Plenty of brides still dream about a traditional June wedding. These days, lots of couples are getting creative with the calendar. Here are some tips to make the most of your big day, whichever season you choose
Cold-weather weddings are a hot trend, says wedding planner Shannon Martin, based in Clifton Park. “Winter is considered off-season, but it can be a wonderful time for a beautiful winter- or holiday-themed wedding,” explains Martin, who recalls one dream-come-true winter wedding that she coordinated. “The couple chose a snow theme, so the colors were ice blue and ivory. They had snowflakes on their invitations, and the favors for guests were little kits to make snowmen.” Since the pair was tying the knot in January, they planned for lots of Mother Nature’s white stuff on the ground. “On rehearsal night, the snow still hadn’t come. Instead of a beautiful white landscape, everything outside just looked dry and dormant,” Martin says. “But on the morning of their wedding, down came these huge snowflakes. The bride and groom got gorgeous pictures standing outside with snow falling all around them.”
One big plus of tying the knot in winter: easier availability. “There’s less demand for the most popular reception sites,” adds Martin, who runs Wedding Planning Plus (www.weddingplanningplus.net). So you can toss your dream bash without reserving the venue or caterer years in advance.
In the Valley, you could even book an entire restaurant or cozy inn during this quieter time of year. A winter ceremony is easier on guests’ schedules too, Martin notes: They won’t have to juggle vacation plans or invites to other nuptials, as they might in summertime.
“White weddings” take on a special glow in winter, since many brides choose a lush cream or vanilla shade for their gowns. This is also the best time of year to pull off a look that features big petticoats, long gloves, shawls, and faux fur. Some brides forgo winter whites and opt for burgundy-colored dresses, often of plush velvet or satin. Another dramatic color scheme — brown and bronze — offers special pizzazz. “And some December weddings include a Christmas theme by using rich reds and greens with gold accents,” Martin says.
As for decorations, anything wintry works well. Think centerpieces of poinsettias, pine cones, and holly; evergreen garland draped along church pews; shimmering paper snowflakes; gold or white-painted wreaths; and branches adorned with tiny, sparkling lights. And plenty of candles.
You can have fun with the season, too. Consider snow globes as table favors; add toy sleighs or snowmen as centerpieces or cake toppers. If you want to go all-out, dress the ushers as toy soldiers, have the flower girl toss tiny paper snowflakes along the aisle, or glide out of the reception to a rousing chorus of “Jingle Bells.” An added décor bonus: Many hotels, restaurants and other venues display their most dazzling decorations at this time of year, offering a free, fantastic addition to the beauty of your special day.
Hearty winter foods — such as soups, fondue, roasts, fresh-baked bread, hot chocolate with crème de menthe, and mulled wine — are all super for a winter wedding. And if an overt holiday theme feels like overkill during this already-festive time of year, Martin has a solution. “You can still incorporate the season by using colors like a crisp light blue, snow white, and shimmering silver,” she says. “These colors evoke the feel of a winter day. They’re both simple and elegant, and can be used in the bridesmaids’ dresses, table linens and flowers for the bridal bouquet and reception.”
If you tie the knot after the New Year, guests are likely to be eager to celebrate; there’s nothing like a wedding to beat the mid-winter blues. And a Valentine’s Day wedding still takes the cake in terms of old-fashioned romantic appeal.
While dicey weather is a worry at this time of year (pick up a wedding insurance policy, just in case), the splendor of the season more than makes up for any concerns. Photographers, for instance, say winter’s crisp air, blue skies, and snowy backdrops make for sensational photo ops.
Make the most of winter’s drama by getting hitched at a ski lodge. Or arrive in a white limousine or in a white carriage (or sleigh) pulled by a white horse. Bundle up in a full-length cape trimmed in faux fur, and make your grand entrance looking just like a snow princess.
Prefer to keep the ceremony simple? Get married in front of a stone hearth, complete with a roaring fire.
If early spring is your thing, you’ll save money on everything from the venue to photography during this “shoulder season” for weddings. “You can often negotiate a better rate at this time of the year,” says Mary Beth Halprin, a wedding and event planner who runs Events by Mary Beth, based in Tivoli (www.meetingsbymb.com).
Color is key when tying the knot during this season of growth and renewal. Pastels like soft pink, blue, green, and yellow often rule for the overall theme color. But other shades offer trendy choices for spring weddings, too. You might consider lavender and lime, sky blue and brown, or pink and brown.
“Spring is a great time to take advantage of seasonal items for the wedding’s floral décor and the food,” says Halprin. “When items are in season, they’re often less expensive — and of course, most beautiful and delicious,” she adds. “For instance, in spring, you could use tulips, daffodils or crocus in the centerpieces, and seasonal foods like asparagus as a vegetable.”
Since spring weather can be fickle, many brides opt for an indoor-outdoor setting. A reception hall with a terrace, or a tented area at a garden wedding, are smart backups. Some brides like to top off their outfit with a light shawl and a pretty matching umbrella, just in case it sprinkles.
Spring is perfect for polka-dot, lace, or gingham table linens. During Eastertime, table favors might include cute woven baskets brimming with colorful chocolate eggs, or individual packets of flower seeds. Some brides even pop little angel wings or bunny ears on youngsters serving as ring bearers or flower girls.
Light cuisine — lamb, poultry, pasta salads, and fruity wines — are popular in spring. A “fruit bar” that offers bowls full of cherries, oranges, grapes, strawberries and the like is always a big hit, too, as a sign of nature’s coming bounty.
May through August are the classic months to marry. Summer’s got great weather, abundant greenery for outdoor nuptials, and easier traveling conditions for guests, especially families with kids in school.
Plus, you’ve got choices galore for the venue: beaches, mountaintops, lakes, parks; or hotels, inns, or catering halls with gorgeous terraces and gardens. Styles and themes can be especially creative at this anything-goes time of year — from an elaborate sit-down ceremony and reception, to an informal picnic or backyard barbecue.
One couple, both Civil War reenactors, wove their favorite pastime into their May 2003 nuptials in Cold Spring. The bride wore an 1860s-style gown with a big hoop skirt, while the groom donned a Civil War-style uniform, complete with sword. After they said “I do,” everybody strolled up quaint Main Street to a garden reception at a relative’s house. “We had things like tea and sandwiches, and traditional music from the Civil War era playing,” the bride recalls.
No matter what the venue, a key factor to keep in mind is the guests’ comfort, according to Joan Howe and Diane Wilburger of First Impressions Event Planners, based in Rhinebeck (www.hvfirstimpressions.com). “We’ve had brides who made sure that water, lemonade, or iced tea was waiting outside the church entrance for the guests on a hot day.”
If the ceremony is outdoors, let guests know on the invitation so they’ll be prepared. It’s fun to offer hand fans for each guest; “palm fronds give a dramatic touch,” say Howe and Wilburger. Or have the wedding program printed on paper fans.
Strapless dresses reign supreme during summer. Light fabrics like chiffon, linen, or crepe keep the bride cool when the thermometer soars. It’s smart to think “updo” for a hairstyle, too.
“Choose dresses that are cool and comfortable, in lighter colors, for your attendants,” Howe and Wilburger advise. “And if the wedding is outside, be sure to select shoes with heels that won’t sink in the grass!”
When picking table accessories for an outdoor reception, opt for candles that don’t melt, and discuss with your florist which flowers wilt least in heat and humidity. Summer favorites like roses, daisies, and dahlias are popular.
Lots of folks consider autumn weddings the most beautiful of all, especially here in the Valley, where Mother Nature pulls out all the stops with dazzling displays of color.
“I encourage couples to think of using what’s relevant to the season,” says wedding and event planner Lisa Light (www.lisalightltd.com), based in Chatham.
Harvest themes often accentuate autumn weddings. Gold, burgundy, orange, dark green and rust brown are perfect to include in the color scheme. Many brides, Light says, choose cream-colored gowns, topped with a light cape or stole.
Flowers such as mums, dahlias, and zinnias (as well as pumpkins, gourds, acorns, cornstalks, and hay bales) add an autumnal tone.
And yes, some folks choose Halloween-themed weddings. The owners of Woodstock Moveable Feast recall catering a Halloween wedding at Cordt’s Mansion in Kingston, which was decorated with creepy fake cobwebs and spiders. The guests came in costume: everything from medieval princesses to Batman and Godzilla.
“But you don’t have to go all the way with a Halloween theme,” notes Light. “You can give each guest a little fancy-dress-ball-type feathered mask for the cocktail hour.” For the reception, consider harvest-type foods like turkey, pumpkin soup, cornbread, and cranberry sauce. Nut-based liqueurs and mulled wine are great to sip; many couples choose marzipan-decorated cakes in autumn tones. “You might decide to have autumn-style pies instead of the traditional wedding cake,” Light notes. “You can even serve individual, tart-like pies for each guest.”
Venue possibilities run the gamut from renovated barns to vineyards, reception halls, hotels, or country inns.
One Valley couple held their 2005 wedding atop Hunter Mountain on an October day. Their 100 guests rode the ski lift, four at a time, to the summit. Once assembled, the bride, in a Vera Wang dress, made her grand entrance via the lift. “The autumn leaves were at their peak, and the view was incredible. I even saw a bear,” she said.
Autumn offers more down-to-earth options, too. “Around the time of the Harvest Moon, it’s lovely to have a tent wedding, with a bonfire and sparklers outside for the guests,” Light notes.
“My own daughter, who’s quite young, wants a fall wedding,” she adds. “Her idea is to have the reception in a tent, where real leaves would be brought in. Instead of raking them away, she wants them raked in for the wedding!”