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The Etiquette Rules of Hosting a Holiday Wedding

Follow these guidelines to ensure smooth planning for festive celebrations.

With the festive atmosphere, snow-filled landscape, and time off from work that the holiday season brings, it's no wonder more and more couples are choosing to host their weddings around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve.

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Photo: Harwell Photography

With the festive atmosphere, snow-filled landscape, and time off from work that the holiday season brings, it's no wonder more and more couples are choosing to host their weddings around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve. In fact, research shows that winter weddings are on the rise. But planning a wedding on or near a major holiday poses a unique set of challenges that couples must keep in mind, in order to help the planning process and wedding itself run smoothly. After all, planning a wedding for a time when most of your friends and family will have their own obligations and traditions to uphold is certainly not easy! 

We asked Jodi Moraru of EVOKE, an event planning firm in Washington, D.C., to reveal the etiquette rules of planning a holiday wedding. Follow these guidelines to ensure that you make life as easy as possible for your guests, who likely have to juggle their own holiday plans with yours, as well as vendors, who will be busy not only with their own families but with other events as well. Happy holidays (and planning)!

Setting the Date
Moraru says save-the-dates should be sent out six months in advance, no matter when the wedding is. "How many people are truly often planning something much further out, anyway?" she points out. "Those that are closest to you will receive the information verbally and will already be aware of the date and impending invitations."

Invitations should be sent eight weeks in advance, and if you are more comfortable sending them out a bit earlier you can extend that to 10 weeks. However, "It’s most important with a holiday wedding that a save the date is sent out," Moraru says.

Number of Guests
Don't necessarily expect fewer people to attend your wedding if it's on a holiday. Moraru says she's experienced both heavy and light attendance and she feels there's often no rhyme or reason. "As an example, New Year's Eve – one of those holidays that leave most people in a quandary of what to do. Having a wedding that night can make for a really fun celebration and a planned event," she explains. "However, some people do travel during the Christmas season. You never know." On the other hand, holiday weekends such as Memorial Day and Labor Day do tend to be very well attended.

Booking Your Venue and Vendors
Since you won't necessarily have fewer guests, book a venue with the maximum number of guests you may have. And don't assume venues and vendors will be available on your preferred day – availability depends on the time of year and the location, so that needs to be taken into consideration. Prices may also be higher. "Sometimes, premiums are attached for certain holiday weekends," Moraru cautions.

The Guest Experience
In order to help guests feel relaxed, not frazzled, by a holiday wedding, providing information is key. "It’s so important to provide guests with as much information to ease their travel plans as possible," Moraru recommends. Many couples are now creating websites that give detailed information about travel, accommodations, weekend activities, and transportation. Moraru suggests having all this information also available in print upon arriving at the destination. "At EVOKE we often provide an on-site concierge at the host hotel to help our clients host their guests all weekend," she shares.

Managing Vendors
Don't forget: if you plan to marry on or around a holiday, all of your vendors will be working during the holiday season, potentially giving up time with their own families. Be clear on what your needs are for the weekend so they and their teams can prepare accordingly. "Load schedules, concise timelines, meals on site… making sure the vendors have all the correct information is critical," Moraru says.

A thoughtful note and gift thanking wedding professionals for planning your beautiful event will be much appreciated, too!

Not sure if a holiday wedding is right for you? Check out all the reasons why we love winter weddings.

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