How to Plan for Rain on your Wedding Day

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Friday 16th March 2018

Planning a Marquee Wedding | Preparing for Rain | Rain lashing a teepee tent

Planning and Preparing for Rain on your Wedding Day

I won’t quote that Alanis Morissette song, but I do understand, first hand, the weather worry that comes with planning an outdoor marquee or sperry tent wedding in the UK. When Ed and I were in the process of planning our wedding back in the summer of 2010 we worried about what we would do if it rained. Would our guests leave early? would we be warm enough? what would we do about photos? would the marquee keep us all dry? and would there be enough space for us all if we needed to be under the canvas all day? We had so many questions and I’m sure you have your own worries too.

The trouble is that even in August the weather in the UK is unpredictable. We’ve been to enough soggy Reading Festivals to know just how heavy and persistent rain can be in August and, at the other end of the spectrum, just how beautiful the days can be when the sun shines. Our August wedding could be roasting hot with clear blue skies, or it could be very wet, but no amount of planning or fretting could change conditions on the day itself. As it turns out, it did rain on our wedding day. It rained the day before as were setting up in the marquee and catching up with friends at the pub*, and it rained on the morning of our wedding too, right up until we walked hand in hand into our ceremony together to No Use For a Name’s ‘International You Day’ **. Thankfully the worst of the rain cleared by the time our ceremony had finished, and the rest of the day was dry.

Although we were lucky with the weather on our wedding day, we’ve attended as guests and filmed as wedding videographers some very wet UK weddings in a range of settings from hotels to tents, from midsummer to the darkest days of the year. I thought I would share some advice for those of you who are planning an outdoor or marquee wedding in the UK and are worried about the weather turning. It’s really not a disaster if the skies go grey, and I want to put your minds at ease.

If you can’t change it, embrace it

This is a motto that I try to live my life by. I’m an anxious over-planner by nature but learning to accept the things in life that I have no control over has been really helpful to me. If you are getting married in the autumn or winter, then chances are that you have accepted that the weather may not be good to you. It’s harder to accept heavy rain or unseasonal cold when you’re planning a late spring or summer wedding though. These are the months of the year that we feel we deserve dry, warm weather after enduring the endless dark, drizzly days of November through March.

My advice to you is to hope for the best, plan for the worst, and embrace the cold, rain or even snow if it falls on your wedding day. Once the skies open, there’s nothing you can do about rain on your wedding day, so don’t let it spoil your fun. It’s part of your story, and there’s always a way around even the most difficult of conditions.

But what will we do about photos if it rains on our wedding day?

It is very rare for it to rain all day long, even in the UK. There will almost always be a moment when you will be able to sneak outside for a quick set of photos, and if it rains persistently all day, you may find that as the sun begins to set conditions improve. Any photographer or wedding videographer worth their salt will have a contingency plan for bad weather which will include umbrellas, off-camera lighting and the ability to think quickly in the heat of the moment to ensure they capture all the essential moments of your wedding day.

If the worst case scenario becomes reality and there’s no break in the rain, then your group photos will likely need to take place indoors. Corridors, staircases and the dance floor can all be used to good effect to capture photos of everyone together, without you all needing to get wet. For your photos and video alone alone as two (rather than your group shots) you might like to be brave and go out in the rain with a big umbrella. It’s an excuse, not that you’ll need one, to hold each other close and can lead to some really beautiful images and footage. If the weather is really bad, then your photographer and videographer will work with you and your venue to find an alternative solution.

From taking things indoors entirely, to working with umbrellas, to sneaking our couple out between courses as the clouds part for 5 minutes, Ed and I have done it all when it comes to rainy wedding days. Rain isn’t a problem, it’s just an excuse to get creative. I actually love filming in the rain. Granted, I prefer warm overcast days to the extremes of 30C clear skies or a summer deluge, but I love the way the light falls when it rains in the summer. The sky can be so dramatic, the way light reflects off puddles is fun to capture, and most couples find it quite romantic.

Will our guests be happy? Will they leave early if it rains?

One of our biggest concerns about the possibility of bad weather was that we wanted our guests to be comfortable, happy and warm on our wedding day and didn’t know how things would turn out if it rained or was cold. Our reception was in a marquee but there wasn’t anywhere else guests could go if it rained. Unlike a hotel wedding or a wedding which takes place in a barn or other formal space, a marquee or tent wedding is as close to ‘outdoors’ as things can get. You’ve got the tent or marquee, and then you’ve got a field or large outdoor space. That’s it. I understand the worry!

We warned our friends and family that they would need to walk on grass to get to the marquee and that they might like to bring a change of shoes for their own comfort. This is something you might be thinking of for your reception anyway, especially when it comes to the dancing. Many brides like to offer their female guests a pair of flip flops for dancing. If you’re worried it might rain on your wedding day, you could also invest in some umbrellas for guests to use and some blankets for elderly or infirm members of the family who are more likely to feel the cold. Keep checking the weather forecast and order these items in advance and you’ll be good to go.

You might be surprised to find that your guests are actually quite easy to keep happy. So long as everyone has somewhere dry to go, something to drink and enough to eat, they’ll likely be as content as can be. One of the biggest grievances at weddings is too little food too late in the day, not rain at an outdoor wedding or even a cold church! If you’re worried that some of your guests might leave early if it’s cold or wet, perhaps think about hiring an additional tent or covered area that can be used as a bar or quiet area. This means that whatever the weather is doing, your guests who don’t want to dance will have somewhere to go for a drink and a chat when the music starts up, and won’t feel like they’re stuck between the option of a dry but loud tent, or going home to avoid standing in the rain.

On the bright side of things, one very wet teepee wedding in Cambridge springs to mind for me. It rained all day long and the reception was held in a PapaKåta teepee in the bride’s parents’ garden. The couple had initially planned for their guests to take their drinks on the lawn, but the weather meant that everyone piled into the tent early instead. The atmosphere under the canvas, even at 4pm before their wedding breakfast began, was brilliant. As their guests couldn’t spread out too far, they chatted to one another and made new friends instead. Talking about the weather is a national sport (here I am writing an epic blog post on the subject!) and a good ice-breaker for groups of friends and family who don’t yet know one another. We left their wedding a few songs after their first dance, but the party was only just getting started. The rain was torrential, but they still had a full tent and a group of friends and family to keep things lively.

Will we be warm and dry?

This last concern is a valid concern and one you need to take up with your marquee or tent hire company. They will hopefully be able to offer you some advice, examples, and perhaps even testimonials from couples they have worked with who have had very wet wedding days. What I can say from experience though, is that the biggest challenge with outdoor weddings on a wet wedding day is keeping the tent or marquee entrance and exit dry, and that all comes down to the surface your tent is erected on. Experienced marquee and tent hire companies will be able to advise you on what they require for their particular tents, and will most likely do a site visit with you to check that they can cover your event. Also, make sure to ask your tent hire company about heating, flooring options and doors. The options available may surprise you!

With PapaKåta weddings in teeepees and sperry tents (and I’m sure it’s the same with other companies), I’ve been really impressed. They put down a special flooring and have options for extending the flooring to support tents and bathroom blocks. At the rainy and windy weddings in PapaKåta tents we’ve filmed, even guests seated close to the entrance remained warm, dry and happy. At one Warwickshire wedding in August 2016 the wind and rain had been so bad the night before the wedding that PapaKåta had sent out a crew member to help secure the tent and make sure that everything went to plan on the day. It did. The sides billowed in the wind but everything held up, even when the skies opened after the bride and groom had danced their first dance as husband and wife. Meanwhile, we drove home on a flooded M6!

Don’t let fear of bad weather stop you from having an outdoor wedding in a marquee, teepee or sperry tent. They can be really beautiful weddings, no matter the weather. Be prepared and voice your concerns to your wedding vendors to see how they can help you to plan for all eventualities, but don’t let rain derail you!

* we took advantage of our friends being in town and went to the pub together the night before our wedding. It’s one of my favourite memories, and something I’m so glad we did. Neither of us drink so it wasn’t about throwing back the pints, but it was lovely to relax and see friends.

** for our first anniversary we went to Area4 Festival in Germany and saw NUFAN play International You Day… it turns out it would be the first and last time we saw them since Tony Sly died less than a year later. May he rest in peace. They were a truly awesome band.

Birmingham Wedding Videographer | ,