Founded in 1716, the picturesque town of Natchez is the oldest city on the Mississippi River.  In 1932, ladies of the local Natchez garden club started an extraordinary tradition of warmly opening their homes to the public – the first tour of its kind in the United States.  The Natchez Pilgrimage Tours ignited a spirit of historic preservation in the south, and every spring guests come from all over the world to visit beautifully restored antebellum mansions.

We had the pleasure of speaking with Jennifer Slover, a Natchez native with a personal connection to the Spring Pilgrimage and the Historic Natchez Tableaux, the annual pageant.  Jennifer smiles, “Both of my parents grew up in Natchez. My dad’s family has been in Natchez since the 1700’s. When my maternal grandparents moved here as adults, my grandmother became active in the Garden Club, and, eventually, my mother served as Queen. My parents moved back to Natchez when I was a child, and I began participating in the Historic Natchez Tableaux."  Today, Jennifer answers more of our questions about the annual Natchez events:

Tell us the history of the Spring Pilgrimage and the Historic Natchez Tableaux!
“The stories of the beginning of Spring Pilgrimage and the beginning of The Historic Natchez Tableaux are certainly related. In 1931, the ladies of the Natchez Garden Club were slated to host the annual meeting of the Mississippi State Federation of Garden Clubs. In order to make the event special and to showcase the history of our city, the ladies decided to offer a special tour of some of the antebellum homes. This tour was such a success that they immediately began planning a larger one for the next year.  To promote the tour, the entrepreneurial women launched a national advertising campaign and opened 24 houses to the public for ‘Garden Pilgrimage Week.’ The Tableaux began as a way to entertain and inform the tourists. It has traditionally been staged and produced by Natchezians and has always featured the children of Natchez as the performers. Thus, many people have been participating in Tableaux in various capacities since infancy. It was considered both an honor and a duty to be involved in the town’s production of its history.”

How are young members of the community chosen to be in the pageant?
“There are now two separate Garden Clubs, the Natchez Garden Club and the Pilgrimage Garden Club, and each chooses its own college-aged king, queen, and royal court. It’s very much like debutante ball…in costume! The process for choosing young people to participate in the Historic Natchez Tableaux has evolved over the decades. For many years, the participants were largely children of Garden Club members. Each Garden Club member recorded the jobs she performed for the club during the year, and this work was taken into account when a child was invited to participate. Some scenes required lots of children, but sometimes there were special, highly coveted roles that went to the children of hard working members. Other things were also taken into account, however, such as whether the parent owned and showed an antebellum home or whether the child was a ‘legacy’ whose parent had the same role.  Some scenes were put on by various dancing schools in town; in this case, the starring role was assigned by the dance instructor.”

Tell us about your time as Queen!
“I was Queen of the Natchez Garden Club in 2004. Usually, you are invited to be Queen about a year before you serve. You must have time to get your dress made, to gather the necessary wardrobe for the whirlwind of parties you will attend, and to prepare for your ball. Each Garden Club announces its royalty with a party in December. From that moment on, you truly feel like a queen. People graciously open their homes to you and your court for brunches and cocktail parties that seem never ending. You are showered with lovely gifts as well. The main responsibility of the Queen is to play her part in the pageant and to throw a lavish ball. When I was Queen, the pageant was on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Because of this and the parties that surround those nights, some kings and queens would take a semester off of college. I decided to continue my studies at Millsaps, and it was quite a commitment to go back and forth between Natchez and Jackson so often. Mostly it was just fun because many of my college friends came home with me on the weekends to join in the festivities, and my king and court were all friends I had grown up with. We moved as a group from party to party.”

How are you currently involved with the Tableaux?
“Jump ahead 12 years, I now co-chair the Tableaux Committee for the Natchez Garden Club.  I was excited to take on the challenge of preserving this event’s most cherished traditions meanwhile implementing a more inclusive history to keep the Tableaux relevant, interesting, dignified, and marketable.  New York Time’s Best Selling Author and Natchez Tableaux native Greg Iles revised the Tableaux to encompass a more diverse and complete picture of the antebellum life of Natchez, and the Committee was charged with bringing this vision to the stage.  We strive to establish a fresh brand that will reintroduce Natchez and the South both to our community and yours, just like those ironed-willed ladies in the 1930s.  I invite you to Natchez, Home of the South.” 

Thank you, Jennifer, for describing this Natchez tradition so beautifully!  For more information on the Spring Pilgrimage, please click here.

Also, a special thank you to Janee McKinney for the wonderful photographs of this year’s Historic Natchez Tableaux!
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
With weather this beautiful, we are craving equally gorgeous skin!  Luckily, our friends at SKIN the Spa at The Runnels Center were delighted to share their top 5 tips for a glowing complexion this spring!
For more information on SKIN the Spa at The Runnels Center, please visit their website here!

{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
So this morning I’m waiting and wondering what it will be like when I meet my second child in a few days.  I have a five-year-old, and I’m completely smitten with him.  I never knew how deeply I could adore a little one.  Emily and I have given and will give our all for our children, under the shadow of the cross.

I can’t even begin to imagine the love that God has for His creation.  This Easter season, maybe we can ponder the height and depth of His love for us; He who would give His son, His love to suffer for us.  What does it mean for us to believe that He’d give so much for us, so that we might be with Him?  It means that we’re loved.  It means that we’re made Holy.  It means that we are accepted.  It means that there is a transformational truth that delivers us beyond this present state.  It means that our faith connects us to Glory.  It means that we can trust in deliverance.  It means that we can live.

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Jesus Christ came as the incarnate love of the Father.  He came to help us to know the truth of God’s affection for us.  He came to suffer and die so that we might believe in His grace and His mercy.  He came and died so that we might have hope.  He hurt, he bled, and he died so that we might have faith.  He rose from that tomb because He is our Lord.  God’s love is alive in Him today.  Amen.

7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.  Hebrews 5:7-9

{Blog by Heath Ferguson}
Happy National Tamale Day!  Did you know that the Mississippi Delta has its very own Hot Tamale TrailSouthern Foodways Alliance and Viking Range Corporation joined forces to create the Mississippi Delta Hot Tamale Trail.

Southern Foodways Alliance says, "Better known for its association with cotton and catfish, the Mississippi Delta has a fascinating relationship with tamales. In restaurants, on street corners, and in kitchens throughout the Delta, this very old and time-consuming culinary tradition remains vibrant."

We rounded up some of our favorite hot tamale stops throughout Mississippi!
Click here to learn more about the fascinating history of the relationship between the hot tamale and our great state!  We hope to see you digging into one of these spicy delicacies along the Hot Tamale Trail!

{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
This past Saturday, March 20th was National Proposal Day!  Proposals can be utterly romantic. But beneath the rosy glow of glimmering candles, rose petals and bottles of champagne, marriage is a lifetime commitment!  Mississippi is filled with inspiring couples, and we asked spouses to share their secrets to a loving, lasting marriage.
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
We are delighted to unveil our spring cover of the 2016 Inspiration Mississippi Magazine!  From the moment Adam + Alli Photography captured this gorgeous shot at Brandon Hall Plantation, we have been completely captivated by its beauty.  
Garden Vows Wedding Inspiration

Imagine exchanging vows beneath a majestic oak tree in the heart of a historic plantation.  Draped in greenery and sprinkled with live oaks, Brandon Hall Plantation sets the stage for a magical wedding.

We used simple details for a big impact:  a cozy wooden porch swing was wrapped in floral garland, and neutral furnishings were added for pretty seating.  The bride and groom shared many sweet moments, and her exquisite white gowns glowed against the green canvas.  
Thank you to the talented vendors involved in our magical spring shoot:

VENUE:  Brandon Hall Plantation
PHOTOGRAPHY:  Adam + Alli Photography
DRESSES & JEWELRY:  The Bridal Path
TUXES:  Tuxes Too
FLORALS:  Fresh Cut Catering & Floral
VIDEOGRAPHY:  Brock Gomez Productions
RENTALS:  Modern Revival Rentals 
STYLING:  Ginger Cook Designer 
After thirty-three years of gloriously green, light-hearted fun, Jackson’s beloved Mal’s St. Paddy’s Day Parade is getting a new name.  This year’s parade will be named Hal’s St. Paddy’s Parade, in memory of Hal White.  “I wanted to rename the parade to honor my brother,” says parade founder, Malcolm White.  “The theme of the 2016 parade is ‘Hal-lelu-y’all,’ in keeping with remembering Hal.”

Hal (Harold Taylor White, Jr.) died after suffering an aneurysm in 2013 at the age of sixty-four.  Hal was athletic, approachable, and a genuinely kind person.  Malcolm smiles, “Hal absolutely loved the parade.  He and I started the O’Tux Society, and Hal didn’t even live in Jackson at the time.  He’d come march in the parade every year.”  

This year’s colorful celebration promises to be memorable.  The parade is set for this Saturday, March 19th, and revelers will no doubt turn the streets of downtown Jackson into a giant party.  

While the beads, live music, dancing, incredible floats and green libations make this infamous parade, the cause behind Malcolm’s creation is even greater.  A supporter of Batson Children’s Hospital for decades, the 2015 event raised more than $25,000 for the hospital, even when an angry sky threatened to dampen the fun.  Guy Giesecke, CEO of Children’s of Mississippi, says, “This annual event, one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the U.S., is a showcase for music and entertainment in Mississippi.  But it also generates thousands of dollars for the state’s only children’s hospital, showing that this is a festival with a mission.  We thank all those who have contributed over the years and this year.” 

Hal’s St. Paddy’s Parade promises to be a joyous, wild ride.  We encourage you to come out and celebrate Jackson on March 19th!  Don’t forget to wear your green!  For more information on Hal’s St. Paddy’s Day Parade & Festival, please visit their website here.  This year's festivities also include a 5K Run, events for children and pets, and a music festival. 
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
Are you busy planning your nuptials?   Forrest Paper and Bridal Company, a breathtaking bridal store in historic downtown Hattiesburg, and Ardor Studio, a stylish rental boutique, are hosting a Wedding Etiquette Workshop on Sunday, April 10th!  Cheryl Fletcher, owner of Forrest Paper and Bridal Co. and Ardor Studio, says, "This workshop is designed to empower young adults who find themselves unsure of the proper etiquette in certain social situations.  The bride and groom will be attending parties and meeting new people now more than ever and need to know basic social skills!"

Linda Montgomery, well known for her delightful etiquette instruction, will be speaking at the event!  She will discuss greetings and introductions, the art of small talk, appropriate attire, grooming and image, how to be gracious hosts, cell phone etiquette, dining skills, table manners and more!  She will also be taking questions from attendees!  This will be a fun, educational event that all brides and grooms should attend!

A wedding is such an exhilarating time for a bride, groom and their families.  The Wedding Etiquette Workshop is the perfect excuse to brush up on your social skills and dazzle all of your wedding guests!  Cheryl adds, "What makes knowing the correct etiquette so valuable for brides and grooms is they will feel confident in social situations and make a positive first impression." 

The Wedding Etiquette Workshop will take place on Sunday, April 10th at 2:00pm at the Ardor Studio -  515 East Pine Street in downtown Hattiesburg.  The cost is $40 per guest and seating is limited!  Email to confirm your reservation today!  For more information on Forrest Paper and Bridal Co., please visit their beautiful website here.  You can learn more about Ardor Studio here!
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
“The Lord laid the Inherit Movement on my heart, but I love the idea of women coming together and praying.  I can’t tell you what an amazing journey this has been.”  Jill Ford of the Inherit Movement

After fifteen years of teaching scripture and working as a realtor, Jill Ford did something completely unexpected.  She ran for public office.  She laughs, “When I felt that God was calling me to run for office, it felt so strange to me!  But he continued to confirm it for me.”  She ran for Supervisor in Madison County, solely to reveal the corruption in her county.  She walked over thirty-seven miles, going door-to-door and running a grassroots campaign.  In the end, she lost the election.

She smiles, “On the Tuesday that I lost, I was told at 2:30am, ‘Jill, you lost by 37 votes.’  I started smiling because three and seven are numbers I hold dear to my heart.  Three is the Trinity and seven is the perfect number.  My friends thought I misunderstood that I had lost because I was smiling.  I knew exactly what they had said!  It was over.  I lost.  But the Lord just signed His name to the end of the race.  I knew He had something much more important for me to do than be a Supervisor.”

The next morning, Jill began studying the Bible.  “I was exhausted and in a fog, but I kept questioning Him, ‘Lord, why did you have me do this?’  Every scripture I read for the next week was about inheritance, so I began praying, ‘How can I use my influence from the election for our children’s inheritance?’”

Jill felt the Lord was urging her to take what she had learned during her campaign, and use it to pray over the state of Mississippi.   She says, “I want to explain how important prayer is.  It is the only thing that is going to save our country, and our country’s future is at stake.  We have got to come together and pray.”

Last February, Jill attended a realtor’s meeting at the Trade Mart Center in Jackson.  She sat next to a woman named Rashida, whom she had never met. “She and I had this immediate connection through Christ.”  The women began praying together and Jill remarks, “Rashida can pray the paint off the wall!  Our skin color is different, but that does not matter.  I adore her and the one thing we have in common is Jesus.  And that is all we need.”

Jill met Rashida for lunch one Friday and told her the idea of praying over the state of Mississippi.  “I said, let’s go pray in every county of the state.  When we pray together, I believe it is doing something.  She looked at me and said, ‘For real?’”  The Inherit Movement was born.

Jill, Rashida, and a number of women (and men) across the state have prayed in over twenty counties.  They have prayed in Carthage City Hall, an elementary school, Baptist churches, Methodist churches, and more.  They hold hands, pray and sing songs.  She says, “It is organized, but not so organized that the Lord isn’t over it.”

Jill says with awe, “Every place we have been has been amazing.  As long as the Lord is in it, I’m doing it.  He is completely blowing my mind.” 

The Inherit Movement has many upcoming dates throughout Mississippi where women and men will be gathering to pray.  Click here to see their upcoming trips; all are invited to join!  On October 15th, the Inherit Movement will have its closing ceremony.  Jill says, “Anyone who wants to come may come and pray!  We gather soil from every county when we pray, and that day we will join the soil and plant seeds.  I hope that we will have a church filled with people of different races and backgrounds, and that God is pleased with what we have done.  It’s up to Him; it is truly in His hands.  I hope that by praying we will break some barriers and really start a healing over this state and this nation.”

For more information on the Inherit Movement, please view their website here.  You can also click here to view and like their Facebook page!  All photos courtesy of the Inherit Movement. 
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
{Bride}  Mary Claire Cain          
{Groom}  William James Buck
{Hometowns} Jackson, MS  Madison, MS
{Wedding Site} Brandon Hall Plantation, Natchez, MS
{Reception Site} Brandon Hall Plantation, Natchez, MS
{Bride’s Bouquet} Fresh Cut Catering & Floral

{How did the two of you meet?} We have had similar friend groups since high school and had always seen each other around, but never knew each other until we officially met in college.

{What is your proposal story?} Short Version: He proposed on the beach at a special spot we discovered 51/2 years earlier on our first trip together!  

Long Version: When we went to the beach for our very first trip together (6 years ago), we found a secluded pathway through the dunes that led to a spot overlooking the beach. We watched the sun set and it kind of became our special spot. We went back for the first time this past summer, and he surprised me by taking me to our special spot…the only trouble was, there were two pre-teens sharing a big gulp bottle of wine in OUR spot!! We went down to the beach and he gave me a book he had made full of pictures of us from over the years. The back of the book had a long sweet message and then had a question in French (we were preparing for a trip to France) I asked him what it meant and he just said it meant, “I can’t wait to go with you”…weird…so then he said we should go up to our spot and get the kids to take our picture. He is an epic jokester and pretty much every word he speaks is sarcastic (his quick wit and humor are what hooked me) so as they are taking our picture he says, “Yeah, this is a special spot to us. It’s where I asked her to marry me.” I thought he was joking and went to tell them so, but then he got down on one knee and started fumbling in his pocket (he had a hard time finding the ring!) and then he proceeded to propose. The pre-teen girl started FREAKING out and practically crying, which was hilarious, but we got pictures of the whole thing thanks to those blasted kids being there.

{What inspired your wedding and reception locations?} I (MC) had always dreamed of a spring/summer southern wedding. I grew up going to the pilgrimage in Natchez and fell in love with the history and beauty of the homes and landscape; I couldn’t think of anywhere more romantic to say our vows.

{What inspired your color scheme/theme/flowers?} I surprised myself with some of my decisions along the way, including the bridesmaids dresses.  I thought I wanted something very traditional, but fell in love with the subdued colors of the blush, pale peach (bellini), and dove gray. I thought they embodied the romance of our wedding location and complemented the dramatic scenery instead of competing with it. From the dresses, everything else evolved.

{How did you pick “the dress?”} I knew I wanted something unique, and I loved the vintage style of wedding dresses with lace sleeves. As soon as I tried on my dress, I knew it embodied everything I wanted - simple, classic elegant, with a touch of vintage. I loved that it looked like it could have been handed down for generations.

{What’s your favorite unique accessory? Is there a story behind it?} I had a locket of my grandmother’s with pictures of her and my great grandmother, and a hand sewn handkerchief of my mom’s wrapped around my bouquet.

{What was your favorite part of the wedding planning process?} Picking the venue!! As soon as we pulled up to Brandon Hall I knew it was where we would be married. I fell in love with the house and the grounds and it was so exciting to plan our day around such a beautiful location.

{Besides the actual wedding, what was your favorite moment of the wedding day?} I would say it has to be a tie between writing my letter to Will for our first look and the actual first look itself. I wrote my letter that morning at Brandon Hall before anyone else had arrived, and I just remember looking out at all the surrounding beauty of the grounds and the stunningly beautiful day God had given us, while writing a love letter to my soulmate for our wedding day. My heart was so full in that moment. ​

{What was your favorite surprise detail/moment about your wedding day?} The clear tent!!! The rain changed all our plans for the ceremony and reception, but I think it changed them for the better. I loved the intimacy of the porch-side ceremony, and I was head over heels about the clear tent and the arrangements underneath. It felt like a dream.

{Your favorite picture from the big day?} So easy - one of the first photos we took as husband and wife, the black and white photo of the two of us draped over this glorious antique settee underneath a beautiful chandelier.

{The picture that represents the two of you best?} Cracking each other up in the midst of serious poses on the porch!

Photographer: Adam + Alli Photography
Event Planner: Kendall Poole Event Planning
Dress: Imaginations Bridal

Bride’s Jewelry: Family jewelry
Hair: Molly Gee Designs

Make-up: Molly Gee Designs
Bridesmaid Dresses: Amsale

Tuxes: Tuxes Too
Videographer: BGP Wedding Films

Venue: Brandon Hall Plantation
Lighting: Davaine Lighting

Florist: Fresh Cut Catering & Floral
Catering: Brandon Hall Plantation

Bar: Brandon Hall Plantation
Band: Mo’ Money

Bride’s Cake: Edna’s Cake Creations
Groom’s Cake: Edna’s Cake Creations

Print Material: Emily Ferguson for Designs by KPEP – she created the most incredible programs with a sketch of Brandon Hall Plantation!!

{Blog by Mitchell Walters}