I tip my hat to those of you who are brave enough for a wintery elopement or intimate wedding. Winter weddings are absolutely breathtaking and are an adventure that you’ll NEVER forget. But unless you’re local or from a similar area, you may never have experienced the kind of cold or rapidly changing light we have here in Jackson Hole in the winter months. So here’s a few tips to keep in mind so that you feel totally prepared and comfortable on your big day!
LIGHTING AND WEATHER
The winter months bring some fun challenges. The sun will often set between 4:30-5pm in the winter months, but is extremely bright and harsh before it starts to set. Unlike summer months, this means that the window of flattering lighting is quite short, usually between 2:30ish-5pm, and so that’s something your photographer will coach you to when planning your timeline. Also, the weather can be extremely unpredictable this time of year. If possible (and this is much easier with elopements!), allow for flexibility in your schedule if circumstances permit.
PAD YOUR SCHEDULE
I advise my couples to pad their timelines year-round–someone is always inevitably running late, or they’re dying for golden hour photos and don’t want to feel rushed against the setting sun!–but this is especially important in winter elopements. Personally, I feel like the Tetons bring a different kind of cold, and when you get past the point of just being cold, it’s no fun and can be quite dangerous. If possible, select a location with parking nearby, and plan to take breaks regularly to warm up in front of the heater in your car before you go out again. Allow time in your schedule so that you CAN take a break if you’re cold and uncomfortable without worrying that it’s getting too dark or that you don’t have enough time to get it all done. I always have a conversation with my couples at the beginning of their day or in a pre-planning session and communicate that once we get started, I’ll do my photographer thing, but will also check in on their comfort level. If they are cold and uncomfortable or just need a break, I ask them to let me know as soon as they feel it, so that everyone gets the best out of the day and the memories are sweet and not frozen!
CLOTHING AND GEAR
I highly recommend layers on layers for a winter wedding or elopement. Consider wearing base layers underneath your suit, bridal gowns, or other chosen wedding attire. Ladies, if you choose a long-sleeved dress, you can easily wear a long-sleeved flesh colored top underneath to fight the wind chill. Get warmers like the brand Hot Hands and put them in your shoes, pockets, and really anywhere else that you can think of–it’s so easy to hide one in between your hands and bouquet! I also highly recommend the peel-and-stick body warmers that can go under literally any piece of clothing. Wear snow boots–you really won’t see them anyway except in a lift picture. Incorporate a cute throw blanket or shawl (I love Pendleton for this reason!)–it makes for cute cuddly photos. Lastly, you’d be surprised at how dehydrated you can get in freezing temps and high altitudes, so bring and drink water (even if you aren’t feeling thirsty!), and also a nourishing snack–shivering will make you STARVING!
GUESTS AND FAMILY PHOTOS
Planning to have an indoor cocktail hour and reception space available to your guests to stay warm before and after your ceremony is crucial to keep the day running smoothly and without making anyone uncomfortable. I would encourage you to share with them the above tips on having disposable warmers available to them! Something I run into a lot of times with my clients is that they don’t anticipate the difference in warmth between wearing a suit or a dress and being active in their ski gear. Taking the time to plan and prepare yourself can make a world of difference for you and your guests to focus on your love story & celebration!
TIPS FOR MY FELLOW PHOTOGRAPHERS
Photographers, if you’ve never shot for multiple hours in snow, this is for you. The above tips will definitely apply to you as well, but you have added considerations for your gear and mobility. You need to bundle up so that your hands can work the settings of your camera, but also so that you have the ability to move anywhere to get the perfect shot–even into a 3 foot drift–without getting soaking wet and then rapidly cold. Plan ahead to have waterproof snow pants if you need them, and a dry outfit as a backup, especially if you are photographing a reception afterwards! Also, be prepared for the cold weather to absolutely zap your batteries. Bring several backups and keep your camera and/or batteries inside your coat (for your body heat) if possible. Also, bring lens cloths and rags in case snow gets on your gear, or if your lens fogs with the temperature change.