For many couples, the idea of hosting their wedding in the winter is a really romantic one. A cosy day filled with log fires, twinkly fairy lights and hot chocolate, what’s not to love? Not to mention the fact that you’ll probably save a ton of money with off-season deals! But have you given much thought to how your photos are going to turn out? A winter wedding means less light and if you’ve been carefully curated inspiration boards with images of couples in summer fields or backlit with pretty sunsets during ‘golden hour’ (just as the sun goes down where the light is oh so perfectly pretty!) then you might be in for a bit of a shock.
Make sure you are looking for realistic inspiration for your winter wedding photographs by looking at photos that were actually taken in winter and in a similar location to yours. There is no point pinning pictures of a couple frolicking around the Las Vegas desert or casually strolling along the beach in California if you’re getting married in Milton Keynes in December!
If you are having an indoor winter wedding, earn bonus points with your photographer by considering the lighting inside your venue. From a photography point of view, downlights and uplights are a real nightmare. They both create pools of incredibly bright light and if you’re standing under them you’re going to get really ugly shadows under your eyes and nose. If your venue has directional lighting that’s fine, but I wouldn’t recommend having the key moments (ceremony, speeches) with them right behind you.
Late afternoon winter light can be very pretty, but the sun goes down quickly. Be optimistic in your planning process and set aside some time for your portraits. If you are getting married in the late afternoon, by the time it comes to doing your formal pictures, it will be dark. Any ceremony after 2pm really limits what can be done afterwards. In the depths of winter it starts getting dark as early as 3pm in some places, so make sure you remember that if you’re doing the bulk of your planning over the summer when it’s light until 10pm!
If you’ve always dreamed of a candlelit ceremony with fairy lights gently twinkling in the background, why not think about doing your photos before the ceremony? More and more couples are doing a ‘first look’ these days which means your photographer won’t be fighting with the fading light. I love doing them and would do them for every wedding if all my clients would let me! It’s a gorgeous, romantic thing to do away from everyone so you can just see each other in your wedding outfits in an intimate space instead of in front of everyone. It often really breaks the nervous tension that wedding ceremonies bring. A first look doesn’t have to be outside, it could just be indoors or even in your hotel room and they don’t take a long time.
The other thing to think about with a dark ceremony setting is that your photographer might have to use flash. Do you really want that pinging away as you say your vows? Occasionally the celebrant won’t even allow flash and while an experienced photographer can work with whatever circumstances they’re given, your photos are always going to turn out better if there is natural light for them to work with.
Shooting at night can bring many awesome opportunities for photography such as painting with light and creative flash techniques. I actually know some great photographers who specialise in portraits after dark (check out Viva Wedding Photography, Sam Hurd Photography and Jeff Newsom Photography) and if these kind of shots appeal to you, be prepared to get a bit cold. Another thing I would suggest is making sure you bring additional layers to wear while you shoot your portraits. Think fleece-lined capes, thick knitted wraps, colourful cardigans… even woolly hats can look awesome with a wedding dress. I often find that couples are so emotional on the day that they won’t even feel the cold, but no one wants to end up with hypothermia!
Finally, think about your hair and make up because for the winter I think you need to approach these a little differently. If you have long hair, having it down can be hard to manage on a blustery day. Some kind of braided or pinned option is usually better and gives you a better chance of finishing the day looking like you started it. I’d also highly recommend getting a make up artist. They are used to making people look great in all conditions and lighting as well as creating a look that will stay put!
Almost any half decent photographer can produce some good images in the summer months, but when it comes to winter it’s a whole different ball game. When searching for your photographer, look for weddings that have been shot in winter or with bad weather conditions in their portfolio and if you don’t see any – ask! Your photographer will need to have more skills and equipment to handle shooting a winter wedding and it’s fair to expect that they have invested in these before shooting your big day.
Personally I love shooting wintry weddings. There can be a lot of romance to a bleak sky, and a bit of bad weather always clears locations of random people meaning you can get really dramatic, big shots. Good luck!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lisa Devlin began shootings weddings in 2000 after working as a music industry photographer for over ten years. Based in Brighton, she travels all over the UK to shoot weddings that are on the more creative side. After winning the first ever British Journal of Photography’s award for wedding photography in 2011, she started to train other photographers and now runs her own school, Photography Farm.
This article originally appeared in Rock n Roll Bride magazine, issue 5. Issue 11 is on sale right now. Pick one up in WhSmiths, Sainsburys, your local independent newsagents, or you can order one (with free UK shipping!) directly from us!