We LOVE winter weddings. And I mean LOVE.
And for some reason, we tend to shoot quite a few of them, which is kind of rare for photographers! Every year we have several November – February weddings, and we think they’re the best. Partially because winter is my favorite season, and partially because I think there are so many great, unique things about winter weddings that you just don’t get to experience during the rest of the year! Bonfires, cozy spaces, warm drinks and appetizers… I just love that vibe.
But there are a few things that you have to do a little differently at winter weddings, especially when it comes to taking pictures! So here we go – some winter wedding tips, from a natural light wedding photographer!
Winter Wedding Tips
Do a first look, because the sun sets early.
I know you know this – sunset happens wicked early in winter. But that actually makes a big difference in how your wedding day flows if you want to take pictures outside in natural light!
We plan for about 1.5 hours of portrait time for all couple and wedding party portraits on a wedding day. That means that we should plan to be finishing all of your outdoor portraits ~1.5 – 2 hours before sunset, not before your ceremony! If sunset is around 4PM, that means starting pictures around 2PM. If you have a big wedding party and everyone is getting their makeup and hair done, that means you’ll probably have to start that process earlier in the day, so plan for that!
If you’re having an outdoor ceremony and you don’t want to do a first look, just remember to make sure your ceremony is finishing about 1.5-2 hours before sunset time!
Choose a photographer that does full-day coverage, not hourly coverage.
We’re a fan of full-day coverage in general because we think it allows for a more fun, relaxed photography experience (and you don’t have to worry about photography costs adding up if you choose to add extra hours to your wedding package last minute – you know your photographers will be there from start to finish!).
But I promise I’m not just trying to just sell you on full-day coverage here. Think about it: if your ceremony isn’t until 7PM and the sun sets at 4PM, you’re paying for 3 hours of photography coverage when your photographers can’t do much except take pictures of your venue and your flowers. What a waste of 3 hours of your 8 hour photography package! That probably means paying for several more hours of coverage, and those costs add up quickly.
We used to do hourly coverage, and it actually was one specific winter wedding a few years ago that made us change to full day coverage. So for winter weddings in particular, we think this is a really important consideration.
Stay on time.
I always encourage couples to minimize variables that could lead to them running behind on their wedding day timeline. But for winter weddings, I really encourage that because of that early sunset time. If we run behind schedule, we don’t have time later in the day to make up for that because the sun will already be gone! So go the extra mile, and make sure your hair and makeup team can get you ready on time, and plan for ample transportation time to get to/from your venues!
Choose a photographer that is comfortable with flash.
Outdoor portraits with natural light? Always a yes for me. But if things run behind, or if you end up having to take some portraits inside, you NEED a photographer who is extremely comfortable with using flash… and using it well.
You also won’t have any natural light streaming through windows during your ceremony and reception. So your photographer needs to be able to handle that!
Don’t wait outside in the cold!
It sounds simple, but practically, this is important: if you’re “meeting at the venue” for family pictures before the ceremony, plan to have an indoor, heated space as a holding area for your family/wedding party before pictures. Don’t stand out in the cold any longer than you absolutely have to!
Dress appropriately, and accessorize!
Now is the time to break out some cute matching shawls for your bridesmaids. If you can, I’d even consider wearing a discrete wool layer under your tux/dress (we’ve seen it happen before!). If you’re choosing a natural light photographer, you’re going to be outside for at least some length of time. Plan for that!
Splurge on florals.
If you want your wedding to feel lush and romantic even on a cold winter day, splurging on a few extra floral installations will go a long way to make things feel more natural and romantic! I always recommend that if you’re going to splurge on anything in the floral department, splurge on your bouquet and on your bridesmaid bouquets because they’re in so many of your pictures! This is also the time to embrace a lot of holiday decor that may already be in place at your venue, so plan around that – it may even save you a little money!
Keep your guests warm and cozy.
Prioritize creating warm, inviting spaces, and don’t neglect space heaters! Leave blankets outside for your guests to keep them warm if they choose to take a little break from the fun, and have warm food and drinks ready for them when they arrive at cocktail hour – a hot toddy, a hot chocolate bar, cafe lights, a bonfire, warm passed appetizers… these things all go a long way when it comes to keeping your guests comfortable and embracing the “vibe” of a winter wedding!
Embrace the season.
Can it look cold and dreary outside in winter? Yes. Can you still get amazing outdoor pictures in winter? YES! Winter is my favorite time to embrace urban portrait spaces, and even utilize indoor spaces with lots of window light.
Lindsay Campbell is a wedding photographer specializing in natural, romantic wedding photography with a bright and airy film look. She photographs weddings in Chattanooga, Franklin, Nashville, Sewanee, and the surrounding areas, and travels across the country to photograph weddings! If you’re looking for a Chattanooga wedding photographer, Sewanee wedding photographer, Nashville wedding photographer, or Franklin wedding photographer, get in touch!