The winter-wedding planner

How to make saying ‘I do’ in the wintertime festive, homey and warm

“Here come the bride, all dressed in … thermal underwear and snow boots.”

“Here come the bride, all dressed in … thermal underwear and snow boots.”

Photo Illustration by David Jayne

He (or you) popped the question (finally!). You (or he) said yes (of course). You can’t wait to get started on your new life together—but June is nine long months away.

Not to worry, brides: Summer may be the most popular time to get married, but an increasing number of couples are choosing winter weddings instead. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 6.5 percent of all marriages in 2001 took place in December—that’s 152,000 ceremonies. So if you’re considering a winter wedding, you’re not alone.

Planning a winter wedding presents some extra challenges, from adverse weather conditions to working around (or incorporating) the holidays. We’ve compiled advice from the experts—local florists, seamstresses and wedding planners—on how you can make your winter wedding glide as smoothly as skates on ice.

Dressing the turkey

How do you make that wedding gown a little warmer for winter? “You would definitely want long sleeves,” advises seamstress Connie Webb, with a laugh. “Satin will work fine because it’s generally lined; velvet would be wonderful for winter.” Actually, wedding gowns are often too warm for summer brides, she says, because their fully lined and very elaborate styles often have many layers. That’s advantageous for winter brides.

Webb, who works with clients to design gowns that will suit their needs and personal styles, also recommends going online to find the perfect fabric and embellishments.

“With Internet shopping,” she says, “there are tons of choices, and places are happy to send you samples.” For the holidays, she suggests adding colorful trim to the wedding gown to reflect the festivity of the season: “Adding a spark of color [is] so pretty, and it adds warmth and light.” For example, you might add burgundy trim to liven up a white gown or consider having glittery embellishments like pearls and crystals sewn onto the dress.

But back to staying warm. “Make sure your feet are warm,” says Webb. “Heat escapes through your feet and the top of your head, so a headpiece or veil would keep you warm, too.” Since most gowns are full-length, it’s easy to don an inconspicuous pair of tights or even silk thermal pants underneath, which provide warmth without adding bulk. Long gloves and a dressy shawl or cardigan can help you stay toasty during the ceremony. Put on a heavy coat and trade those dress heels for weather-resistant shoes while traveling to and from the venue—no one will see you, so you might as well be comfortable.

And there are more extreme measures for the truly cold-conscious bride. “If someone’s doing a winter wedding,” Webb says, “they’re probably thinking outside the box already, so they may be willing to wear white hiking boots.”

Home for the holidays

Setting your wedding date during the holiday season can create a great opportunity for your loved ones to be together. But, depending on weather conditions and conflicting plans, it could also be an inconvenience to your guests. If you’re considering a wedding that falls on or near major holidays like Christmas or New Year’s, you may want to check with family and close friends about their availability first.

Guests who need to travel to attend the wedding may want to plan on arriving one or two days in advance, to accommodate unexpected bad weather—it’s better to be early than late, after all. Having all your out-of-town guests stay in the same hotel makes transportation to and from the wedding easier. You may also want to recommend that they make reservations early, as holidays are peak travel times and hotels tend to fill up quickly.

When choosing your venue, remember that harsh weather conditions can be hazardous for seniors and disabled guests.

“What about the elderly who are coming from out of town and can’t be outside?” asks Missy Green, owner of Parties to Remember. “A lot of times, [winter] brides really like to get married outside in the snow. I would recommend that they consider the weather, the room it’s going to be in—whether it’s a church or synagogue or hotel/casino—to make sure the weather is conducive for their guests.” She also cautions brides about holding weddings at Tahoe in winter, when bad weather can close the pass.

Keep your guests comfortable and happy by letting them know what kind of weather to expect, so they can pack appropriately. Those who aren’t familiar with the area might not realize that Reno does, in fact, see snow in winter. At the venue, consider using small space heaters or decorative candle arrangements to provide additional heat. You could even offer hot cider, tea or cocoa in lieu of cold punch to welcome chilly guests to the reception. Small but thoughtful gestures like these will keep your loved ones warm, both outside and inside.

Party poppers

So much for the practical considerations. Now for the fun part. Maybe you’re dreaming of a cozy Christmas wedding, with bright colors and holiday cheer. Or maybe you’re imagining a pristine, sparkling-white winter wedding, as crisp and clean as the freshly fallen snow. Whatever you envision, it’s easy to evoke a special mood with creative and original décor.

“We can never keep enough white roses,” says Ginny Spitler, a florist at the Flower Bucket. White is a classic choice, and plenty of flowers are readily available in winter (which also means they’re more budget-friendly): chrysanthemums, freesia, carnations, amaryllis and magnolias, to name a few. Spitler suggests placing one or two gardenia blossoms in a shallow water-filled bowl for a simple and dramatic centerpiece.

Of course, you don’t have to stick with plain white. “We’re selling a lot of calla lilies in deep colors—burgundy, pinks, lavenders,” Spitler says. “[Bridesmaids are] carrying whole bouquets of hand-tied calla lilies; the handles are tied with a nice organdy ribbon.” Deep purples, she says, have been especially popular this year.

For a holiday theme, consider accents like pine cones, sprigs of holly and evergreen branches. Velvet ribbons in rich reds and greens create eye-pleasing contrast, and metallic silver and gold add color and luster. If you want to steer clear of a Christmas theme, blend blue, silver and white for a clean, elegant look. Decorative candles and strings of clear lights add ambience, no matter what color scheme you choose.

To make memorable wedding favors, try personalizing Christmas ornaments with your names and the date. Packets of cider mix, holiday-scented sachets, small pieces of mistletoe in decorative bags, or sleigh bells can all be fun and unique favors for your guests. If you’re planning a New Year’s theme, set out miniature bottles of champagne or noisemakers for guests to take home—or to enjoy at the reception.

While the weather outside may be frightful, your winter wedding can still be delightful, both for you and your guests. With a little creativity and some careful planning, you can create a seasonal celebration that combines all the joy of your special day with the cozy comfort of the holidays.