When Amy Shedd made plans for her wedding last March, the Bangor woman added something special to the “something borrowed, something blue” list of bridal must-haves: wooly socks and L.L. Bean boots.
And they weren’t just for show, either. She and Chris Shedd, her groom, decided they would hold the ceremony outside at the New England Outdoor Center in Millinocket, with a view of Mount Katahdin so beautiful it took their breath away.
But so did the cold.
It was a windy day, where the thermostat read 15 degrees Fahrenheit,but the windchill made it feel closer to zero degrees Fahrenheit.
“Oh my word,” she said, adding there were probably more than 2 feet of snow on the ground. “It was very, very cold that day. … I actually wore Bean boots during the ceremony because I knew my feet were going to be cold.”
But for her and for other Mainers who have gotten married during the winter, the cold and snow somehow just add to their warm feelings about their weddings.
“I felt like it was a great experience,” Amy Shedd said of her winter wedding. “We’re in the phase right now where all our friends are getting married pretty much all at the same time, and I felt I was going to weddings in the summer constantly. I wanted to do something a little bit different. … It was special, and something people hadn’t seen before. I think it will help us remember our day for a little bit longer.”
These winter brides and grooms are a small and hardy group, as summer and fall remain by far the most popular seasons to hold a wedding in Maine and elsewhere. According to wedding website The Knot, 78 percent of all weddings take place between May to October. The least popular months are January, February and March, with only 5 percent of weddings taking place in the deep winter.
But for those who do give the colder months a chance, the benefits can be great — and sometimes a little surprising. Vendors and venues can be more available and affordable, guests are more likely to be able to come to the wedding and no one should have to try too hard to incorporate festive seasonal cheer and cozy firelight into their decor. What’s more, winter brides and grooms will always have a story to tell that’s a little bit different from most everyone else’s.
“I think it’s fabulous to get married in the winter,” Melanie Brooks, editor of Real Maine Weddings, said. “Winter weddings are probably not for everybody, but they’re different. I know a lot of people want that backdrop of leaves in the fall. But if you can get a beautiful white background and some snow falling, that can be pretty magical. It lends itself to a different kind of creative process.”
Jessika Brooks-Brewer, who owns French’s Point, a wedding and event venue in Stockton Springs, agreed. She was a winter bride herself and said she incorporated such seasonal elements as having her bridesmaids carry hurricane lanterns instead of flowers, a touch that helped brighten up the short winter day.
“We wanted our wedding to feel a bit like a gathering of cherished loved ones. I think the winter weather helped with that,” she said. “We wanted to make them feel warm, appreciated and cozy. Summer can be such a harried time for people. Winter just has a slower pace to it.”
Woodsy winter wedding
That was the case for Larkspur Morton of Montville, who married her husband, Neal Taylor, on Dec. 18, 2004. The couple, both environmental educators, had gotten engaged the previous January and wanted to get married before the year ended. At first, they envisioned walking into the DeMerritt University Forest at the University of Maine with a couple good friends and just having a small ceremony.
“That was our original, very simple plan,” Morton said.
But they decided to make it a little more of an event. They borrowed a house from a friend in Searsmont, invited a few friends and family to stay for the weekend, and planned a special forest ceremony there. They splurged on fancy sweaters — hers a Norwegian wool sweater and his a soft cashmere kind. They finished the outfits with a long cream fleece skirt for Morton, a pair of Carhartt pants for Taylor (his first-ever Carhartts), and with his-and-hers Norwegian fleece wedding crowns made by Morton’s mother, who is Norwegian.
“Honestly, they kind of pulled the look together,” she said.
They also spent some time searching for just the right spot to be married. They found it in a clearing near two trees growing side by side, and on a chilly day with a few inches of snow on the ground stood under the trees to say their vows.
“It felt like a great symbol of being different and connected. Creating this union but not expecting we would be the same,” Morton said.
Afterward, they went inside the warm, firelit house to feast on a chocolate ganache-covered Yule log cake with meringue mushrooms, made by a friend who was a talented baker.
“I think winter is a gorgeous time of year to get married,” Morton said. “And I think it really helped us to make it small. If it was summertime, we would have had the expectation to make it much bigger. But I love the coziness of a fire and twinkle lights and all of that.”
Another December bride, Marian Fowler of Belfast and Norcross, also remembers her chilly 1965 nuptials fondly. She and her high school sweetheart, Albert Fowler, had planned to get married in June, as is more traditional, but ended up postponing the wedding for a number of reasons. Then Albert Fowler, who was in the Air Force and stationed in Massachusetts, had orders to go to Sioux City, Iowa, and that hurried them up a bit.
“I was ready to get married, and so was he. I said, ‘Oh, a Christmas wedding would be nice,’” Marian Fowler recalled. “He said, ‘Well, I was thinking a little earlier.’ I thought, ‘Well! Isn’t that romantic.’ But I found out later it was because if I changed my mind again at least he could go hunting.”
They day they chose was Dec. 4, and the venue was the First Congregational Church in Millinocket, where they had both been baptized. She browsed for her wedding dress at Hussey’s General Store in Waterville but ended up purchasing a long, silk, traditional one at a store in Bangor. Albert Fowler came home for Thanksgiving and fit in a hunting trip. He did not get his deer that year, his wife said, but he did get his bride.
“It was cold and very snowy,” Marian Fowler said. “There’s one picture that shows us waving goodbye at the church door. I think I can see snow blowing past the windows.”
Then, the couple got into their car and drove down Interstate 95, which was not yet finished, and went to Bangor for an overnight honeymoon trip.
“The weather was the challenge — it really was,” Marian Fowler said of her winter wedding. “Those that could, came. Those that couldn’t — well, that was understandable.”
Cozy, festive touches
When Rachel and John Dobbs of Bangor got married on Jan. 11, 2003, they chose the date because they are both “winter people,” Rachel Dobbs said, and because it fell during winter break at the University of Maine, where she was a student.
“We just decided that January was really fun,” she said.
Once they set a date, they started to get creative. Rachel Dobbs’ niece, who was two at the time, threw punched-out paper snowflakes on the ground before the couple instead of flower petals. For cake toppers, they had a snowman and woman. And for centerpieces, Rachel Dobbs’ mother got Christmas wreaths at Christmas time and kept them outside so they would still be fresh. Rachel Dobbs wore a plain, sleeveless wedding dress she found on clearance and a silvery fur capelet borrowed from her mother-in-law.
They found that having an off-season wedding made it easy and more affordable to find a venue and a DJ. It also meant that the gift items on their registry were much less expensive because of after-Christmas sales.
“It was fun,” she said of her winter wedding. “It was unique and unusual. It definitely fit our personalities more than anything else, and I didn’t mind being cold at all.”
Neither does Samantha Mathieu, a Belfast native who lives in Saco with her fiance, CQ Gehin-Scott. They are planning a wedding on Jan. 5 at Point Lookout in Northport and said they are looking forward to the cold.
“It’s so beautiful in the winter, and we wanted to embrace winter in Maine,” she said. “We’re going to embrace the cold. We’ll have the wedding inside, with a lot of fires. Fireplaces and candles. We’re going to play up the warmth and coziness of having it be warm inside and cold outside.”
This story was originally published in Bangor Metro’s January/February 2019 issue. To subscribe to the magazine, click here.