Delta.


“My great grandfather farmed this land and we’re still growing on it. My father and my uncle all work together on the farm and in the rice field. And that’s the coolest thing to me is that it’s a family operation. That’s a neat thing to be able to say.” deltabluesrice.com

Wedding Rice Rice has long been a staple on Southern menus, but it once symbolized a wish for fertility for newlyweds. In Rome, guests threw grain at newly married couples, but rice later became a substitute and typically meant a wish for prosperity. Today, many wedding venues discourage throwing rice because it can become messy and possibly hazardous. Substitutes include confetti, bubbles, and rose petals, but many people are shifting away from anything airborne and choosing to use sparklers or glow sticks. Pam Windsor is a freelance writer based in Nashville, Tennessee, but enjoys traveling to wherever the story may take her. She’s written for AARP, MotorHome Magazine, the Myrtle Beach Sun News, American Profile, Country Weekly, and other publications DeSoto 93


southern gentleman } proposing

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Pop

Goes the Question By Jason Frye | Photography courtesy of theplunge.com, putmelike.com and wedding-planning.info

Proposals of marriage run the gamut from elaborate productions to simple, heart-felt gestures. What’s the right way for you and your intended? You’ve been on picnics and met your partner’s parents; you’ve even secured the blessing of the best friend (a tough gatekeeper); and now you recognize it’s time for the next step: marriage. Sure, you could casually ask, “So, you wanna’ get married?” while you lounge on the couch watching House Hunters International (watching HGTV together is a sure sign she/he is right for you), but if you want a “Yes” with no hesitation, you gotta’ do better than that. Fortunately for you, Southern Gentleman, I’m here

with thoughts and advice to make popping the question a memorable moment for all the right reasons. The Ring Arguably the most important part of the proposal is the ring. It’s a powerful symbol of the love you share, of your partner’s individuality, and of the future you’re building together. Such a strong, stalwart symbol deserves serious consideration, and that raises a serious question: Does size matter? DeSoto 95


Sorry to disappoint, but it does. At least it does insomuch as you can’t skimp on carat count (and, yes, it’s carat – a weight measure used for gems and stones – not carrot – a tasty root vegetable). There’s an antiquated rule that says you spend two months of salary on a ring, but that’s a holdover from the days of dowries and when honeymoon referred to the mead-filled month after the wedding. Now mead is reserved for Renaissance Fairs and two months of salary would better serve the both of you in a Roth IRA (if you’ve discussed IRAs that’s another sure sign it’s meant to be). Gone too – for most of us anyway – is the idea that biggest is best. An engagement ring that looks more like a participation trophy than jewelry… well, it’s falling out of vogue. This is good because it’s opened the door for personalized and creative approaches. Blacksmiths, make a ring. Poets, propose with a ring of sonnets. Ditch traditional diamonds and go for something fun and meaningful. Opt for an heirloom ring or gem. Get engagement tattoos. Because the definition of marriage has expanded beyond the traditional sense of the word, the other traditions are up for grabs and you can do your engagement in a way that reflects your personality as a couple. Oh, and another note on size. When you opt for the heirloom ring, you may have an issue with size. People were smaller in your grandparents’ or great-grandparents’ days, meaning the ring is smaller and you may need to have it resized. While you’re having it resized, you might as well have the stones certified and insured and get the settings tightened. All of that adds up, so soon you might find you’ve spent that two months’ salary after all. Go Big or Go Home Speaking of size, when it comes to proposing you can go big or go home. Go big: picture the Jumbotron at the baseball game, the camera pans and finds you and then right there in front of God and the 40,000 Braves fans in the stadium (not to mention all those folks watching on TV) you get to share this intimate moment. 96 DeSoto


Go home: imagine a typical morning, except today you’ve tied an engagement ring to the string on her morning bag of tea, called into the bedroom, “Babe, do you want breakfast,” and you’ve started cooking, put the kettle on to boil. In a minute you know she’ll hear the ring clink the inside of her cup as she stirs in the honey, the pull out the bag and find what you tied there. Which way do you want to go? Go big or go home? Whichever you chose, be sure your significant other will be cool with the gesture. Me? I was going to propose at our favorite restaurant, but instead I asked her when her parents arrived at our house to go out to dinner. I dropped to one knee and asked and presented the ring. No one was paying attention, but I don’t think it matters because we’re going on 12 years. The ring in the teacup? That was a friend of mine and they said “I do” in April. People pop the question in ways that vary from elaborate setups where she said “I’ll think about it” (picture the Jumbotron, but not as successful as you might like) to touching a hand-drawn adult coloring book telling the story of the couple meeting and falling in love (success). And the one where the two runners stopped at a favorite vantage point overlooking their city, and he asked. Before you drop to one knee or arrange for a skywriter, be sure this is something you and your partner want. Then work out the other details, keeping in mind that everything you do should be about the two of you. Your proposal should celebrate who you are together. Do that, and no matter the carat size and no matter how elaborately or simply you pop the question, you’ll be starting on a track toward a long, healthy relationship.

Jason Frye is a freelance writer from Wilmington, North Carolina. A member of the Society of American Travel Writers, Jason has authored three travel guides for Moon Publications and also written for Southern Living and the Dallas Morning News. DeSoto 97


southern harmony } doctor zarr’s amazing funk monster

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Doctor Zarr’s Amazing Funk Monster By Charlene Oldham Photography Credits: Photos courtesy of Doctor Zarr’s Amazing Funk Monster and Adam Mitchell

Fans of all ages dance to the beat of this unique Mid-South cover band that has played at hundreds of wedding receptions. Over the band’s 25-year history, members of Doctor Zarr’s Amazing Funk Monster have played thousands of shows across the country, including gigs where clients brought them to vacation meccas like the Hawaiian Islands and Vail, Colorado. Other locations have been somewhat less glamorous. “One time, we played in a cornfield near Des Moines, Iowa. We flew in and got in this rental van with a driver the clients had for us, and we just kept driving past corn for what seemed like a couple of hours,” remembers Steve Coleman, the band’s bassist. “We got out and there we were, playing on a

flatbed trailer in a field.” The farmhouse wedding was just one of hundreds of receptions Doctor Zarr’s members have played in their quartercentury as a part of a popular costume-clad cover band. They’ve even entertained guests at would-be weddings. “We’ve played shows that were supposed to be receptions where the wedding was called off, and they just decided to throw a party since they’d already paid the deposits,” he says. But Doctor Zarr’s Amazing Funk Monster doesn’t DeSoto 99


just rear its head at weddings. The band has also appeared at festivals, casino shows, proms, and private parties among other gigs. And its longevity has meant members sometimes see multiple generations of the same family at shows and have encountered now-adult executives who exclaim, “Dude, you played my prom!” Indeed, many music lovers in the Mid-South may have partied at a prom or downed their first adult beverage to the sounds of Doctor Zarr playing songs everyone recognizes by the lyrics, if not by the title. (Who knew “Josie” is actually “Your Love” by The Outfield?) And, while the band’s song list has evolved over the years – featuring a few 1990s hits like “Baby Got Back” – it’s still stocked mostly with danceable hits from the 1970s and 80s and anthems with enduring appeal. “The songs we’re doing have proven to be timeless. It’s almost like the music has been handed down” Coleman says. “And it’s never more evident than when we play “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey at a prom and these kids – every single one of them – know every single word to the song.” Other setlist staples include “Brick House” by The Commodores and “Get Down Tonight” by KC and the Sunshine Band, songs the group has been playing since it shed its heavy metal- and-rock roots in favor of music that fills the dance floor. Before making the transition, the six-man band 100 DeSoto

had been playing venues around the South under the name Mother Goose, searching for a formula that would allow them to make a living as full-time musicians. Their transformation from “Mother” to “Monster” happened gradually as they learned a few dance songs, donned costumes on a lark and eventually decided the group needed a new name. Doctor Zarr’s Amazing Funk Monster was born out of a collaborative brainstorming session between band members and a stroke of inspiration from a B-movie spotted on a Blockbuster video store shelf titled “Dr. Tarr’s Torture Dungeon.” Acting on a suggestion from their one-time booking agent, the group – which boasts four of its six original members – changed the T to a Z. “And suddenly, we had the world’s worst band name, and it stuck,” Coleman says. The band’s popularity really took off in 1995 after it had been booked at a St. Patrick’s Day show in Memphis. Doctor Zarr got bumped to the prime spot on the bill after a couple of other bands canceled. That night, they found themselves playing in front of a crowd of 10,000 to 15,000 people and, after an enthusiastic response, were approached by several club owners interested in booking them. For years afterward, they played anywhere from 130to-160 shows a year, achieving their goal of making a living


through music. Today, some have taken second jobs, but the band still books about 90 shows a year, mostly in the Mid-South. While their booking agent, Resource Entertainment’s Mike Brocato, is based in Memphis, one bandmate drives to gigs from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and the five other members currently call Mississippi home. But any given weekend might find them commuting to a casino, festival, or private party to bring the Monster to life, and the band books gigs as much as a year in advance. Coleman attributes that perennial popularity to Doctor Zarr’s fun-loving approach to making music. “We get up there and have a good time. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. You can’t take yourself seriously and go up there and play ‘YMCA,’” Coleman says. “So, it’s like we’re about to have a party and you’re invited.”

Band Members:

Doug Hurd, lead singer Steve Coleman, Bass Player Tony Carlisle, Keyboards Wes Bowers, Sound Engineer Joel Bernacchi, Guitar Player Clint Wiencken, Drums funkmonster.com

Charlene Oldham is a freelance writer based in St. Louis who grew up in the Arkansas Delta. She has worked as a staff writer for newspapers including the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and the Dallas Morning News and as a middle school, high school and college teacher.

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in good spirits} calcasieu sunset

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A Drink of Poetry By Cheré Coen | Photography Courtesy of L’Auberge Casino Resort

It’s not every day that a mixologist creates a haiku – a very short form of Japanese poetry – for a cocktail. But the Calcasieu Sunset is not your everyday drink. The brainchild of Kelly Bistok of Ember Grille & Wine Bar at L’Auberge Casino Resort in Lake Charles, the refreshing summer cocktail incorporates fresh summer produce — basil and cucumbers — along with vodka and a Louisiana craft lager. “I really love clean flavors and I wanted to come up with a cocktail that highlighted a beer from the Crying Eagle Brewery in Lake Charles,” Bistok explained. “I was working outside in my yard one day and it was incredibly hot and humid (go figure), so I went into my fridge and I happened to have a Louisiana Lager in there. As I sipped it out of my glass watching the sun set, I happened to be pruning my basil plant and then it struck me. Basil would go fantastically with this beer.” Bistok came to work the following day with basil in hand to create a “shandy” type cocktail. “It felt like it was missing something with just the basil, so I had some fresh cucumber,” Bistok said. “I muddled that with the basil and the fresh lemon juice, shook it with some vodka to give it a little more of a kick and boom! The rest is history.” Bistok has worked at L’Auberge for 12 years and currently serves as head bartender at Ember Grill. She’s certified with a Masters of Mixology from the Beverage Alcohol Resource but most of her knowledge is self-taught — and possibly inspired by backyard plants and poetry. “Many years ago, at Jack Daniels (another L’Auberge restaurant), my manager at the time wanted me to come up with a seasonal hand-crafted cocktail menu,” she explained. “I had no clue what hand-crafted meant at that time, so I went home, did tons of research and discovered a whole world of amazing cocktails.” When she moved to Ember, known for its extensive wine selection and cocktails, her expertise expanded. “I feel like my palate and knowledge grew by leaps and bounds because of my relationship with our incredible culinary

team,” Bistok said of her time at Ember. “We have access to ingredients that I would’ve never imagined I would ever see. I am always learning and trying to stay ahead of trends.” Her garnish for the Calcasieu Sunset — Calcasieu is the parish (county) name — is a cucumber ribbon. Bistok recommends cutting off one end of a cucumber, rubbing the exposed end to “draw all of the bitterness out,” then peel the skin off with a vegetable peeler until reaching the seeds. As for that haiku:

Gold horizon fades While raptors dance in the sky Crying for the night Calcasieu Sunset 1 ½ ounce Stolichnaya Vodka ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice ¾ ounces simple syrup 3 basil leaves Small handful of diced cucumber “Louisiana Lager” Crying Eagle beer (or other lager beer)

Directions: In a shaker muddle cucumbers and basil leaves with simple syrup. Add lemon juice, vodka and ice. Shake for 10 seconds and strain over fresh ice in a water glass. Top with “Louisiana Lager” Crying Eagle beer (or another lager-style beer) and garnish with a cucumber ribbon.

Cheré Coen is a freelance food and travel writer living in Lafayette, Louisiana, but her Mississippi roots run deep. Read her quirky stories at WeirdSouth.blogspot.com. She also writes the Viola Valentine mysteries under the pen name of Cherie Claire.

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exploring events } june Picturing Mississippi Exhibit Through July 8 Mississippi Museum of Art Jackson, TN 200 Years. 100 Artists. 1 Mississippi. For ticket information visit msmuseumart.org or call 601-960-1515.

Tupelo Elvis Festival June 6 - 10 Tupelo, MS A musical celebration to honor Elvis Presley, Tupelo’s native son, and the impact of his music on the world. For schedule of events visit tupeloelvisfestival.com.

Legends of Motown: Celebrating The Supremes Through September 3 GRAMMY Museum Mississippi Cleveland, MS For more information visit grammymuseumms.org or call 662-441-0100.

Thunder on the Water June 6 - 10 Grenada, MS The annual safe boating festival will celebrate 25 years with a carnival, fireworks, music, car and big rig show, arts & crafts, barbecue contest and more. For schedule of events visit thunderonthewater.net.

Live at the Garden Featuring Rascal Flatts June 1 Botanic Garden Memphis, TN Guests are encouraged to bring picnic blankets, lawn chairs and coolers for food and beverages to make their experience that much better. For more information visit liveatthegarden.com or call 901-576-4107.

Movies Under the Stars June 2 - 29 Wesson House Olive Branch, MS 7:00pm-10:00pm-movies begin at dusk Bring the family and enjoy the beginning of summer by watching a FREE Movie Under the Stars each Friday night, June 2-30, weather permitting. Rain date is Saturday. Concessions will be available, offering hot dogs, drinks, popcorn and snacks. The first movie, June 2, will be Zootopia. Sponsored by the Olive Branch Parks & Recreation and Olive Branch Old Towne Association. For more information, call 662-893-0888.

FedEx St. Jude Classic June 4 - 10 TPC Southwind Memphis, TN For more information visit stjudeclassic.com or call 901-748-0534.

Movie Night in the Park June 5 - 26 Gabbert Park Senatobia, MS Hosted by by Senatobia Main Street and First Financial Bank. Every Tuesday in June at dark in Gabbert Park. Coolers, blankets, and lawn chairs are welcome. Concessions will be available. For more information call 662-562-8715. June 5: The Lion King June 12: Wonder June 19: Big Hero 6 June 26: Moana

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DeSoto Family Theatre Presents “Godspell” June 8 - 17 Landers Center Southaven, MS For tickets visit dftonline.org or call 662-280-6546.

Bentonia Blues Festival June 11 - 16 Bentonia, MS Since 1972 this festival has been celebrating the unique and haunting style of country-blues that originated in Bentonia, Mississippi. For more information visit visityazoo.org/bentonia-blues-festival.

DeSoto Arts Council Presents Secret Signature Soiree Art Auction June 15 DeSoto Arts Council Hernando, MS 6:00 - 9:00pm Bid on your favorite painting and uncover the artists signature. For more information call 662-404-3361 or visit desotoarts.com.

“Sunset on the Square” Summer Concert Series June 7-28 DeSoto County Courthouse Hernando, MS 7:00pm - 9:00pm Each Thursday in June, enjoy Hernando’s “Sunset on the Square” Summer Concert Series, presented by Hernando Main Street Chamber of Commerce and First Tennessee Bank. It will be a fun-filled evening of music for the whole family. A variety of musical acts will appear on the stage and don’t worry about supper as there will be food vendors around the square. June 7 - Truck Patch Revival June 14 - Mississippi Stomp June 21 - Young Petty Thieves June 28 - Twin Soul Free admission. For more information, visit hernandoms.org or call 662-429-9055.


John Fogerty and ZZ Top “Blues and Bayous Tour” June 16 BankPlus Amphitheater at Snowden Grove Park Southaven, MS 7:00pm Legendary rock musicians and cultural icons John Fogerty and ZZ Top will come together for the “Blues and Bayous Tour.” Purchase tickets at ticketmaster.com, LiveNation.com or BankPlus Amphitheater Box Office.

Senior Arts Series June 20 Theatre Memphis Memphis, TN 1:30pm Featuring native Memphian, jazz and blues Creative Aging artist Deborah Swiney and highlights from Theatre Memphis’ 42nd Street. Tickets available online or at the door for a minimum donation of $5 (cash or check only). Limited wheelchair seating. Call 901-272-3434 or visit CreativeAgingMidSouth.org for more info.

DeSoto County International Festival June 23 Landers Center Southaven, MS 10:00am - 6:00pm Come join us as we celebrate the many cultures in DeSoto County! Vendors will be set up selling clothing, food,

art, performances, giveaways and many other items that relate to represented countries. Hosted by The Hope Center. For more information call 901-484-8429 or visit hornlakehopecenter.com.

Greenwood-Leflore County Stars and Stripes Festival and Picnic June 28 Greenwood, MS The festival features food vendors, live entertainment, a veterans tribute, splash pad and activities for kids, a boat parade on the Yazoo River and a giant fireworks show at dark from the Veterans Bridge. The park opens at 6pm and is free to the public. For more information, please call the Chamber office at 662-453-4152.

Jerry Seinfeld June 29 Orpheum Theatre Memphis, TN 7:00pm For ticket information visit orpheum-memphis.com or call 901-525-3000.

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reflections} a love story for the ages

A Love Story for the Ages By Mary Miller

There’s a scrapbook in my desk, chock full of bits and pieces of my family history. My mother, Sara Evans Criss, compiled it during her last years. In one plastic sleeve, there’s a faded, handwritten 1941 menu from Finlay’s Drug Store in Greenville, Mississippi, where 30 cents would buy you a steak sandwich, potato salad, Karo pecan pie and a cup of coffee. The blocky handwriting is that of my father, Russell Criss. There’s also another menu, carefully typed and much more appealing. Just two simple pieces of paper, nearly 80 years old, but they tell the beginning of a love story that is ageless. Sara and “Criss” were children of the Delta and the Depression. Sara had left college to work for the Farm Security Administration in Greenville. She shared a boarding house room with two friends and walked down Main Street for lunch most days. She was 20 years old and already bursting with the good humor and energy that would be her hallmark. Criss had been dragged through a dozen moves during high school, one town to another, as his father searched for work. When he graduated in 1935, the only opening he found was “drug store clerk,” a fancy synonym for soda jerk. He was behind that counter at Finlay’s one day when a stunning brunette slipped onto a stool and studied his crude menu. As he would tell me in later years, “I had nothing to offer that beautiful young lady but an ice cream soda.” A “strictly business” deal was struck: Sara would type his menus and receive, in return, all the ice cream sodas she could sip. Years later, she would laugh and say that she gained a lot of weight over the next few months but couldn’t pin Criss down for a serious relationship. 106 DeSoto

It was 1941. War was already raging in Europe, and Sara’s family felt she would be safer back in Greenwood. She packed her small suitcase and headed east, assuming that Criss was to be just another fond memory. But in June of that year, he appeared on her doorstep with the news that he had joined the U.S. Army and would soon be shipped off for basic training. And he admitted that he was in love, but still felt that he had nothing to offer her. She melted like one of his ice cream sodas. It would be six more years before Sara and Criss were married. His letters from Europe are heart-wrenching and show a desperate longing to come home. Her letters were destroyed as the 45th Infantry moved across North Africa, Italy, France and Germany. But on a rainy January day in 1947, they said “I Do” in Minter City, a farming community about 25 miles north of Greenwood, and began a life of utter devotion to each other and to their two daughters. He traveled the Delta for H.J. Heinz and Sara covered debutantes, disasters and Civil Rights stories for the Memphis Commercial Appeal. They built a small house in 1950 and never left it, filling it with love and laughter and setting an example that I’ve tried to follow. I never have an ice cream soda without thinking about my parents and their legacy.

Mary Carol Miller is a Greenwood native and author of 13 books on Mississippi architecture and history, including “Lost Mansions of Mississippi” and “Must-See Mississippi: 50 Favorite Places.”


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DeSoto Magazine June 2018  

The "I Do" Issue! … All about weddings. A go to guide for every bride and groom.

DeSoto Magazine June 2018  

The "I Do" Issue! … All about weddings. A go to guide for every bride and groom.