A Frosty Fête: The How-To’s of Hosting a Fabulous Winter Wedding

Let’s face it: Minnesota winters are cold. But a drop in temperature is no reason to ignore the season’s many virtues when planning a wedding.

From the effortless charm of a candlelit ceremony to a newlywed kiss beneath softly falling snowflakes, winter practically drips romance. Add increased venue availability, potentially big cost savings from event-hungry vendors and oodles of opportunities to create a truly one-of-a-kind event (not to mention no rain, mosquitoes or sweltering humidity), and November through February just might be the best months of the year to tie the knot.

Open season
“Unlike the wedding-packed months of June and July, there’s a lot less competition for dates in the winter,” says Amy Fuerstenberg, co-owner of wedding planning company Mi Mi Design. This availability can translate to meaningful savings. “Some DJs, transportation companies and photographers will give off-season discounts, and a lot of reception venues lower their food and beverage minimum.”

Not only are venues and vendors more available, guests may be too. Though snow and ice ultimately kept some guests off the roads, Amie and Todd Balthazor were happily surprised by the RSVPs for their outdoor nuptials on the shore of Lake Superior at the Glensheen Mansion in Duluth. “Because we had a November wedding, there wasn’t overlap with other weddings or summer events,” says Amie. “A lot of our friends and family were available that maybe wouldn’t have been otherwise.”

Forecast for romance
Into every Minnesota winter a little snow must fall. But by keeping both their New Year’s Eve ceremony and reception at Minneapolis’ McNamara Alumni Center and centralizing their accommodations right across the street, newlyweds Ashley and Nate Bohmbach made sure their guests wouldn’t have to brave the elements. “In essence, guests could park their car before the ceremony and not have to move it until the next day,” says Ashley.

If confining your event to one location isn’t an option, be sure to plan ahead in case of inclement weather. While making sure your venues are prepared for pre-event snow removal and have ample parking nearby, think about how your guests will get from their cars to the front door. If they’ll have to negotiate icy sidewalks and climb over snow banks, consider hiring a valet. And check with your venue about setting up a coat and boot check station for guests’ wintry wearables.

Elements of style
Even with an indoor ceremony and reception, a gauzy chiffon dress may leave your teeth chattering. Explore gowns with heavier fabrics like rich satins, thick velvets or more skin coverage. If you’re heading outdoors for photos (a “must do” no matter the weather), Fuerstenberg recommends you take the opportunity to imbue your fashion with some uniquely winter accessories like fur muffs, wraps, shawls or capelets.

While you’re bundling up, make sure not to leave your gals out in the cold. “Brides can play up the seasonal look with fun, coordinating accessories for the bridesmaids, mothers and even the men,” suggests Fuerstenberg. Soft pashminas, cardigans or faux-fur boleros all make great gifts for the ladies, and gloves, knit scarves or hats for the men make striking combinations for outdoor photos.

Deck the halls
If you plan to tie the knot in November, December or even into January, chances are your venue will already have some holiday-themed décor in place. Married at Como Park Conservatory, with a reception at the Saint Paul Hotel, newlyweds Kelsey and Sam Giles took advantage of their venues’ vibrant seasonal displays.

“The Conservatory was filled with beautiful red poinsettias, so we decided to work red throughout our wedding,” says Kelsey. “The Saint Paul Hotel also had poinsettias, along with Christmas trees and lights, so all we had to provide were the bouquets and corsages.”

While using a venue’s existing trimmings can be a great way to cut costs, be sure to ask about—or, ideally, see—the decorations yourself by visiting or viewing photos; look for what will be up and where, recommends Fuerstenberg. If you’re not thrilled with the options, ask whether they can be removed or toned down before the event.

Seasonal accents
While a lot of colorful flowers aren’t in season, winter floral is anything but boring. All-white arrangements of amaryllis, paperwhites, baby’s breath or carnations can be breathtaking. Lush red roses, anemones and calla lilies all boost the drama factor. Or make your décor really stand out by focusing on non-floral elements that embrace the essence of winter: snow or coffee berries, pine boughs, curly willow or bare branches with crystals.

But don’t think you’re limited to white, red or seasonal accents. “When it comes to color trends, you can work with any color palette any time of year,” says Fuerstenberg. “The most important thing is that the colors work with your setting.” To make sure those floral colors stay fresh for the whole celebration, Fuerstenberg recommends covering flowers whenever they’re exposed to the elements.

Shine on
Winter events tend to be more glamorous because of the typically richer fabrics, deeper colors and early evenings, so consider how your lighting will play into the overall atmosphere. “I see brides working with a lot of white Christmas lights, globe lights or some sort of mood lighting,” says Fuerstenberg. “Winter weddings get a lot more bang for their buck when it comes to lighting, versus summer weddings when it doesn’t get dark until nine o’clock.”

For her celebration, Ashley Bohmbach used the early sunset to set the tone for her ceremony. “We placed candles along the aisle and around the perimeter of the ceremony to take advantage of the dark night visible through the McNamara’s large windows,” says Ashley. “The soft lighting lent itself to the overall romance of the evening.”

Flavor inspirations
It may be tempting to stick with the wedding standbys of steak or chicken, but your menu can be the perfect place to weave in the distinctive flavors of the season. Add some special touches with a baked squash dish or pumpkin side. When guests arrive (or as they depart into the frosty outdoors), consider offering a warm signature cocktail or drink, like mulled wine, spiked hot apple cider or marshmallow-topped cocoa.

Pleasant surprises
While plummeting temperatures and snow can add an element of unpredictability to a winter wedding, those softly falling flakes can also be the perfect finishing touch to a romantic celebration. “It started snowing as we were having dinner, so we headed outside with our photographer,” says Ashley. “They’re hands-down my favorite photos and some of my favorite memories of the day. I wish I could make it snow for every winter bride’s wedding!”

Picture Perfect
Done right, winter wedding photos can be truly magical. Photographer Gina Zeidler shares her tips for capturing your romantic day at its snowy best. 

  • While natural light is the most flattering for photographs, it’s also limited in the winter months. Before setting the day’s schedule of events, check your date’s average sunset and build in plenty of time for photos before the ceremony.
  • Don’t skip the outdoor photos just because it’s cold. If your maids are wearing long dresses, advise them to wear long underwear and boots. In between shots, have the wedding party sip hot water (keep it warm in a Thermos). Not only will the liquid keep everyone warm from the inside out, it’s also pretty harmless if spilled.
  • Play with (warm) props. Get some cute boots, knit some warm mittens or give the groomsmen scarves to add some seasonal flavor to the photos.
  • Embrace the elements. After the ceremony, head outdoors for a snowball fight or kisses in the falling snow (bring an umbrella if you’re concerned about mussing your ’do).
  • Leave extra time for travel. Snow- or ice-covered roads can wreak havoc on a tightly scheduled day—and your sanity. Don’t miss out on any must-have photos of your big day because you’re too rushed.