Usually when temperatures drop, couples hold their wedding indoors, away from the cold. But with social-distancing requirements and restrictions on gatherings amid the coronavirus, more weddings will be taking place outdoors this winter.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, so long as marrying couples embrace the elements. If you’re planning an outdoor winter wedding, here are some must-have items and creative ideas from professional wedding planners.
Heat Lamps and Hand Warmers
Portable heaters are a must in colder climates. Make sure to rent patio heaters with built-in safety features, such as a tip-over switch that shuts the heater off automatically if the unit is tilted, to reduce fire hazards. Expect to pay about $65 to $90 per heater for a one-day rental.
Ashley Paul, the owner of C & A Event Planning, a wedding planning and floral design boutique in Central New York, also suggests providing hand warmers to guests for very cold days. You can buy them in bulk on Amazon, which offers a pack of 40 pairs for around $20.
Each guest should be provided with a plush blanket.
Ashley Pachkofsky, the founder of Poppati Events, a domestic and destination wedding planning company based in Minneapolis, suggests placing them at a welcome station, perhaps with a clever sign that reads “to have and to hold in case you get cold.”
Blankets embroidered with a couple’s initials and the phrase “feeling cozy” make for fun wedding favors, she added.
To protect attendees from snow, hail and other inclement weather, you will want to rent a tent. If you’re getting married at a picturesque locale, you might want to consider a clear tent that would allow guests to enjoy the scenic backdrop, said Kristen Maxwell Cooper, the editor in chief at the wedding website the Knot.
Dr. David Thomas, the director of the division of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins Medicine, recommended leaving two sides of the tent open to allow fresh air to flow through the space.
“It’s simple: It’s about not having viruses, like the coronavirus, lingering in the air for a long period of time,” he said. “This doesn’t guarantee that guests won’t contract the coronavirus, but it reduces the risk of transmission.”
Most tent rental companies charge a fee for the tent and then an additional fee for each sidewall. For example, renting a 20-by-40-foot tent (able to fit up to 50 people, with some open floor space) for the day, with only two 40-foot clear side walls, would cost $476 at Special Events of New England, a party rental company based in Auburn, N.H.
The caveat? “Our tents, like many, aren’t insulated and they don’t support a snow load, so you wouldn’t want to use one on a very cold day or a day with heavy snowfall,” said Chris Riddell, an owner of the company.
A transparent tent that can shelter a small group of people, such as Alvantor’s 15-person Canopy Gazebo, which can be bought for $790, is a great setting for cocktail hour. Bring in a small portable space heater so that the space feels warm and cozy, even with the window flaps open.
These are also good sources for warmth, and can be purchased relatively inexpensively or rented. If the skies are clear, let guests gather around an open, wood-burning flame — and maybe even provide some s’mores kits to satisfy guests’ sweet tooth.
Renting a gas fire pit for your wedding day costs, on average, $100 to $200, depending on the size of the pit. (Note: A gas fire pit may be the better choice for some couples, since a wood-burning pit typically requires an attendant.)
Proper lighting is important, especially since it gets darker earlier in many parts of the country. The right outdoor lighting can also help set the mood. “From string lights to chandeliers hanging from trees, couples can elevate any winter background wedding with larger-than-life lighting options,” Ms. Maxwell Cooper of the Knot said.
Food and Drink
Ms. Dentice recommended serving specialty cocktails, such as mulled wine, spiked Mexican hot chocolate or a cinnamon rosemary Old Fashioned, that celebrate the flavors of the season.
Peppermint-rimmed Champagne flutes are also a festive way of toasting a couple’s nuptials, Ms. Pachkofsky said.
Greet guests at the ceremony with a cup of hot apple cider, hot cocoa, or warm eggnog. Hot drinks could also be served at dessert tables next to a toppings station complete with whipped cream, cinnamon, marshmallows and nutmeg.
Give the people what they want, Ms. Paul said, in the form of grilled-cheese-and-tomato-soup shooters, warm pretzels, mashed potatoes and mac-and-cheese bites.
Couples can serve guests seasonally inspired deserts such as spiced apple cake, gingerbread cookies, chocolate peppermint bars, or slices of warm apple pie.
Krista Dentice, the owner of Weddings With a Twist, a wedding-planning company in Milwaukee, suggests having an ice sculpture as a showpiece. And placing a battery-powered LED light below the sculpture will make it stand out at nighttime.
The cost for an ice sculpture usually varies by size. For example, Ice Lab, which is based in Baltimore, charges $600 per block of ice used, no matter what the design is. The price includes delivery, setup, batter- powered LED lighting and drain gear.
Centerpieces and Place Cards
Tables can be decorated with centerpieces made of tree branches and pine cones spray painted in gold, Ms. Pachkofsky said, along with gray velvet tablecloths, bespoke silver charger plates, glass plates and clear acrylic dining chairs.
Ms. Pachkofsky recommends caramel apple place cards, each attached with a tag that says “Apple-Y Married” with the guest’s name and table assignment.
Wreath Decorating Station
If your wedding date is near the holidays, a station where people can build their own wreaths — choosing from a selection of winter greens and blooms — can provide a fun activity for guests during the reception, Ms. Pachkofsky said.
Statement Coats for the Bride and Groom
Ms. Pachkofsky suggested brides wear a faux fur cape, and grooms wear a plaid wool peacoat, at least for wedding portrait photos.
Monogrammed Hats, Gloves, Scarves or Socks
These wedding favors, when engraved with the couples’ initials and wedding date, provide warmth and a fun photo op, said Olivia Nicoletti, the owner and lead planner of Olive Fine Weddings & Events in Chicago.