Chicago-based event planner Amber Sanders weighs in on holiday wedding etiquette, considerations, and logistics.
Of all the major holidays to throw a wedding, Chicago-based event planner Amber Sanders of Events with Ambiance is a proponent of New Year’s Eve.
“A New Year’s Eve wedding is actually pretty clutch,” Sanders said.
She recalled planning one such wedding at the Palmer House Hotel in downtown Chicago and said the energy in the room was “just different.”
“The energy was different because everyone knew that it was a new year, and the couple was really excited because they had just gotten married, and now they get to walk into the new year a married couple,” she said.
Since it was a New Year’s Eve wedding, Sanders added that even she got to dress up more than usual when coordinating weddings.
“I felt like I got included in the party along with them,” she said.
New Year’s Eve is just one major holiday that has become popular for hosting weddings. Whether it’s a Fourth of July romp or a romantic Christmas Eve party, Sanders said holiday weddings require careful and thoughtful planning — and a reasonable timeline. As engagement season kicks off this month, she sat down with theGrio to discuss the merits of holiday weddings, the etiquette surrounding them, and, of course, the optimal holidays to throw one.
In general, Sanders noted that, with enough planning and forethought, holiday weddings can be magical and fun. However, one downside is that they are often more expensive — because it’s not just friends and family giving up the holiday to celebrate with you; it’s the venue staff and wedding vendors as well. Keeping in mind that there are also traditions and holiday plans that can get in the way of guests being able to attend, she notes hosting a wedding around the holiday and channeling the holiday during your celebration instead. However, with enough time, she said, almost anything is possible.
Below, Sanders gives advice on hosting a holiday wedding, categorized by the holiday it applies to.
New Year’s Eve
Out of all of the holidays, New Year’s Eve is among a favorite for event planners. As Sanders explained, for one, it’s already a holiday in which lots of folks are eager to party. New Year’s Eve is also a time that people typically like to spend in a memorable way — and are typically winding down their winter holidays, so they’re available.
However, organizing a New Year’s Eve wedding requires considerable logistical planning to pull off the real magic; most importantly, it has to go past midnight. To successfully ring in the new year as newlyweds, Sanders recommends starting the ceremony around 7 or 8 p.m. and running the reception till at least 2 a.m. Remember: This is a holiday wedding where you must integrate the holiday into the celebration. Have the DJ do a countdown just before midnight and bring in the new year with the hope and joy of your friends and family surrounding you.
It may not be surprising to learn that Valentine’s Day is one of the most popular holidays to get married in countries where the holiday is recognized, especially when it falls on a weekend. While it is a day many associate with love, Sanders advises couples to consider whether their friends and family would want to give up the day to focus on someone else’s love rather than their own.
Easter (and other religious holidays)
Hosting a wedding on the day many believe The Lord rose from the dead may not go over well for many Christian denominations. However, if your family and friends aren’t staunchly Christian, Sanders agreed it could be a nice start to spring.
“Easter could be cute. Easter [or] spring is new life, new beginnings,” she said.
Easter is a good example of the kind of religious holiday (of which there are many!) that, depending on the belief systems of your family, friends or other intended guests, could determine whether you should plan your wedding on the date.
April Fool’s Day
April Fool’s Day is a wildcard — but it could make for a memorable anniversary date. It’s not a holiday you would need to acknowledge during your wedding day (so please, no jilting jokes!). However, you may just have to do extra follow-up correspondence after sending out invitations just to ensure everyone knows you’re actually serious.
Let’s face it: May is one of the most popular months to get married; accordingly, all of the month’s weekends are typically sought after, including Memorial Day weekend. Most people enjoy attending weddings over long weekends because they have an extra day off for travel. Weddings over long holiday weekends go over especially well among families and friends who would have ordinarily spent the time together regardless.
Juneteenth, which commemorates when the last community of enslaved Black folks living in Texas learned they were officially free in 1865, has quietly been a day many Black couples choose to get married. Since the day has become a federal holiday, many more people are finding ways to commemorate and celebrate the day, but one beautiful way is to keep up with the tradition of letting the day be when Black couples join together in matrimony — something, Sanders noted, we haven’t always had the freedom to do in this country. The only major downside to consider is that June is peak wedding season, so couples will need to expect peak wedding season prices at venues and from vendors.
Since the Declaration of Independence was not initially written with the inclusion of Black people in mind, many do not resonate with traditional July 4th Independence Day celebrations. For this reason, Sanders said July 4th could be a great holiday weekend for Black couples to host a wedding; a small act of defiance and one that inherently reclaims the day to mean something more positive.
“I feel like we can get away with saying ‘Come celebrate Black love,’ instead of celebrating what is not independence for us,” she said.
Labor Day is another popular holiday weekend where families typically come together to celebrate the end of the summer before the hustle and bustle of fall pick-up. It’s a weekend where many family reunions, epic parties, and, of course, weddings take place. It also tends to be expensive for couples as many vendors, planners, and venues may charge holiday rates.
“I had a couple get married Labor Day weekend; I charged them extra for it because it’s Labor Day weekend in Chicago,” Sanders said, explaining that from traffic to coordinating with venues, a wedding that weekend in Chicago required more planning from “all aspects.”
As that scenario illustrates, another aspect to consider is what the holiday means to the location. A wedding on, say, St. Patrick’s Day may not seem like a big deal unless you’re getting married in a city where the holiday itself is widely celebrated — which on St. Patrick’s Day could include major cities like Boston, Chicago or New York City. In that event, you should expect higher hotel rates for your traveling guests, busy roads, and competing obligations for your vendors and venues — not to mention hordes of people everywhere. Accordingly, you may not want to get married in New York City on New Year’s Eve, in Salem, Massachusetts, during Halloween, or during Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
Halloween has excellent potential as a backdrop for a fun, memorable holiday wedding. Sanders said a couple can lean into the spooky season or the general fall atmosphere of the holiday. It doesn’t have to be a costume party, and the wedding doesn’t have to acknowledge the holiday at all; how much Halloween factors into the overall theme of the wedding depends on the couple. (Sometimes Halloween falls on a Saturday, leaving couples with very little choice.) If it fits the personality or aesthetic of the couple, she says go for it. If you have young children attending, it may be nice to throw in some candy!
As we approach the end of the year, we are also approaching major family holidays. Thanksgiving is a holiday steeped in tradition for many families, a day when many take time to be grateful for what and who they have. That being said, it’s a holiday that falls on a Thursday, freeing up the weekend immediately after it. Though couples may want to work with the theme of gratitude and gathering friends and family, Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that may better serve as wedding inspiration than actually hosting it on the day.
Sanders heavily advises against Christmas. As a planner, she would personally decline a Thanksgiving or a Christmas wedding because she wouldn’t want to give up that time with her friends and family. It’s likely many on your potential guest and vendor lists will feel this way as well. However, an early December wedding that evokes winter or Christmas could be very merry.
Regardless, Sanders knows as well as any wedding industry veteran that there is only so much control a couple has over their wedding date — and encourages couples to celebrate, no matter when.
“I feel like for Black couples, especially for us, getting married was not always a thing that we were allowed to do,” she said. “So, I never want to discourage a couple from getting married on any holiday or any day.”
Kay Wicker is a lifestyle writer for theGrio covering health, wellness, travel, beauty, fashion, and the myriad ways Black people live and enjoy their lives. She has previously created content for magazines, newspapers, and digital brands.
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