What do real brides have to say about the wedding planning experience? Well, it's not all happy tears at the bridal boutique and indulgent cake tastings. Guest blogger Jennifer Castoro shares the pros and cons of "the first look," the ins and outs of throwing a winter wedding, and more.
When Greg and I got engaged this past February, on a surprise trip to Antigua he managed to pull off (I was both shocked and really, really impressed), I didn't start planning anything for at least a month. Enjoying all the congrats and basking in the happy glow was so much fun, I didn't want it to end! When we finally started thinking about when we'd like to get hitched, I was hoping for a fall wedding. Granted, it would have left us just a few months to pull it off, but I love that time of year for so many reasons—gorgeous foliage, cooler temps, fewer bugs. But as I started researching and finding that places were either totally booked or had not-so-ideal openings (Thursday night reception, anyone?), we moved our sights back a bit and started imagining a winter ceremony.
We finally settled on New Year's Eve eve, which actually has a connection to our relationship. Our first date—a dinner-and-movie outing on which we saw, fittingly, a movie called The Pursuit of Happyness—was on New Year's Day, so we've celebrated our dating anniversary each year around the holiday. Plus, my parents got engaged just before Christmas, and his were married in early December, so it's a good way to honor them—and we'd like to emulate their 30-plus-year marriages in every way we can.
So I'm thrilled with the unique date of our winter wedding. But as much as I love it, there are a few details I hadn't really thought of before we signed our venue contract—starting with the snow. Sure, it would be beautiful, all soft and white and squishy. But what happens if roads close? A dusting could be festive, but a dumping spells disaster. There's a bigger risk my vendors will get snowed in, not to mention my guests. (Hope Grandma put chains on the tires! Kidding.) Then there are the short days, which (as I discussed in my last post) make planning our photos pretty challenging. When we make our grand exit from the church, we'll be doing it in the dark—at 4:30.
Photo: Courtesy of Jennifer Castoro
And there's also the look and accessibility of the venue to consider. It's hard to ignore the vibrant, blooming flowers popping up everywhere when you're venue-hunting in spring but getting married in winter. In our few appointments, we considered a cool converted barn with a gorgeous stone patio that we'd have to make use of with space heaters; a stately mansion (drafty) with acres of gardens (dead) at the top of a hill (slippery slope); and a country inn that I found out doesn't even host events beyond October. But our final choice, the gorgeous Ramsey Golf and Country Club with its large stone fireplace (cozy!) and tall evergreen trees (alive in December!), will look stunning in the winter sun. Plus, it's down a wide, flat driveway, and just a few minutes from a major highway I'm sure (I hope!) will be plowed, should a dumping happen. And it's a pretty romantic, old-world looking place (check out the photo at the top of this post!), perfect for a cozy party. So I'm running with it, using classic colors (more on that later) and traditional flowers (roses!) to go with the overall feel.
And for an indecisive bride generally overwhelmed by too many choices, the limiting of options that comes with a winter wedding helped my planning tremendously. There are only so many fabrics and styles of wedding dress that are cold-weather appropriate, and it was an easy decision to put my bridesmaids in long, deep-hued dresses that covered their bare legs (though the girls did help me figure that choice out; more on that later). Flower choices are fewer, but the ones that are available are still gorgeous. And in my opinion, a warming, comfort food-inspired menu is the best kind! (Aside from a greasy, sauce-smothered BBQ, but I wouldn't risk eating that in my wedding dress. No room for a Tide stick in my clutch.)
So no, I won't be guaranteed warm, sunny temps, and I may have to trade my stilettos for snow boots, but there are lots of upsides to an unexpected date. First, our wedding will stand alone from the photo barrage of grinning couples that dominate everyone's summer Facebook news feed. (You know by the time you saw pics of the tenth August wedding, you were a little bored. Admit it.) In the same vein, our guests are more likely to come, since they're less likely to have a vacation planned or another wedding to attend. Our situation is a little different, being around the holidays, but for most winter dates, ain't much else happening. Plus, more vendors are available, and they're much more willing to negotiate prices with you since they're in a slower season. Only one of the 8,000 makeup artists I contacted (I exaggerate, but not by much!) was booked, and the rest have been open to working with my meager budget. And with a little distance between our wedding and the rush of summer and fall ones, our guests are less likely to suffer wedding fatigue. Since I'm really hoping for an energetic, upbeat, ready-to-party crowd, that's pretty important!
Check back throughout the week to read more about Jennifer's wedding planning process, and get caught up with our other bride guests blogger, Linley Taber.
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