Is Winter the new Summer ? Winter Weddings: What you should know before you plan a winter wedding

Time was that weddings took place in the summer, somewhere between Lag B'Omer and Rosh Ha'Shanah – taking a break for the Three Weeks. We never had to worry about rain or snow ruining an event. We just wondered how hot and dry or hot and sticky the chuppah would be – depending on where the wedding took place.

Time was that winter weddings were for those who needed to save a lot of money or simply could not wait for the summer wedding season. Today winter has become the new summer and winter weddings abound. As summer weddings bring their own brand of problems, especially if you have a Friday mid-morning-afternoon wedding, which I discussed in an earlier article; winter brings its own brand of surprises, usually thanks to the vagaries of mother-nature.

First of all, it's time to realize that winter weddings are no longer unbelievably cheap. The price difference may be 5% to 10% less, and while every shekel is important for your overall budget, the per-person cost is no longer half of the summer rate.

Most venues however have remained flexible with many other issues, such as minimum number of guests on certain nights (for instance, the all-popular Thursday night), menu selection and the like.

Next let's look at venues. Most couples and I might add, most guests, prefer an outdoor or outdoor-indoor venue – better known as the 'Gan Eruim" – garden event venue. In general, these garden venues have more breathing room for the guests to move around and mingle during the pre-chuppah reception, space for the chuppah, as well as, in general, a reasonably large area for the dinner/dancing part of the evening. These garden venues are multi-seasonal and are equipped to handle just about all Israeli weather situations. During the last rain storm, one of the venues (in the center of the country) did cancel a wedding some four-five hours before it was scheduled to be held (story reported in the news with an interview with the not-very-happy bride and groom), but this was extreme case. I know that others venues held their simchas as planned on that day.

In general the garden venue will have an open or semi open (with an awning or tent structure) area for the reception, an open chuppah and then an enclosed structure, usually a glass and wood structure for the dinner and dancing.

Let's take a look at the tented reception area. In the winter, the overhead covering obviously is a precaution against rain, but in general this area maybe only heated by free-standing kerosene lamps. Rarely are these areas heated or temperature controlled as the dinner/dancing areas. This means that as the first guests arrive the area is a bit (or very) chilled, but as people begin to mill around and to attack the Hors d'Oeuvres, they in general warm themselves. Keep in mind that older guests should have an indoor place where they can sit comfortably and warmly, usually in the enclosed dinner/dancing area. Always have in hand a shawl and or coat for yourselves and your older guests. A shawl should also be available for the kallah – especially if she is fasting. I have seen some kallahs go for the white, faux-fur lined wraps/shawls that more or less 'match' their dresses.

Keep in mind however, that a tented reception area is just as important, or in some cases, maybe even more important for a simcha held during a very hot summer evening. And our summer is a lot longer and hotter than our short rainy season.

I have also noticed a trend of using artificial grass on outdoor areas, especially in indoor/outdoor venues. This grass is not only 'water-friendly' in our rain starved environment, it also ensures a year-round clean look and feel to a venue.

The chuppah in the winter. That sentence still strikes dread in the hearts of many a bride and groom. Will it rain or won't it? Will it be too cold for guests to stand around outside for the duration of the ceremony. Many venues have a stand-by, just-in-case, indoor chuppah ready and waiting or an area where a chuppah can be setup some two-to-three hours before the chuppah is set to start. Most venues are very flexible about where the chuppah will take place. And as with many other wedding details, guests are blissfully unaware of these last minute changes, as the transfer from outdoor to indoor chuppah is usually smooth. I have heard of Rabbis who insist on outdoor chuppahs. I have also seen outdoor chuppahs that can be viewed on close-circuit TV for those of the guests who choose to stay indoors. This is a long-standing style, especially in chasedeche weddings where the throng is just too big for the venue and has been going on for many, many years.

So while winter may be the 'new' summer and most venues are able to handle last-minute weather changes, you need to make sure that YOUR venue manager is open about how the hall will deal with these changes and what your options are.

Talk to your venue manager and get the details in writing.

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