One of the women I most admire in the media has got to be Lara Casey who edits the US magazine Southern Wedding Magazine. Not only does she plan amazing weddings with the Bliss Event Group but she’s managed to produce one of the most talked & blogged about magazines of the year!
Tell me about yourself?
I am passionate about business, relationships, mentoring, faith, my family, adventure, pushing my limits and helping people transform themselves.
The official bio: Lara was born in Washington DC. She spent most of her youth growing up in the small beach community of Pensacola, Florida. Ms. Casey graduated with honors from Carnegie Mellon University and studied art and design at Yale University. Lara is a member of Mensa and an avid fitness buff. Mrs. Casey has a wide array of successes including having been a celebrity personal trainer in Manhattan and a contributor to Shape Magazine. Lara is currently Publisher of Southern Weddings magazine, CEO of event design firm Bliss Event Group and just launched Lara Casey Reps, a luxury market wedding consulting firm. Lara frequently speaks on the use of social media for business and is a self-confessed Wired magazine and Luna Bar addict. Ms. Casey lives in Chapel Hill, NC, and loves to travel.
What is a southern wedding? What features make them different to other weddings?
This is a tough question to answer because the answer is ever changing. A traditional (stereotypical) old southern wedding is a big wedding – the whole family, the church, the entire small town is invited. Comfort food is served- maybe fried okra, casseroles, whatever mom, aunts and the church ladies always prepare for special occasions. Southern weddings are notorious for charm… that special warm hospitality that makes every guest feel like family. The modern southern bride takes old southern tradition and puts her spin on it now. Whether it’s taking traditional comfort food and revamping it, taking grandma’s quilt and using it as a table cloth for the cake table, or altering her mom’s dress to have an updated style that fits her unique modern personality. There is so much to a southern wedding, but mainly it’s about warmth and hospitality.
What foods are your favourite southern treats?
Oh so many! The food of the South is a large part of its charm… comfort food, old recipes passed down from generation to generation and lots of history surrounding the preparation and origins of each dish. I love boiled peanuts, peach ice cream, homemade jams, pecan pie, okra, black-eyed peas, and cornbread to name a small few.
Southern Wedding Magazine has taken the US bridal industry by storm. You’re a wedding planner by trade. What inspired you to start a magazine?
It started very small. We just wanted a place to showcase local vendors and as soon as word got out that we were focusing on taking Southern tradition and giving it a modern face-lift, our blog caught on like wildfire. We took all of our print content from blog features and reader feedback. We’ve been so blessed to have a community of people form around Southern Weddings…. Brides, planners, photographers, and people who are just captivated by the South.
What I love most about the Southern Wedding Magazine team is your engagement with not only other wedding vendors but other wedding blogs. How do you see magazines and blogs working together?
Social media has played the biggest role in our success. My personal philosophy is that competition doesn’t exist… if we all support each other through a common goal of inspiring brides and changing the market, we can accomplish so much more. So, we’ve focused on collaborating with other bloggers and used social media as a tool to build relationships with vendors and brides on a daily basis. Twitter has been our most powerful source. I’m such a believer in how social media can change the course of a business that I now frequently speak on it and have started a consulting firm, Lara Casey Reps, to help other wedding professionals navigate their way to success in using it and building their unique brand with specific tools.
Lara with her team
You write often about helping the industry professionals, you have a passion for this. How can industry professionals help each other?
I am so passionate about this. Again, this is why I just started Lara Casey Reps. There is a big need out there for information, knowledge, practical tools. And many of these are very simple, but the important thing is knowing which tools are most valuable for your brand. I could write a novel about how people can help each other in this industry, but above all it’s about getting the right people connected with each other. I think when like-minded people come together to collaborate, they can change the course of the market and strengthen not only each other but everyone they end up doing business with.
How do you keep on learning?
By accepting every day that I don’t know it all. I am really fortunate to work with a group of women who inspire and teach me every day. Without them, I don’t think I’d challenge myself as much to grow honestly. When you surround yourself with people who infuse you and support you and you do the same for them, worlds of knowledge open up. We read together every morning before we dive into our tasks and send each other helpful links to articles. Education is the biggest thing for me around here. If you are going to be an industry leader, you have to study every day just as if you were studying medical journals as a surgeon.
Tell me about your own wedding?
Haha. I got married in Vegas. We had 8 people there, tiny chapel and a fabulous dinner at Daniel Bouloud’s Brasserie at the Wynn afterwards. It was perfect for us—simple and easy.
5 Things a bride must get right?
1. Honor your family and incorporate traditions that are meaningful for you. Weaving in personal elements in what planning and designing a wedding is all about.
2. Hire a wedding planner. No matter how self-sufficient you feel or how organized your sister is, leave the day to a professional.
3. Control your guest list. It’s your one and only wedding day… a day to unite two people and two families. Be sure the people that are there with you are the people you cherish the most. Having your 8th cousins and friend of a friend from work attend will take away from the intimacy of the day.
4. Break the rules. If you aren’t into cake, don’t have one. If you want a pink sash on your white gown, just do it. If you and your fiancé are in love with blues music, then bring a blues band into your wedding. There are no rules and above all, make sure every decision you make speaks to your unique love story.
5. Above all, focus on each other throughout the planning process. Take mini weekend vacations. Be good to each other. Get pre-marital counseling and make sure to have a ton of fun amidst all the hustle and bustle of the wedding details. At the end of the reception, when all the flowers are cleared away and everyone goes home… it’s just you two. Your marriage should be the most important part of your celebration.
Beautiful Blooms from Southern Weddings Magazine
Favourite part of a wedding?
Personally, the moment the bride starts walking down the aisle. It’s the first step to a new life and a giant leap of faith. I never get enough of that moment.
Where do you see Southern Weddings magazine positioning itself in Australia?
Southern charm is something everyone can relate to and people all over the world are mystified by. Something about the lazy southern ways, the people, the warmth and the good ole southern hospitality charms it’s way into everyone’s hearts.
How can an Australian bride use your magazine?
Our goal is to inspire. We have readers all over the world because brides want to weave some of that Southern charm into their day—whether they are Japanese, Brazillian, Irish or Australian… we’ve been floored by the international response. I suppose just as in Tokyo where Levi’s are a hot commodity because it’s like owning a piece of Americana, international brides want a piece of the Southern charm pie.
Thank you for taking the time to join us today Lara and sharing some of your life with Polka Dot Bride!
You can see more or Lara at the Southern Wedding Magazine blog, The Bliss Event Group or her brand new site Lara Casey Reps and her brand new blog Lara Casey
I have two copies of the premiere issue of Southern Wedding Magazine (now sold out!) to give away to two Australian Polka Dot Bride readers!
Simply leave a comment on this post telling me how you would weave some good old fashioned southern charm into your wedding
Entries close 9th August, 2009 Australian EST. Entry open to Australian residents only.
Photos from Southern Weddings Magazine, photo of Lara by Jory Cordy