Last year almost 30,000 couples exchanged their wedding vows in Scotland. Almost 25% of those couples are eloping to Scotland from abroad and might not be too familiar with the local weather and light conditions during the winter months. Every couple will have their own reasons why they choose a wedding date at a certain time of the year, but especially couples who wish to exchange their vows during the winter months should bear a few things in mind for their winter wedding plans.
This article will highlight a few key considerations for your perfect winter wedding day, a lot of them based on my own experience taking photographs of weddings during the winter months.
When you hear the words “winter wedding”, cold and crisp winter days spring to mind, blue skies and a snowy winter wonderland. Even though Scotland often delivers amazing winter landscapes - especially further north - you can see from the below information that you need to plan for a few extra things.
The coldest months in Scotland are December, January and February with average temperatures ranging from 0 degrees to 5 degrees. Occasionally, there is a frost in Scotland, and every few years there is a heavy winter with lots of snow.
When you travel from abroad, you might think 5 degrees centigrade is not that cold. However, you need to bear in mind that the humidity in Scotland is very high, which means it feels much colder. People in Scotland refer to a “damp cold” which crawls right into your bones. So if there are elements on your wedding day that take place outside, such as a confetti shower, wedding photography, a walk from the venue to a nearby ceremony location, fireworks or a birds-of-prey display, you need to plan for additional clothing and potentially umbrellas.
In the Central Belt in Scotland - the region around Edinburgh and Glasgow - there are only around seven hours of daylight in December and January, with the sun rising around 9 am, and it disappears around 3.30 - 4 pm. It starts to get dark from around 3 pm. The further north you travel in Scotland, the darker it gets during the winter months, and the shorter are the days. Most wedding ceremonies I photograph take place at 2 pm. This seems to be the “traditional” ceremony time in Scotland. However, for a winter wedding, I recommend a 1 pm ceremony, if:
The ceremony can last between 15 and 45 minutes, and with a little bit of time with your family and friends after the ceremony, your photographer still has the chance to use daylight for your wedding photographs. Once the sun is down, your photographer will have to rely on flash for all your photographs outside, and it will become more difficult to incorporate any landmarks into your wedding photographs, such as the venue, the park or the countryside.
Also check my overview of sunset times in Scotland at different times of the year.
I have seen many brides and bridesmaids shivering in a bare-shoulder dress, but still came outside with me for their photographs. A long-sleeved wedding dress or a faux-fur stole will definitely help with the cold. You might also want to opt for thicker tights under your dress to keep warm during the day. Make sure you plan for your bridesmaids too.
A lot of old mansion houses and castles in Scotland are for many couples the most romantic setting for a winter wedding, but some of them do not have central heating. Also, if your ceremony takes place in a church, they often switch the heating on an hour or two before the ceremony and the building can feel very cold. Religious ceremonies do take longer - plan at least 30-40 minutes - after which you might feel utterly frozen.
You might want to keep a hand warmer with you (see below). They are inexpensive and can make all the difference.
If you think your ceremony venue might be cold, you could provide a snuggly blanket for your guests. An inexpensive throw might make all the difference to your guests' wellbeing and they can keep it for later on, and then take it home.
Wear moisturiser leading up to your wedding as make-up doesn’t bind as well to dry skin. Use lip balm to prevent cracked skin or sores before your wedding day.
Organise a second pair of shoes, or even wedding wellies for your photo session. You do not want to sink in the wet ground with your wedding heels.
There are two things to consider in the winter when you plan your wedding transport. Plan extra travel time due to roads being icy. Also, I have seen it several times that the bride arrives in a vintage car only to find out on the wedding day that it does not have any heating. So if your travel time from your getting-ready location to the ceremony venue is more than 10 minutes, make sure you take an extra jacket for the car.
Some of your guests might not make it to your wedding. Especially in December, people spend a lot of money in the lead-up to Christmas and might not be able to afford the added cost of attending a wedding. Guests might also be delayed due to flight delays or difficult traffic conditions.
Some flowers are only available at certain times of the year so check with your florist that your favourite flowers are available during your wedding month, as there might be restrictions to your choice of flowers. And why not replace centre-pieces with candle centre-pieces? Dress up your wedding with lots and lots of candles. It’s so romantic and it can really make a difference. Candles make a much bigger impact during the darker winter months than in the summer, where they can look lost in amongst the decorations.
You can opt for mulled wine instead of champagne during your reception to keep your guests warm. Or your venue can give the guests the option of a hot toddy after the wedding ceremony. A hot toddy is a mix of whisky, hot water and honey - and it's delicious!
Go colour wild! Every winter wedding I have photographed was so rich in colour - just perfect for your winter wedding dreams. Dark reds, blues, greens - just play and dress it up.
Many wedding venues charge a lot less during the winter months, because winter weddings are much less popular than weddings during the summer. So it will be much easier to find a venue with your desired wedding date still free in their diary. Some suppliers also have discounted rates for their services.