Warmest of welcomes: venue decor tips and styling ideas for winter weddings

’Tis the season to beat the chilly dark nights with twinkling lights, flickering candles and a warm glow that’ll make your winter wedding the equal of any summertime do, finds Olivia Simpson

Hogmany Wedding sparkle
String lights across the ceiling, as Get Knotted has done here, and your barn or marquee will turn into a magical wintry setting  (Photo: Jason Mark Harris)

As any of my friends would testify, I’m just not a winter person. Try as I might, I can’t get excited about long dark nights and freezing cold mornings, and no, not even the Starbucks Christmas menu can help.

That being said, I know many people fall into the opposite camp, waiting half the year for the first signs of ‘sweater weather’ and the promise of cosiness it brings. Add to that the fact that, post-lockdowns, many couples are considering off-season dates, and the time felt right to take a deep dive into how to decorate your venue in the colder months. So whether you’re something of a Scrooge like me, or a bona fide winter fanatic, read on to learn some tips from the experts to help you deck those halls at wintertime.

Frill Factory
Left: Winter set-ups don’t need to be in icy whites or festive reds and greens, as this muted but effective scheme from Frill Factory proves (Photo: mcglynnsisters.com); Right: Frill Factory puts a quirky twist on tealight chandeliers by adding ruffled tulle bombs

Light me up

According to our experts (and the many hundreds of Pinterest pages dedicated to wintry weddings), if you really want to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere, start with the lighting. “If there’s one element of venue decor you should be investing in, it’s lighting, without a doubt,” says Kate Hart from decor specialists Get Knotted. “By asking your stylist to include warm fairylights (and plenty of them), you will be able to make larger spaces (which can otherwise be perceived as chilly) feel snug and inviting.”

A little extra care and attention will pay dividends, as Kate continues: “Go as far as considering the colour of your lighting. Golden-toned rather than pure white light is a better choice, and there has to be enough of it to make a real impact. We use colour-filtered uplighters to wash stone barn walls with warm light, instantly transforming a colder space into a comfortable place to relax and celebrate.”

Alison Bell of venue stylists Frill Factory recommends a mixture of lanterns, tapered candles and fairylights to make an empty space feel moody. “This will also mean that there are lights at different heights in the space, which will add an extra layer of visual interest,” she explains. And she agrees that getting the lighting right is a crucial point: “Adding candles is always a sure-fire way to create ambience in any environment. And if they smell good, I think it adds just that little bit extra!”

Tealight holders
Coloured tealight holders create a sophisticated mood and add detail to Get Knotted’s tablescapes

Do check, however, that your venue is happy for you to use real candles, as some older properties, particularly castles and stately homes, may not allow them for safety reasons.
You don’t need to do a total overhaul of your venue to get it ready for winter nuptials, argues Kate: “Use plenty of cushions, cosy throws and masses of candlelight and you’ll be able to warm up even the draughtiest of spaces. In larger rooms, our bespoke drapes in all sorts of fabrics can be used to partition spaces to make them smaller and toastier.”

Virginia’s Vintage Hire breakout area
Your guests will thank you for this snug and cosy breakout area with its rugs, sofas and blankets, laid out by Virginia’s Vintage Hire

Baby it’s (not so) cold outside

Think outdoor set-ups are only for summer? Think again – they just need a little more consideration when the temperature drops. “For outdoor relaxation spaces, cushions are a must-have, mixed with some patterned and faux-fur rugs,” advises Alison.

Kate also suggests layering on the soft furnishings when creating an inviting outdoor area. “You might also make use of fire pits, which always put a smile on people’s faces. Add a supply of marshmallows to toast over the flames and you’ll have warm and happy guests.”
It’s highly likely the sun will set shortly after you say ‘I do’, so it would be remiss of you to forget about illuminating those snuggly open-air spaces you’ve gone to such lengths to design.

Love is the Key Weddings
Love is the Key Weddings proves pampas grass and woven textures can look right at home at a winter wedding

“Outdoor lighting is massively important if you’re going to tempt people away from the bar or the dancefloor,” observes Kate. “Professional lighting companies will spotlight the entire façade of a building for an eye-catching display, but if this is beyond your budget, you can make an impact by lining pathways with lots of glowing lanterns, or set up a pair to stand at either side of the entrance.

Ambience Venue Styling
Ambience Venue Styling uses sheepskin throws to transform a blank-canvas venue and mixes blush pinks, smoky greys and candlelight for a chic yet romantic look (Photos: Peter Hugo Photography)

“Our shepherd’s crooks are sometimes used with festoon lighting to guide guests along darker paths or between buildings. Even better, line a path with pretty lanterns hanging from crooks. You could also dress trees with hanging jars filled with tea lights for a pretty backdrop.”

Get Knotted
Make like Get Knotted and layer different throws over comfy armchairs to create a chillout zone that’s perfect for guests taking a break from the dancefloor (Photo: Lloyd Smith Photography)

Snuggle up

You might not think it, but seating can make a meaningful difference to the feel of your space – just imagine trying to coorie down on a perspex chair or a bare wooden bench.

Alison suggests mixing materials for a tactile effect that ups the snug factor while adding interest and depth: “Wicker mixed with velvet seating is always a way to make a space feel decadent and modern,” she says.

Kate has similar advice: “Add in sheepskins rugs for texture and warmth. Again, we use lots of soft furnishings for chillout spaces including rugs underfoot, cushions and throws. Your guests will also appreciate hampers of warm wraps for them to help themselves to. If they’re toasty, they’ll be happy to embrace the evening ambience.”

If there’s one thing Kate is keen to impart when it comes to styling a venue for winter, it’s to experiment: “There are no rules! The right combination of furniture, lighting and styling can make the coldest of evenings sparkly and warm.”