Set against the backdrop of freshly fallen snow, a winter wedding is undeniably magical—once everyone is there, that is. In the days and hours leading up to a winter wedding, guests might face a few unique challenges, ranging from choosing not-your-typical wedding attire to delays caused by Mother Nature herself. If you've been invited to a wedding this season, here are a few essential etiquette tips to keep in mind.
Inclement weather delaying your travel? Contact anyone other than the couple.
"Inclement weather can happen, and when it does, it happens fast," says Emily Campbell of Denver-based Bella Event Design & Planning. Roads can be suddenly closed; driving times double; flights can be delayed or outright cancelled. While it might be your first impulse to phone or text the bride and groom—they are the ones who invited you, after all—under no circumstances should you reach out to them directly. (Imagine if every guest with delays or concerns sent them messages!) Instead, reach out to a member of the immediate family or bridal party and let them know your status. "Keep your contact brief, and send a prompt update, if any is available," advises Campbell.
Snow and sleet aside, the wedding will go on.
"Weddings will almost always have a weather contingency plan," Campbell notes. "But because of the complications of travel and scheduling, they're unlikely to be postponed any further than a few hours." That being said, if a winter storm is causing delays for a large number of guests—say, for the guests who opted to drive up to the mountains the morning of the wedding, instead of arriving the night before—the bride and groom may choose to switch around the timeline of events, Campbell says. "If they're having the ceremony and reception in the same venue, they may choose to have cocktail hour before the ceremony, to give delayed guests as much time as possible to arrive," she says. To make things easier on yourselves and the couple, arriving early is always advisable. And, if there's a change in plans, going with the flow and smiling throughout the day will help the bride and groom stay calm.
Make sure your properly dressed for a winter wedding—whether it's taking place indoors or out.
One of the greatest challenges winter guests face is in the form of attire, which has to be both practical for the weather conditions and appropriate for an event as special as a wedding. The key, Campbell says, is to have options on hand. Plan to arrive wearing your winter boots, with your heels and dress shoes packed inside fabric shoe bags tucked inside a shoulder tote, which is more durable and more tasteful than plastic or paper shopping bags. "And bring your nicest winter coat," she says. "A wool pea coat or classic puffer is much more appropriate than your ski gear!" Campbell also recommends both women and men bring a light over-layer, such as a cozy cardigan or half-zip sweater, which can be more easily removed, rather than wearing a thermal under-layer, which will get hot quickly once indoors. She adds that female guests may want to pack two pairs of tights—one thicker, warmer pair and one standard pair to change into once indoors for the reception.