Along Minnesota’s famed Gunflint Trail at the edge of the Boundary Waters, Robert Scepaniak II and his bride, Allison, sealed their vows with a kiss, then slid across a snow-covered lake while being pulled by a team of sled dogs.
It was early January, and the temperature barely rose above zero as snow fell around the St. Cloud couple. He wore a muskrat fur hat, she a blush drop-waist gown, knit shawl and coyote fur earmuffs. Their feet were clad in heavy-duty snow boots.
“It was magic, like a snow globe,” Robert Scepaniak said of his 2015 wedding.
Winter is considered the offseason for weddings, accounting for the smallest percentage of nuptials in the United States. But local industry insiders say winter-loving Minnesotans such as the Scepaniaks are driving the demand for weddings during the state’s snowiest months.
“Winter weddings are becoming more popular as people embrace our state and the seasonal swings that we experience here,” said Marlo Munch, owner of Paikka, an events venue in St. Paul. “Winter is such a big part of our culture, and some people really enjoy celebrating that.”
For some couples, the allure of wedding photos amid a snowy backdrop is enough to say “I do” to a frosty fête. For others, the decision is driven by budget, as deals abound in the offseason.
And sometimes it’s just practical — we are Minnesotans, after all.
Dena Hausladen planned her winter wedding around her husband’s farming schedule, and provided guests with a quintessential northern Minnesota experience at Breezy Point in Brainerd.
“In Minnesota, we truly emulate the Bold North,” Hausladen said. “Before and after our wedding, our guests were able to ice skate, ski and take in the beautiful snowy sights of northern Minnesota.”
Winter weddings always benefit from a glimmer of snow, but blizzard conditions can cause less-than-romantic issues.
Experts recommend getting wedding insurance, should such a situation arise. Wedding planners also suggest adding extra travel time for people to arrive, and providing valet parking to keep guests from having to walk through snow and ice.
Four days before Emily Bly’s wedding in St. Paul, more than a foot of snow blanketed the Twin Cities area. Bly had to cancel some last-minute appointments and errands, but was also excited to have fresh snow for her big day.
Just as too much snow can be a problem for a winter wedding, so can not enough. Twenty-four hours before Bly’s wedding, temperatures soared, leaving her with a sunny, 45-degree wedding day, along with a muddy, brown, wet mess.
“Perfect for some, but not for us,” she said. “We still embraced it and savored the idea that trouncing around outside wasn’t as bad as a minus-20-degree day.”
A stunning backdrop
The potential for snow affects almost every part of a winter wedding — often in a good way. Deep, bold color schemes replace summer’s blush hues. A horse-drawn sleigh ride trumps a limo. And comfort-food favorites are served instead of lighter summer fare.
Marzel Harris and his bride had their hearts set on getting married during one of Minnesota’s most popular months for weddings, September or October, until they saw photos of winter weddings.
“We liked the scenes and uniqueness that winter weddings provided,” he said.
At Style-Architects Wedding and Events, owner Rachelle Mazumdar is booking more winter weddings than ever before.
“The thought of snowy photos is certainly something that couples love,” she said. “They also love the idea of wearing fur capes, shawls and stoles.”
One of the most popular trends in bridal wear is ideal for this weather: “Gowns with long sleeves or high necklines are some of the most sought-after looks,” said Jordan Krause at A and Bé Bridal Shop in Minneapolis.
“It’s cold outside, so nobody wants to leave until they’re good and ready,” said Josey Stafford, owner of Sixpence Events and Planning.
New event spaces, such as the Machine Shop in Minneapolis, are seeing steady demand throughout these months. In its second year, the Machine Shop tripled its winter wedding numbers, pushing the notion that an indoor wedding doesn’t need to sacrifice atmosphere.
“Our many windows let in the glow of the cold city lights and visions of snow within a warm interior,” said Stephanie Guidera of the Machine Shop, on SE. 2nd Street.
Instagram’s influence on wedding photography is another big driver. Alyssa Longobucco, style and planning editor for the Knot, said one of the magazine’s most liked photos on its massive Instagram account (1.3 million followers) is a couple’s portrait in falling snow.
“A large June wedding just isn’t what most people want anymore,” said photographer Jordan Buckellew. “Intimate ceremonies are on the rise, and more of those are happening in the offseason.”
In these chillier months, there also are deals to be had. Samantha Hoffer got married on New Year’s Eve in 2015, and found that it was easier to land the venue and vendors she wanted, with most offering reduced prices. Hoffer and her husband also saved money on decor, using mostly candles instead of flowers to create a glowing atmosphere.
Hoffer said: “The natural snowy landscape is so beautiful already that I felt like I wasn’t stressed about having the perfect summer day.”
Of course, winter can be as unpredictable as any season.
When Amber Schupp got engaged, the snow-loving bride said a winter wedding was a no-brainer. She envisioned the peacefulness of a white landscape, but didn’t expect her wedding day to have a “feels like” temperature of minus-31 degrees.
“Photos in the cold weather were more difficult than I expected,” Schupp said of her recent Dec. 30 wedding. “I remember my nose and ears being so cold; my husband’s hands were freezing.”
The bridal party braved the bitter chill for a few photos along the Mississippi riverfront, and the bride and groom went outside a few different times for photos.
“The biggest obstacle was making sure no one froze,” Schupp said. “We truly could only handle it for so long.”
Even Minnesotans have their limits.