To Wed In Winter

The cooler the air, the warmer the reception can be for a couple who marry in the off season.

January 21, 2001|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,Sun Staff

Sally MacDonald was surprised at how easy it was to plan her wedding.

The Glen Burnie resident had no problem booking her dream venue -- the Pier 5 Hotel, which has a reception area with a sweeping view of Baltimore's Inner Harbor. And she took her time picking from the numerous caterers, florists and photographers who were free on her wedding date and clamoring for her business.

The reason for MacDonald's planning ease was simple -- her wedding took place Jan. 6, which traditionally is a slower time than the summer for those in the business of facilitating conjugal bliss.

"It's worked out really well," said MacDonald, a 25-year-old University of Maryland law student. "It's been really easy and fun. And when we went on our bachelorette party, we were the only bachelorette party out. I've been out on some bachelorette parties [in the summer] where there were many out at the same time."

While the summer months remain the most popular time for weddings, winter nuptials have become increasingly popular, experts say. In 1998, the Association of Bridal consultants' annual report showed that almost 18 percent of all weddings took place between January and March. The figure was close to a 5 percent jump from the same period in 1992.

Couples are choosing to wed in the winter for various reasons -- there is wider availability of caterers, locations and photographers during the off-season, and the cost sometimes can be less. Wedding planners are catering to the trend by suggesting ways to create a cozy winter reception. Fashion designers also are incorporating heavier fabrics such as velvet, cashmere and fur into bridal gowns and bridesmaid dresses.

"Why has June traditionally been considered the month for weddings?" said Gerard J. Monaghan, president of the Association of Bridal Consultants, which is based in New Milford, Conn. "Three main reasons -- it was after planting and before harvest; people used to get married straight out of school, and June was right after graduation; and it was after roads dried out from the winter, and people could get to the wedding. Now we're not tied into having dry roads, planting seasons and being out of school, so couples are not limited any more."

The rise in winter nuptials can also be attributed to the fact that more engagements take place between November and February than during the rest of the year, said Kathleen Kennedy, author of "Priceless Weddings for under $5,000" (Random House, $14). Kennedy noted that couples usually marry a year after their engagement, so when people get engaged on Thanksgiving, Christmas or Valentine's Day, they usually prefer to have the wedding the following winter instead of rushing to do it in the summer.

Many couples also are choosing to wed in the matrimonial off-season not only so they can have their pick of vendors the way MacDonald did, but also because catering and location rentals sometimes cost less during the winter months. Carley Roney, co-founder of and author of three books on planning weddings, estimates that couples can save 20 percent if they marry during the winter.

"You have more negotiating power with everybody you're working with," Roney said. "A caterer is probably going to be more willing to take on a small wedding, a photographer is probably not going to have that many weddings in the winter, and the band might play longer. But it also depends on where you are. If you're talking a winter wedding in a skiing area, ... if you want imported French tulips in December, then there go your savings."

Roney added that couples getting married near Christmas sometimes can save on decorations because churches or hotel ballrooms already may be decked out for the holidays.

But there are some drawbacks to marrying in the winter. The colder months are peak season for vacations to warm destinations, so newlyweds may have to fork over more for the honeymoon. Also, the holidays sometimes can interfere with planning when vendors close for Christmas or Thanksgiving. And then there's the higher risk of bad weather.

"With snow season you risk airport closings," said Kennedy, who is based in Chicago. "In Chicago, we had so many airport closings in the last couple of weeks. Can you imagine if you had your wedding scheduled during that? No one could get in and out for the wedding, and you couldn't get out for the honeymoon."

But if the weather holds and the wedding goes on without a hitch, MacDonald reasons, the payoff for picking January will be worth it.

MacDonald and her new husband, Charlie Downey, headed to Saint Lucia after their recent nuptials. Just before their trip, the bride noted that her honeymoon would be especially sweet knowing that while they're sunbathing on the Caribbean island, it's going to be freezing back home in Maryland.

For dresses:

Pick rich colors that match the winter season. Stay away from pastels and instead use jewel or metallic tones. Try gold, silver, ice blue, ice green, navy blue, emerald or burgundy.

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