The Pretty Southern world revolves around the Cunningham family.
While our tale begins with Macy Cunningham’s engagement to Campbell Brayden, each of the characters has his/her own story to tell.
The characters you see listed below will have their sections updated with links as we continue on this journey. We’ll also update this guide with more characters along the way.
Editor’s Note — In the full Pretty Southern wedding story, the reader actually sees most of the wedding from the perspective of Grace (Macy’s youngest sister). I chose Grace as my heroine for the novel series because she’s young, naive, and literally sees her world turned upside down later in the saga.
Here is a high-level introduction to the five essential characters you’ll follow along in the Pretty Southern stories: the Cunningham family.
Vivienne ‘Grace’ Cunningham
Once upon a time, there was a girl who lived in Atlanta. She had bright blue eyes, curly auburn hair, and a face full of freckles like her daddy, with high cheekbones and pouty lips she got from her mama. Her name was Vivienne Grace Cunningham but everyone called her Grace. Vivienne was her great grandmother’s name.
Grace lived in a big house in Buckhead, Atlanta’s most affluent neighborhood. She was blessed to have a beautiful family: her mama, Caroline, daddy, Randy, and her two older sisters, Macy and Kate. Macy, her oldest sister, is about to get married to Campbell Boyd Brayden, the Governor of Georgia’s son. Kate, the middle Cunningham sister, is heading off to Yale Law school this fall. Grace is only seventeen (about to turn eighteen) and also going off to college at UGA, just a few weeks after Macy and Campbell’s wedding.
While Grace had been to a few weddings in her life, she’s so excited to be in her big sister’s wedding because she’ll get to be a bridesmaid for the first time. Also, the love of Grace’s life, Wesley Wade Roberts, is attending the wedding. Wesley is one of four sons belonging to Trey Roberts and his wife, Birdie (Grace’s mama Caroline’s best friend). Grace has been infatuated with Wesley for years, and now that she was almost eighteen, she was ready to do something about it.
Little did Grace know that her entire world was about to change.
In the weeks leading up to Macy and Campbell’s wedding, Grace had been through some big life moments. She’d won Miss Magnolia, her high school’s beauty pageant then graduated from Magnolia Academy. Grace also attended her sister Kate’s graduation from Tech. Between those events–plus Macy’s bridal shower at the Peach House, her bachelorette party in New Orleans, and everyone stressing about the wedding–Grace never could have guessed her family was about to lose everything.
Macy Bonaventure Cunningham
For Macy’s entire life, she’d been told she was pretty. From her mama, Caroline and her French heritage, Macy had blonde hair, bright green eyes, and striking features. From her daddy, Randy, she got her height. At five-foot-eight, she was too short to be a model, but Macy’s long limbs and lean frame made her figure perfect for dancing. Macy started ballet when she was only three years old, a welcome distraction from her baby sister, Kate. Macy was on pointe by the age of nine. She took dance classes four days a week including jazz, tap, and other styles. As much as she loved to dance, Macy really loved to be the center of attention.
Her grandmother, Grand-Mère, called all three of her granddaughters “mes petites”. For Macy, she reserved a special nickname “ma petite prima ballerina”.
When Macy wasn’t dancing her way throughout her childhood, she’d spend time with her best friend, Shannon. The girls all attended Magnolia Academy. In their junior year of high school, Shannon encouraged Macy to try out for their school’s beauty pageant, the title of Miss Magnolia. Macy won Miss Magnolia, then went on to be the runner-up at the Miss Junior Georgia pageant. It was at the Miss Junior pageant where Macy became friends with Jordanne.
Macy, Shannon, and Jordanne all went off to UGA together, pledged the same sorority and became best friends with their ‘sisters’ Laurel, Madison and Bridget. In college, although Macy was busy with school, her sorority, and (of course) partying, Macy kept dancing. She tried out and won Miss UGA. She went on to become Miss Georgia, and then on to the national pageant where she didn’t even place. Macy hated losing at the top level.
After her graduation from college, Macy moved to New York City with her sorority sister, Laurel. Macy became a Rockette. It was after a show one night when she was at a bar with Laurel that she recognized a handsome young man, Campbell Boyd Brayden, the good-looking son of Governor Bill Brayden and the first lady, Amelia Boyd, Georgia’s political powerhouse. The Braydens and Boyds were dynastic old Southern families, predating Civil War, and the whole Boyd-Brayden family had been featured in the marketing for Governor Brayden’s election campaigns.
Macy played it cool that night she met Campbell. They started dating, and soon she had Campbell wrapped around her finger. He proposed the day after their one-year anniversary. They began planning a wedding with five hundred guests at the Cunningham family beach house on St. Simons Island. Now, Macy is about to marry into the Governor’s family.
Georgia Katharine (‘Kate’) Cunningham
Kate was born with entirely too much gumption. She was so independent that from the day she was born, when she was lying in her hospital crib in the nursery, and her father, Randy, was trying to capture her first moments of like on his VCR camcorder. He cooed “Georgia, Georgia, look over here.” With no luck, he sighed “Come on Georgia Katharine, Katharine,” then finally “Kate!” (his mother’s name) and at that Kate rolled over and smiled at her father. Randy went back to Caroline, his wife and shared this story, From then on out, she was Kate.
In elementary school, Kate was the smartest student in her class. She even skipped the second grade. Kate could have skipped another grade but that would have put her in the same class as Macy, and that would have really pissed Macy off. The girls were so competitive. Kate and Macy even looked similar with the same light blonde hair, but Kate had blue eyes like her dad and little sister, Grace.
Although Kate was pretty like her sisters, she never pursued dancing, boys, or pageantry. She had bigger concerns in her world. As a little girl, she grew up watching Captain Planet. Kate’s wardrobe consisted of ‘Save the Whales’ and ‘Save the Rainforest’ t-shirts. Her Uncle Charley nicknames her ‘The Li’l Liberal’ when she was nine years old.
Kate graduated as salutatorian from Magnolia Academy. She went on to Georgia Tech where she majored in biology and environmental science. Kate lived with her cousin, Autumn, all four years of college, first in a dorm, then an apartment by Piedmont Park. Kate and Autumn also studied abroad together at Oxford University in England.
Her mission in life is to protect the planet and to become an environmental criminologist. She wants to go to law school. While Kate is studying one night, her mom calls to tell her Macy is dating the governor’s son and she thinks “this is the one.” They get engaged, so when it’s time for Kate to focus on the LSAT, she’s also dealing with her bridesmaid’s duties as Maid of Honor. Kate says it’s, “MOH shit” than she can handle. She learns she got into Yale Law School right before her graduation.
Macy’s wedding is only about a month before Kate heads north to Yale. Mama Caroline is hoping Kate finally meets the right guy at law school, though hopefully not a Yankee.
Caroline Bonaventure Cunningham (‘Mama’)
She was born and baptized Caroline Vivienne to Nicholas and Jacqueline Bonaventure of New Orleans. Caroline grew up in the Garden District in a historic home with her brother Peter, who was four years older. Jacqueline was a staunch Catholic, both her children attended Catholic School, Peter at an all-boys school and Caroline at an all-girls. On the weekends and in the summer, the Bonaventure children would be at the country club pool with their mother (“Mére”) while Daddy golfed. Their father was a lawyer, and Mere was a stay-at-home housewife as this was the 1960s.
When Caroline was fourteen and a freshman in high school, her brother Peter went off to college. That Christmas break, Peter came home and was drinking heavily with their father. Mére got in a fight with them when she told Peter to slow down on the bourbon. Alas, when Peter went back to school for the spring semester, he overdosed when partying with his fraternity brothers: a combination of alcohol and cocaine. Peter died. The Bonaventure family was devastated. Caroline’s childhood came to an end
Caroline was sheltered by her parents, especially her mother. For college, Caroline attended Loyola but was not allowed to live on campus. She studied psychology, fascinated by the way human minds work. When Caroline got her Master’s at Tulane, she finally moved out of her parents’ house into an apartment off Magazine Street. After graduation, she got a job offer to work at a hospital in Atlanta and decided to move away, much to Mére and Daddy’s chagrin.
During her first month in Atlanta, she met Darius Youngblood V when she was shopping at Macy’s to buy Mére a birthday present (Elizabeth Arden Red Door perfume). Caroline gave Darius her number, and they went out a few times but she never felt that “spark”. Darius said he and his friends were heading down to St. Simons Island for the Georgia-Florida game. She’d never been before and agrees. It’s on ‘frat beach’ where she meets Randy, who is actually best friends with Darius. Caroline immediately falls for Randy. They spend the night together, up all night talking, then watching the sunrise before tailgating the next day. After that weekend, Caroline and Randy begin a long distance relationship.
Eventually, Randy gets a construction job in Atlanta. Caroline brings Randy home to New Orleans for the holidays after only six weeks of dating, and it’s clear her parents don’t approve (more on Randy’s story below). He proposes with a half-carat diamond, much to the Bonaventures’ chagrin.
But Caroline and Randy get married. They bought their ‘starter home’ in Marietta. About a year later, Macy is born, then Kate about two years later, and finally Grace. Caroline had to stop working at this point because daycare was too expensive. She’s worried about money. Since Caroline doesn’t really have any friends (at this stage in her life it’s before she meets Birdie) and she can’t talk about this with her parents she tells Darius (since he’s Randy’s best friend) who ends up providing the financial backing for Randy.
Editor’s note— I’m gonna stop here on Caroline because I feel like I’m giving too much away. Caroline has so many great stories, so for now I’ll just say she becomes a ‘Buckhead Betty’. She’s also fully immersed in her role as Mother of the Bride for Macy’s wedding.
Randolph Erskine Cunningham (‘Daddy’)
Randy Cunningham grew up poor in a middle-of-nowhere town between Macon and Savannah in the plains of south Georgia. He has light auburn hair (which he dyes to cover the increasingly gray and white hairs) and bright blue eyes. Randy is about six feet tall with a fit frame from his years of running Cunningham Construction, plus regularly walking the golf course.
He and his younger brother, Charley, were born to alcoholic parents. When Randy was seventeen, and Charley was only fifteen, their father shot and killed their mother, then himself.
The Cunningham boys went to live with Randy’s best friend, Darius Youngblood V, and his parents, Darius IV and Lydia–the wealthiest family in Youngblood County, the same family for whom they were named–until Randy turned eighteen, graduated from high school, and could become Charley’s legal guardian.
Randy worked as a bank teller in their small town while Charley finished high school, then hauling timber for a lumber yard near a paper mill owned by Darius IV. When Charley graduated and went to college at Georgia Southern, Randy started working construction. The Youngblood family had a hand in all these businesses, and Darius IV looked out for the boys. Randy was “just trying to get by in a school of hard knocks.”
About ten years after his parents died, Randy is at the Georgia-Florida game where he meets Caroline. He knows immediately she’s “the one.” The first time Randy goes to New Orleans to meet Caroline’s parents is awkward, to say the least. Jacquline (Mére) and Nicholas Bonaventure are unimpressed with Randy’s background.
Nicholas tries to buy Randy out of marrying Caroline. Undeterred, Randy moves forward. Randy buys a half-carat diamond ring and proposes to Caroline one night on the couch in her apartment. They get married at the Bonaventure family’s country club in New Orleans.
Wanting to build a life he’d only imagined, Randy takes on an investment from the Youngbloods to start Cunningham Construction when Atlanta’s housing boom begins. Business takes off with tons of projects and additional financing from Darius V and his pool of investors. He and Caroline start their family with Macy, Kate, and Grace. His dream life is coming together: building a big house in Buckhead, putting his girls through private school, and golfing at a country club. Randy feels like he’s made it.
But then it’s 2008, and the housing market crashes. There are no projects for Cunningham Construction which means there’s no money coming in. Randy (and Darius) can’t pay back their investors. Then Macy gets engaged to Campbell.
As Father of the Bride, and future father-in-law to the Governor’s son, Randy knows he has to pay for an extravagant wedding for hundreds of guests. He’s about to go broke but Randy doesn’t tell anyone how bad things are. Instead, he goes to Darius for help.