It’s your wedding day. A day that you’ve been thinking about and planning for months and in some cases years. Nothing could possibly go wrong. Right? In most cases this is true but not when it comes to Mother Nature and not when it comes to heading out into the great outdoors for your wedding photography.
As those who had weddings in Edmonton this past weekend can attest to, Mother Nature doesn’t always appreciate the fact that it’s your wedding day. When Sarah and I were married back in July of 2004, Edmonton experienced a violent downpour resulting in parts of the Whitemud along with many basements being flooded. So what happens if Mother Nature decides to ruin your day with a flash flood, a violent downpour, a freak snow storm, or some other natural event that has everyone running indoors to escape her wrath? Fortunately for us – we had a backup plan.
It all begins with proper planning between you and your photographer. When we meet with our brides and grooms, we always make it clear to them that they need to have a backup location in mind and it is their responsibility to book something in the event of bad weather. The last thing you want to be doing on your wedding day is scrambling to find a good location so it’s a good idea to work out where you will go in advance so that everyone involved in photographs knows where to go in the event of bad weather. Here are five things to consider when planning to have your photography and/or wedding ceremony in the great outdoors:
1. Location, Location, Location
Once you’ve decided where your ceremony and reception are taking place, try to look for an indoor location that is conveniently located near where your ceremony or reception is taking place. The further away your backup location is, the more time you’ll spending getting to it which means the less time you and your photographer will have for photos. Also, if you plan to have your family photos done at an alternate location, keep in mind that it may take family members some time to get there and no matter how good your directions, there’s usually someone in every family who will get lost on the way.
If you are planning an outdoor ceremony, try to pick a backup location that is very close to where the outdoor ceremony was to take place. That will make it easier to redirect your guests to the new location when they arrive and if you have to pull any decorations indoors, you won’t have as far to go.
Consider the people on your guest list who will be attending the wedding. Are any of them in wheelchairs or need to use a walker? If they are going to be involved in the family photos, are they able to access the location easily? If the location involves climbing stairs to get to the area where you plan to do photos, will they be able to get there? Is the area handicap accessible? What about parking? You might pick what you think is the best indoor location but if grandma and grandpa can’t get there then it will be difficult for them to be in the photographs.
3. Availability & Affordability
There are only a limited number of great indoor locations in Edmonton where you can go for photographs. Many of the most popular venues such as the Muttart Conservatory, Art Gallery of Alberta, McGrath Mansion, and Rutherford House require you to book the space in advance and many also charge a fee to book the space. During the busy summer months, many of these locations book up to a year in advance. Fees will vary from location to location but in all cases the fee is typically non-refundable even if you don’t wind up using the space for your photography. The best way to think about this fee is as a form of wedding photography insurance. You hope you won’t need to use it but if the weather doesn’t allow you to do your photos outdoors, you’ll be glad you paid it.
If you are getting married in a church, many couples choose to use it as a backup location for family photos if they can’t go outside. If you’re planning on this option, find out if there is another wedding taking place after yours. If so, you may have to clear out as soon as your ceremony is over which means you won’t be able to use it as your backup indoor location.
4. Size of the Location vs. Size of Your Group
Before you book a location, consider it’s size relative to the size of your wedding party and family. If you plan on doing a lot of large family groupings, make sure the space that you’ve selected can accommodate everyone. Places like the Muttart Conservatory might look like a great location for photography but because of the way it’s laid out, it’s not the best location to photograph a large group of people. If you have a smaller group or plan to do more intimate family photos involving a small group, you may find that there are a few more locations for you to choose from.
5. Check with Your Photographer
Most experienced photographers have likely had to deal with adverse weather conditions and wedding parties who weren’t prepared with a backup plan. Ask your photographer for their advice on locations where you might be able to go but don’t wait until the night before to spring this on them. If you haven’t booked a location in advance, start looking at the long range weather forecast and if it doesn’t look good, start coming up with a Plan B. Before you book a location, seek the advise of your photographer on the suitability of a particular location. You might have your heart set on a particular location but if it is poorly lit or is crowded with distracting backgrounds, it might not be ideal for photography. If you find yourself short on options, let your photographer know about the location you’ve chosen so that they can scout it out if they haven’t been there before. Professional photographers with proper lighting gear can find creative ways to make just about any location work but lugging extra gear and setting up lighting will require some additional time so be sure to allow enough time for this. Being able to cope with adverse weather conditions and think on their feet is one of the areas where a Professional photographer will start to separate themselves from the ‘shoot and burn’ photographers you’ll find on sites like Kijiji.
No matter how much planning you do, at the end of the day, if Mother Nature decides she doesn’t want to cooperate by delivering perfect weather, there isn’t much you can do about it. Smile, relax, embrace the elements, and try to have fun with it. Worst cast scenario – pull out the umbrellas, put on some fancy rubber boots and take advantage of the stormy skies for some dramatic photographs. If you have a good backup plan in place however, you’ll reduce your stress levels and hopefully have some great stories to tell about your wedding day.