2019 brought a few “firsts” for CFP, one of them being not one, but TWO winter wonderland weddings in December and January! And let me tell you, after almost 10 years of shooting weddings, I sort of thought that I had the whole wedding thing figured out, but winter weddings have turned out to be a whole different animal, so we’re diving in deep today, talking about all things you need to consider and think about when planning a winter wedding. Special thanks to our brides Ashley & Makenzie for sharing a few of these tips with me on the wedding day & after!!
There Are Different “Types” Of Snow & Winter Weather
If you live in the north country, you KNOW that our winters can be brutal and often times unpredictable from day to day. There’s different types of winter weather that can show up at anytime and I’ve listed the 4 most common types of winter weather that we experience in the north country:
- Bitterly cold with some sunshine and snow flurries
- Warm-ish with wet, heavy slushy snow
- Unseasonably warm with almost no snow & lots of mud
- Mildly cold, with heavy snow and not a lot of sunlight
Gotta love the North Country, right? Thankfully, we happened to luck out with both of our winter weddings this year and fell somewhere between option 1 and 4 on both days. An ideal day photo-wise is option 1, like what we had on MaKenzie & Chris’s day shown below. It was DAMN cold, but the sunshine and flurries made it magical! Whichever winter weather option shows up on your day is going to affect things in different ways, which is what we’re about to dive into throughout this post!
Dress For The Weather – No Matter What
I cannot stress this enough. Plan like you’re taking a month-long trip to Antarctica. Extra layers EVERYWHERE. What really got to everyone on both wedding days was the WIND. That’s what really drops the temps and makes things miserable. Here are a few tips for dressing for the weather:
For The Bride & Bridesmaids:
- Close-toed shoes or boots (Uggs are totally acceptable!) I won’t be able to see them anyways in the photos!
- Wool socks
- Fur shawls. They are super cute, will add a tiny bit of coverage to your shoulders and totally enhance the winter “vibe.”
- Long dresses WITHOUT a slit so you can wear thermal leggings underneath.
- Matching gloves! This was a super cute way to further enhance the winter vibe, get matching gloves for your girls to wear.
For The Groom & Groomsmen:
- Thermal pants and shirt underneath your clothing. A MUST!
- Dress shoes are NOT warm and will quickly freeze your feet. Maybe think about matching boots or something a little warmer? If not, wool socks and then an extra pair of shoes to change into are a must.
- If you shave the day of, your face will be cold…..but you still need to shave! Just be prepared and keep your face shaved down a few days prior to the wedding to give your skin a chance to become acclimated to the colder temps . Got this tip from my soon-to-be Hubby!
- Matching gloves, again! Such a neat way to still look put together and coordinated while staying warm.
I know you (your groom) may be thinking that thermals are a bit overkill, but remember that you can always change out of them once the photos are done! You will be THANKFUL that you have them! Here’s my favorite pair of thermals that I bought off Amazon. They are a bit pricey but literally worth every single penny!
Cheaper “Off-Season” Rates
Did you know that many venues and vendors offer cheaper “off-season” rates? The off-season will vary depending on where you live, but it never hurts to ask! Because of the high interest we’ve received about winter weddings, we’ve actually decided to offer an off-season discount to our wedding packages for any weddings booked between the months of December-April!
This is a tough one, especially because as I mentioned, the weather can be SO unpredictable and at times, unsafe to travel in. Keep this in mind, and know that if the weather is bad, some of your guests might not be able to make it last minute, even if they RSVP’d. I strongly suggest having hotel accommodations for you and your guests right at the venue or within 5 miles from the venue just in case the weather gets nasty. I made this mistake with Ashley & Jared’s wedding a few weeks ago. The wedding was held almost 3 hours from home, and the hotel I booked was about 45 minutes from the wedding venue – thinking that we could at least get a little closer to home so the drive Sunday morning wasn’t so long. Mistake. It took us almost DOUBLE the time to get back to the hotel because the roads were so nasty. We passed a huge semi truck that had flipped while trying to make an exit. SCARY and definitely a lesson learned.
You Need A First Look Or An Early Ceremony Time
This is a non-negotiable. Because the sun sets SO early during the colder months, getting all of your photos done earlier in the day is a must. Both Ashley & MaKenzie opted in for a first look (which was awesome) but if that’s not your style, you’re going to want to schedule your ceremony time for no later than 12:30pm to ensure that we have enough daylight for photos. During the winter months, the sun isn’t as prominent as it is in the summer months, so having as much time with the sun high in the sky (even if it’s behind clouds) is critical for these dreamy winter wedding photos!
Have A Back-Up Plan
Ugh, so annoying, I know. But the key to winter weddings (well, really ANY wedding) is FLEXIBILITY. When you’re looking at venues, you want to make CERTAIN that there’s the ability of a backup set up plan just in case. Ashley and Jared actually held their ceremony outdoors and while this isn’t exactly common for a January wedding, there was a backup plan set aside just in case the weather got extreme. Remember that a backup plan not only includes the space/area to hold the ceremony, but also the PEOPLE/staff to actually set up the chairs and ceremony space. The last thing you want is for your family/bridesmaids running around frantically trying to set everything up.
Something to remember about flowers is that they can be really sensitive to temperature – cold or hot. One of our main objectives during both of these weddings was to make sure that the flowers were not exposed to the cold temps for long periods of time. Ashley mentioned that all of her floral decor for her outdoor ceremony was fake – and I didn’t even realize it! So, make sure that you have a spot indoors to keep your bouquets until it’s time to take them outdoors for photos. Makenzie had the perfect set up for her flowers! They were all tucked away right inside ready to be quickly grabbed when it was time to go outside for photos!
This is probably my biggest tip for ANY wedding, but more-so for a winter wedding. You need to ensure that there is extra time in your timeline for photos. I’ll get into more detail in the next section as to why, but just be prepared that you’re going to want plenty of extra time. For my CFP Brides, we’ll work through all of this during your timeline coaching session!
Photo Locations Near An Indoor Space
Extremely, extremely important! Whether or not you decide to do a first look, the location for your photos NEEDS to be right next to an indoor space. The KEY to successful winter photos is doing them in small “spurts” in 10-15 minute increments. Our bodies (and faces) do NOT do well in the cold and if you’re physically feeling miserable, you’re going to LOOK miserable in the photos, and that’s not your fault! Best practice is to have everyone waiting on standby in the warm indoor space, and when we’re ready for photos, we come out and work as quickly and efficiently as possible, then we head back inside for a few minutes to warm up. I know you may be thinking it’s easier just to “tough it out” and get them all done at one time, but I promise you, this doesn’t work. This is why it’s so crucial to allot plenty of “warming up” time within your timeline because photos will take a little longer than normal because especially when it’s 20 degrees outside, our bodies cannot sustain those temps for an extended amount of time without moving (like, standing still for photos)
An Experienced Photographer
Okay, truly, this is not just a plug for myself and CFP, but an experienced photographer is 100% crucial for winter weddings. As I confessed in the first paragraph of this post, I’ve discovered that winter weddings are a whole other situations and require an entirely different set of planning, prep and gear maintenance. Let’s talk about how my entire camera/lens fogged up during first look and I shot it practically BLIND. Not kidding, and I’m not giving away which wedding that was at either 😛 This old dog has certainly learned some new tricks, but It also made me understand the value and need for my previous experience, not only with my camera but with the management of a wedding day, the ability to be flexible and think on my feet and my leadership skills while directing the bridal party and family members who are COLD and would probably rather be inside than outside with me where it’s freezing. If you’re planning a winter wedding, ask your photographer if this is something they have experience with, and if not send them my way! I LOVE to help and educate and I’d be more than happy to give them a few tips. Maybe one day I’ll even write another blog post about what photographers need to do to plan for a winter wedding!
Yes, You’re Going To Be Cold
Alright, you’re having a winter wedding! What do you expect? Haha! I say this lightheartedly, but seriously, prepare for the fact that you’re going to be slightly cold and uncomfortable for a short amount of time on the wedding day. That’s why it’s SO important not to underestimate the temps, even if they don’t feel “that bad” as you’re walking from your car into the venue. Bring extra layers, plan for extra “warm up” time and for a little bit, suck it up (lol!) because the photos are totally going to be worth it!!
HandWarmers – The Gift From The Winter Wedding Gods
Ooooook, I think I had handwarmers and toewarmers tucked in every crevice I could find LOL!! These little bad boys really throw off some heat and are AWESOME to have there for your guests and your wedding party! They also have bigger ones that are called body warmers, and I tucked one of them underneath my shirt on my back, secured underneath my bra strap. Sorry, TMI but if you’re reading this, you know I like to give you helpful tips that are legit and let me tell you, this tip was LEGIT and really helped keep me toasty warm! You can buy them in bulk on Amazon HERE
EXTRA – A WaterProof Wedding Dress Bag!
This one totally caught me by surprise and wasn’t something I had thought about! Ashley, our January bride, gave me this tip and I think it’s GENIUS! Let’s all remember that snow is just frozen water and when it melts, IT’S WET. Obviously you don’t want your dresses or tuxes getting wet, so Ashley actually ordered….wait for it…AN 8FT CHRISTMAS TREE BAG! They are waterproof and huge which makes them perfect for transporting wedding day attire! I thought this was BRILLIANT and I’m so happy Ashley shared this little tip with me!
There you have it! My best tips and tricks for planning a winter wedding! Both weddings certainly came with a few challenges but the photos were SO worth it!! I’ve been thrilled with the amount of interest in winter weddings since we’ve shared about Makenzie & Chris and Ashley & Jared and I can’t wait to see if CFP gets to bundle up a few more times for the winter!