The winter has typically been considered an alternative time of year to get married, but in the last couple of years the amount of winter weddings I've photographed has skyrocketed as the Covid wedding backlog has restricted available wedding dates. I'll be honest - I despise the winter. Every October the dread at knowing I cannot escape the oncoming cold months sets in and it honestly makes me quite depressed!
However, during the last couple of years there has been one light in the darkness of the winter for me - I have fallen in love with winter weddings (and I've bought lots of thermals to shoot in). Winter weddings come with a beautiful, ready-made magical atmosphere and are the perfect excuse for added sparkle, twinkly lights, and with shorter days, lots of dramatic night photography. And on the plus side for couples, you will probably have a few more options when it comes to venue and wedding supplier availability, and some of these may even offer off-peak rates!
But, before you dive straight into planning your special day filled with mulled wine, sparkler tunnels, fur capes, and Christmas trees, there are a few things to consider if you’re having a winter wedding so that everything looks gorgeous and the whole experience runs smoothly.
1. Finding your perfect winter wedding venue
Have you considered what your venue will be like in the winter? Are you holding your ceremony and reception at the same venue or will guests need to travel from one to the other, and could this be an issue in the winter months in case there is inclement weather? Could a stash of umbrellas by the door come in handy if the heavens decide to open at the wrong moment? Planning for the different scenarios beforehand will save you lots of stress on the day in case snow or heavy rain does decide to make an appearance!
Another thing to consider is how your venue will look in the dark. You'll likely view your venue in the daytime, especially if you are doing your search during the spring or summer months. And how your venue looks at 11am in the height of summer will be very different to how it looks at 3pm in the midst of winter; bear this in mind as you plan so you don’t end up disappointed on the day.
If you are having a winter wedding, a cosy, inviting atmosphere is going to be really important, so make sure you get an idea of what your venue will be like after dark, and make sure you love it just as much as you do during the day.
Finally, when you're getting an idea of what your venue looks like after dark, make sure you consider how it will impact your photos, especially if your ceremony is going to be happening as the sun sets, or after. How dark is the ceremony room? If there will be no light coming in through the windows is the indoor lighting sufficient/nice (overheard spotlights can play havoc with photos and make you patchy with uneven shadows, and orangey tungsten bulbs will ensure everyone looks like they use Donald Trump's tanning salon)? Will your photographer need to use a flash - and how do you feel about this? It is also worth checking this with your celebrant/registrar, as some can kick up a fuss about the use of flash during the ceremony - one I shot a few years ago outwardly forbade it and made my life very difficult!
2. Choosing your perfect winter wedding bouquet
If you are looking to have flowers that reflect the season, or those that are naturally available through the winter months, then this will change the style/composition of bouquets available to you compared to if you were getting married in the summer months. However, don't despair! Winter arrangements can make a bold statement and be a wonderful focal point to choose your overall theme and colour scheme around, and you also have full licence to add as much sparkle to them as you want.
There are still lots of incredible blooms available for you to choose from during the winter months, including amaryllis, sweet peas, camellias, anemones, and many more. Beautiful flowers like roses, lisianthus, veronica, alstroemeria, and gypsophila are also available year-round! If sustainability is important for you and you’d like to use flowers with a smaller carbon impact then speak to your wedding florist about the blooms naturally available and those that can be locally sourced.
3. Check the Christmas decorations situation
Getting married around the Christmas period can mean big savings on your wedding décor if your venue is already decorated for the festive season - and if this décor fits with your theme. If you're planning a glamorous wedding with a big sparkly dress, wintry foliage, and white flowers, the last thing you want is to get to your venue on the day to discover it's been plastered with gaudy red tinsel!
So if you're planning a wedding from mid-November to early January, make sure you check with your venue what decorations they will have so you can get an idea of how they will fit in, and whether they are likely to clash with your wedding theme.
Not all venues will have decorations in their dedicated wedding spaces; many choose to leave the space blank for their couples. If they will have decorations up and you're not keen on them, it’s worth having a chat with the venue to see how flexible they’ll be in removing them and allowing you to have free reign.
4. Be mindful of timings
With the days being shorter and nights drawing in much earlier through the winter months it might be wise to have a rethink on your timings for the day. Wedding ceremonies typically start between 1pm-3:30pm, but if your ceremony will be at the tail end of that time (or after it), you're going to be left with very little daylight afterwards. If you're planning on outdoor family photos, or a big confetti tunnel through your venue's gorgeous grounds, the night drawing in will inevitably make these things more difficult, or at least have a very different look in the finished photos if there is no natural daylight. If an outdoor reception or photos is important to you, I'd advise having your ceremony no later than 1:30pm to ensure you have enough time to squeeze these things in before the sun sets.
In some cases, you may want to have your couple photos taken before the ceremony, especially if you have a late afternoon ceremony planned. This will allow you to still take advantage of the natural light and get some outdoor shots if that is what you are looking for, and you can then pair this with some romantic and dramatic evening pictures as and after the sun goes down.
During the winter you can also get some amazing sunsets, which are perfect for those romantic 'golden hour' photographs. Lining up your reception to ensure you're free around sunset will mean you don't miss the opportunity for these shots.
It’s best to have an open and early discussion with the wedding planner at your venue about the best timings as they will have planned plenty of weddings at that time of the year before and knows what works best. If you are happy to be flexible and move things around in your schedule you’ll be able to take advantage of the light and perhaps that winter sunset too.
5. Choose the right photographer
Capturing the day in all its splendour is so important. Photos last a lifetime and keep memories fresh and alive, so it is imperative that you give this some extra thought when planning a winter wedding, and make sure you choose a photographer who is used to doing winter weddings and working with the changing, or often unavailable, light and therefore well-versed in flash photography.
If you are looking for a particular mood or aesthetic for your winter wedding photographs it’s best to check out a photographer's portfolio extensively, and ask to see photographs around the same time of year as you are considering to see how they handle the light, or any adverse weather.
Winter weddings provide the perfect opportunities for golden hour sunset photos, which your photographer would often miss at a summer wedding, when the sun sets well into the evening do, after they've likely gone home. In addition, with the night setting in sooner, you can take advantage of the dark with some dramatic night shots, including silhouettes (which I really enjoy doing!). And the cold weather is the perfect opportunity for fun sparkler photos, which it would be too light to do during the summer.
I hope this has been helpful to you when planning your winter wedding - and perhaps even converted some winter-haters like myself to consider a romantic, cosy wedding full of icy sparkles. If you'd like to have a chat with me about photographing your winter nuptials, hit the button below to contact me!