You finally set the date for your big day, and now all you have to do is plan and execute. You made a list...well, it’s a few notes you scribbled on a hamburger wrapper on your lunch break. You set the menu... wait, is Aunt Linda allergic to seafood? Okay, at least you know with absolute certainty the vibe: it’s soho chic. Or, maybe bohemian glam? Help!
If you ask veteran brides for their advice, you’ll likely get two answers: enjoy your big day and hire a planner! That’s where companies like Southern Fete come in (or ride in on a white horse, as it were). Owner Cassie Thibeau has been helping brides and grooms make it successfully down the aisle – with their wits and sanity intact – for the past nine years. She agreed to take us behind the scenes of her operations to show us how things get done, from the initial phone call to final clean-up.
Thibeau, a Lafayette native, earned an undergraduate degree in English and a Master’s of Mass Communication, both from LSU. After graduation she worked in marketing, PR and communications in Baton Rouge and taught PR writing at LSU. Shortly after she got married, in 2012, she returned to Lafayette with an itch to own her own company. “I worked up the courage to reach out to the owner of Southern Fete while sitting in a Target parking lot one day, and from there began the process of buying it,” she recalls.
Since that time, she’s embraced the name of her company fully, and threads its philosophy through everything she does for her clients. ”For me, ‘Southern’ and ‘Tradition’ are synonymous,” she says. “It’s the antique silver coupe de mariage passed down through generations on the cake. It’s a family heirloom rosary pinned to the bride’s bouquet. It’s the details that root us in what the wedding is all about – a celebration of the union or sacrament of two people – and that is what ultimately drives my passion for planning and overall design philosophy. Southern to me is also inviting and effortless, and I also touch on this in the design.”
A Plan Well Designed
Thibeau understands that not every client wants Southern traditional designs, but knows how to still create a meaningful event for every couple. “It’s infusing personal design elements that, when they look back on their wedding in five, 10, 25, 50 years, they remember the feeling of that day – the joy of their union and sharing it with their closest family and friends.”
Southern Fete offers three tiers of services, but the full service design package (Southern Oaks) is the most popular. That’s where Thibeau’s talent for designing a perfect wedding really comes into play. “Design has become an integral part of what sets Southern Fete apart, and each day I feel blessed that our clients trust us enough to dream big dreams of their big day,” she shares. While there are myriad wedding planners and designers, Thibeau says, “I caution prospective clients from comparing planners’ packages, as they are not apples to apples – especially related to price. Each wedding we take on is definitely unique and even if we don’t work on design with those clients, our main goal is to identify ways to highlight their love story and infuse that into their wedding, while making the entire process as stress-free and memorable as possible.”
Step by Step
Although she laments that she’d need to write “a full novel” to go through every step she takes as a wedding designer, she revealed some highlights of what couples can expect:
~ In-person or phone meeting with client. “This is where we get to know the client and their story, explain the packages in greater detail, answer any questions, and ensure it’s the right fit. Planners are people, too, with varying personalities, so we try hard to ensure it’s a fit for both of us.”
~ Planning timeline generated. After contracts are signed and a deposit made, the client receives a shared wedding planning timeline, detailing all of the to-do’s from that very day to the week of the wedding – even reminding them to get their rings cleaned. “This helps them to have an eagle’s eye view of what goes into planning to reduce the overwhelm.”
~ Vendor recommendations shared. “We work hard to provide vendors that are a good fit based on style, budget and personality for each client. We don’t have blanket recommendations, nor do we require our clients to work only with certain vendors. I dream the design for the wedding and bring my inspiration to Caitlin Gossen with Hark Creative. She creates a rendering of the main design elements I pitch to the clients.”
~ Design proposal day. “Besides the wedding day, this is my most favorite day of the planning process. I have a full blown presentation ready for them that includes the rendering, linen samples, candle and floral mockups, etc. We review and refine the design and move forward with securing vendors and design items. It’s the first visual glimpse into what we will bring to life on the wedding day.”
~ Periodic check-ins. Throughout the coming months, planners regularly check the shared timeline, meet and communicate with vendors on the client’s behalf, and begin logistical preparations for the wedding month and day.
~ Final preparations. The week of the wedding, Southern Fete confirms all vendors and oversees the setup of the design. “Throughout it all, we pride ourselves on being there to support our clients – when the guest list becomes overwhelming, when mom and bride disagree on invitation design, when COVID restrictions change again or a new variant threatens turnout.”
~ The big day. “The day of the wedding, we set up and refine all final details that truly make the wedding special while executing the logistical timeline and keeping everyone calm and on time. During the reception, we ensure the parents know when important events are taking place, as they’re often caught by guests yet don’t want to miss out on the cake cutting or couple’s introduction. We’ve become known as the bride and groom’s bodyguards, making sure they make it to the dance floor in enough time to enjoy the reception. We tackle any emergency that comes about, all while making sure no one in the wedding finds out about it – a broken down transportation vehicle, a sick groomsmen, a bridesmaid’s dress that rips, a band unable to hook up to the generator provided, a cake melting so fast it’s about to collapse, and my favorite – wedding crashers.”
Through it all, Thibeau wants couples to feel as if they are her only clients. “Clearly, that’s not the case, but we work tirelessly to ensure the wedding is truly one of the happiest days of their lives,” she says. “My one promise to myself when I bought Southern Fete was that I would stay true to myself and the standard of service I wanted to deliver to clients – the way I wanted them to feel, the level of trust I wanted them to have with us. There are times when this has been challenging, but staying focused on that promise has provided experiences leaps and bounds more than I could have ever dreamed. So many of our clients become family, mother of brides become my adopted moms, and even a handful have become employees. I will never take these relationships for granted!”
Fore more information, visit southernfete.com
Favors and Giveaways
Tips from a Pro
Southern Fete is known for handling all the details for the bride and groom, so we asked for their best advice on favors (or giveaways) at receptions. Here’s what owner Cassie Thibeau had to say:
"If you ask any of my clients my thoughts on favors, it's that if it doesn't come naturally don't force it. Guests truly don't expect something - other than to have a good time - and often don't take it home anyway. So if it's causing stress or panic, ditch it.
My favorite favors are food-related items: a Judice Inn Burger, Central Pizza slice, Meche's donut holes, a dessert highlighting the family's heritage - any item special to the couple that wasn't available as part of the buffet that people leaving can eat or drink on their way out. If that's not your thing, then find some really fun and unique glow or dance floor items!"
"My best advise for brides is to surround yourself with people who truly love and who support you, choose your bridal party wisely, and always go back to the reason for that day." - Cassie Thibeau, Southern Fete