Winter Wedding Tips!
It’s a hunch, but you imagine one of these scenarios when you decide to hold your wedding in winter (November-February in the UK).
A beautiful clear, blue-sky day, with a crisp, sharp, frosty start, photos outside with a fur wrap, and your breath visible in the air. Your guests wrapped up warm for any outside part of the day (such as a walk to church) but soon disrobing from heavy coats once inside and furnished with a hot, spiced mulled wine and a roaring log fire.
A snowy scene, your chosen venue transformed into a Winter wonderland with children building snow-Brides and Grooms and Groomsmen fully immersed in a tactical snowball fight. Your photos will be stunning; just brave the cold for long enough to capture a beautiful snowscape that will adorn your living room wall for the foreseeable future.
A day when daylight does not penetrate dawn, and you and your guests spend the day inside a country-house venue filled with Christmas sights, sounds, and smells. A splendid pine tree and a big open fire are the perfect focal point for your wedding photos.
Any of these are possible, and I have personally experienced all of them, but also be aware that a large portion of Winter days in the UK are just overcast, dark, and wet, often with relentless rain from dawn till dusk. My advice is always to plan for this, and the following are some tips for planning a perfect Winter wedding.
1 – The Venue. If you can, try to choose a venue with plenty of space. Depending on how many guests you are inviting/expecting, try to envisage all of you being inside all day. Try not to focus on a venue’s capacity numbers, as these will be the same for summer and for Winter and are based on how many people can safely be in the ceremony and how many can be comfortably seated for the wedding breakfast. Usually, this won’t consider the time between the ceremony and the meal; in the summer, you will usually be outside. Try to envisage your drinks reception for the number of guests you expect. It’s difficult for any photographer/videographer to get your guests’ “natural/candid” moments if they are so close together that we can’t even get in the room! During your show round, when choosing a venue, consider places for photos, not just photos of you as a couple but any group/family shots you might want. It’s ideal if a venue has a room you can use for these. Although a decent photographer can be creative with photos in bad weather, we also need space for group shots.
2 – Your attire. Make sure you have something to wrap up in if you venture outside for photos; a fur wrap, for example. Most wedding dresses are made for spring/summer weddings, so think about how you can combat the cold weather in Winter with a warm wrap/shawl. Footwear is another consideration, maybe bring some trainers/walking shoes or welly boots; I keep an pair of white ankle welly boots in my car (size 6) for emergency use should any of my Brides need them but not have any.
3 – Your expectations. If you want photos outside, regardless of what the weather is doing, expect the following. It will likely be cold; I work very quickly; as a professional with many years of experience, I can provide a couple with beautiful photos within 15/20 minutes. I don’t expect my couples to be stood around for 60+ minutes for couple portraits (not even in summer), but you will have to work with me. Your dress will get muddy/wet; we can minimise this by carrying most of it until you are in place or by having a member of your Bridal party carry it for you (Bridesmaids are not always the best option for this in Winter as they will also be cold and often not in suitable footwear, so maybe a Groomsman). Dresses can be Dry-Cleaned, which is around £160+ and will take around 3 weeks; your wedding shoes can also be professionally cleaned, or you can adopt the attitude that you will not wear them again. Enjoy the day and get the photos you want. You cannot expect your photographer/videographer to capture those beautiful outdoor Winter wedding photos unless you are willing to be a bit uncomfortable for 20 minutes and not too precious about keeping a spotless dress!
You should manage your photos; they will not be the same as a Summer/Spring wedding day; they will be different, but so will your wedding day.
4 – Be creative and go with it. If it’s raining, don’t write off outdoor photos; photos under an umbrella can be beautiful; embrace it! I keep a large white gold umbrella suitable for two people in my car for these occasions, but the clear ones are also good for photos, and if you have a themed colour, consider getting one or more brollies for you and your Bridal party in the wedding colours.
Reflections in puddles, dark, stormy clouds, veils being flown like kites, a couple getting snug under an umbrella, these are all things that I look for in wet, winter weddings, alongside guests running and laughing, kids splashing in puddles and everyone generally enjoying the day regardless.
5 – Do your due diligence! When choosing a photographer for a Winter wedding (or indeed for a wedding anytime of the year!) be sure to ask the following questions.
Do you use weather-sealed professional camera gear? Aside from a considerable price difference (for example, a 50mm 1.8 Canon lens is £199 and a pro-weather sealed 50mm 1.4 RF lens is £2450) and a noticeable difference in image quality I only shoot on the professional Canon gear (cameras and lenses) because they are metal, not plastic and fully weather sealed. I can use the camera and lenses in heavy rain for extended periods. A cheaper “consumer” camera or lens will let water in, stop working and leave your photographer without a camera/lens.
Are you versed in lighting, and do you have lighting? A cheap on-camera flash just isn’t going to cut it for a wedding. To get the best quality images inside and outside when the weather isn’t so good, your photographer should have a lighting kit and know how to use it!
And finally, be sure to ask your prospective photographer if they can show you a complete wedding shot in rain/low light and/or Winter. You need to know that the pro you are paying for has a proven track record of shooting in low light and bad weather scenarios and can show you a body of work representing that. It’s easy to take good photos on a warm, dry Spring/summer day, but if you are having a Winter wedding, you want to know that your pro can provide pictures just as good (if somewhat different) with the challenges of a winter’s day.
6 – Be aware of the light constraints of a Winter Wedding. As I write this on the 18th of December, the sunset time is 16.10, which is about as short a day as a day gets in the UK. If your wedding is at 14.00 a civil ceremony will be finished by 14.30 but a church wedding not until around 14.45/15.00. This gives you 60-90 mins of daylight left when you are married; after this time, it’s indoor flash photos. In the summer, when it is light until 22.00, I encourage my couples to spend time with their guests immediately after the ceremony, to be greeted, congratulated, hugged and kissed (now we are post-Covid anyway!). However, in Winter, with the limitations of light, I would highly recommend that after your ceremony, you lead straight into photos: your couple photos and your group shots (the main ones at least), anything that you want to do outside. Chatting with guests will quickly eat up 30-45 mins of post-ceremony time, and once it’s 16.00 and dark outside, you can take time to meet and greet, mingle, and chat.
Regarding chatting with your guests. Utilise the mealtime, when you can walk around the tables between courses catching up with people, and you will also often have around 90-120 minutes after the wedding breakfast; the gap between the end of the speeches and the start of the evening, this is also a great time to say hello to your friends and family. Be aware of how long you are talking to one person (or small group). I often hear my couples say that they will spend 20-30 minutes getting around their guests, and then when I come back to them after this period has elapsed, they are still talking to the same people they started with. Don’t be afraid to curtail the conversations, your guests will understand, politely say “great talking, I have to get on; I have a lot of people to get round!”
Couples book Winter weddings for several different reasons. It could be that one or both of them can’t abide the heat of summer; it might be that all their friends and family are busy with work in the summer (primarily if they work in the wedding sector!), or it might be that they love Christmas, hope for snow or have a significant date that falls in Winter. Whatever the reason, research, think about your venue on a cold, dark day, and ask your suppliers questions.