Pretty much the worst nightmare for anyone who’s spent the last 10 months planning a sweet party and banking on enjoying some beautiful outdoor spaces… rain. Never mind the old saying that rain on your wedding day is good luck. Almost no one actually wants it to rain on their wedding day.

Of course, there’s some good reasons to embrace the rain if that’s what you end up with. A notable example being that you can’t do anything about it, so resisting the changes the rain brings is really only hurting you. Also, rain on your wedding day will make so many wedding day stories that much better—even the ones that are kind of frustrating at the moment.

Whether rain or shine, you’re almost certainly going foreword with your wedding day and since that’s true, it’s important to know how it’s going to effect the outcome of the images you’ve hired someone to create for you. Also, Once the excitement of a wedding  is underway, you’re not necessarily equipped to make long-lasting practical decisions about your wedding photography anymore. So it’s incredibly valuable to know what trade-offs might need to be made to make rain decisions ahead of time.

Making Light vs. Finding Light

Do you know how many photographers start quaking in their boots when they see rain in the forecast for their wedding day? The answer is in the neighborhood of “some, to a lot”.

When it comes to creating wedding day portraits, photographers overwhelmingly rely on natural light sources. In the case of a wedding day, this is really the most efficient way to shoot. Your photographer skips all the time needed for lighting design and looks for places in the real world that have the qualities of light they’re looking for.

Perhaps you see where I’m going with this.

If it rains and your photographer is not able to rely on natural light for your portraits, they’re going to need extra time to design a light setup—(something a lot of photographers are unfortunately still clueless about). It might be simple, or it might be more complex, but either way they’ll have to give time and attention to that, instead of something else.

Variety vs. Continuity

Another consideration is that once light has been designed for a scene, it’s not necessarily going to just fit into a different scene without redesigning the light to some extent. Of course, some portion of this time is just for the practical aspects of getting lights on stands, and softboxes constructed. But the colors of the walls, the size and shape of space available, obstructing objects, and shifting ambient light all come into play and also require time to work with.

So, that creates a question of variety and continuity as well. If it takes 15 minutes to design light for a scene, it might take another 10 minutes in a new scene. So, the most efficient way to shoot portraits when we can’t take advantage of the natural light outdoors is to design light for one nice looking scene and then move people in and out of it until all the portraits are created. That’s going to give the final images a lot of strong continuity, but very little creative variety.

For more variety, your photographer can shoot a couple arrangements with one set up, then move and shoot a couple more arrangements, then move and shoot a couple more. This yields variety more like what you’d get if you had the luxury of shooting outdoors, but it takes 20-30% longer.

Moments With Your Guests vs. Images of Your Family & Wedding Party

Couple’s who see the real value in their wedding photography have to decide what tradeoffs they’re willing to make. Making these decision right in the moment might lead to regret, so you want to think about the real implications of these things now.

We suggest making, and coming to terms with, one of these three decisions in case it rains on your wedding day:

“We will take fewer similar portraits and try to get to the reception on time.”

Your photographer will focus on creating one good light set up and create only the most important portraits all in the same way. The results might be a little boring until many years down the line and some extended relatives might not make the cut, but you’ll probably get to your reception and have that time with your friends and family there instead.

“We will take lots of similar portraits and the reception will start late.”

Your photographer will focus on creating one good set-up and use it to create portraits with all the different groups of people, all in the same way. In this case, you’ll get portraits of all the people and groups you’re hoping for, but the results are going to be kind of boring, and you’re almost definitely going to have to extend the cocktail hour a bit.

“We will take lots of different kinds of portraits, with lots of different people, and the reception will start when it starts.”

Your photographer will keep a creative eye tuned and try to create unique and interesting images for most arrangements. The results here are going to be the works of art you were hoping for, and there will be a good amount of variety among them. You’ll have those images forever, so if the artistry in your images is a high priority for you, this is what you should do. But on the flip side, this is going to take the most time and your guests are almost sure to wait quite a bit longer.

What will you decide?

As I’ve said, make these decisions with each other and your photographer ahead of time. Being late for the reception isn’t so bad if you’ve planned for it. Simplifying portraits also isn’t such a big deal if you’re happy with and can plan for what you’re getting instead. But let these decisions wait for the rainy, emotional morning of your wedding day and you’ll find them much harder to cope with. Not to mention capturing a happy and lighthearted version of you  gets pretty tricky when you’re stressing out.

If it ends up raining, then there is no way to avoid tradeoffs. If you ask our opinion, we’re always going to side with creating more portraits because those are the images that end up on your walls or sitting on the fireplace mantel or atop your piano and you’ll have them forever. But, we also know everyone’s priorities are different. We recommend spending time discussing these questions privately, and making decisions together about how to respond if you’re faced with the rain.