Winter Wedding Savings
by Rebecca Underwood
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While spring and summer are traditional wedding seasons, winter weddings appear to be a growing trend. If you choose to have a winter wedding, you may be able to benefit from significant savings. Try some of the following tips for making the most of your budget. And, above all, be flexible. With competition among holiday retailers, you may find wonderful ideas of your own at a fraction of the normal cost.
When looking for locations, be creative. Holiday parties make many event locations expensive and hard to book during the winter. But, "outdoorsy" locations may be overlooked, because people assume they won't be suitable for winter. And while the weather may make parks and botanical gardens off-limits for outdoor receptions, these places may also have very nice indoor facilities. As a bonus, such locations may also be landscaped to appear almost as beautiful in the winter as they do during spring and summer. Ask around and find out if local parks and botanical gardens have party or meeting rooms. They may be willing to give you an off-season price break just to rent the space. The same goes for tourist destinations, since summer vacation season will be long gone.
If you prefer a church wedding, you may not get a break on your deposit or rental fee. However, you may get more for your money if you take advantage of their decor. Many churches have a tradition of decorating beautifully for the holiday season with lilies, poinsettias, and other florals. If you are flexible, you can incorporate these items into your wedding decor, which means you will need to provide less. When deciding to book a church, be sure you ask what kind of decor they use at Christmas so you can plan colors and dresses to match.
If you want to use fresh florals, it's always most cost-effective to use whatever is in season. Luckily, most of the evergreens, berries, and potted flowers that flourish in winter are very hardy and will remain beautiful much longer than more delicate ones. That means you can more easily save money by putting together your own arrangements and floral decor in advance. You may also be able to get free evergreen branches and cuttings from garden shops and Christmas tree vendors, which will make beautiful boughs and table arrangements. Don't forget to check with friends and neighbors, too. They may not mind donating a few snips of evergreens and winter berries from their own back yards.
If you prefer to use artificial florals, you should still try to stick with what's in season. Many craft stores offer big sales and deep discounts on holiday floral materials in order to get customers into their stores. They know they'll make their profit on additional craft supplies the customers will buy (kind of like loss-leaders at the supermarket). That doesn't mean you have to use "Christmasy" dÃ©cor. Winter florals in blues, pinks, purples, and pure white are now commonly available. If you like a more natural look, many holiday florals now include beautiful berries, fruits, and nuts. And you can always add your own bows and lighting to plain greenery.
Candles often go on sale for Christmas, but consider supplementing candlelight with strands of tiny white holiday lights. These are often available for only a dollar or two during the Christmas season, or can be borrowed from friends and relatives. Twist them with garlands of greenery and lengths of inexpensive tulle for a charming look. We did this at my cousin's wedding, and the reception appeared to be starlit. If you borrow lights, just be sure to discreetly label each strand so it may be easily returned to its owner.
For simply lovely centerpieces, borrow glass bowls from friends and family. They need not match exactly, as long as they are all clear glass. Fill with small ball ornaments in one or two colors that coordinate with your decor; tuck small sprigs of greenery into open spaces. Center a clear glass candle cup in the middle, or surround with a few tealights. The candlelight will sparkle off the ornaments, which can be recycled after the wedding on the couple's first Christmas tree. If you prefer, neatly write the couple's name and date in metallic paint pen on each ornament. Let each guest take an ornament home as a party favor.
If you want something more elaborate, gingerbread houses can be charming as centerpieces. Skip the traditional multi-colored candies in favor of more sophisticated decorations. The snowy-white icing makes a natural base for wedding decor. Just add bits of ribbon, "pearl" bead strands, greenery, silver decorator candies, or whatever matches your wedding colors. A dusting of coarse decorator sugar will make the houses really sparkle. For a personalized touch, you can even add little signs with the couple's names. Because gingerbread houses hold up well, they can be assembled far ahead of time and stored carefully until the event. If you like, hold a decorating party with friends and family. Each house may be slightly different as long as the same decorating materials are used on each. Just be sure to make one or two extra in case of accidents on the day of the wedding.
Food and Drink
Food and drink can be a costly portion of the wedding no matter what season. During the winter, however, the weather can make it especially nice to hold a mid-afternoon wedding. Guests will be able to avoid cold (and sometimes treacherous) drives after dark, and you will be able to avoid serving a full meal. Instead, offer cake, cookies, a cheese ball, and/or other appetizers. Rather than punch or alcoholic drinks, serve coffee, tea, and/or mulled cider. The warm drinks will seem cozier and more filling to your guests, and will be easier on your budget.
In any season, the key to a frugal wedding is creativity. Look around you and take time to explore all options. You can have a beautiful wedding without breaking the bank, as long as you make it your goal. And most importantly, don't forget to enjoy every moment of it!
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