We have a really special treat for our readers today- especially those interested in a winter destination wedding! Today we share Cat from Wild Connections Photography‘s brilliant Winter Wedding Guide. Cat is a destination wedding photographer, based in Austria, that specialises in Alpine and Scandinavian region winter weddings- so she really knows her stuff. This guide is simply invaluable for couples thinking of travelling abroad for a beautiful winter wedding. You can also download her amazing guide here in full. 

“There’s no hiding that winter is my favourite time of year. I used to avoid summer completely by flying from one hemisphere of the globe to the other to teach other winter lovers how to ski and snowboard. And being in the wedding industry hasn’t changed that a bit. And if you’re reading this, you’re probably a lover on winter, snowflakes and cosy nights by the fireplace. So this guide is for you. How to plan your dream winter wedding!”

WHERE IN THE WORLD?

Once you’ve decided that you want to have a winter wedding, the search is on to find the perfect location. You might already have somewhere in mind, or perhaps you just have a vision in

your head of your perfect day and now the challenge is to find a fitting location.

The most popular winter wedding destinations in Europe fall in to two main categories:

Alpine Regions – Such as Austria, Switzerland, Italy and France

Scandinavian Regions – Lapland (northern Norway, Finland & Sweden) and Iceland

In order to find your dream winter wedding destination, consider the following points:

The Overall Vibe and Setting You Have In Mind

Do you dream of snow-capped mountain peaks, skiing down the pistes in your wedding gear, and having a good old apres-ski style knees up in a ski chalet. Or is your dream to travel to your wedding by husky sleigh and watch the northern lights under the frozen arctic skies and sleep in an igloo on your wedding night?

The Experience You Want

Similar to thinking about the overall vibe, think about the experience that you want to have, and that you want your guests to have. In the alps you got options such as skiing, snowboarding and tobogganing. In the northern regions you’ve got reindeer and husky sledding, snow shoeing and northern lights safaris. You’ll also find more igloos and ice hotels in the Scandinavian regions although there are also some in the alpine regions now too.

The Time Of Year You Want To Marry & The Climate

If you’ve decided on a winter wedding, you probably want a snowy winter wonderland. December to March are the best months for locations in the northern hemisphere that usually receive the most snowfall, but due to climate change, the winters are becoming a lot more unpredictable. Many regions in the alps haven’t had significant snowfalls before January in the last few years.

The next thing to think about is the number of daylight hours. In winter the days are shorter, and the further north you travel, the shorter the days become. Lapland is beautiful in the winter time but in December and January but you may only have 3-4 hours of daylight, compared to around 7-8 hours in the month of February.

Also look at the average weather and temperatures for the winter months in the different destinations. If you want to experience the snow but not sub- freezing temperatures, early spring time might be better than mid-winter. It’s not unusual for example, to still have plenty of snow on the mountains in the alps in March and have temperatures of around 15- 20°C in the sunshine.

Ease of Planning

Is this location in an area where you feel confident planning the wedding and contacting suppliers yourself or would you need a wedding planner to arrange everything for you?

Ease (and Cost) Of Travel

Is your dream destination easy to get to? Can you get direct flights to a nearby airport with convenient options for onward travel? It’s useful to check out your travel options before booking any venue to make sure that it’s both straightforward and affordable to reach.

Average Costs Of Weddings In That Location

Some destinations have a reputation for being expensive, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to find a perfect location that also fits your budget. Ask around in Facebook groups and online forums for advice from couples who’ve got married in the same areas if you’re not sure about the costs. Also research the high and low tourist seasons in the area. Although this might not directly affect the prices of your wedding suppliers, the costs of travel and accommodation could increase greatly if you visit in the high season.

Legal Requirements

If you’re planning on have a legally binding ceremony abroad, make sure you find out if that is actually possible as a non-resident of that country, and what the restrictions are, if any. If you’ve decided to sign the official papers before you leave home, you’ll have a lot more options open to you in terms of where you can have your overseas ceremony.

CHOOSING YOUR WEDDING DREAM TEAM

You’ve decided on a destination and you’re now looking for the perfect team to bring your ideas to life. When you choose the right suppliers for your wedding day, they can help turn your wedding dreams in to a reality.

Here are a few tips to help you find the best team for your wedding:

Do Your Research

Take you time and research as many suppliers as you can for the area that you are going to be getting married. Whilst there are people that offer simple, out of the box packages, you might miss out on some incredible suppliers that work independently, who could create you a completely unique and unforgettable day.

– Get specific in your searches
Google is a great starting place but it doesn’t always guarantee the best people for you will be at the top of your search results. When you search for example “Wedding Photographer Iceland”, google will trawl websites and list often thousands of results. And whilst you may find what you are looking for right at the top, the chances are, you’ll just get bombarded with lots of suggestions that are not what you want. Try instead of searching for previous weddings at your venue or town, for example “Budir Wedding Iceland”. This is likely to bring up plenty of posts and images of previous events at your very location, so you can see who was involved in creating the wedding.
– Look on wedding blogs
Weddings blogs are an amazing resource to find vendors as you can see highlights from weddings and most usually list all of the people involved. If you see something you like the style of, make a note of the people involved to add to your “must contact” list.
– Facebook groups and forums
You might be surprised how many groups there are on Facebook set up to provide a forum for destination weddings, where past and future brides can look for information and advice, from people that have been there and done it. Many wedding blogs also have forums linked to them that provide a platform for people to ask questions in the community.

Initiating Contact

Once you’ve got a shortlist of names, visit each of their websites and look at their previous work. Do you love their style and the way that they work. Is their website clear and professional? Do they have testimonials from previous clients? Do you get a good feeling from reading their about me page? Do they offer a personal consultation before booking, either in person or via a service such as Skype? The best way to make your first contact with prospective suppliers is to email them. When you send them your first email enquiry, try to include as much information about your and your wedding plans in your email, and not just a message with “Please can you send us your price list”. This enables that supplier to tailor their response to you.

Picking The Right People For The Job

Once you’ve started getting responses to your enquiries, it’s time to start deciding who will be the best people for you and your wedding day. Whilst considering your budget is important, try not to compare the suppliers on their prices alone, as suppliers prices may vary widely depending on their level of experience and the quality of the services that they offer. Some of the things that you should consider when making your final decisions include:

– How quickly did they respond to your enquiry?
This can be a big indicator of how things are likely to be down the line. If they are slow at responding to the initial enquiry then there is a chance that they might be slow at responding to all emails and communication. You should expect a response within 48 hours or at least an out-of-office notice if they are unlikely to be able to respond in a timely matter.

– Did they seem genuinely interested in your wedding?
Most suppliers involved in the wedding industry do their jobs because they love what they do and they love weddings. And their passion shines through in their work and all of their communications. Did they ask about you or want to find out more about your wedding plans or did you just get a generic response?

– Were you able to schedule a Skype call with them to talk about your wedding plans before signing a contract?
Tone and meaning can often be misread in emails and text messages and sometimes you just need to have a good chat with someone to get to know them. Being able to talk to each other, either on the phone, over Skype or in person is a great way to see if you’re personalities are a good match too.

– Do they fit in your budget?
If the answer is yes, then that’s perfect!
If the answer is no, but you think this supplier is someone that you’d really like to work with, ask yourself if you can adjust your budget and perhaps spend less in other areas in order to work with them. Be honest with them about your budget. Whilst many suppliers will not discount for the sake of discounting as they will not want to upset the clients that have paid full price, they might be able to make you a special tailor-made package to fit your budget. And if they can’t work to your budget, they might be able to suggest other suppliers with a similar style who are within your budget.

– Have they worked at your venue before?
Some couples want suppliers that know their destination inside and out and work there regularly, while others like bringing in a fresh new team who will approach the day with a fresh pair of eyes. Of course both have their advantages and disadvantages, so think about what’s most important to you. If one of your preferred suppliers has not worked in your particular location before but you love work and their portfolio suggests that they are experienced in working in different locations, then there’s no reason not to consider them

– Are they are proper, legitimate business?
This is the least romantic part but it’s important that the people you chose are legitimate. You should already have a good idea about this if you’ve read testimonials or seen their work published on wedding blogs, but even so, if you’re not sure then ask them. Is this their full time job or do they do it as a side job? Are weddings their main priority? Do they have insurance? Once you make a decision, make sure you have all agreements in writing. This means that you should expect to receive a contract to sign and pay a deposit in order to secure their services. Emails are the best way to communicate and any verbal communication should be followed up in writing too. Try to avoid messaging via social media, as not only can these messages be overlooked, but in many countries they would not be admissible if a dispute was taken to court.

– Do you feel comfortable trusting them with one of the most important days of your life?
Weddings are personal, intimate occasions, not just business transactions. After all of the formal steps are said and done, sometimes you need to follow your gut instincts and go with the people that feel like they are the best fit for you and your wedding day. The ones that fill you with excitement and inspiration.

Once you’ve decided on your wedding supplier dream team, do remember to thank the other suppliers that you contacted and let them know that you won’t be needing their services.

PLANNING YOUR WEDDING TIMELINE

One of the biggest challenges when planning a winter wedding is having to consider the number of hours of daylight that you’ll have, especially if you’ve chosen a location far in the north where, in the depth of winter the sun may only appear for a few short hours. Ask anyone who’s been married and they’ll tell you the same thing. The wedding day that you’ve spent months planning will fly by so quickly. And once it’s over, it will be your wedding photographs that you turn to on your anniversary every year to remember how amazing it was. So it’s really important to consider how you want your photographs to look when you’re planning your wedding day timeline.

Good photography is all about light, and the best (and most flattering) light is natural sunlight. If you want to have your weddings pictures outside, taking in the beautiful scenery around you, you’re going to need some daylight for that. Whilst the most beautiful light is around one hour before the sunset, most photographers would be happy with any form of sunlight over darkness. Once it get’s dark, the only way to continue to take pictures is with a flash, which has a much harsher look to it. With that in mind, you have two potential scenarios for your wedding day timeline:

Scenario 1: An Early Ceremony
If you don’t want to see each other before the ceremony, you’ll need to consider an early ceremony with at least 45 minutes afterwards to take your couple pictures whilst it is still light.

Scenario 2: A First Look
If you’re ceremony is in the evening, consider holding a “first look” before the ceremony. Not only is this a lovely and intimate way to see each other for the first time on your wedding day, but you’ll be able to have some pictures in the daylight.

If you’ve got your heart set on a beautiful night shot with sparklers, or if you’re really lucky the northern lights, then there’s no reason why you can sneak away from the celebrations later in the night to do that too. As an extra service to my couples, I offer them help and guidance throughout the wedding planning process to make sure that they get the very best pictures of their wedding day.

BUDGETS: WHERE TO SPEND AND WHERE TO SAVE

Very few people plan a wedding with an unlimited budget. There are always areas where you know you need to cut back on your spending, and sometimes it can be overwhelming trying to find out ways to work with your budget. Sometimes it’s hard to know where you should cut down, and on what things you should make sure you allocate as much as possible. And there are endless contradicting articles online and in wedding magazines to just make things more confusing. Here are my thoughts on this topic, from my experience, both as a bride and as a wedding photographer:

WHERE TO SPEND

– The Dress.
This doesn’t mean it needs to be an expensive purchase from the a custom made designer, but it does need to be a dress that makes you feel absolutely amazing, whether it comes from a boutique or the high street. Don’t be tempted with a cheap knock-off from China on eBay. Go to bridal boutiques and raid the sale rails or search to see if you can find your dream dress on pre-loved if you are on a budget, or look on Etsy and ASOS and read the reviews before you purchase. If you don’t love your dress 100% it will show in your body language, so don’t sell yourself short in buying a cheap dress just because you want to save some money.

– The Photographer.
Some articles will tell you that you don’t need a professional photographer, since all of your guests will have iPhones anyway. Have you ever been on Facebook after a wedding? There certainly are loads of pictures from the wedding guests. I’m not sure how many of them the couple would really love printed in an album to pass on to their children though. Even a generous offer from that friend with a DSLR should be carefully considered. Do they have back-up equipment in case something happens to their camera? Would you be comfortable posing in front of them for portraits? I’ve seen too many posts where couples regret their decisions to skip on a pro photographer. A great photographer can make a cheap dress look like Vera Wang, but a bad one can make a Vera Wang look cheap. And don’t skimp on the hours either. A budget photography package will usually just include ceremony pictures and some portraits afterwards but you’ll miss all of those little moments that happen before the ceremony when you’re mum is helping you in to your wedding dress, and those moments when you’re crying with laughter at the best man’s speech in the evening. Those are the moments that you look back on once the wedding day has past, the moments that you forgot even happened, that make you smile every time you see them again and remind you about the whole day, how you felt, the emotions, the tears, the laughter. These moments are precious and are something you’ll cherish for a lifetime.

– A Destination Wedding Planner.
If you are getting married abroad, having a wedding planner may cost you a bit more, but you’ll sleep so much better at night knowing that everything is being taken care of. Especially if you are getting legally married overseas, they will make sure that everything is done correctly so that you are actually allowed to get married.

WHERE TO SAVE

– Forego the expensive floral decorations and swap for non-florals like lanterns and or paper pom-poms.

– DIY the stationary. You can find the most stunning templates online that you can personalise and get printed for a fraction of the cost. Or keep it environmentally friendly and skip printed invites all together. Paperless Post have beautifully designed invites that you can send via email. You can also add tracking and RSVPs to your email invites so you can keep track of them.

– Don’t send invites individually. If you know that some of your invitees see each other regularly, you could send a bunch of them to one person, and ask them to hand them out next time they see each other.

– Swap champagne for prosecco or cava. Most people won’t even notice and it’ll save you a nice sum of money

– Look for venues that allow you to bring your own drinks. Being able to supply your own wine alone can save you around €20 per bottle. Just check to see if there are any extra corkage fees involved.

– Keep the guest list small. Be ruthless. Do you really want your work colleagues or your third cousins that you’ve not seen for 10 years at your wedding? Ask yourself if these are people that you would buy lunch for? If not, they probably don’t need an invite to your wedding either.

 

WHAT TO WEAR

How to Keep Warm and Look Great 

When you think of a winter wedding, what locations come to mind? For me it’s either the snowy mountains of the alps or the frozen wonderland that is Lapland. Which ever direction you go, one thing is almost certain. Where there is snow, it’s going to be c-o-l-d! I say almost certain, as last winter I photographed a ski wedding on a mountain in Austria in March where the outside temperature was around 18°C and guests enjoyed a few cocktails in the sunshine! But for today, let’s talk about these really cold places, where temperatures can fall in to double figures freezing. Despite the inhuman level of coldness, winter weddings are magical and can be a totally unforgettable experience for everyone involved if you are prepared for it. I’ll share with you my top tips for looking fabulous, and also keeping warm so you can have the most incredible winter wedding:

The Bride

The Wedding Dress
Almost every bride dreams of finding her dream wedding dress, and a winter wedding bride is no different. When you are dress shopping, look for dresses that cover you up a bit more. Long sleeves, floor length and multiple layers of fabric will all help in keeping you a bit warmer whilst also looking gorgeous. A longer dress means you’ll have the option to wear some thermals underneath which you’ll be thankful for after the initial adrenaline of walking down the aisle wears off.

Extra Layers
Make sure you have extra layers that you can also wear over your dress. Think knitted cardigans or faux-fur boleros can be a stylish accessory but for even more warmth, consider investing in a high quality insulated jacket.

Underwear
Ok, let’s talk underwear for a second. Not those cute lace wedding night pants. I’m talking thermal long-johns like your mum used to make you wear. They aren’t attractive but they can be a real life-saver on a really cold day. Instead of one thicker thermal, opt for a few thinner layers made out of good quality fabrics such as merino wool or bamboo and you’ll notice the difference. I promise.

The Groom

I’m sorry boys, but it’s just so much easier for you. There are so many stylish options out there for men. You’ve got tweed and wool suits and flannel shirts. The look darn cool but they keep you really warm (see what I did there). You can also sneak a few layers of thermals underneath and nobody is going to notice. Score!

Everyone

Accessories
Hats, gloves and scarves are not only super cute but they really do help with keeping you warmer too. Even if you don’t want to wear a hats before the ceremony, consider bringing them along for later once the pictures have been taken. For warm fingers, swap gloves for mittens and for extra warmth, I recommend a pair of silk or wool glove liners for inside your mittens.

Shoes
Ok, can we get serious for a minute here. At almost every winter wedding I photographed in 2017 there were guests in high heels, which really are not the most sensible footwear when you’re surrounded by snow and ice. And this was a big problem when it came to the group photos, as instead of being able to get a beautiful family picture with snowy mountains in the background, we had to pick a “safe spot” along the outside of the building that had been cleared of the snow, so that people in high heels could walk too it. The best option here is to wear proper winter boots with a good tread on the bottom. There are so many really attractive looking ones on the market now too. Brands like Sorel are ones to check out.

Have A Change Of Clothes Available
You simply must have a proper winter jacket to put over the top for the in-between times, and you might actually want to consider letting everyone change in to warmer clothes after the main events have taken place if you’re going to be spending more time in the cold. This doesn’t mean you can’t still look awesome. You could even get white and black/navy ski suits if you still want to stand out.

KEEPING YOUR GUESTS HAPPY

Planning a destination wedding can be really exciting. Making sure that you keep your friends and family informed throught the planning stages means you’ll have a lot less to deal with in the last few weeks before your wedding. The chances are your guests will not be as familiar with your chosen location as you are, so it’s up to you to give them as much information as you can about the wedding in advance so that they can have a great experience too. Here are my top tips of things to do to keep your guests happy when planning a destination wedding:

1. Send out “Save the Dates”
As soon as you’ve decided on a date and a location, send out save the date cards or e-cards. Many people may need to plan their annual holidays around the wedding if it means taking more than a weekend off work.

2. Create a wedding website
Ignore anyone that disses wedding websites. They are a great help when planning a destination wedding. You can include information on the area, how to get there, hotel recommendations, weather forecasts and all sorts of other bits of information that you think you’re guests will find useful.

3. Create a little information pack with your invites
Not everyone may have access to the internet (although even my Grandmother is on Facebook these days), so having a small information pack with your invites is also a great way to win over your guests.

4. Arrange a group activity “in resort”
If time allows, try to arrange a group get-together once everyone arrives at the destination. It doesn’t need to be a traditional rehearsal dinner. It could be anything you like. For our wedding, we arranged for everyone to take a trip to the bobsled track. Those that didn’t take part were there cheering the rest of us on and seeing who went the fastest. It’s not only a great way to introduce everyone to each other before the wedding day, it allows them the chance to arrange other group activities amongst themselves, so that you can take a step back and relax before the wedding.

5. Keep track of everyone’s movements
By this, I mean having a list or spreadsheet with everyone’s arrival and departure dates, contact details and hotel information allows you to keep an overview on when you guests will be arriving and where they are staying. You could give everyone a copy of this information so that they don’t need to bother you when they want to contact each other. Appointing someone not in the bridal party as a main point of contact can also help making your guests feel taken care of without causing more stress for you.

TOP TIPS FOR AN ALPINE WEDDING 

I couldn’t think of a more perfect location for a wedding than at the top of a mountain, with a panorama surrounding you that rivals an image from National Geographic magazine. A mountain top wedding is a great choice for adventurous couples who want to incorporate their love of nature and adventure in to their wedding day. Whether it’s in Austria, Iceland or Norway, there are so many incredible locations to choose from, and considering the following tips will help you and your guests have an amazing experience in the mountains:

Choosing The Perfect Location

Ski resorts are great locations for mountain weddings and there are so many options across the alps. If you’re dreaming on saying I do on top of a mountain, consider ease of access. Can you drive up to the location or is there a ski lift to take you there? You’ll probably want to find a location that is close to a cable car as chair lifts aren’t ideal for non-skiers. Look at the running times of the lift and whether you’ll need to arrange accommodation on the mountain for the night or whether you can book a late lift down for all of your guests once the party is over.

Taking To The Slopes

I’ve had couples deciding to take to the slopes for a first ski instead of a first dance. If you’re dreaming of skiing on your wedding day then make sure you plan enough time to make it happen. There’s a lot more to coordinate than a standard wedding shoot. You’ll need to chat with your photographer in advance about where you are going to ski, and bear in mind things like what lift options are available. I certainly wouldn’t recommend going anywhere near a drag lift in a wedding dress! You also need to make sure your photographer is a confident skier so that they can keep up with you. When shopping for your wedding outfits make sure you can move comfortably in them and consider some matching accessories to help keep you warm. If timings don’t allow you to hit the slopes on your wedding day, but you really want some pictures of you skiing in your wedding outfits, consider booking your photographer for an extra shoot the day after the wedding. You’ll be free from time constraints and can enjoy going for a slide without worrying about getting wet or dirty.

Altitude Awareness

Ski resorts are usually areas of high altitude, which most people will not be acclimatised to. The air might feel cold but the sun is stronger at altitude and the snow reflects it’s rays back up so even on a cold and cloudy day, don’t forget to put sunscreen on. The other thing that catches people out in ski resorts is the effect of alcohol. You get drunk much faster and hangovers can be much worse, so don’t forget to keep hydrated too!

TOP TIPS FOR A LAPLAND WEDDING

Rue is an experienced wedding planner, who runs Sun and Snow Weddings. Spending the winter season living in Levi in Finland, Rue is a winter weddings guru. She plans the most perfect weddings for couples that want to tie the knot deep inside the arctic circle in the ultimate winter wonderland. Whether it’s a wedding in an ice palace, a rustic wooden kota or under the northern lights, Rue can make your winter wedding dreams come true. Want to learn more? Visit her website www.sunandsnowweddings.com to find out all about Lapland Weddings.

Packing for Your Trip

Lapland holidays are always quite casual, unlike most ski resorts – you won’t need anywhere near as many clothes as you think
Ensure you have good base layers – this is the most important part to keep warm – thermal socks, thermal pants, hat with double layer over your ears, scarf to cover your face, mittens and not gloves. You can have a thermal top, but I usually just have long sleeved jersey tops, fleeces with zips are much better than hoodies as you can then unzip when you’re inside.
Boots – thermal waterproof boots are a must – dry feet are warm feet. Night times in Lapland are casual and people don’t dress up, so jeans/leggings and your snow boots are very normal clothes for the bars/restaurants.

Outfits for Weddings in Snow Chapels

Brides: my advice is to have the dress you love and don’t think about the cold. Snow chapels are usually around -5 inside so can feel warmer than ‘outside’ where it can be anything between +5 and -40! Footwear- boots/ugg boots that you can have thermal socks/tights on underneath. Your feet are always the first to be cold. Accessorise your dress with a long cape or fur wrap – but be prepare to take it off for photographs- we want to see every detail of your beautiful dress.

Grooms: wear thermal pants under your trousers and thermal socks and boots. You’ll be fine in you shirt/jacket. (if you’re worried about outside photography, bring your ski jacket to put on and off between shots.

Guests: wear thermal pants under trousers and dresses. Again, thermal socks and boots are essential – you’ll be sitting/waiting/being photographed in -5 for about an hour. Bring shoes / tights to change into after the ceremony at the reception venue.

Makeup for Brides and Bridesmaids/Guests

I always recommend having a professional make up artist to do your make up on the wedding day. Snow chapels are quite dark, even though they are bright white – quite a contradiction I know. Your make up needs to be non-reflective so miss out the highlighter and blend, blend, blend any contouring as you’ll be photographed under floodlights/flashlights. If you’re doing your own make up, have a practice the day before the wedding (at the ceremony time) to see the actual light you’ll be photographed in and take a picture of yourself against a white wall so you can see the effect of all white around you.

The Wedding Day

Help keep your guests warm in the snow buildings by buying hand and feet warmers from the local supermarket for a couple of euros – they are worth their weight in gold and keep your fingers and toes warm and toasty for a couple of hours. Have a Hot berry juice with vodka after the ceremony to warm everyone up and write a list of photographs so your photographer can do the group pictures as quickly as possible – everyone will be chilly after the ceremony! As a bridesmaid to hold the list and call people forward quickly for their photo. 

Make the Most of Your Time in Lapland

I’d recommend having a night in a glass suite or igloo so you can enjoy the experience of sleeping under the stars and maybe seeing the Northern Lights.
Enjoy a sauna – it’s the finnish way to relax after being out in the cold. It’s an excellent way to warm up with a glass or wine/ beer. Explore the beautiful countryside and enjoy lots of safaris with the animals (reindeers and huskies are a must!) Don’t forget to try Reindeer Steak at a local steakhouse. Lapland is such a magical place to get married that less is more is really the case and embrace the beauty of the country, the chapels, countryside, culture and the food and have the wedding of a lifetime that you and your guests will never forget!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this amazing advice- check out Wild Connections Photography for more beautiful winter wedding photography and be sure to download this guide here if you’d like to have one to keep! 

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