Autumn, Entertaining, Everyday Chic

Pardee Planning: Savvy Southern Hospitality

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We’ve all had this experience – you are looking for one thing in an old file or seldom-used drawer and you come upon something quite by surprise — which then absorbs all your attention for seemingly hours. Such was the case with a 1992 copy of Southern Accents; I had almost forgotten that this early lifestyle magazine had included an article on me when my two entertaining primers were published.


This proved a lovely bit of serendipity, for the South (my old stomping grounds and from which I hail) is very much on my mind as I prepare for a speaking engagement and book signing in New Orleans on November 10th. As I do, I become very nostalgic about my Southern roots and upbringing. And one overriding memory that always resonates for me is entertaining. It is the backbone of a Southern experience, part of our DNA. And guess what the article was titled — “Savvy Southern Hospitality.”

The article came out 24 years ago ( when I was a brunette…) and yet the philosophy hasn’t changed. The lovely, abiding truth is that the tenets of gracious living stand the test of time.

Courtesy of Southern Accents Magazine, February 1992 Edition.

Inspired by the apricot silk velvet shawl, Pardee used a doré epergne in the centerpiece and Venetian chairs swathed in gold tulle to create a Venetian setting at her parents’ Atlanta home.

Courtesy of Southern Accents Magazine, February 1992 Edition.

Murano glass bonbons are party favors for the guests.

Courtesy of Southern Accents Magazine, February 1992 Edition.

I am excerpting (shown in italics) a few  parts of the original article…So much of what I know about entertaining I learned from my mother, Neale Bearden, a stickler for personal details which is what makes a party successful. “Mother is the kind of woman who composes guest lists the way other people work crossword puzzles. She taught me that guests are not one of the most important elements of a party — they are the party. In her own words…’When it’s all over, you won’t remember the food, but you will remember the people, the conversations.’”

Photo Credit: Maaike Bernstrom

 And Pardee also keeps a sharp eye on the details. “That separates the gracious host from just another party giver,” she says. “At different stages of planning, you’re a choreographer, a psychologist, an architect, a field marshal — and always a guest at your own party. It’s not just one-dimensional.”

“So instead of thinking about specific rules, I try to take a genuine delight in every step. I like working with the menu, setting a beautiful table, thinking about the music.

Photo Credit: Maaike Bernstrom

Southerners put their heart and soul into entertaining, burnishing this essential of gracious living. Creating occasions and looking for opportunities to entertain comes easily to them. My travels with my book over the last two years have proven so heartwarming as I experience how dear friends express their affection through hospitality. From Dallas to Delray, from Sea Island to Savannah, from Houston to Atlanta, each hostess was making a gesture that is the hallmark of entertaining and a note that I included in that interview in 1992… “guests should feel ‘at home’ and privileged to be there, pampered by your attention and pleased that you are enjoying your own party,” she says.

Is it any wonder that I’m so looking forward to my trip to New Orleans?

I’m closing with a bit of nostalgia…the antique English plates in the Southern Accents picture, borrowed from my mother 24 years ago, were passed down to me. Here, taking pride of place at Parterre for a Thanksgiving dinner.

Photo Credit: Maaike Bernstrom

Featured Image Credit, Maaike Bernstrom.

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Bettie Bearden Pardee

About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

9 thoughts on “Pardee Planning: Savvy Southern Hospitality

  1. Love this Bettie! I knew I liked you…I too am from La!!! The older I get the more I am increasingly drawn and connected to my southern roots so I can totally relate. Loved this throwback on your stylish feature and Southern Accents was my all time favorite, did not throw a single one away and still have my entire collection. Wishing you a wonderful day.

    1. And I could tell you were southern also! Hope you have the time to go back to your old Southern Accents and enjoy perusing them. Happy, Happy Fall, Bettie

  2. Brunette or blond…both so pretty. Now know you are Southern also. Mama sent me to elocution to take away the accent, I failed, and it got increasingly worse. Then she sent me to live at the Barbizon, NYC and that 2 year stint didn’t help the accent either. Don’t wish to speak Holland Tunnel, but somewhere between.
    Pretty tables and fall is a joy to behold as it was HOT in the south this summer. Tearing out the Moonflowers and Morning glories today as it has gotten to a rampant takeover. Hmmmm, thanks to you Bettie, thinking fall!
    most cheerfully, Lynn

  3. You are always lovely and your Southern roots show in your thoughts and presentations. My mother was a Southerner and I am pleased to return to the South after over 40 years where my husband’s job took us. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks for your kind words…and do enjoy your days in the South; how fortunate that you’ve had a reason to return. Happy fall,Bettie

  4. BEAUTIFUL…………I should have been BORN in the SOUTH!People do not entertain here in NORTHERN CALIFORNIA and if they do it is a POT LUCK DINNER!I cannot stand that………..I want to give a dinner I do ALL the work.Then invite me to your home and don’t have me bring a dish…….I WANT A NIGHT OFF!If you gave me a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of wine I would be HAPPY!AT least I did not have to shop, prepare or clean it up!We are the ONLY people I know that entertain almost weekly…………………..I am blessed with an ITALIAN husband who loves to have company!He even cooks on occasion!

  5. Wonderful, Bettie. A walk down Memory Lane indeed, and a reminder of how you have long been an inspiration to us all. I still cherish those two entertaining guides, btw, and refer to them often!

    1. So much fun to hear from you, Frances! And your”Atlanta at Table” started this whole journey off for both of us, spreading the Southern hospitality word.
      Sorry to be missing the Hort lunch tomorrow, but I’ll give you a buzz the next time I’m headed down. Happy Fall, Bettie

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