Planning a Sustainable Winter Wedding

As the wedding calendar gets booked up post lockdown, a winter wedding is becoming popular again. Plan a sustainable day with Green Soul Weddings founder Hannah Mullen’s tips.

Winter is typically a quieter season for the wedding industry, however after lockdown meant that all weddings were cancelled, wedding suppliers’ diaries are beginning to fill up fast. Whereas previously winter was a less popular option, couples are now considering dates in the colder months. In my opinion winter weddings deserve this surge in interest. However I appreciate that it can be hard to fully get your head into winter wedding planning mode whilst it’s still warm outside. So, I invite you to grab your favourite drink, lounge in the sun and swot up on my best tips, advice and suggestions for planning your amazing sustainable winter wedding.

Winter Florals

Winter is a time we don’t often associate with flowers, with most British plants conserving their energy over this time ready to come to life in the Spring. (See also Planning an Autumn Wedding). This makes it a little harder to imagine using locally grown and seasonal blooms for your sustainable winter wedding. Nonetheless these months aren’t completely devoid of foliage and there are some very modest and underappreciated blooms that defy the cold to bring us a little bit of floral beauty. Many work wonderfully in bouquets and table centrepieces. 

For your bouquet, buttonholes and floral installations, why not consider the humble hellebore which comes in such a fantastic array of colours and has a stunning delicate elegance, perfect for a winter wedding. As the season progresses, berries come into their own, afterall what’s winter without holly and mistletoe? Some of the popular wedding flowers such as anemones and ranunculus begin to grace us in January and February depending on the harshness of the preceding winter. Combining these with dried florals and wintery foliage in your bouquets, flower crowns, installations and centrepieces can lead to some stunning British grown winter wedding flowers.

Houseplants such as cyclamen, amaryllis or poinsettia in decorative or rustic pots can add vibrance to any table. They are a fantastic sustainable option as they go on to continue growing in the homes of you and your guests. The perfect favour and décor double up.  Nevertheless, there’s no denying that British seasonal flowers present a more restricted choice during winter months. As such, the epitome of eco-friendly wedding flowers is to use locally grown seasonal flowers that have been arranged and prepared without the use of any single-use plastics or materials such as floral foam. However for some couples these British wintery blooms are not what they had in mind, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be sustainable.

Planning a sustainable Winter Wedding Luminosa

Image: Dried Flower Bouquet, Luminosa 

Sustainability comes in different forms and each sustainable change plays a role in reducing the environmental impact of your wedding. As such, maybe January isn’t the correct season for including your favourite flower, but there are still options available to you. You can fly flowers in from abroad but ensure that the blooms have come from an organic and/or fairtrade ethical grower. You can also ask your local florist to prepare them in a foam free way. Alternatively, why not use local paper or silk flower alternatives. This option allows you to have your preferred flowers no matter the season and provides an everlasting keepsake from your day.

I also love to embrace the use of foliage instead of flowers. Not only can foliage be a budget friendly option, but there are so many varieties with interesting colours, details and textures. All of which are a delightful and equally show stopping alternative to flowers. Each and every effort to reduce the waste and negative environmental consequences of your day should be celebrated.

Ideas For Festive Décor 

Winter is a time for cosiness and a time associated with gathering together, sharing laughter and anticipating the coming year. Therefore it is no wonder the season makes for a magical time of year to host your celebration. When planning your winter wedding I would encourage you to take some time to think about what you associate most with the season. Are there any special memories you both have of winters past? Think how you want your guests to feel throughout the celebration. Not only do I believe this is a powerful step in deciding the vision for your décor, but it also helps to minimise unnecessary waste across the entire planning process. You can then focus on what really matters to you and minimise any non-meaningful, surplus purchases.

Planning your decor is the perfect time to get creative and please the senses of you and your guests. For example the flickering glow of candles can really transform your venue space by providing a visual feast of dancing light (especially as night falls earlier during the Winter). They also imbue a satisfying warmth and maybe even a subtle scent if you choose to dot some scented votives amongst your décor. In terms of candles, there are an increasing array of eco-friendly options around, including beeswax, soy, coconut wax and vegan candle options. None of which are associated with the same negative health and environmental consequences of the more traditional paraffin candles. If you do choose to add scented candles to your wedding décor be careful to ensure these are used as minimal accents to avoid the smell becoming overpowering. Consult your candle provider for more of an insight on suitable quantities.

In addition to flickering candle light, winter weddings lend themselves perfectly to the use of naturally occurring décor such as wooden log slices, moss, pinecones and berries. Nevertheless, winter doesn’t have to just equate to rustic and natural and is the perfect backdrop for so many colour palettes! Use pastel blue, silver, navy and lilac for an elegant take on a crisp frosty winters morning. The traditional green and red of holly and robins hopping around our neighbourhoods is a classic combination. Alternatively a contemporary mix of electric blue and vivid pink reminiscent of exotic holidays in search of the winter sun will warm your guests. Choose stunning gold details paired with luscious foliage for a touch of sophistication. Being led by the seasons and your personal memories in terms of colours and décor is a great sustainable option. With winter we are lucky to have associations with a wide variety of colour schemes. 

If you are planning your winter wedding for December, make sure to check whether your chosen venue decorates for Christmas and/or New Year, and if so when these decorations are put up and taken down. I also recommend asking to see images of their previous years’ decorations. After all the most sustainable choice is to make the most of everything already available to you, plus you can save money here. Factoring their Christmas decorations into your design can not only save on the need for surplus décor but also prevents any clashing décor elements that hadn’t been accounted for.

Meaningful Favours

Favours are a fantastic way of adding a bit of your personality to your day as well as being a token gesture of thanks for your guests. However it’s important to ensure that these too fit with the eco friendly tone of your day. I always recommend thinking about whether your guests will really want a gift or whether it will be discarded at the end of the night, headed for the bin. Winter brings a whole host of favour options associated with the seasons. Food and drink tend to be the most popular and least wasteful options. If they are handmade and reflect something meaningful to the couple, even better. If you go for something personalised, it can also double up as a place card.

Heart Warming Wedding Catering

Regardless of the time of year, the best and most sustainable approach to your wedding catering is to embrace seasonal and local produce. With this in mind, winter brings flavours such as dried fruits, hearty roasts and many well-known British vegetables such as cabbage, leeks and parsnips. In contrast with the light and fresh feel typically desired for summer cuisine, winter is a great time for rich and warming foods. Make sure you look out for local caterers who embrace this ethos and take pride in supporting local vendors. Don’t forget those delicious warm puddings with custard or brandy butter too as they’re sure to go down a treat.

When thinking of your catering, make sure you consider quantities and the combinations of dishes provided. Whilst December is often considered a time of indulgence, January is a time where people try to reign back their eating habits and are looking for some lighter options after the excesses of Christmas. Mixing some lighter courses into your wedding breakfast and evening food leaves your guests feeling more comfortable when it comes to hitting the dancefloor and helps to avoid too much wastage.

Magical Venues

It isn’t impossible to have your winter wedding outdoors, however it is advisable to consider the shortness of the daylight hours and the plummeting temperatures after dark that are typical of winter months. Outdoor weddings that rely on heaters can be sufficient to keep you and your guests comfortable. These work especially well with the addition of comfy lounge areas to gather everyone together and with the provision of beautiful woollen blankets. Remember that compared to permanent structures, temporary ones such as tipis and marquees let heat escape a lot more and require much more energy to maintain a nice temperature. It is also worth bearing in mind that many outdoor based wedding venues do not operate during the winter months. Make sure you check this before settling your heart on a favourite venue.

When choosing between your shortlisted indoor-based wedding venues is worthwhile to consider whether they support a locally-based events team. Can they recommend local and sustainable suppliers, actively encourage recycling and composting, and embrace the use of green energy and heating sources? It is also advisable to consider your total guest number and desired atmosphere. You should ideally select a venue that has ample space for all guests to be indoors throughout the day in the event of poor weather. But also consider avoiding excessive space in which heat is lost and additional décor is required to prevent any sense of emptiness.

Poor weather is not a phenomenon limited to the winter months so plan B’s (and even C’s!) are always advisable. For this reason I recommend a venue that provides a ceremony and reception space all in one. This prevents any travel complications between venues that inclement weather could cause (in addition to minimising any additional travel and your carbon footprint.)

Winter Wedding Dresses

Trust me when I say that you do not want to feel cold on your wedding day, no matter how fabulous the dress. Gentlemen typically layer up with stylish waistcoats and jackets. Ladies can also enjoy some ethical and luxurious layering in the forms of shrugs, shawls or a cosy knit. Sleeves were made popular thanks to Kate Middleton’s bridal style so experiment with various shapes. Removable tops and shrugs are handy to allow you to change your look as necessary. This is also a great opportunity to look at alternative bridal outfits. A show stopping trouser suit or jumpsuit with a fabulous coat are practical but elegant options. And don’t forget that gorgeous styles can be found when you rent your wedding dress or buy a vintage bridal gown.

Give your guests a clear expectation regarding the spaces you’re hosting your wedding in. They will be grateful of being able to prepare their own outfit choices based on how much they tend to feel the cold.

Planning A Sustainable Winter Wedding Hannah Mullens Green Soul Weddings

Whilst indoor winter weddings can be magical in their own ways, outdoor couple photos can also be spectacular, no matter the weather. Indeed the worse the weather the more striking and dramatic the resulting image outcomes. Be prepared to embrace any weather with your photographer. Consider packing your favourite pair of winter boots and borrowing a beautiful clear or colour coordinating umbrella from a friend to complete the ultimate all-weather wedding look!

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