The truth is, you can plan for the possibility of rain on your wedding day. (If it's an outdoor wedding and depending on the climate, in fact, you should have a backup plan in the event of rain.) What you can't predict but will later enjoy will be the creative, dramatic and delightful — even humorous — pictures the serendipity of rain can provide for a wedding photojournalist.
You will be told some traditions — Hindu, Maltese — consider rain a good omen on a wedding day. You will be told a wet knot is harder to untie. You may — correctly — think that if the two of you can face the day's elements with aplomb and grace, you're more likely to face life's challenges with strength and flexibility.
Rain and Shine
For a wedding photojournalist, wet weather can get the adrenaline going, because it can provide some challenges, true — but particularly because of the visual opportunities rain can also present.
The sheen of water on dark, smooth, or natural surfaces can be a chance to capture the various refractions and reflections of light that just aren’t available on a dry or sunny day. Through a photojournalist’s lens, rain can serve as glitter for grownups.
And raindrops seen through window panes, champagne flutes or even a transparent “bubble” umbrella can set the mood and record the day beautifully and meditatively.
Turn the Frowns Upside Down
A “seasoned” photographer will always be prepared for wet weather with enough cover and umbrellas for equipment and any crew. The wedding party, also, should have provision for rain if it looks like it is in the forecast. Local bargain stores or pharmacies may have umbrellas that, while not crafted to last a lifetime, can protect the group before, during and after any rainstorms. And once you’ve got umbrellas in hand, you’ve got what a scripted production would consider props.
A wedding couple standing close under umbrellas held by groomsmen or attendants can provide delicate framing for a shot that architecture, given its permanency, might overwhelm visually. Faces of guests against the dark background of a black umbrella may present a luminescence not available in bright sunshine or artificial light.
True, there are only so many shots over the tops of umbrellas to be taken that don’t look as if they’re from a damp golf match. But guests arriving and leaving a ceremony or reception wielding their umbrellas offer picture opportunities that look simultaneously modern and classic, whether they are stepping gingerly across a puddle or offering protection in a show of chivalry.
There’s a reason cinematographers will spray down a street before shooting a scene, particularly at night. Wet streets and pavements give visual drama and interest to what might otherwise be a flat, black or gray surface. When creating such a scene, movie professionals are in effect copying some of photojournalism’s greatest hits — and, at this point, copying each other and themselves, because the wet street shot is such a standard.
The groomsmen, walking as a pack toward or from the church or venue on a city’s wet streets, may instinctively feel themselves imbued with that Sinatra or Scorsese spirit. If the rain has lightened up or stopped, they’re more free to stroll and, as a group, they’re more likely to lend themselves to some great moments. Let’s face it: some groomsmen can feel awkward in the formal setting of a wedding, whereas many feel just fine showing themselves braving the weather or the mean streets with their posse.
Wet streets can be a hazard, too, of course — but even this can work to the wedding photojournalist’s advantage if it forces subjects to slow down and tread more carefully across concrete, cobblestones and bricks. People interacting with their environment (and with each other in that environment) can make for more memorable photographs than a flurry of scurrying elbows and makeshift ponchos.
Keep Calm and Marry On
In Britain, rain is often a given, and photographers, venues and even brides there can usually take it in stride. And the perverse fact is that bad weather can make for great photographs, which can bring laughter and smiles later inside once you’re warm, cozy — and married.
Even if outdoor weddings are rarer in wet climates than in, say, the dry heat of Arizona or Morocco, participants and guests will be coming and going through whatever Mother Nature decides to dish out. The just-after-the-rain pictures and, with the bride protected by an umbrella, the stepping-from- or into-the-car picture may easily become the personal favorites.
From Europe to the Northwest and Southeast United States, the Caribbean to Southeast Asia, rainy weather is often the backdrop for a beautiful wedding and its amazing pictures.
* * *
With preparation, anxious brides and grooms needn’t fret if the weather turns wetter. Your memories, your faces — and possibly a certain somebody’s bright, white dress — will stand in sharp contrast to the gray of the day, all to be captured by a wedding photojournalist with an eye for atmosphere and ambient lighting.
And from the photographer’s perspective, can we say hooray for rain? Dampness and humidity we can usually deal with and even capture; it’s dust that will drive us crazy.