The holidays are stressful enough. Throw in a wedding and the most wonderful time of the year can turn into chaos.
When my daughter, Allison, and her boyfriend, Ryan, decided to tie the knot last March, we knew it would be a short engagement. While she was finishing her student teaching in New York, he had recently joined the Air Force and was stationed more than 1,000 miles away. The separation was difficult, and they were anxious to start their new life together. So although she had visions of a summer wedding, perhaps on a beach somewhere, we scrapped that idea and December 29th nuptials were planned.
Planning a holiday wedding is like planning a wedding at any time of year. You need to arrange venues for the ceremony and reception, build a guest list, purchase wedding clothes, hire a photographer, arrange for music, order flowers, and so much more. But a wedding smack dab in the middle of the busiest holiday week of the year has its own set of pluses and minuses, which we encountered immediately.
The first concern, obviously, is weather. Most of the people who participated in or attended our wedding live in the northeast, so the prospect of inclement weather weighed heavily in our decision making. A blizzard or ice storm could have ruined everything.
But we’d also experienced fair weather at Christmas, so we knew we had the possibility of a decent day.
We took the risk, figuring we’d have plenty of advance notice of a pending storm to confirm our guests’ attendance in time to notify the venue of a change in our head count.
We checked the Weather Channel daily (sometimes more) the week or so before our special day, noting that the 29th was the only day with snow predicted, up to a 90 percent probability at one point. But at the last minute the forecast shifted to rain later in the day, and, although not ideal (no one likes a wet wedding), the worst of the rain held off until after the ceremony. Whew!
photo by Bill Celnick, Starlight Wedding Films
Weather aside, there are several advantages to a holiday wedding. First up: Cost. Since it’s not the most popular time for brides and grooms, wedding venues offer the same services at a fraction of the expense. And because there’s not much demand, it’s more likely you will get the venue of your choice on the date you desire. We were able to secure the date and place easily for our first choice of venue and received the same package they offer in June and October at a very reasonable price.
Although expenses are a pro, they can also be a drawback to a late December wedding, as the season tends to come with a lot of extra spending, not only for the bride and groom’s families but for guests as well. Some may be struggling to provide a nice Christmas for their families – gifts, decorations, food, and travel – and the added costs of being wedding guests or attendants – travel, accommodations, clothing, a gift – can strain the budget. It’s something to consider.
Another advantage to a holiday wedding is the ability to hire your first choice in professionals. Again, because of the drop in demand, we were able to hire the photographer, DJ, florist, and organist we preferred with no problem. And, at the last minute, Allie decided she wanted to hire a videographer and managed to book the one she wanted just a week before the wedding. (Although not at the top of our list of priorities, hiring the videographer turned out to be an excellent decision. See our wedding trailer here. We’ll be able to relive this day for years. )
And we had no problem reserving the church. Allie and Ryan met at college – her alma mater, his employer – and wanted to be married on campus in the gorgeous chapel. In late December, the college is closed – no classes, no students – and the chapel was ours for the asking. And we didn’t have to battle for parking, which is at a premium when school is in session.
Christmas vs. Winter Theme
Allie was adamant that although she was being married during Christmas Week, she did not want a Christmas-themed wedding. She wanted a Winter Wedding with a rustic look. This was expressed to the planner at the venue, who ensured that all Christmas decorations – trees, wreaths, poinsettias – were removed prior to our event and replaced with our flowers – blue hydrangeas and white roses – and woodsy decorations. We were not able to change the decorations at the church: lit trees, poinsettias, and garlands of greenery, all very pretty. If decor is important to you, make sure you let those in charge of your venue, church, etc. know up front.
A wonderful benefit of a Christmas-week wedding we really enjoyed was the presence of so many family members from out of town who came days ahead of the wedding to spend the holidays with us. It was a great opportunity to reconnect, catch up, and renew some holiday traditions.
Although wedding preparations happen months in advance, last minute preps and issues pop up in the weeks and days before. December on its own can be hectic and demanding. You’re already in the throes of shopping, cooking, baking, decorating, parties, and end-of-year work commitments. Coordinating a wedding only adds to the stress. It’s a good idea to keep detailed notes and an agenda to stay on track and avoid melt downs and break downs. Ask others to pitch in when appropriate. And remember to have fun! A trivia night at the local brewery with members of the wedding party helped ease the tension. A mother-daughter spa day just days before was also a blessing.
A holiday wedding may come with its own set of worries, but the advantages more than make up for them.