21 Winter Decor Ideas That Don’t Scream Christmas

What's NOT green and red and Santa all over?

21 winter decor ideas that aren't red or green

Both David’s and my parents got married in December, which has got to be super unusual. When we got engaged, David was in law school, which meant that if we wanted to take a post-wedding honeymoon (we sure as hell did), we needed to plan the wedding for a law school break—December or summer. December had an immediate lure. First, it wasn’t eighteen months away (we didn’t rightly figure we could pull off the wedding we wanted in six months, leaving us with an eighteen month lead time on summer). Second, it was family tradition. For both of us.

For as long as I could remember, my mom had told me to get married in December, when the church was already decorated, at no cost to you. The only trouble was, we weren’t getting married in a church. Our little interfaith family was having a Jewish wedding. When you have Christian and Jewish backgrounds, December is a minefield. So as much as I would have enjoyed a nine-month engagement and a December wedding, we nixed it almost straight away. The biggest reason? Decorations.

Having, at that point, weathered several Decembers in our relationship, I could see how a winter wedding was going to play out. There would be fights over evergreens. Is it, “simply a seasonal plant,” or “a really Christmas-y plant”? I’m smart enough to avoid Poinsettias, but it’s hard to totally avoid red. And green and red would have been out, but would blue and white be just erring in the other direction? And has Christmas taken over the twinkly white lights game, or can anyone use them? Continue fights ad nauseam.

While we skipped those particular wedding-related fights, we re-visit this decor debate every single holiday season, while the Pinterest onslaught makes me feel like the most left out person in the world. Typically, by this point in November, I’ve started to feel like an (very sad) outcast from the Internet. Because while I love Christmas, David hates it with equal fervor (something about a lifetime of feeling left out). Plus, we have a Jewish household… that celebrates Christmas… and what do you even do with that? While I’m gearing up to decorate for the holidays, green and red and gold and everything Santa is not helping me out. And after years of trees and garlands decorated with blue and white ornaments (our ongoing compromise), I’d really like something a little more… creative?

With that in mind, the APW staff decided to round up the best not-red-and-green-all-over holiday decorations. Here are our picks for seasonal decor that doesn’t scream, “SANTA CAME OVER AND I HUGGED THE REINDEER WHILE HE ATE COOKIES, AND THEN WE TALKED ABOUT BABY JESUS AND DRANK SOME MULLED WINE.” Except for the mulled wine. We’re all obviously very into that. So let’s bring on the subtle, and the sparkles. I hope these tutorials help you decorate your house (if your reason for the season doesn’t happen to be Jesus, or if you’re just tired of red and green), or plan the hell out of your winter wedding. Hot buttered bourbon cheers!

Autumnal & Rustic

Fall leaf escort cards, via once wed, photos by Ali Harper

Perfect for your friendsgiving feast. Bonus: leaves are basically free!

Dried Wild Feather Bouquet, via Curious Fair

Dried flower bouquets have really beautiful texture and depth. And, you can buy them farther in advance of your wedding and quit worrying about how you’re going to keep them alive long enough in the winter.

Gilded Fruit Centerpiece, via APW, photos by Allison Andres

Metallic spray paint + fruit = instant fabulous party centerpiece.

Neon Pinecone Place Cards, via Camille Styles, photos by She-N-He Photography

We are all about any DIY project that you can do while watching Parenthood.

Gold Leafed Pine Cone Garland, via The Sweetest Occasion, photos by Alice G. Patterson

You could also match your garland to your place card holders by painting them neon.

Painted Pumpkin Centerpiece, via APW, photo by Allison Andres

Pumpkins don’t have to disappear after Halloween, y’all! They’re still perfect for November (particularly when spray painted).

Bird’s Nest Ring Holder, via Francis and Joan’s Snowy Canadian Wedding on APW, photo by Photobox Photography

One of my favorite ideas for an unconventional ring “pillow.” Bird’s nests are home, and you’re making a home together. Awwww….

Glitter & Lights

Quartz Place Cards, via Ruffled, photo by Love Is A Big Deal

This has got to be one of my favorite wedding decor pictures of the year. By which I mean obviously you should steal i.

Gold Branch DIY, via Pop Sugar

Branches spray painted gold is one of my favorite winter decor statements. Plus, it will add some height and glam to your centerpieces on the cheap.

Lighted Aisle Backdrop, via Alexan Events, photo by Frances Marron and Julia Timmer

It’s called the season of light for a reason.  The reason is it’s real pretty.

Glitter Gold Floral Centerpiece, via APW, photo by Allison Andres

It’s like glitter exploded and made glitter babies. Is that so wrong? Bonus: it’s fake! Make it ahead, stash it somewhere, and bring it out whenever you want to look extra fancy.

Star Floor Runner, via Martha Stewart Weddings

You can’t go wrong with sparkly stars. And for those of us negotiating the Jewish/ Christmas divide this time of year, you can make six pointed stars, and stop the argument before it starts.

Glitter Welcome Signs, via A Glittery Homemade Catholic Wedding, photo by Eyes & Hart

Sparkle that won’t leave with your guests at the end of the night.

Tinsel Cocktail Stirrers, via Style Me Pretty, photo by Nancy Ray Photography

If you invite me to a party and give me a fancy drink stirrer, I’ll be so impressed with you I won’t even notice the unfolded laundry in the corner.

Glitter Donuts, via Glitter Guide, photo by Kate Ann Photography

Not technically decor, but who cares, they’re glitter donuts.

Winter White

Mercury Glass Centerpieces, via Ruffled, photo by Brooke Schultz

DIY your own mercury glass, or thrift it, but either way you’ll end up with instantly pretty centerpieces. Adding sequins on the table is optional, but recommended.

Garland Centerpiece, via APW, photo by Allison Andres

Did we mention this is fake. IT’S FAKE. Also, the candles and holders are from Ikea. Tie things up with some hot pink ribbon, and you’ve got festive without the Santa.

Rosemary Sprig Place Cards, via Spoon Fork Bacon

Simple, cute, and definitely the right skill level for a lazy DIY session.

Cloud Backdrop, via APW, photo by Allison Andres

Probably my favorite backdrop of our series. Possibly add a little sparkle to the clouds to winterize them. Mmmm… sparkles.

Vellum Candle Centerpiece, via APW, photo by Allison Andres

A classy centerpiece idea for non-crafters. Switch up the paper to match any winter decor scheme you’ve got going on.

Cable Knit Sweater Cake, via Weddingbells

It’s a cake, but it looks like a sweater! Let’s make December all about decor that looks like sweaters, and let peace reign.

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  • Lauren from NH

    I was planning to do a bunch of these things for our August wedding. What can I say, I’m from the north and I like glitter. Hope that doesn’t throw you off ;)

    Also a lot of these ideas are very chic and minimalist, secretly that’s probably my favorite part!

    • K.

      I’m getting married in Florida in June, and I’ll have tons of greenery/rosemary, silver glitter, and mercury glass. WHATEVAH I DO WHAT I WANT. :D

      • vegankitchendiaries

        Yep, us too… Glitteriest July wedding you ever did see :)

  • KC

    Wait, food doesn’t count as decor?… I’ve apparently been doing it wrong all these Thanksgivings. (assumption: if the table is entirely covered with delicious food, who needs centerpieces?… relatedly, who has *room* for centerpieces if the table is entirely covered with delicious food?)

    • Lauren from NH

      Agreed! Usually there is only room left for candles. The centerpiece gets moved aside when the table is set….assuming it’s a nice dinner and everyone isn’t exhausted, if that’s the case the centerpiece gets left on the dining table in the dark lol.

    • Meg Keene

      In retrospect, I would have skipped centerpieces at our wedding, because you couldn’t see them with the food.

      I tend to think of holiday centerpieces as for the times your table isn’t having a meal on it. Like, if you’re having a party and it has a bunch of cookies on it. MMMM cookies.

      • SarahG

        Agreed. Or on a sideboard. Bring back the sideboard, I say! So damn useful.

        • Jess

          I love sideboards. I have one (only it sits in my hallway now because apartment) but it was SO convenient for party hosting/becoming a bar/buffet/whatever it needed to be. Go antiquing?

        • Meg Keene

          SIDEBOARDS. My parents have a built in one, in their 100 year old house. I try to actually clean it off for Christmas dinner (oh, sideboards) and fancy it up a little. Feels festive.

        • Alyssa M

          I was so desperate for a sideboard when I realized I had zero storage in my kitchen… looked everywhere and ended up with a bookcase with doors on the bottom half. Bring back to sideboard!

        • clairekfromtheuk

          I counted the minute I purchased my sideboard from ebay as the minute I was officially a grownup. and I am totes ok with that

      • KC

        A standing cookie party (or similar) and centerpieces would make sense (as would buffet-style; but we’ve never had a large enough kitchen or enough space somewhere else to do a buffet). But, due to a history of smallish apartments and largeish groups of friends and way-over-estimates on how much people can possibly eat (cooking party food is really fun!), I’ve just… never had an actual party in my home where I have not basically entirely covered all available horizontal surfaces with either people or food/beverages, I think.

        So that means that at this point in my life, I know how to make cream puffs by the hundred from scratch and how to make roses out of chocolate, but not how to arrange a centerpiece (except for cheaty “it’s actually an appetizer” centerpieces, which I have totally done to keep people occupied for the interval between when people arrive and when we’re ready to serve the main meal. And our wedding had really nice potted plants as “centerpieces”, which were supposed to go home with the people who helped set up/clean up, but I have no idea whether they actually did, as I don’t think I told enough people that that was the “plan”.). So, yeah, never done a Proper Non-edible Centerpiece, I think. Hm. Maybe when the “more space available” and “having a party” venn diagram circles next overlap, I’ll hunt the sequins out of the craft supplies… :-)

        • Meg Keene

          Really, you’re not missing much.

          • KC

            Oddly, this makes me feel better and less like I’m flunking at adulthood and/or have been Depriving My Guests All These Years. :-) I may just file “non-edible centerpieces” under “things to do if-and-only-if I ever end up really wanting to do one”… and, if that occasion arises, hunt through the APW archives for ideas of things to apply gold leaf and spraypaint to.

        • Amanda

          Your parties sound awesome.

        • Kara E

          Sounds like you have awesome parties. Also, we’re most likely to have a centerpiece (a) on the dining room table so I’m not tempted to pile junk on it (though it has to come off as soon as there are , and (b) on our mantle, because nothing has to “live” on a mantle.

    • Jess

      We do buffet style dinners for most holidays… So the counters get covered in food and we have a centerpiece on the table. But they are probably overrated unless you’re into them!

    • Lawyerette510

      We didn’t do center pieces at our wedding for this very reason! We had old wine bottles cleaned and labels removed for water (provided by the venue), with little chalkboard tags with the table number, then the big platters of food came out. It was perfect, and the chef and servers were so happy they didn’t have to navigate around centerpieces.

      • Lauren from NH

        This is just another one of so many reasons I insist that we do bar tables. No seating chart, mini simple centerpieces, I put the lazy in lazy bride.

        It’s funny because I would go all out if anyone wanted help jazzing up their wedding, but for my own I know there is going to be enough emotional stress without adding logistic and DIY stress.

        • Lawyerette510

          “It’s funny because I would go all out if anyone wanted help jazzing up their wedding, but for my own I know there is going to be enough emotional stress without adding logistic and DIY stress.”

          This is exactly the approach we took to our wedding. My husband and I have been in and helped with tons of weddings that were full-tilt, all-hands-on-deck, collaboration affairs and enjoyed it, but when it came time for ours, we were like “yeah, how about we keep it super simple because emotionally it won’t be.” I think had we taken more than 2 months to plan we would have done a little more, but we put our emotional bandwidth above decor and it was the right decision.

        • Meg Keene

          I am, however, a HUGE fan of the seating chart. With bar tables it does make it skip-able, but I think it’s usually pretty key usually to making people feel taken care of, and like they’re not alone in a middle school lunchroom.

          There are few wedding things that I’m unabashedly PRO on, but seating charts for most weddings is one of them.

          • TeaforTwo

            I LOVE seating charts. I have been a guest at a few weddings where I just wasn’t sure where I fit in (as in, I knew the couple super well, but not many people in their community) and it is a load off to have an assigned table.

            (And even when I do know lots of people, I LOVE seeing who I’ve been sat with.)

          • Lawyerette510

            Yep, as a guest at any large event with a seated meal, I’m way more comfortable with assigned tables (even better if assigned seats but that’s asking a crap-ton from the hosts), and as the bride it was non-negotiable to have a seating chart not only for my own piece of mind but to lessen the likelihood someone would get hurt feels from feeling neglected/ not liking where they ended up sitting etc.

          • Alyssa M

            I’ve read your thoughts and seating and totally agree! I’ve often been that person with the middle school lunchroom feeling at large events… then at my wedding I assigned tables and thanks to a few no shows and some people ignoring the seating chart it happened to a few of my guests anyways… I was sad…

          • Amanda

            Not gonna lie, I’ve felt like a middle schooler a lot at weddings. I’ve never had the seating issue, but as a single girl I pretty much had to put all my efforts into not crying during final slow songs, while I sat alone in the corner — just like middle school. My wedding will not end with, “At Last,” I’ll tell you that. Amazing song, but really depressing when the caterers are cleaning up around you while you watch your friends dance and wonder if you’ll ever have anyone to dance with.

            Oh, little past Amanda dear, you only have to wait a couple more months! (And he really likes dancing).

          • Kara E

            Assigned tables really help me, especially when I know only a few people. And especially ESPECIALLY when I was at weddings sans date. It also helps me be able to connect to other people I might otherwise not meet.

          • Becca Daniels

            I, too, had some of that happen at my wedding. I put a lot of work into the seating chart, to accommodate our blended families of origin as well as put people with similar interests and political viewpoints together. Some months after the wedding, someone in my family was shocked to find out they had some unique things in common with someone from his family, and I internally grumbled, “Well you WOULD have known if you sat where I intended you to.”

          • Lauren from NH

            I am a little surprised that this doesn’t fall under the “your guests are adults” rule, but then I have never been to a wedding, we don’t have any lone soldier guests, and I hate that middle school feeling.

          • Sarah E

            I’ve been to quite a few weddings, only one with open seating. The wedding was for a long-time family friend who is about my age (our mothers are bffs from college), so I was there with my mom and her college buddies. We had to split our group for dinner, which was fine, everyone is eating anyway, and once the meal was over, our group came back together, snagged the chairs we needed, and created our home base to watch the dances/sip water after booty-shaking. So it worked in the end, without too much lost feeling. I think if I were there alone, or even just with a date, when i only knew the bride or groom, I would feel more lost. My mom’s college buddies were pretty much the close-family substitute for the mother of the bride, though, so we had an “in” to the inner circle, and weren’t dependent on the newlyweds for our only socializing.

        • Jules

          Lunchroom feeling, seconded, after nearly 20 weddings – even ones where I knew most of the guests or was family.

          Most people aren’t going to neatly peel off into groups of 8 for a 60″ round, so you may get 3 tables of, say, 5-6 people who really could have fit at 2 tables, and then you have 8 people who would have made 1 lovely table together wandering around and filling in gaps. Or you get 10 people trying to sit at an 8 person table who start pulling chairs from other tables. I’ve seen this all happen.

          No seating works better if your groups are all fairly close (most know each other and you don’t have 5 couples that will feel stranded), or your tables are tiny (like 4 people per table in a restaurant), or when you have long rectangular tables where there’s LOTS of spare seating, or maybe when you have a sum of 50 people at the wedding so there’s less of a “lost” feeling anyway.

          I’m really biased right now because the last wedding I went to had no assigned tables, and I did the videography for the ceremony. By the time we wrapped up and made it to the reception (only 10-15 mins after the other guests), most seats had been claimed in the mad rush. We wandered around until we got lucky with 2 spare seats at a table with some acquaintances. I felt like crap. (Also the fault of the friends who we DROVE to the wedding who KNEW we were video-ing….)

          It all worked out and it’s not a BIG deal, but I love when I can spend 90 minutes at my table rather than in a scramble to sit with people I know.

        • Juliet

          Just to toss in my experience, we got married a few weeks ago with a 125 guest list and no seating chart, and it TOTALLY worked. Here are the reasons I think it was successful:

          1. Our venue was full of wooden picnic tables, both inside and covered outside, and there were way more tables than needed to seat our guests, probably like 2x as many. This meant people could easily find an empty table with a buddy and didn’t need to cram into the one empty seat left at a table full of people they didn’t know. I would totally recommend that if you go ‘no seating chart’ to make sure there are at least a few extra tables than would be needed if every seat was assigned and spoken for.
          2. There were only a few people there that didn’t know any other guest, and those people I made sure to let them know that they were highly encouraged to bring a guest, made sure I introduced them to a few people at the rehearsal dinner and/or bachelorette party, and gave them a heads up that the seating would be open.
          3. We had events before and after the meal that brought everyone back to the same space. This worked great because while lunch was a bit spread out and unstructured, the speeches right after lunch really brought the “wedding” back into to our picnic wedding.

          • Jules

            Yes. Surplus seating and “community style” seating makes it more doable.

            But a table full of 60″ rounds where there are only 4 “spare” seats and where you have a set number of chairs per table? Not so much.

      • Meg Keene

        I am a huge, huge fan of skipping centerpieces, which are a pain in the ass. It can be harder to do at big round tables (unless you take the IDGF approach), but it’s perfect for long tables.

        Also, family style. So tempting, but usually more expensive then a buffet. That was our initial plan for skipping centerpieces, but turns out we couldn’t afford it! Who knew?

        • Lawyerette510

          Yep, the price breakdown of family style v. buffet of those little “secrets” of catering. We were married at the Boonville Hotel which has a fantastic restaurant onsite and only does family-style service for groups (and most nights they are open in general), so for us, we knew what we were getting into. We also had a small wedding (under 60 people) and allocated the very vast majority of our budget to food and booze.

          ETA: I really love all the center-piece tutorials and porn on this site and on pinterest, and next summer when I throw a “10 years since I moved to the Bay” party for myself, there will be awesome centerpieces.

        • KC

          From an old book by Susan Coolidge, from a conversation about manners, explaining why, in the author’s opinion, it’s counterintuitively more economical to serve multi-course meals pre-plated rather than family-style:

          In the old days, when the meat came
          on in a big platter, and the vegetables each
          in its large covered dish, people had to put more on table than was really wanted, for
          the sake of not looking mean and giving
          their neighbors occasion for talk. Now, when
          everything is carved on a side-table and a
          nice little portion carried to each person,
          you are able to do with exactly what is
          needed. There need not be a great piece
          of everything left over for look’s sake.

          I think this carries over beyond plated food [where you have the exact portions settled, and if it turns out you’re low on peas, you just plate up slightly fewer peas to each person] to buffets as well – you can hit closer to the actual amount of food needed by the entire group if you go by full-group average rather than table average, because the highest table need (that table you put all the athletic teenage cousins at, maybe?) is going to be greater than the full-group average, and all the table leftovers, pooled (especially when this table liked this food more than that food; this other table went the other way), would likely be greater than the buffet leftovers.

          The other kind of random problem/cost of family style at weddings is the serving dishes for each table – buffets use fewer serving dishes in total once you top a certain number of tables.

          But yes, it’s counterintuitive that “family-style” is generally not the cheapest way to cater nicely to a large group of people!

        • clairekfromtheuk

          I was totally in your camp til like, 3 days before the wedding and then I realised that I *needed* 87 thousand candle holders and candles and you know what, it looked amazing!

          • clairekfromtheuk

            Photo pls disqus…?

      • TeaforTwo

        Us, either. I figured that the only time I had ever noticed the flowers at a wedding was when I couldn’t see past them to talk to people. Plus we had an afternoon tea, so the 3-tiered trays with the sandwiches & scones etc., plus pretty table numbers were all the decor we needed.

        • Lawyerette510

          Um afternoon tea reception? This sounds so delightful and lovely! Pic?

        • Ally

          genius wedding reception!!

        • Violet

          Swooning over your reception…

    • Caroline

      I’m a firm believer that food is the centerpiece of a dinner party. Maybe some candles also. But my theory on party decor is “I will feed you delicious food.” Yes. That’s my decor theory.

      • KC

        That’s my idea of a themed party, too, right there. ;-)

        (technically, I think Proper Themed parties are also fun. But I do not feel the need for all parties to have any sort of theme/reason other than “people enjoying food and each other, yay!”)

  • Violet

    These are awesome!
    Semi-off topic question: For people who were born and bred where winter does NOT equal cold (Florida, Texas, Southern hemisphere in general, etc), what do you folks associate winter with (if anything)? This stuff, because it’s always in (US) national commercials and picture books? Or, something else? Or nothing?

    • CJ

      I grew up in Africa, with American parents, so our holiday decorations were always a weird mix of pictures of reindeer, snow, etc, and then fresh tropical flowers.

      • Meg Keene


      • Violet

        Gotta love eclectic!

    • Katriel

      I grew up in FL and I certainly associated twinkle lights and Christmas trees with winter. And the end of the rainy season. I remember loving the Christmas light yacht parade that happened near us, and I did own and wear a windbreaker. I mean, for a Florida girl, days that get down to the 50s are COLD. So there’s still a relative experience of chilliness!

      • Lauren from NH

        Haha COLD.

        (Though I know what you mean, when I spent a semester in Thailand, the low seventies in early December felt pretty cool.)

      • AP

        Yes! Christmas yacht parades are awesome!

      • Violet

        In a way, I know what you mean about 50 feeling cold at times. 50 degrees during spring feels HOT (because I’m comparing it to all the 30 degree stuff I just suffered through). But after a hot summer, in fall, 50 feels cold to me too! : )

        • Yep. I guess it’s all relative. Now 30 degrees F feels cold, but in about four months, I will think that’s warm. :)

    • AP

      Ha! Love this question so much. Well, if you live in a coastal area (I live in Biloxi, for instance) you see lots of flamingos and fish with Santa hats, gold and silver starfish, nautical Christmas trees, and ocean colors/sand+glitter.

      But if you’re like my Mom, you don’t care what the temp is outside or where you live- you crank the A/C waaaay up, light a fire in the fireplace, decorate with all the traditional stuff and frost your windows with white spray foam. It’s White Christmas all the way.

      • Violet

        I love your mom. I also love fireplaces, so I can see how she turns it into a “make it work” moment!

    • Twinkle lights and luminarias.

      • Violet


    • Lawyerette510

      I grew up in south Texas, so I associate things like greenery (usually from cedar trees, rosemary bushes, poinsettias (I love the white ones), and lots of decorations involving glitter, blown glass, felt and beeswax.

      • Violet

        Oooo, cedar trees, now that is interesting!

    • Class of 1980

      I grew up in Miami and as long as there are lots of lights, sparkle, and evergreen, then it feels like Christmas to me. Now, they even put lights in the palm trees, but they didn’t do that when I was growing up there.

      Also, have you seen all the adorable ocean-themed ornaments available? It’s enough to make me want a tropical tree at some point in my life.

      • Violet

        I’m actually irrationally fond of palm trees, so I would totally dig a palm with some twinkly lights!

    • Orange pomanders are huge in my family, because our Florida relations would send us oranges and my grandmother showed us how to create pretty patterns in them with cloves and hang them to dry. They smell amazing, so oranges make me think of Christmas, which is a weird association for other folks I guess. Here, if folks don’t know what I’m talking about: http://www.marthastewart.com/273214/pomander-how-to

      It gets cold-ish in Georgia, but mostly I associate winter with sweaters and the ability to wear a scarf every day. For the holidays I tend to think of sparkly lights, or candles. My favorite thing to do in winter is have a ridiculous number of candles all lit up and flickering at night, which is hard with our three animals but I do it anyway.

      • Lauren from NH

        Love these! Need to bring them back this year!

      • Violet

        Um, awesome pomanders! I might have to try that. It makes me think of the first scene in Little Women, when they get oranges for Christmas because fruit from the tropics is such a treat! My mom actually used to put little clementines in my and my sister’s stockings. Maybe she was thinking of pomanders, I’ll have to ask her!

    • ElisabethJoanne

      I grew up in the Bay Area. A few years ago, a big religious organization posted photos of their outdoor December parties from all over the Northern Hemisphere. Everyone – from London to New York to Chicago to San Francisco to Los Angeles was dressed the same – heavy coats. That fits my experience. Just because it rarely gets below 60 degrees during the day around here, it’s cold to us, and the marketing is such that we associate winter with the same images as people from the Northeast have, except for us they’re all anonymous/manufactured/cartoon-y. For example, we don’t have images of our homes covered in snow, while when someone from a cold place sees a picture of a house covered in snow, they can associate that picture with their own home.

      • Violet

        Cold really is relative, isn’t it?!? I think Lucy’s point about scarves and sweaters fits here too, like, any season where you need to adjust layers upward = winter.

    • KH_Tas

      Australian here
      Winter: Snow (in the rare places where we get any, I live in one of these), drabness, wind, football, sad attempts at Christmas in July, waiting for spring.
      Christmas: All the northern hemisphere stuff (including fake snow sometimes), plus outdoor entertaining, loads of fresh flowers and fruit, outdoor games, beaches.
      It’s all I’ve ever known, and the blending of traditions is fun, but having all the getting hotter/colder posts at opposite times to the US media is confusing.

      • I once spent a December in Québec with an Australian roommate. That year there was an enormous early amount of snow (it was one of the worst winters in recent history), and there were two blizzards before Christmas. I was walking around in the mounds of snow, looking at the twinkly lights and thinking it really felt like Christmas. She, however, said that it felt nothing like Christmas to her, and she was ready to go home because Christmas, for her, meant being at the pool and beach! I was shocked but I guess it makes sense, if that is what the holidays are normally like for her.

    • H

      I’m getting married in Texas, and I think bare branches and candles work really well in decor for Southern winters. I’m incorporating a bit of “snow” in our centerpieces, but we’re totally avoiding an all out “winter wonderland” assault, since it’s likely to be above freezing and sunny ;) But nothing says cozy like candlelight, no matter how warm it is.

  • I want to marry that CAKE, omg.

    These are all so pretty! I’m a big fan of winter neutrals, along with winter pastels, like mint green and dove gray. So chic! I usually end up leaving some winter decor (like gold branches and mercury-glass candle holders) out after Christmas too…because who doesn’t need a little sparkle in Jan/Feb?

    • Ragnhild

      I totally agree. January and February are so dark and cold around here, those twinkle lights need to stay up after Christmas to cheer me up!

    • As soon as I saw that cake I thought of you, Rachel. :D

    • KC

      I would love to know if they did the cable-knitting in piping or in teeny-tiny fondant strands, but I can’t find the info anywhere. Le sigh.

  • K.

    Uh, some of these I want year round. Hopefully no one will think I’m crazy for incorporating these in my June wedding!

  • I had an aunt get married in December and my grandma commented afterwards (based on the stress of doing the wedding during the holidays) that she would not attend another wedding in December. So even though she had died, I nixed any idea of a December wedding so she’d feel okay to attend in spirit.

    We went with early November (wanted to avoid Thanksgiving) and didn’t cater to the season at all.

    • Meg Keene

      Another plus! My parents wedding (which was HUGGEEEE) was smaller because people were out of town. So that helped in affording feeding people… something. They had it AFTER Christmas though, which I think is the way to go. That week in between is often pretty low key, and good for an anniversary. David’s parents got married before Christmas, but they don’t celebrate Christmas so that worked out.

      • TeaforTwo

        We got married the week before Christmas, and it definitely affected our attendance numbers. Although oddly not because of the holidays, but rather because it was a terrible time of year for all of the academics in our family and community: students were still writing exams, grad students and profs were marking them on a tight turnaround. (And then 20cm of perfect white fluffy snow that magically fell on the morning of wedding was also responsible for a handful of no-shows and several squeals of delight on my part.)

      • H

        We’re getting married after Christmas! And bonus, we had no competition for vendors, because apparently no one else on earth gets married in that “off week” between Christmas and New Years. We’re stoked about the timing of all future anniversaries :D And for the record, we’re doing bare branch centerpieces nestled in vases of epsom salt (snow). Super minimalist, but with my parents’ stockpile of icicle light strung around and candles on the tables, I think it’s going to look beautiful and wintry, without screaming Christmas.

    • I do believe I need more gold glittery things in my life at winter though.

  • Jess

    Those tinsel swizzle sticks need to be mine. Sparkle! Cocktails!

  • Thanks, APW! I just got into into an interfaith fight with my beloved the other night that basically went like this:
    Beloved: “I like those white sparkly lights and want to decorate with them.”
    Me: “You mean Christmas lights? I hate Christmas! People have tried to destroy my faith for thousands of years and I will not let this happen in my own home!”

    So yeah, non-Christmas decoration options would be lovely!

    Side question: How do the non-Christian members of interfaith couples deal with this time of year? I absolutely hate it and need to get talked off the ledge every December.

    • Meg Keene

      I’ll tell you what, it’s hard for those of us who grew up loving Christmas too. I have basically taken the line with David, slowly, over 10 years, that hating Christmas out loud is now off the table for him. If he wants to hate it quietly in his head, he may. If he wants to hate it out of earshot, he is obviously more than invited to. He’s also expressed and articulated his feelings with me plenty, and I understand them on very many levels, and I’m done with the constant venting. But after a decade of trying everything, my bottom line was I’ve given up a LOT here, converting to a faith that wasn’t my own and raising my kid in it. I’ve gotten rid of Christmas ornaments, and dress my kid in blue and white for the school Christmas party, and make sure they give him things to color that are not santa. That is plenty, for someone for whom Christmas was always her favorite holiday. So, after a decade, the trade off is that he now shuts up about Christmas. (Mostly. If he wants to complain about why the stores are playing carols before Thanksgiving, that is obviously just fine.)

      It’s taken us 10 years (well, now 11 Christmases) to get to this point, but I finally had to put my foot down and say we’d hit my limits. It helped.

      I know couples that have gone the opposite way on it, but I do think it often takes YEARS to get to the point where everyone is able to honestly admit what their needs are, and what they can sacrifice and what they can’t.

      • Class of 1980

        Even people who celebrate Christmas don’t want to hear carols before Thanksgiving!!!

        • Marcela

          As someone who pulled up the christmas pandora station while driving around buying presents on Tuesday, I wholeheartedly disagree. :) Christmas music ALL THE TIME!!

          • Mirandom

            Christmas music is a year-round thing at my parents’ house. My mom’s iPod is approximately 60% Christmas music, so when she listens to it on shuffle (which is all the time, because she doesn’t know how to work it) we always get some Christmas tunes. Even while setting up for our garage sale in the middle of summer. I sometimes forget that it’s not normal to be singing along to ‘Let it Snow’ in August until someone outside the family is like “Are you listening to … Christmas music??”

      • That sounds hard. But it’s good to hear that it takes time and you learn throughout the process.

        It seems like the main problem is that someone HATES Christmas, and someone LOVES Christmas, and it’s hard to compromise when both people feel so passionately opposite about the same thing.

    • Meg Keene

      But if I were to answer how our non-Christian member of our interfaith couple deals with it, I’d probably say… mostly quietly but with moderate annoyance ;) But he’s had 11 Christmases to practice that, which has helped, I think.

    • Caroline

      How does this non-Christian member of an interfaith couple deal with the winter? (I refuse to allow that time of year to be this time of year yet. No!)

      Pretty much like you described in your fight. Which is to say, badly. I’m a mess every December. A angry mess. I have more fights with my mother than my husband, but my tension with my mother spills over into tension with my husband around the holidays, because my tension with her gets my back up about EVERYTHING. (I am an observant Jew but was raised in an interfaith household and my mom isn’t Jewish. I converted).

      I would say I’ve pretty much steamrolled Christmas out of our house. Which is maybe not such a great way to handle it.

      It’s extra tricky because we’ve agreed to have a Jewish household, not a mixed one. So while my husband isn’t Jewish, we don’t say we have an interfaith household. Luckily, my husband is very patient with me, but honestly? I think I may have ruined Christmas for him a little bit with my anger and pain and hurt spilling out all over. Which is kind of awful, I know. I’m trying, he’s trying, but December is awful.

      • ElisabethJoanne

        My interfaith family loves a little book titled “The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming” by Lemony Snickett. For me, it captures in a childlike, humorous way what it’s like to constantly have to explain your religious/ethnic difference to the majority – and if you read it aloud in character, you get out some frustration with the screaming.

        • Caroline

          That sounds lovely!! I’ll have to look it up.

      • The funny thing is, neither of us are very religious. It’s just this thing with December. It’s the one time of year I *really* feel like an ethnic minority, and somehow it’s shocking every time. And he frickin’ loves the whole season (winter, snow, family gatherings, presents. I don’t particularly like any of those things).

        But ok, good to hear I’m not the only one. And that steamrolling is not the best option. Maybe I’ll get that latke book.

  • There are tons of late December/early January weddings in my family tree; my understanding is that they were common because a minister would reliably be around in the small towns during the holidays.

    I think my love of Christmas sneaked into my October wedding because our tables looked a whole lot like that garland pic.

  • Hannah

    I have already added glitter, sequins or some other form of sparkle to just about anything and everything I can find a way to justify to my fiance for our January wedding… but GLITTER DONUTS? Pure brilliance. Obviously my bridesmaids and I will be snacking on these while we get ready because, duh.

  • SarahG

    Our interfaith (I feel weird saying that because we’re both atheists, but anyway… intercultural?) solution is to have a Chrismakkuh tree for which we make ornaments each year which are not Christmassy. The first year the tree was covered in Twilight-themed ornaments because my mom had given me a crap ton of Twilight stickers (I like Buffy, mom, not Twilight! Aw, moms.). Last year we did a lot of Shrinky dinks and also Hannukah crafts because Target was selling some fun Hannukah stuff (foam dreidel kits!) and because my husband had discovered shrinky dinks and could not get enough. We also did a lot of Hawaiian flowers because I had inherited a bunch of fake flower leis from a bachelorette party. I realize that this goofball approach would not appeal to those who have actual, ya know, faith, but it works for us as a way of recognizing and reworking traditions we’re not ready to abandon. Also, we always do the menorah for the 8 days. Well, on the days we remember. It’s sitting out. And we try to remember.

    • Elizabeth

      YES. SHRINKY DINKS! SO CUTE! There are so many ways to decorate trees in ways that are non-alienating. I have a lot of birds on my christmas tree because birds belong on trees and it doesn’t make my fiance feel weird. The rest of the ornaments are origami shapes. Also popcorn garland because I think the idea of food on a tree is hilarious.

      • Lauren from NH

        I have birds for my tree too. Understanding my nod to nature, naturally my cats try to eat them!

      • SarahG

        Totally. I think for some folks, though, just the fact that it’s a tree is a problem, because it always hearkens back to Christmas, and to the Christmafication of everything. For us it works because my partner, though Jewish, was raised in an interfaith home with a tree and also he doesn’t care anyway. He would happily go without one or with one. For other Jews I know, though, the present of a tree is de facto upsetting no matter how many sticker-Robert-Pattisons are covering it, which I get. I’m glad he’s chill with everything, because although I have no desire to cover the tree with santas, I would have a really hard time not having one at all. It’s funny the things we hold onto/let go of as adults.

        • Caroline

          Yup, that’s my take on it. I’m 100% down with a tree in the living room any time of year but December. But to me (even or maybe especially a religious Jew who was raised in an interfaith household) you just can’t take the Christmas out of a Chrismas tree. Or evergreens inside in December. It’s christmas, and non-religous decor doesn’t make it not Christmas-y or not Christian to me. I’m ALL for Christians (or athiests raised Christian) putting up Christmas decor. My husband and I do enjoy driving around in December and looking at over the top light displays. But when Christmas intrudes into the public sphere (de-facto Christmas greetings everywhere, Christmas caroles on EVERY radio station, public Christmas decorations), it really bugs me, and reminds me in a painful way that I am a minority religion in a country with an extremely dominant majority religion..

          • Anon

            I don’t normally read The National Review, but this essay by a Jewish guy caught my attention last year. He has a really positive outlook on the whole “minority religion” thing.


          • Caroline

            I know Jews who love Christmas from the outside. I don’t get it, but I know it’s true. And the author’s point about Jews flourishing where Christian’s flourish is only true recently and not over the scope of history but none the less interesting.

            But for me, being a religious minority in December is not an easy, good thing. It’s full of people mistaking my identity, of assumptions that I share religious beliefs I do not, and practices I do not. It’s people I love getting mad at me that I can’t see how Christmas is no longer a Christian holiday but a secular American one, since they are atheists and don’t have a problem with Christmas. It’s trying to figure out how I will navigate my sister’s deep desire to have cousins for her future children to celebrate Christmas with, like we did with our cousins, with my own desire to raise my future children to be Jews, who don’t celebrate Christmas. It’s the month of being erased: where everything, every aspect of our society is geared towards people celebrating Christmas, forgetting that there are those of us who do not. It’s the month of well meant microagressions.

            So yes, for some people, being a non-Christian minority in December isn’t hard or painful, but for me, it is.

          • Anon

            I understand. Of course, most of the traditions of Christmas were already in place before Christianity. The early Christians stole them from pagans to attract converts. People have been putting evergreens in their houses and lighting candles and celebrating for eons during winter. Christianity has no intrinsic claim on it.


            Atheists have more of a point than they may realize.

          • Caroline

            You know of, I hear that argument a lot, that a lot of Christmas traditions are pagan, not Christian, and that means it’s okay for Jews to adopt them to. From a religious perspective, Jewish law is very against Jews adopting the customs of their non-Jewish (especially pagan) neighbors. Although it’s not the big focus for most Jews today, it is one of the major themes of the Bible. Which is not to say that some Jews don’t help friends and family celebrate Christmas, but as an argument as to why I, as a Jewish should be okay doing so, it holds no water. Just because it’s actually a pagan, nor Christian originated tradition doesn’t mean it is my tradition.

          • Anon

            That’s a good point, actually.

            I wonder why so many people give you such a hard time? Is it that they just want you there?

          • Class of 1980

            I think the problem as you describe it, is people not taking “No” for an answer. It comes down to consideration, and it’s terrible that so few people are willing to give you any.

            My dad married a Jewish girl who is never going to become a Christian, but who does like Christmas. She looked at marrying my dad as a reason to finally have a Christmas tree, but she drew the line at inviting some of her relatives because she said they wouldn’t understand.

            I’m pretty sure that no one in our family would have tried to talk her into Christmas celebrations if she didn’t want to.

            Now that they’ve been married a long time, she’s gotten over having a tree. She got to a place where she enjoyed celebrating with my family, while remaining steadfast in her own faith. I think she looks at it as just attending someone else’s cultural tradition.

            And when my Christian niece was growing up, my dad’s wife took her to Chanukah with her family every year … and they spoiled her. ;)

      • Class of 1980

        I LOVE birds on Christmas trees.

        I go with a nature theme and not all red and green. I have aquas, silver, gold, lime green and a little tiny bit of red. I’d like pink too. I have silver acorns, some green/gold/silver ornaments with owls and deers, watery aqua globes, stardust globes, snowflakes. Also love anything with white or pink berries.

        But I’m still looking to get some birds.

        I was brought up Christian, but I’m agnostic. I think God exists, but don’t care to define her.

        I’m not sending a message about Christ or Santa – it’s more about winter, nature and PEACE ON EARTH. Evergreens brought indoors for winter long predated Christianity. They symbolize life and smell great. I see the lights at Christmas as a symbol of Hope and Enlightenment of mankind … hope for the future. Light in the darkness. Well, that’s my spin on it.

        • I am constantly drawn to birds and snowflakes, glitter and lights. That’s my idea of xmas.

          • H

            Umm, do you want to come to my wedding this December? ;D All I wanted going into planning was “winter” and “not a bazillion dollars”, and a combination of birds, snowflakes, glitter, and candles was what we came up with! I’m glad other people think of this particular combination of things as wintry too :)

    • Meg Keene

      We do both have faith traditions (and not enough time to come up with new tree decorations every year), but we still can’t always remember the menorah. Who can? It’s the dinkiest of holidays, also, if we’re being honest. It’s just dressed up so there is something to balance out Christmas.

      • Caroline

        As a kid in an interfaith household, hanukah felt like the dinkiest of holidays, the poor, pale cousin of Christmas. Now, as an adult, I’ve really come to appreciate it for itself. It IS a small, minor little holiday, and I think that’s part of the charm. There’s a small magic in weekday parties with friends after work, lighting 10 menorahs, and mounds of latkes and inventing new silly verse for “I am a latke”.

        I think maybe, the small magic of it is the point. When it was no longer overshadowed by Christmas in a big way,(since we don’t celebrate Christmas in our home. We do help our parents celebrate, but we don’t celebrate ourselves), it’s magic came out. It’s not the big, loud magic of Passover or Rosh Hashanah or Sukkot. It’s just a quite, cozy small winter twinkle in the middle of a long stretch of dark, cold, and no holidays, and that is it’s magic, is the not-a-big-dealness of it.

        It took a long time for me to see hanukah’s magic.

  • Ragnhild

    I dont have a wedding to plan anymore, but now I need a party with a sweater cake, glitter donuts and sparkles all over! And those gold twigs too.

  • Since we are getting married in a ski lodge/inn in Vermont in January, the winter theme is sort of implied. I love twinkle lights. The proprietors of the lodge let us in their attic over the summer and showed us literally 10 large tubs of twinkle lights from other weddings. Our reception is going to look like the inside of a disco ball. I mean that in the classiest way possible.

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      As a photographer, twinkle lights are like magic. They make all your pictures look like you spent FOREVER decorating. It’s amazing.

    • I think an inside-a-disco-ball reception with millions of twinkle lights (especially in a ski lodge in Vermont in January!) sounds incredible!

  • BeccaC

    For my January wedding ever since I started planning it my thing has been little touches of winter – I am doing escort cards perched in pinecones, a few pinecones on the tables, lots of candles, a garland over the mantle at the ceremony, a fur bolero for outside for me, and long bridesmaid dresses paired with grey cardigans for outside pictures. I don’t want it to smack people in the face with “Hey it’s WINTER”, I just want to compliment the tons of Ontario snow outside the big windows. Mostly I want it to be cozy! The wood beams, stonework, and fireplaces will really help this too :)
    Also omg that cake – it was the original inspiration for my cake but the bakers I went to cautioned me it would be extremely expensive to do since the cablework is all done by hand. A three tier 120 piece cake would have been over a grand for that cake :( So I nixed that, but I still wish I could have had it. Prettiest cake of all time!

  • Gina

    My parents also got married in December! And used it as an excuse to escape before the holidays every year, just the two of them.

    What I’m getting from this post is that my holiday decor is going to consist of finding things outside (pinecones, branches, evergreen sprigs) and dousing them heavily with glitter spray paint.

    • Sarah E

      This is our first Christmas spent just the two of us, not traveling to see family, so I’m upping my holiday decorating game. . .which you’ve described perfectly. I will find things outside and glitter-fy them :-)

  • SChaLA


  • Kristal H.

    We had a Jewish wedding in December (to accommodate a sister in medical school) but my extended family and most of our friends have Christian backgrounds. Luckily we got married in Southern California with 70 degree temps and could avoid the December decor debate, because for our guests from the East Coast and Midwest it was VACATION, not winter wonderland. However, I did want some version of winter/December so we opted for no flowers and went with succulent centerpieces and all succulent bouquets because succulents are native to SoCal and at their peak coloring in the winter, AND are reusable–I still have them growing almost a year later in planters around the house. They make a great alternative “winter” decor scheme as shades of green, blue, gray and purple against white and silver.

  • laurasmash

    OH MY GOD THAT CAKE! Also yay winter stuff!!! Trying to figure out what will work for my end-of-winter Feb 28th wedding. Glitter and pinecones seems too December for that time of year, but there will be generous use of rosemary for sure.

  • Alison O

    So I know the point is stuff that doesn’t scream Christmas. But gosh, I love a good Christmasy wedding. I’m not sure I would go through with it because from living across the country from home for college I know all too well the price of flights and likelihood of delays and cancellations around that time of year–and also people have their own traditions they like to keep to, sometimes–but a wedding, with a Christmas tree as the backdrop at the ceremony? swoon…

  • Yessssss December weddings! Jewish girl here who married a not Jewish guy on New Years Eve. There was a lot black & white & gold & red and sparkles and candles at both reception and ceremony (though the pops of red on our big long reception table were pomegranates! Which felt appropriately Jew-ish and not Christmasy.)

    • Class of 1980

      Briana, that is SO pretty!

  • Harmke

    Right now, I’m totally in love with all things glitter. And every DIY project I take on should have at least SOME glittery element. But I’m so scared I’ll be sick of it by the end of January when we’ll get married… So thanks for these ideas. I guess I have to move on to a little more style and a little less christmas…

    • I don’t think you’ll ever get sick of glitter. Especially not in the dark of January. glitter forever!!!!

  • TravelerK

    We had a winter wedding (Dec. 15!) that had no red or green anywhere. Our colours were navy and white with silver accents, and it was gorgeous. I totally get why Meg skipped the December wedding with all of that inter-faith difficulty, but it is possible to have a gorgeous non-Christmas-y winter wedding. I loved the crispness of the colours against the bare tree-branches. It was really fabulous. :)

  • Amanda

    This is also awesome because there is so much winter left after Christmas. Especially in New England. So much winter.

  • Oh, these are all so seriously fun!

  • Stacy {Woodsy Weddings}

    Whether for your wedding, a party, or your house, there are a number of beautiful design choices. The lit aisle backdrop is amazing, I love the warm yellow light. The pinecone garland is so simple, too, and makes a statement.

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  • Sheesko

    Do glitter donuts make people with silver fillings scream in shocked agony when they bite down on the glitter? So okay, good reason not to invite anyone over 50.

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