As the forecast hints of snow, we’re starting to think about our exciting winter season. However, we don’t want to ignore a very special kind of travel to The Ranch—destination weddings.

We’ve had the privilege to work with Laurie Arons, one of the world’s premier wedding planners, for the past two years. Laurie has been featured on Vogue’s “The Ultimate Wedding Planner Master List,” and we have the pictures to prove that she deserves her title as a “master.” In 2015, we did a Q&A with Laurie after her spring Wedding Planner Masterclass. This week, we welcome her as a guest blogger as she showcases her experiences at the 2016 winter Wedding Planner Masterclass. 

Planning the Ultimate Winter Wedding by Laurie Arons

As a wedding planner, I’ve long been inspired by the beauty of winter weddings—so cozy, intimate and romantic.

Masterclass attendees enjoy a farm-to-table feast during their winter wedding welcome dinner
Masterclass attendees enjoy a farm-to-table welcome dinner in the Blue Canteen. Photo by Jose Villa.

The past two winters I’ve spent at The Ranch at Rock Creek opened my eyes to the potential of a winter affair where guests get to snuggle by the fire and warm their hearts when it’s cold outside.

Guests to The Ranch at Rock Creek can enjoy a roaring fire in the Sweet Grass glamping cabinSweet Grass Canvas Cabin – A three-room glamping tent open year-round. Photo by Jose Villa. 

Of course there are some important considerations when beginning to plan a winter wedding. But the many benefits to a winter wedding may surprise you, especially at a special place like The Ranch at Rock Creek.

A flower girl wears a crown of flowers during a winter wedding shoot
Winter-inspired florals for the flower girl and her tiny companion. Floral Design by Sarah Winward. Photo by Jose Villa. 

A black lamb adorned with a floral collar waits looks beautiful set upon the snowy landscape at The Ranch
An early spring lamb in the snow. Floral Design by Sarah Winward. Photo by Jose Villa. 

The Wedding Weekend

Winter weather is exciting and snow is truly beautiful, but do plan for the unexpected. Encourage guests to book flights two-three days prior to the wedding, to leave a buffer in case of weather delays.

jose-villa-winter-roadDespite worries of inclement weather, Montana is used to snow, and The Ranch’s location away from mountain passes means there’s always passage to The Ranch. Photo by Jose Villa.

Because winter isn’t high season in Montana, brides will enjoy the luxury of a more private, intimate affair. I recommend booking all your guests to stay on property to enjoy bonding time over the course of the weekend.

Wedding Planner Masterclass guests received welcome gifts, like Sorel winter boots
Laurie’s Masterclass welcome gifts, including a pair of Sorel snow boots. Photo by Jose Villa.

Another plus is that in the event of inclement weather, guests will all still be able to make the wedding if they are within walking distance to the ceremony.

jose-villa-eagles-perch-winter-landscapeWhile on-Ranch transportation is always provided, accommodations, like luxury log homes and year-round glamping cabin Sweet Grass, are also within walking distance of the Buckle Barn. Photo by Jose Villa.

Winter activities at The Ranch at Rock Creek are perfect for wedding groups. Unlike a large ski resort where guests go their separate ways on the mountain during the day, The Ranch’s activities are designed to bring guests together. Bundling up for a morning trail ride, lacing up ice skates for spin around the pond or snowshoeing up to Top of the World are all past times that accommodate a range of ages and abilities.

The Ranch at Rock Creek's wranglers lead a winter trail ride through the snowy Montana landscape
Ranch wranglers head out for a winter trail ride. Photo by Jose Villa.

But if the weather still gets too cold or snowy to venture out, I love that the Silver Dollar Saloon offers bowling, billiards and a movie theater in a charming saloon setting. Did I mention the warm chocolate chip cookies every afternoon in the Granite Lodge? I can think of nothing better on a cold winter day.

The historic barn is home to three luxury accommodations. Photo by Jose Villa.

The Wedding Day

Winter weddings are just so romantic in my mind—a roaring fire, candles aglow and guests snuggled up together to share the couple’s happiness.

A rocking chair welcomes guests into The Ranch's Blue Canteen for a glamping dinner
A taste of winter glamping in the Blue Canteen. Photo by Jose Villa.

A snowy outdoor ceremony is absolutely stunning, but definitely keep guests’ comfort in mind to make it a success. Plan a short ceremony, provide warm blankets for guests to share, and welcome everyone with a hot beverage like spiced cider or hot chocolate.

A table setting at the 2016 Laurie Arons Wedding Planner Masterclass winter wedding dinner
Elegant winter florals in the Buckle Barn. Photos by Jose Villa.

I highly recommend planning the ceremony for the daylight hours (which means early afternoon in winter) because the sun will help keep the chill away and allow your photographer to capture the moment.

Homemade ice sculptures adorn the dock during a winter wedding shoot at The Ranch at Rock Creek
Handmade ice sculptures adorned the aisles during the ceremony shoot. Photos by Jose Villa.

Winter light is darker in general, but the snow actually provides an incredible light source for photography. The Montana landscape dusted with snow is also a beautiful color story to complement a wedding gown.

A bride wears a gauzy veil during the 2016 Laurie Arons Masterclass photo shoot
The winter weather made for ethereal photos of the beautiful bride. Photo by Jose Villa.

Winter wedding table settings should embrace rich colors and heavier textiles. When designing our wedding dinner in the Buckle Barn, I used a velvet table linen and placed wool scarves on the chairs for extra comfort in the toasty Buckle Barn.

A winter wedding tablescape for the farewell dinner at the 2016 Laurie Arons MasterclassThe Farewell Dinner in the Buckle Barn with cozy throws and grand accents. Photo by Jose Villa.

The result was a contrast of textures, colors and scents, for a one-of-a-kind wedding scene.

Thanks to Laurie for taking us along on her process for planning a winter destination wedding. For more info on venues, farm-to-table menus and customized wedding weekends, visit our wedding page

Laurie Arons and the Wedding Planner Masterclass

As a wedding and special event planner, Laurie Arons has created over 600 exclusive events ranging from opulent society soirees to small-yet-glamorous weddings. Laurie is known for her passion for perfection, ensuring each event is spectacular and unique from the first impression down to the smallest detail. Since founding Laurie Arons Special Events in 1994, Laurie has been featured in numerous magazine publications including W, Vogue, Martha Stewart Weddings, C Weddings, People, Glamour, Town & Country Weddings, and InStyle Weddings.

Laurie Arons designs a table setting for her 2016 Wedding Planner Masterclass
Laurie creates a tablescape in the Buckle Barn during the 2016 Wedding Planner Masterclass. Photo by Jose Villa.

Her clients include noteworthy trendsetters like Sofia Coppola, Vanessa Getty, and Christy Turlington and prominent business moguls like Gary Friedman, Frank Caufield and Eddie Debartolo. In 2015 she launched the Wedding Planner Masterclass by Laurie Arons, to help up-and-coming planners take their businesses to the next level.

2016 Wedding Planner Masterclass Partners

Laurie Arons Special Events | Jose Villa Photography | Joel Serrato Films & Photographs | Sarah Winward – Honey of A Thousand Flowers Floral Design | Kelly Lenard | Amber Moon Design/Pitbulls & Posies | Written Word Calligraphy | Geraldine Magazine | Daniel Tran | Paula Leduc | Style Me Pretty Weddings | Carats & Cake | Wedding Sparrow | Perfect Endings Cakes | Sherrie Long Hair & Makeup | Creative Candles | Katie Colosi, Hayley Kupek & AR Jones – LASE | March SF | Montana Party Rentals | The Party Store MT | Vintage Whites | Richard Photo Lab | Czar Press | Modern Fuel | Appointed | Sorel Footwear | Wilhelmina Models | Mr. Porter Live | J Mendel Gown | LWD Bridal/Naeem Khan NYC