Winters are long in western mountains. Snow can start to fall as early as October and ski resorts stay open as late as May. If you're planning a late fall or early spring wedding in the western mountains, including the Rockies and the Sierra, keep in mind that it could look like a winter wedding.
Apropos, I have Haley and Noel's November 16, 2013 wedding for your cozy delight. For more gorgeous images of this winter woodland wedding see photographer Claire Dibble's blog post.
Why a Mountain Wedding?
A mountain wedding was a natural fit for Noel and I. I lived in the mountains in British Columbia and Yukon for a couple of years and love them. Recreational opportunities in the mountains are endless! Noel and I are both outdoor adventurers at heart and we wanted to share our love for active outdoor living with family and friends. We both love skiing and thought it would be great to have a ski holiday along with getting married.
Noel and I both would have choosen to elope and save our money for traveling. That being said, when we announced our engagement it became clear how important it was to have a celebration with our families and friends. If you would have asked me at 21 how much would I spend on a wedding, I'd say as little as possible. But Noel and I wanted to celebrate the coming together of two communities with hospitality, love, and fun. We budgeted $15,000-$18,000, more than I ever thought I would spend.
Where did you find your inspiration?
I have three sisters, one of which was married 3 months before me. I borrowed a lot of her research and ideas when planning our wedding. I suppose like every modern day bride, I spent more time on pinterest than I ever had before or since. “Winter mountain weddings” “Rustic weddings” “Mountain Lodge Weddings”…whatever other tag line I could think of. I like natural textures/colours/linens. My sister had bought a bunch of burlap ribbon for bows on her reception chairs, so we recycled those. I also choose green as my colour…I didn't really stick to the green aside from the fact my mom made it clear we need alive flowers to give fresh atmosphere. Our wedding was in November but I really wanted to avoid any Christmas themed decor or colours.
We had an open bar. and put wine on the table against the advice of the venue wedding coordinator. We ended up having some wasted white wine at the end of the evening, but we were happy to show hospitality to people who traveled far to share in our celebration. We also served hot chocolate and baileys with whip cream and cherries before/during/after the ceremony. Originally our ceremony was meant to be held on a covered outdoor deck looking out over the ski hill. We had some older people attending and due to snow and wind decided to move the ceremony indoors. Adrian Beers with Lake Louise Ski Resort was very accommodating with these arrangements. Originally our back up ceremony venue was meant to be our reception room Sitzmark Room. Lake Louise staff would have to set for the ceremony and reset for reception. This was not ideal because we moved from our ceremony right in to the reception. Adrian provided us a second room for the ceremony decided the morning of 10am with ceremony at 3pm, the room was elegant and we were still able to serve hot chocolate and baileys to our guests.
We saved a lot of money on our venue when I was shopping for mountain wedding venues. Lake Louise Ski Resort was great, the reception room cost $500 and we were charged an additional $50 for a second room for our ceremony. There were no corkage fees, no cake cutting fees, we were able to bring in our homemade cake. Adrian Beers was excellent to deal with, quick with email responses and flexible with menu options, ceremony location. He was great at providing local vendor information as well.
What were some personal details you incorporated?
I did all my own flower arrangements for the tables, bouquets, and boutonnieres. We stuck mostly to “greens” because they are more hardy in the winter. My initially idea for bouquets was to use pine cones out of the back yard with some dried babies breath. My mom influenced the decision to have fresh greens in the bouquet which I was thankful we did. It was a lot of fun putting together the bouquets and boutonnieres with a few close friends and my bridesmaids (my three sisters) the night before the wedding. No one had ever done flowering arranging before but it all looked great and the hardy greenery withstood the cold. No tropical flowers if you intend on being out in the cold.
Noel made birch bark candle holders for our centre pieces. It was nice to use wood from our backyard and they made great special gifts for those who contributed to our wedding. We had come across a picture of the same on pinterest.
Our wedding cake was a homemade chocolate zucchini and lemon with cream cheese icing. My sister decorated it with fresh cedar and our wedding topper was a re-purposed Christmas ornament. We didn't want to spend a lot on cake, and my sister is by no means a professional baker she had never made a wedding cake before. It was perfect, she did a test run and the icing was great and there was enough cake to go around. I really liked having people contribute to the celebration because it made it feel more like a community event. I'm not a fussy person so even if the cake collapsed or the icing dripped off I would have been pleased with the effort.
I was really excited to wear my Mukluks during the photos and ceremony. I bought them from a First Nations woman while I was living in the North West Territories. They are home tanned and hand made with beaver fur cuff. I don't wear them often and I thought it was really special to wear them on our wedding day. My sisters were able to find ankle boot mukluks/moccasins in shoe stores to help build the theme.
Your favourite moment of the day
This is a tricky one for sure, but I'd have to say doing our couple photos before the ceremony. Its not very often you get to stand with the one you love and have it be all about you. Noel was really excited about the different locations he had picked out earlier in the day. Claire was great to work with, she picked up on the energy from Noel and I that we wanted genuine photos without a lot of cheese or posed pictures. Standing in front of the red train car I felt like I had been transported in time and it felt like a really private moment for Noel and I even though we were being photographed.
Three things you're glad you did.
- Photos before the ceremony. Noel and I decided to forego the first look photos and we met in my hotel room alone once we were both all dressed and ready to go. We were both having a hard time not bawling our eyes out, we are a touch on the sensitive side. After we had a chance to get our private moment over the photos were so much fun! I felt like it built the anticipation for the ceremony and it was a chance to stop thinking about the meaning of the day and relax. We both still almost completely lost it bawling during the ceremony, but we avoided the ugly cry. The other upside is we were able to share in a cocktail with our guests right away and have a receiving line that allowed for longer visits. Once the reception was underway we didn't have as much time for visiting.
- Hot Chocolate & Bailey's during the ceremony…its was nice to have something to cheers with after the ceremony.
- Having a winter wedding, the snow was enchanting and we didn't need to worry about scheduling around other weddings.
Anything you wish you hadn't done?
We had stamped craft sample size coffee bags and filled them with our favorite coffee. I was really happy with our favours and decided to keep them in a basket at the guest sign in table for people to take. I thought it would avoid giving some to children and those who didn't like coffee. We had a sign telling people to take one but I think it was missed because at the end of the evening with had 2/3 of our favours left. If I could do it again I'd place them on the table so people feel more inclined to take them.
What was the best piece of wedding advice you got?
Wear a dress that you will be comfortable in all night. So many of the dresses out there require maintenance, special underpants, and generally take a lot of effort. I bought my dress online from J.Crew Bridal collection, I had never tried on a J.Crew dress before and it was a prefect fit no alterations necessary. The silhouette was revealing so I ended up needing a pair of seamless underpants from local department store. I didn't need to have an outfit change before my dress was so easy to wear, I did bring a back up dress just in case something happened to mine, I didn't want to end up in the mountains with no dress for my wedding.
What piece of wedding planing advice do you wish you followed?
We had a good friend as our MC for the reception. He was excellent, great in front of a crowd, engaging, etc. Noel and I were so confident we sent him a point form text with a general outline of reception program. There were a few things that were not included, blessing of the food by my dad, how to select tables for the buffet, when to do cake cutting…These may seem like pretty basic things and that is why I felt comfortable winging it, but I think it would have made the MC job easier if he didn't have to guess.
Anything you wish you hadn't worried about?
The only thing I was really concerned about was changing the ceremony location in indoors last minute. We didn't have an excellent back up option initially and I was just crossing my fingers it would all work out. If I had to do it again, I would confirm a back up location that was functional/practical and I'd be just as happy with. You can't control the weather but you can control how you respond to it. Our winter storm made for beautiful photos but too cold for some of our guests.
How did you choose your vendors?
- Venue: Lake Louise Ski Resort was our location and my older sister was married there 5 years before us. She had excellent service and good prices. Adrian Beers is very accommodating and flexible.
- Clothing: My dress was bought online through J.Crew Bridal and did not require any alterations. Noel bought his suit from J.Crew as well.
- DJ: Dj Momentum was one of the local DJs when I lived in Golden BC and he did an awesome job! We chose someone local to decrease the out of town fees and DJ Mo was great, kept people dancing all night long.
- Photographer: Dibble Photography, Claire was a friend from Golden who is very creative and fun to hangout with. She also understands the mountain culture and knew Noel and I didn't want to do a lot of posed photos. We are more casual people wanting candid moments.
- Ceremony Music: Simon Hoskyn happens to be my brother-in-law, he is talented on guitar and added a personal touch during the ceremony. He was willing to freeze his fingers playing outside for us. Our DJ provided all the speakers and mics during the ceremony for no extra cost.
What is your very best advice to other mountain brides?
When you get married somewhere beautiful with many natural wonders you don't need to go over the top with decor. We were married in a wood lodge looking out at the mountains, we didn't need to spend a lot of money on chair covers, paper balls and other expensive decor items because the view and room were stunning in their own right.