A Winter Wedding Reception Masterclass
Shorter days, darker skies and bone-chilling temperatures give the extremities of the calendar year a bad wrap, but the twinkling tinsel, sumptuous textures and cozy comfort foods bring a level of jubilation to wintertime festivities that more than make up for an otherwise melancholic atmosphere. As evidenced by our recent look at winter wedding ceremonies, couples who fully embrace the spirit of the season reap wonderfully sophisticated wedding designs. And today, we’re looking at winter wedding reception ideas that sleigh (all day!) as well. From jewel toned palettes of teal + red to maximalist centerpieces spilling with blossoming branches, these modern winter wedding ideas are a surefire way to make your celebration merry and bright.
Winter Wedding Escort Cards & Favors
Seating charts, escort cards, place cards and cute little favors are an easy way to add a light-hearted, creative spirit to your wedding design. A few of the standout ideas we’ve seen for winter weddings in particular? Holiday crackers (especially when they’re hand-marbled!), calligraphed logs, mini winter villages, golden hand bells, tartan-bound frames, mulled wine dressed up like the three wise men (the myrrh, the merrier).
Have Santa hand out gifts, wrapped in paper that matches your palette or custom wedding print. Tie letterpress tags to a patchwork of poinsettia wreaths. Have servers pour signature cocktails into calligraphed lightbulb shaped glasses to surprise guests during Cocktail Hour. Hang vintage ornaments on a multi-colored tree, allowing your guests to take these curated treasures home as a memorable keepsake they can rediscover every holiday season. Truly, the starry night sky is the limit when it comes to winter wedding escort cards, favors and the like!
Winter Wedding Tablescapes
It’s the Texture of the Season
Like Christmas at Balmoral, tartan is a leading player in the winter wedding texture scene. Then again, so is velvet. Classic and luxe, these table complexions are a Santana kind of smooth. And while we most often see them make their debuts in tablecloths, dresses and the ever-suave tie, there’s much to be said about whimsical swags of velvet ribbon bedecking chairs or cinching napkins and plaid lambswool sleeves safeguarding menus. It goes without saying that cozy blankets a knack for insulation are welcome enhancements to seat-backs and lounge vignettes for outdoor receptions.
An oft-missed opportunity for tableside hygge is investing in the dining seats. Whether that means splurging a bit more on chairs with plush textures or renting slip covers/sheepskin chair pads to elevate comfort, your guests will thank you for any simple touches that keep their snugness top of mind.
Patterns To Pine For
If we recognize any themes from winter weddings this year, it’s that maximalism is ever on the rise. Layering patterns and going all-in with print-happy china is will quickly show you that there is no wrong answer in the Maxiverse. A good rule of thumb as you approach the design is to consider the kind of mood you want to create. Is it laidback and refined? Funky and colorful? Peaceful and calm? Classic and enduring?
Start with one focal piece and build outward from there. Consider patterns that strike a perfect balance between breezy and sophisticated without verging on feeling too elaborate or unapproachable. Marry 2-3 textures throughout the table linen, dinnerware, flatware, glassware, candle holders, floral vessels and so on.
Punch it up with a handful of colors – easily done through winter citrus, stone fruits, foraged mushrooms, leafy greens and seasonal blooms. Get playful and color outside the lines – it’s an instant dose of Yuletide pep for your guests!
Make The Whole Place Shimmer (overhead)
The perfect way to give ’em the ole’ razzle dazzle? Bits and baubles (of tinsels + glass, respectively). When thinking about your winter wedding reception space, don’t forget to look up! Consider the environment from wall to wall and floor to ceiling. How can you treat the latter in a way that surprises + delights your guests with layers of color, vibrant sparkles and unexpected depth? As for us, we love a good garland festooned with ornaments and icicle-allusive tinsel.
Winter Wedding Centerpieces
When on the hunt for winter wedding centerpieces, look no further than these clever remixes on cult classics like hellebore, lilies, camellias and daffodils. Talk to your florist about favoring wild + unruly stems evocative of the natural world. Since there is less nuance in the colors available from winter blooms, creating a sense of movement through intricate layering and unexpected textures will effectively uplevel your winter dining table arrangements with dynamic composition.
Playful and unfussy winter wedding moods call for a cirque de fleurs of sorts – limes on a trapeze of blossoming branches, fantastic funghi juggling flair, pomegranates trampolining high in the sky… it’s a show we could watch again and again and again.
While snowy whites and pine needle greens are the most “gravitated towards” color palettes for winter wedding centerpieces, we hope these sugarplum sherberts (our wintertime version of summer’s juicy fruits) offer enough evidence of cheery colors receiving an A++ in floral design briefs all year round.
Ikebana is another special touch you can employ for accent flowers on your dining tables, wedding bars or lounge vignettes. Gentle without feeling sleepy, these botanic ballerinas offer a poetic continuation of soft ethereality and watercolor hues.
Burgundies, pinks and muddy browns are called out of their hibernation station during winter months as well. If your design MO is straight out of the wedding aesthetic playbook for “timeless with a twist”, it’s true that this seasonably rich approach feels polished, debonair and effortlessly elegant.
Winter Wedding Canapés & Cocktails
Spiked eggnog may be dealer’s choice when it comes to winter wedding licks and libations, but the festive season bartender’s bible hardly starts and ends here. Hot buttered spiked cider, pomegranate ginger palomas, mulled wine negronis and chai espresso martinis are just a few of the frosted weather cocktails we wouldn’t mind having on deck – particularly if they’re served with fun presentation like a customized shot ski, birch pattered straw, cinnamon stick cigar or jumbo sized marshmallows.
Look to sites like Half Baked Harvest, Food52, Martha Stewart and Food & Wine for some of the best winter cocktail recipes we’ve discovered yet!
As for the grub? These sweet and savory bites never fail to speed up the ski lift and into your mouth faster than you can say Noel. While they say to never judge a book by it’s cover, we can’t help but defect when it comes to food. As far as Cocktail Hour and Late Night Bites are concerned, presentation is everything. So play up the spirit of the season through patterned bowls or souped-up platters, themed stations or roaming carts and tasty treats in emblematic shapes that immerse guests fully into your winter theme.
A few starter ideas for winter wedding canapés?
- Warm Raclette Swiss Cheese with Riesling-poached pears, red wine-braised figs, candied pecans, honey, and cranberry toast
- Pão de Queijo: Brazilian cheese bread
- Rock oysters with finger lime dressing
- “Twice Baked” Baby Potatoes with Caviar
- Belgian Waffle with warm chocolate ganache
- Canadian Cheddar and Bacon Soup served with a pretzel roll
- Braised Beef Poutine: French fries, Boursin Garlic & Fine Herbs Cheese Sauce, cheese curds, and gherkin relish
- Polenta Squares with Wild Mushrooms and Fontina
- Beef and Asparagus Negimaki
- Chicken Tikka Masala with fennel-spiced yogurt and naan bread
Winter Wedding Cakes
All is Green. All is White.
Park your eyes here for a while, ’cause these green and white wedding cakes have charisma to spare. With frosted tiers marked by bas relief, sugar flowers, nonchalant brushstrokes and gravity-defying angles, these dazzling confections are anything by traditional. Still, there’s a classic sensibility about them. Humble grace and universal appeal. For couples looking for a bit of familiarity or a classic design with a fresh twist, consider enhancing a buttercream cake with natural adornments of flowers, vines, or wintertime berries. And for a more modern vibe, a little bit of monochrome motif goes along way!
Candy Stripes & Gingerbread Spice
While some wedding cakes aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, these candy clad confections certainly are. Gingerbread castles with icicle frosting, strips of fondant taffy unfurling as ribbons, stripe-spangled canes bristling with peppermint… nothing feels quite as mirthful as cold weather desserts like these. Add them to your lineup of wedding sweets, and you’re sure to end the night on a high note!
Nectar of the Sugar Plum Fairy
Deck your cake with fruits and flowers, fa la la la la la la la la. Straddling the line between understated and whimsical, these high-brow cake designs feel entirely approachable. Gussied up with flourishes of blooms, these playful winter wedding cakes feel like confidence personified. So, of course, do the pavlovas, meringues and spiced sponge gâteaux that we’ve hand-picked for you to peruse below. Nestled in a bed of seasonal berries or perched atop a sleek glass stand, these lively designs feel spry, chic and entirely invigorated.
Just like toaster strudels, mini cakes, cookies and boozy popsicles are so fetch. Particularly when they’re intricately painted or crowned with elaborate frosting designs!
One trend we’re unabashedly giddy for? Sugar mushrooms! These darling little toadstools make the jolliest additions to an enchanted forest inspired wedding reception.
Fondant Flossing x Abstract Flair
Ripples and waves of hand-painted fondant can create the most hypnotic winter wedding cake. Like shards of ice or glimmers of a frozen lake, these sculptural wedding cakes double as artworks + conversation starters. This approach suits couples seeking a modern minimalist vibe, without veering into spartan territory. The velocity of each iridescent swoop draws the eyes upward across a sugar paste mountain terrain, though often, these glazed trimmings frame solid colored tiers through grand curlicue shapes reminiscent of exotic bird feathers. And sometimes, these abstract confections seem to mirror the flirtatious silhouettes of a bridal micro mini with wispy embellishments.
Winter Wedding Send-Off Style
A word about winter wedding send-offs: DO THEM. Has there ever been a better excuse to hire a horse drawn sleigh, slap a twinkle lit Christmas tree atop a vintage car or dress up a sleek wooden boat with holiday frills? Wedding send-offs technically don’t have to occur at the end of the party either. Your exit from the ceremony can be equally grand, and you can surprise your guests with a clever entrance to your Cocktail Hour or Wedding Dinner if you’re stealing away for photos while they mingle + nosh.
Ski down the slopes if that’s your vibe (and that’s your wedding setting), or immerse your guests in the fun by letting them take part in the unique transportation element too. Who’s to say the “getting there” parts of the day can’t be novel, entertaining and endearingly memorable? Not every part of the day has to be about efficiency, so consider how you can enchant your guests at every touch point.
There’s a reason they call it the most wonderful time of the year. So while spring and summer weddings remain ever popular, we hope you consider these brisker months for their infinite opportunities where designs + immersive experiences are concerned. In many locations, you can save big on your investments as well. Off-peak dates tend to offer extreme savings at most wedding venues, and you’ll generally find the same trends across different vendor categories as well (particularly where minimum spends are concerned). Long story short, don’t let the lower temperatures deter you from the exceptionally cozy potential these winter months bring. And if you haven’t perused our unofficial masterclass on winter wedding ceremonies yet, it’s about time you burrowed into that rabbit hole as well. We hear it’s pretty darn hygge.
Cover photo + styling by Martha Stewart Weddings