Hallmark is a hell of a drug and thanks to the popularity of the network’s annual onslaught of Christmas romcoms, a growing number of brides are shunning spring or summer for winter weddings.
“We will do between 40 and 50 weddings in the months from October to January,” said Kathy Sanders, sales manager at the bedecked halls of Historic Hotel Bethlehem in Pennsylvania. “This December we are doing 18 weddings. We even have one on the 23rd.”
Sanders said Christmastime weddings are hotter than ever and Bethlehem — just a two-hour drive from Manhattan — has become ground zero for yuletide yokings. Not only is the charming city a designated “Hallmark Channel Holiday Hometown” but it goes so hard during the holidays that it’s earned the nickname “Christmas City.”
The hotel itself, which is fully festooned for the season by Thanksgiving, is no slouch in that regard, either. Set in the Historic Moravian Bethlehem District —an area influenced by the town’s devout 18th-century German settlers — the 125-room hotel was first opened by steel magnate Charles Schwab in 1922. He signed the necessary checks to make sure the hotel was richly appointed with all the glamorous formalities of the era.
Today, adding to all the historic charm, are over 30 Christmas trees, to which brides and grooms can add their own decorations and special touches, says Sanders. And who cares about Twelfth Night? Decorations here stay up through the third week of January.
“Because it’s Christmas, people love to put their own personal spin on things and to incorporate their family traditions,” said Sanders.
Other seasonal flourishes include horse-drawn carriage rides, German candies and place cards made into tree ornaments that guests can take home. Stained glass Moravian stars are another popular motif.
With a grand ballroom, a mural ballroom and even space in the snow outside (if you’re lucky), Historic Hotel Bethlehem can handle up to 250 guests. Seated reception dinners range in price from $129 to $179 per person.
Winter is even hot in sunny California, said Lisa Lafferty, an LA-based luxury wedding and “experiential event” planner. Lafferty was behind one of the West Coast’s most prominent snow fetes: the 2019 nuptials of Christine Quinn — a star of Netflix’s “Selling Sunset” — and businessman Christian Richard. Their “gothic” take on a winter wonderland-themed wedding went down at downtown Los Angeles’ cathedral and featured a black gown and real, live black swans, among more traditional cold-weather touches, i.e. lotsa the white stuff.
Piles of fluffy snow — even in a state better known for wildfires — is the magic trick that transforms a basic wedding into something people will remember forever, said Lafferty.
“I get a lot of requests for winter wonderland weddings here in California, but unless you go to Big Bear or Tahoe we don’t have snow,” said Lafferty, noting that thanks to global warming even the East Coast needs a little extra artificial precipitation these days. “But, you know, this is Hollywood, so we just bring in the faux snow. There are a few special effects vendors that I use here in LA and the snow doesn’t leave residue and it isn’t slippery, but it looks real.”
Lafferty said she can haul a snow machine “literally anywhere” (including churches) and combined with icicles, ice sculptures, igloos and even carved ice seating covered in furs, it makes for a “magical, ethereal and romantic” wedding. She has even had brides create their own North Pole where people can go sledding.
But when it comes to planning a wedding in the winter — in a place with snow that isn’t faux — there are downsides to consider.
“Travel delays are the biggest thing to worry about,” Lafferty said. “If you are asking your guests to fly into a place that has snow, you have to consider the fact that there could be delays. Even vendors could be affected if they are not on location.”
Another seemingly obvious consideration that she said is often overlooked is making sure that your guests are warm enough. If the wedding is outdoors in the snow, provide blankets, heating and indoor spaces where your great aunt can snag a hot chocolate.
Brides should also consider long-sleeved gowns and fur or faux fur accents. For the fellas, think cashmere topcoats. But Lafferty warns that couples shouldn’t be afraid of warm colors and evergreens — they pop on the monochromatic backdrop.
Meals, she adds, should also be warming and center around elevated comfort food and mulled wines.
For all of that tied up in a neat little package, Lafferty recommends resorts like the Ritz Carlton in Lake Tahoe, Calif.; Fairmont Banff Springs in Alberta, Canada; Château De Chambord in the Loire in France; Cedar Lake Estate in the Hudson Valley, NY and the Little Nell in Aspen, Colo.
At the Little Nell, the dreamiest winter wedding spot is the “overlook” atop Aspen Mountain. It gives love birds 360-degree views of the Elk Mountain Range, following a three-mile gondola ride from the base of the mountain (the gondola costs $1,250 per hour). Available in the snow-packed period of mid-March through mid-April, it has theatre seating for 200.
At the foot of the mountain, the Gondola Plaza can host a 500-person reception, but if you are worried about your guests getting a touch of frost-bite, the resort’s 10,000-square-foot indoor and 11,212-square-foot outdoor sundeck has a towering rock fireplace and 30-foot ceilings. It’s a great place to gather for epic toasts (or avuncular roasts). Did we mention panoramic window views of the great Continental Divide?
A single site affair will set you back roughly $40,000 here during the week. On a Saturday you are looking at more than $100,000 before tax and it’s all uphill from there.
But at that point why not just buyout the whole mountain to create your own private, sky’s-the-limit snow globe? After all, that’s what they’d do in a heartwarming Christmas romance like last year’s hit “Something from Tiffany’s” or this season’s “A Biltmore Christmas.”
“Everyone watches those holiday romcom movies,” said Lafferty. “It’s definitely had an influence.”