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Winter wedding: Less-expensive, unique option

| Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010

Bachelors, beware: it may indeed be a cold day when you finally say "I do."

When planning the big day, many couples are opting to walk down the aisle in January or February.

A winter wedding can be considerably cheaper. It also provides the opportunity to pull off the kind of singular event that will stand out from the endless parade of June nuptials.

Just ask Jennifer Greer, who married J.R. Gordon on Jan. 23 at Heinz Chapel in Oakland.

"I always saw my wedding in the winter with my bridesmaids carrying muffs," says Greer, 27, of Cecil. "When I was little and it was cold out, my mom would dress me in a furry white coat with a furry white muff. So, of course, my bridesmaids will be wearing a white fur muff instead of carrying a bouquet."

Greer and Gordon both remained unfazed when their mothers, Kathy Gordon and Sandy Greer, brought up the b-word: blizzard.

"Pittsburgh weather is problematic as it is," Greer says. "I can remember a Halloween when we were running around in our costumes in the snow. In the summer, you could have a hurricane come up the coast and you could have pouring down rain. We were willing to take the chance."

A winter wedding is not as far-fetched as it sounds, says Anja Winikka, editor at TheKnot.com, a leading wedding Web site. Anybody can have a June wedding, but guests won't likely forget a Christmas-themed wedding in December or a February ceremony, where the snowy landscape can provide a dramatic contrast for photos of the wedding party.

"Nobody wants to have a wedding that looks like their friend's weddings," Winikka says. "You can really take advantage of the seasonal elements and make it your own."

Those planning a December wedding probably will find many reception venues already decorated for Christmas. Instead of pastels, rich jewel tones and velvet fabrics can be incorporated into the bridesmaids dresses and groomsmen's tuxes. The church and reception hall and the bouquets can be accented with metallic blues and gold that will reflect candlelight and impart a rich and cozy glow.

"Metallics are huge in the winter because it has that ... reflective quality that works well with candles," Winikka says. "Usually in a winter wedding, you're dealing with a darker space. You want to create an intimate atmosphere."

Photographers, caterers and limousine services are more likely to give off-season discounts. So will many banquet facilities -- at least after the holiday season is over.

Lora Peluso, director of catering and convention services at the Omni William Penn hotel, says that weddings booked in January through March can cost $90 per person. The same offering in the spring and fall can be as high as $140 per head, she says.

"We're more apt to give them a deal in order to get them in," Peluso says. "You get a lot more for your money. You have a lot of negotiating power."

Winter's frigid temperatures also can be a blessing in disguise, Peluso says. "People don't like to get dressed up in the summer for formal affairs. It's actually a plus to have it cooler."

That motivated Shannon Jordan and Vernon Botts of Highland Park to set Feb. 20 as their wedding day.

"We sort of looked at the pros and cons," says Jordan, 25. "Neither of us like the heat. He doesn't want to be worried about sweating in his tux. You're already worked up anyway. The last thing you want to worry about is wiping sweat off."

She also chose that particular day because it was close to the anniversary of their first date.

Jordan says it will take a cold day indeed to dissuade her from having photos of the wedding party taken outside. She's ready to deploy black faux-fur wraps or coats to go with the bridesmaids' silver-and-raspberry dresses, and a white wrap for herself.

"I would say that probably 85 percent of people think it's a great idea," says Jordan of Highland Park. "A lot of people have never been to a winter wedding. They're excited because it's one less wedding they have to deal with in the spring and the summer."

They'll marry at Heinz Chapel on the University of Pittsburgh campus in Oakland. Their reception, whose theme is 1940s Hollywood, will take place at the Pittsburgh Athletic Association. It's across the street, which means guests won't have to drive in the event of inclement weather.

Wedding planner Katherine Shaw, who is organizing the couple's reception, relishes the creative potential of a winter wedding. Shaw, who owns Trends to Traditions in Cranberry, married husband Conan at a Christmas-themed wedding in St. Louis.

"February's always a good time especially because of Valentine's Day," she says. "It's a very romantic month."

Nuptial know-how

Planning a winter wedding, or just thinking about it• Consider these tips, from some winter brides and from Anja Winikka, editor of TheKnot.com:

• Taking photos outdoors doesn't mean turning into a Popsicle. Incorporate a shawl to go with your gown. (This could be your "Something blue," Winikka says). Other options include white gloves, extra-warm tights (under the wedding gown) or fuzzy white-winter earmuffs. The groom and his groomsmen can wear scarves that match the colors on their tuxes, and formal black winter coats.

• Have your wedding and reception as close together as possible so guests don't have to travel far in the case of inclement weather.

• Consider valet parking if guests have to drive to the reception, so they don't have too far to walk. Use a heavy, all-weather mat at the entrance so guests can wipe their feet.

• The reception area should not be near the door to the outside. Nobody wants a cold breeze blowing in whenever someone enters or exits.

• The menu at the reception can include white hot chocolate or eggnog served in punch glasses, Winikka says. "Play up the soup course instead of the salad course."

• Have the number of a car service handy in case bad weather hits, so your guests can be driven home safely.

• If you're getting married during the holiday season, don't overdo the red and green.

• Reflective colors and textures can be a plus since they'll add more light. Consider silver or gold metallics in your color palette. Bouquets can be wrapped in crystal-studded ribbons.

• For flowers, try red roses, calla lilies, amaryllis or white hydrangeas. White boutonnieres can be accented with greenery.

• Consider holding the ceremony earlier in the day to allow for sufficient daylight to take photos of the wedding party.

• Remember that a winter wedding means a winter anniversary. Laura Koveleskie of Greensburg married husband Robert in Steubenvlle, Ohio, on Jan. 20, 1998. That was also the day that a massive snowmelt caused rivers to overflow their banks, closing some bridges and making some roads impassable. "It was pretty scary seeing the river just feet from your car," Koveleskie says. "A lot of anniversaries we stay home because the weather's too bad to go out to dinner."

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