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There’s a reason the official wedding season is between April and September. Spring, summer and fall weddings are popular for their blooming flowers, balmy temperatures, and falling leaves. Winter, however, tends to be the ugly stepchild of seasonal weddings. If you’re like me, Seasonal Affective Disorder takes its toll sometime in December, and all I associate winter with is bare trees, frozen tundra temps, lumpy sweaters, and cabin fever. But! There are upsides to tying the knot during the cold season.
Other than the potential to save major cash since venues and caterers are less in-demand, getting married during winter has plenty of unique charms: It’s cozy to gather with friends and family when it’s cold out; it’s romantic, unique, and memorable; snow can be beautiful (until it turns to dirty slush, that is); and you can get away with gorgeous touches like holiday-inspired décor or faux fur wraps. Below, experts weigh in on how to make the most of a cold-weather wedding.
Offer a Seasonal Cocktail
Drinking something that feels wintry will get everyone in the mood. “If you want to do a signature cocktail that taps into the spirit of the season, try a blood orange and St. Germaine champagne cocktail,” says New York City-based wedding and event planner Andrea Freeman. “You can even set up a cocktail station with glassware and a dispenser. If you really want to take things to the next level you can hire a cocktail service. I also think nothing quite says winter season like champagne—offer mini bottles with personalized notes as guest favors. For a more fall-themed wedding, hot spiced cider served as guests arrive is a perfect beverage on a chilly autumn day.”
Make the Décor Festive
“Whether you elevate black and white with a metallic twist, go with winter whites, or select seasonal reds and greens, you’ll want to select a cold season color palette,” says Freeman. “For a fall wedding, burnt orange, cabernet, and cream with lush greens works perfectly. Use those colors for your invites and décor elements to create a cohesive feeling from start to finish. As with any great design, layering keeps things interesting. Fresh flowers add an elegant touch when paired with candles of varying heights. To add texture, try using a faux fur throw draped over a bench and top that with a tray filled with ornaments. Interesting vignettes like this highlight your attention to detail!”
Pick a Wintry Dessert
Take the traditional parts of a wedding and put a wintry, customized spin on them, suggests Freeman. “Surprise guests with something fun, like a hot chocolate station with dessert. Personalize it, present it with a twist, and get creative. This is what makes your event memorable, customized, and will make your guests feel loved.” Anthony Luscia, Special Projects Editor and Men’s Fashion Editor for Martha Stewart Weddings, suggests trying something different than the typical tiered wedding cake. “Have a warm, molten cake instead—hype up that it’s going to be cold and adapt your menu to that,” he says.
Consider Ice Sculptures
You might think the last thing you’d want when it’s already cold outside is more ice, but it can actually play up the season in a pretty, glamorous way. “Ice is a great way to amplify a winter wedding celebration,” says Freeman. “If you’re offering a bar during cocktail hour, sculpting individual serving dishes out of blocks of ice will not keep the seafood and cocktails chilled, but will also provide visual appeal. For a true wow factor, carve the entire station out of ice and turn it into a display. For a more modest but equally luxurious touch, carving drink trays out of ice and passing shots around the dance floor keeps the party going!”
Give Out Cozy Party Favors
What’s a better gift to guests or people in the bridal party than a cozy throw they might even want to use that evening. “Start the experience the moment guests arrive,” says Luscia. “If it’s going to be cold, rain or snow, give them a gift bag so they can weather the conditions in a fun and festive way, with hand warmers, hot cocoa mix, matching ponchos, or wraps and blankets that are on palette. They can cozy up together, which is an easy and affordable way to address the weather in a positive way—and the pictures will be so cute!”
Have the Staff Get Into It
Don’t just give your guests weather-appropriate accessories—give them to caterers and other staffers who are helping to create the event. “Have the waitstaff play up the weather,” says Luscia. “Give them cute umbrellas to hold, fun hats to keep them warm, rain boots, or ponchos, which are functional but also fashionable and make everything look cohesive.”
Luscia insists that a wedding in the rain, snow, or cold can be much more memorable and unique than a sunny celebration on the beach—as long as you see things positively. “In the end, the most important thing is attitude,” he says. “It’s all about how people react to the weather that makes or breaks the day. This starts with setting the right expectations, from the beginning when you see the forecast and realize that you cannot control if it rains, snows, or sleets, but you can control how you react to it—make a plan that makes you excited regardless of weather conditions.”
Originally published January 2017. Updated November 2017.