I’m excited to share a sneak peek with you all of a New Year’s Eve wedding I photographed in Delafield, Wisconsin, which is about a half hour west of Milwaukee.
A mutual Milwaukee friend introduced me to Sarah, who decided on the New Year’s Eve wedding so she could ring in the new year with a big ol’ party with the people she loved most.
Putting on a winter wedding in Wisconsin is no joke. You have to be pretty adventurous to try it. You never know if it’ll be a full-on blizzard the day of, with the wind whipping in your face and the temperature dropping by the minute. And even if a fresh snowfall works in your favor for a beautiful ceremony, you still have to figure out how to plop around in a couple of inches of snow all day.
Sarah and Steve’s wedding day was chilly with fresh (but not too fresh) snow on the ground at the Delafield Hotel. The beautiful thing about their plan was that they got ready up in the hotel rooms, which are super stylish in that bold industrial/rustic looking way. The ceremony was held downstairs in the ballroom, where I took photos. And then we headed upstairs in the bell tower and right outside on the front steps of the hotel.
Everything was in the same spot at the hotel and it made the day so simple and less stressful since you’re not figuring out transportation in potentially tough weather.
Sarah added a ton of lovely additions and decorations to her wedding, including a dozen Christmas trees from Rhinelander (Steve’s hometown) that she placed in the Delafield lobby at the beginning of the wedding aisle. She put them in potted bags and created an indoor forest for her processional and recessional. It was an amazing touch and I had never seen something like that. If anyone else is planning a wedding around the holidays, they should definitely create a Christmas tree forest inside. It was the best of both worlds: You have the serenity of a secluded forest scene with the smell of evergreen and the warm and snuggly atmosphere of being inside during the cold weather months.
Any time I photograph clients in cold temps, I first ask them how they’re going to keep warm. It’s the most important thing since they’re the ones who are remaining relatively still. You want clients to feel comfortable and happy, not cold and miserable.
Even the bravest people won’t last long outside if they’re wearing a strapless wedding dress or one with short sleeves. And, while I’ve learned to work fast more time is always better for photography!
For all potential wedding clients out there, the longer you give a photographer to work, the more they’ll be able to try different angles, different poses and get the best photo possible. I usually suggest around 90 minutes for portraits which includes a wedding party and then another 15 minutes during a break in the reception for an evening portrait session.
For a regular portrait session, mostly engagements, my favorite pictures usually occur 30 minutes in. That is usually because I’ve tried enough poses to see what flatters the client best. It also gives me enough time to chat and laugh with them, finally getting them comfortable enough to give me their most authentic and beautiful smile(s).
Sarah had the perfect wardrobe choice, bringing a big fur coat to wear on top of her wedding dress when we took photos outside. Even with that we only took photos for about 10 minutes outside of her with her bridesmaids and then just her by herself. And, then later we took pictures for less time than that on top of the hotel in bell tower since at the higher altitude the weather was even colder and with more wind chill.
Even when you’re warm and can stand the temperature, it’s not exactly practical to walk around in the snow when you’re wearing a wedding dress. Fortunately, at the Delafield Hotel, you can walk outside of the front porch and see a row of beautiful evergreen trees. I’ve always been a sucker for that beautiful green to frame patches of white snow. And it didn’t take me long to find that opportunity at the hotel.
For Sarah, I took the portraits of her with my 85 mm portrait lens, and then let the background fade and blur into just the shades of green and white. It was a great moment to capture and only took two or three minutes of time.
I used a similar technique with the lights from the Christmas trees in the background and then took a super tight close-up photo of Sarah and Steve smiling at each other. Looking at the photo, you’d never guess that there was actually a sea of people all around them. With the lens and the closeness, it makes them look like they’re in a secluded intimate space, not in the chaos of a typical wedding day.
More than the snow and cold, the toughest thing about photographing weddings can be the light or noticeably the lack of it. Winter days are shorter, and, even in the middle of the day, the daylight is weaker in the northern United States than it is in the middle of the summer. Plus, you want to do more photos inside and you’re going to have to work in indoor moody and romantic lighting.
In the first few years of photographing weddings, one of the most difficult lessons I had to learn to master was working in the lowest light. Now, I’ve figured out quite a few things. For this wedding, I laughed at how much flash I was using. It was the first time that I had to use my backup batteries! The nice thing about using the flash though is that it’s more forgiving than relying on overhead hotel lighting, especially in creating shadows and softening the skin. The trick is to use flash, but make it look natural.
Thank you Sarah and Steve for all your hard working making such a beautiful wedding day. I really hope my photos do you and your day all the justice in the world.
Venue: Delafield Hotel
Dress: Savvy Bride
Hair: Salon Flo
DJ: Double Platinum
Flowers: Avant Garden