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Snowy Soirees

Winter in Minnesota offers a sparkling backdrop to rival the sunniest wedding day. Here’s how to host a fabulous frosty fête.

(Above) Icy landscapes make a dreamy backdrop for photos. Case in point: this snap from Holly and Korey Leafblad’s winter wedding on Lake Superior

Though many consider winter to be the wedding off-season, more brides are choosing to say “I do” in the colder months. What’s behind the trend? For starters, tastemakers have been elevating northern culture, and stylish brides are following suit with their own inventive ways to celebrate Minnesota’s gorgeous frozen attributes, along with their nuptials.

Northern Appeal

“Embracing Minnesota is really trendy right now,” says Jennae Saltzman of Blush & Whim Wedding Planning and Event Design. “Winter weddings used to have the reputation for being tacky, but there are a lot of trend-forward options breathing some fresh air into getting married in the Minnesota cold.”

To embrace the northern look, swap bridesmaids’ floral robes for warm flannels and bring in woodsy décor and even evergreens, recommends Sarah Trotter of Lasting Impressions Weddings. “Think about everything Minnesota has to offer,” she says. “Little elements can really make the wedding special, like Faribault Woolen Mill Co. blankets for guests and a Tattersall gin cocktail with spruce-tip garnish.”

Northland Special Events’ Mariah McKechnie’s favorite Minnesota trend is outfitting the bride and bridesmaids in Ely-made Steger mukluks. Layer on thick plaid scarves or faux fur wraps before heading out in the snow for iconic winter photos. “Giving the bridesmaids something to wear in the photos keeps them warm and complements your palette,” she says. If you’re daring, keep the wedding party bundled up, add blankets and gather ’round bonfires with a hot cocoa bar for an outdoors reception, McKechnie says.

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Holly and Korey Leafblad welcomed guests to their outdoor wedding with a hot cocoa bar and buffalo plaid blankets to cozy up with—epitomizing northern Minnesota style / Photos by Lauren Kirkbride Photography

Seasonal Delights

When cocoa isn’t enough, Saltzman has helped couples lure guests outside with carriage rides and s’mores from local vendor North Mallow, whose artisan marshmallows come in fun flavors. Surround guests with lanterns and add twinkle lights to create a picture-perfect wonderland.

You can also bring the outdoors in. Traditional floral centerpieces encased in ice mesmerize guests, McKechnie says. In lieu of bonfires, try a roaring fireplace, a feature of many historic mansions and resorts, like Lutsen Resort, a favorite of McKechnie’s. Take outdoor photos on the nearby ski lifts and the resort’s Lake Superior beach before cuddling up fireside.

For bonus points, extend Minnesotan winter favorites to your rehearsal dinner as well. “Plan a skiing or sledding outing or ice skating at the Depot in Minneapolis the day before to showcase the season,” Trotter says. Add welcome warmth to your menu with chicken wild rice soup as a pre-entrée plate instead of the standard salad. Or take the chill off with the late-night favorite grilled cheese and tomato soup.

Most importantly, don’t try to make a winter wedding look like a summer affair, says Saltzman. Instead, mirror nature’s subdued, cool palette and play up the “cozy chic” vibe. She suggests adding greenery for freshness and amplifying metallic accents with candles and uplights. Dress your bridesmaids in traditional long gowns but with a fresh, off-the-shoulder style in a dark velvet, she says, adding sparkle with accessories. If your wedding date is near the end of the year, evoke the glamour of New Year’s Eve with champagne colors, sparklers and rock candy.

Snowy Soirees

Photos by Lauren Kirkbride Photography

Easy Does It

The colder months also offer a bonus for the busy bride-to-be: With winter weddings, much of the work might already be done, as many churches and venues are decorated for the holidays.

Existing decorations become doubly valuable, as traditional floral arrangements can cost more in the winter. Therefore, Saltzman recommends focusing on seasonal foliage or greenery. “Trust your florist; go in with a more general color palette instead of really specific blooms in mind. Go with what she recommends for what’s in season and what’s going to be the most affordable.”

In addition to pre-decorated spaces, another off-season perk is more choices on where and whom to book. “If you are the type of bride who doesn’t want to compete for venues and vendors, you’re going to get whatever you want in the winter,” says Saltzman.

Besides cutting the stress of booking, vendors and venues may have discounts, especially if you have a Friday or Sunday wedding.

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Embrace the elements when it comes to winter wedding décor. Kara and Brent Reinhard opted for snowy white florals, jewel-toned bridesmaid dresses with flannel shawls, and berry accents / Photos by Daly Proof Photography

Weather—or Not

Planners warn brides to guard bouquets—especially those with white flowers—from frigid temperatures, as they will freeze and turn brown when they go back indoors. To counter this, McKechnie crafts a separate bridal bouquet of elements like pine cones and hardy greenery for outdoor photographs.

Your plants aren’t the only ones sensitive to the weather. Offering your guests bus transportation to cut down on driving and valet parking to shorten a chilly walk will be much appreciated, says Trotter. Remember, too, that the sun sets earlier.

“Because it gets dark so early, you are more limited to when you can start the ceremony and reception,” says Trotter. “But the advantage is you get to utilize uplights and candles earlier too.”

Wintertime weddings have their unique challenges, to be sure—a bad snowstorm could snarl guests’ transportation plans, for example—but Trotter encourages brides to consider the positives. “Not only do you have a lot of availability for vendors,” she says, “but you’re not competing with as many different events in your guest’s lives, so they’ll be more available, too,”

And believe it not, bad weather itself can be its own advantage. “In the winter, you kind of just know that you can’t count on the weather, so you don’t plan on it being nice,” McKechnie says. “Rather than being extremely disappointed if your July wedding rains out, you know a winter wedding is going to be cold.”

Or do you? Saltzman cautions against banking on cold and snow. “Even if you’re planning on an ice bar or ice globes, it could be a really warm day,” she says. “Don’t plan on the elements when you’re getting married in Minnesota—ever. The beautiful, snowy day picture might not happen.”

“If it rains instead of snows, get cute rainboots and umbrellas and just go with it.”

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Photos by Daly Proof Photography

Is a winter wedding for you?

Cold-weather nuptials could be right if …

You don’t want to wait too long

“When you’re willing to commit to a winter date, you have your pick of vendors,” says Mariah McKechnie of Northland Special Events. “With a competitive venue, it could be the difference between waiting another year."

You’re OK with contingency plans

Weather could cause delays and cancellations from more than guests. “Ask your vendors for their policies and what their backup plans are. Have event insurance, so you get some money back,” advises Jennae Saltzman of Blush & Whim Wedding Planning and Event Design.

You’d like some help decorating

“If a couple isn’t opposed to it, don’t fight the holiday aspect, because it can be easy, affordable and beautiful,” McKechnie says.

“A lot of churches and venues are already decorated and have greenery for the holidays.”

You want a winter honeymoon

“After a cold-weather wedding, you are especially excited to go somewhere tropical for your honeymoon. Some couples who get married in the summer delay their honeymoon for months. It’s nice to be able to take off immediately and reflect on everything with your new spouse,” McKechnie says.