Frosted Fete: Winter Wedding Inspiration with Local Event Planner Sarah Trotter

Award-winning event planner Sarah Trotter shares how winter weddings can make the most of Minnesota’s magical, colder months.

The holidays are behind us, leaving many a social media post of smitten friends basking in the glow of their shiny new engagement rings. And right about now—almost like clockwork—event planner Sarah Trotter’s phone starts ringing off the hook.

“Everyone calls for June 18,” Trotter says with a laugh. As the owner of Lasting Impressions Weddings, based in Minnetonka, she planned 50 weddings last year, ranging from the simple to the extravagant. There were destination weddings and backyard bashes; formal and casual; large and small; with every style, menu and schedule in the book. But of those 50 events, only seven happened in winter.

“There’s a lot to embrace in Minnesota in the winter,” says Trotter, who loves planning wintery celebrations and encourages brides and grooms to consider them if they can. She explains that, despite a few potential challenges, there are some major benefits to getting married in the winter months—and she’s been a part of enough weddings to know. For one thing, there’s much less competition, so winter couples can score pretty much any vendors or venues they want, sometimes at an off-peak discount. And guests often have fewer commitments vying for their time. So while travel can be more difficult, guests might be looking for a getaway, with travel time to spare.

Trotter has crafted wedding events around “up North” or holiday themes, going all out with seasonal cocktails; coffee, hot cocoa or s’mores bars; and over-the-top, cozy touches from start to finish. She’s decorated with glitter, tinsel and flannel. She’s sourced mini potpies and tomato soup shooters with tiny grilled cheese dippers for appetizers. She’s brought in warm apple pie as a stand-in for traditional cake and added sleeves, scarves and UGGs to otherwise traditional wedding outfits. A soup course has taken the place of cold salads. “Minnesota wild rice soup. Mmmm. Isn’t that perfect for winter?” she says.

And while a typical 4 p.m. ceremony with photos to follow can be difficult in January, because it gets dark so early, “The season can also play to your advantage,” she says. “You can get this romantic glow in the reception site that you can’t get as easily in the summer.” Candles, fireplaces, Christmas lights and strategically placed mirrors take over when natural sunlight dims.

In the back of her mind, Trotter also keeps a list of wintery ideas she hasn’t attempted for her couples yet but is dying to try sometime. For instance, she’d love to pile faux furs on chairs and tables for guests to curl up with—or incorporate Minnesota-made, essential winter items like Faribault Woolen Mill blankets and coffee cup holders for favors. “I also haven’t done a sleigh entrance yet. Wouldn’t that be fun?” she says.

For Chad and Emily (McGlynn) Bruesehoff, there was never a question about when their wedding would take place. As a figure skater who launched her business, Winter Sparkle, sewing glitzy costumes for other competitive skaters, glitter and ice are what Emily’s about all year round.

“I have loved the magic of winter my whole life, so there was no doubt in my mind that a winter wedding was the right choice,” Emily Bruesehoff says. Trotter helped her pull off a January 2017 Calhoun Beach Club wedding and reception, complete with a Winter Sparkle theme. A simple palette of blush, rose gold, white and evergreen was pulled throughout the affair for 185 of the couple’s family and friends.

“We had live pine trees as the back drop for the ceremony,” Bruesehoff says, describing the twinkling white lights and fragrant aroma. It was a challenge to source fresh trees, even so close to Christmas, but the effect was mesmerizing. “I took a deep breath in during the ceremony, and said to myself, ‘I can’t believe I’m getting married amongst the pines!’”

The bride’s a budding photographer, so her own winter-themed photos and seasonal quotes marked each table. A winter landscape cake—also designed by the bride—was made a reality by the team at Hy-Vee, and the alpenglow (named after the reddish glow of mountains just before sunset) and a snowflake martini took center stage as signature cocktails at the reception.

Looking for her “something blue,” Bruesehoff stitched her wedding date in Swarovski crystals on the hem of her wedding dress so there was a touch of winter sparkle with her all day. And to give her feet a break before a long night of dancing, she ditched her heels and changed into a pair of Chuck Taylors. “I added Swarovski crystals to those, too,” she says with a laugh.

Joe and Katie (Gilligan) Conzemius chose to have a more traditional event, with a formal mass at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Edina. They lucked out with a rare 30-degree January day. When their 400 guests arrived at the reception at The Machine Shop in Northeast Minneapolis, the Sandy Atlas Trio was already in full swing playing the classics. “I think our parents danced harder than we did!” Katie Conzemius says.

“We both love winter and wanted a wedding during the cooler months, since neither of us thrive in the humid summer months,” she says. “It’s also a quieter time of year, with less going on—like other weddings or trips to the cabin—and it’s a great time to indulge in a warm-weather honeymoon.”

Their day took advantage of the earlier sunset and relatively warm temperatures, with outdoor photos at Interlachen Country Club before a candlelit dinner in front of a stunning backdrop of the Minneapolis skyline and night sky. The result of all their planning was a cozy, charming and intimate affair—even with such a large group.

At the end of the day, Trotter’s approach to weddings is the same in any season. “I want to execute well, to bring [my clients’] vision to life within their budget,” says Trotter. “To overcome obstacles and make sure the day runs smoothly, to make sure it’s everything they dreamed it would be. During the winter, the temperature, ice and blizzards can impact travel. You can’t really count on anything, and going with the flow is essential. But the results can be so amazing.”


(Photos by Photogen Inc.)