Setting your Date
Choosing your season, planning for different weather conditions, where you can get married, how to give notice, and where to find more information :
Winter or summer?
If you’re having a marquee or tepee wedding, that question will probably answer itself. For everyone else, it’s not such a clear choice.
Summer weddings obviously have a better chance of good weather, but all seasons have their own pros and cons. In winter, the days are shorter and it's colder, but the lower sun gives the light a different quality, and indoors the warmth of artificial lighting and open fires can add an ambience that you don't get in peak summer. Christmas weddings come with a ready-made theme, and Spring and Autumn weddings have benefits too, and a colour palette of their own.
Off peak weddings can be cheaper, of course – many venues offer discounts, and some other suppliers do too.
What if it rains?
It may surprise you that, as a photographer, I don’t actually worry too much about rain. I’ve shot around 200 weddings (Phil Rees Photography), and the rain has only been a big issue on 5 or 6 of those. Most of the time, the rain we get is light, and showery, so we just wait 15 minutes and it’ll blow over.
So unless your reception is in a farmer’s field, ‘weather-proofing’ your wedding is only partly about your choice of month, and maybe more about having some flexibility in your schedule, and not cramming it too full, so that you can move the photography around a bit if you have to.
Some local venues have quite a bit of cover too, so outdoor photography is still possible in rain (as long as it’s not blowing a gale) and that’s something you may want to factor in. I’ve used the railway bridge arch at Tower Hill Barns, and the gazebo in the gardens at Lion Quays for group shots, but for the ‘couple shots’ of bride and groom most venues (and almost all churches) will have a porch or doorway to keep you 100% dry (even if I get soaked myself!).
It’s not all about the photography of course, and there are some other times when the weather matters – your arrival at the venue mainly – and you can never fully eliminate the risk of it impacting your day, but you can minimise it.
The graphs above are useful, but they don’t tell the whole picture. We all know that in March and April, or November, there’s a fair chance of a deluge of biblical proportions. But between those wetter months, from December to February, it’s usually more about temperature than rain, and if you’re choosing to get married then, plan for it to be a bit chilly. No-one likes to see a blue bride with goose-bumps, so have something to slip over your shoulders to keep warm. Keep the list of formal photographs to a minimum, and choose an experienced, efficient photographer who’ll get through them quickly, and be sufficiently in control to split them into batches and make sure everyone stays warm in between.
But we’ve already spent too much time thinking about the weather than it deserves – even in mid-summer at a marquee wedding, you’ll be indoors much of the day. So let’s move on.
What else to consider?
When you’re making your final choice of date, have a think about what else might be happening that day. Are there are any significant family birthdays or anniversaries coming up that people might want to celebrate? Or sad past events they’d like to remember in a different way? Then Google the date and your town, and check if there’s any major events that weekend. You don’t want to book your venue, only to find that there’s a big sporting event, festival or eisteddfod visiting the area, so that every hotel bedroom is already booked, and the roads around will be gridlocked! Or even that’s it’s the final weekend of Six Nations Rugby, and half the guests will be staring at their phones for updates!
Where can I get married?
At most religious buildings, Register Offices, and at hotels and other venues that have a licence - known as Approved Premises
You'll find full lists of Approved Premises for each county in our area here :
How do I give notice for my wedding?
If you’re both British citizens, marrying in a Church of England or Church in Wales church :
Contact the vicar or priest, who is able to arrange, conduct and register the marriage without needing to involve the local registrar, and you won't need give notice at the Registry Office. Banns are read instead.
For any other religion or denomination, and for Civil weddings in the Register Office, or in Approved Premises, you’ll need to give notice in the Register Office. (Approved premises are those hotels etc., that have a licence to hold weddings). If it's a Register Office or Approved Premises wedding, Registrars will conduct the ceremony. For religious weddings it's a bit more complicated - the ceremony will usually be conducted by an official of the church/chapel, but sometimes a registrar will also need to be present to observe and register the wedding - check with the Registrars and church/chapel, and they'll be able to advise you.
Website links for more information :
Register Offices :
When can I give notice, and book the registrar?
A Notice of Marriage is valid for 12 months, so you can't give notice more than 12 months in advance, or it'd expire. Whether or not you can make a provisional booking before that seems to vary from one county to another - so best to contact your own county's registrar, and see how they deal with that.
If I want somewhere really different ...?
Although theoretically, you can hold a ceremony wherever you choose (your garden if it's big enough, or on a beach) it won't be legally recognised outside of certain venues. And that's a bit of a problem!
So couples who want to do things a bit differently, and hold a ceremony somewhere other than a chapel, church, or at the recognised hotel-type venues, will have a small Register Office wedding a day or two beforehand (or maybe on the morning of the event itself) to deal with the legal formalities, and then hold the larger event with their invited guests. Some will make their own vows unaided, but most will opt to have a celebrant to guide them, and there's a couple of celebrant's websites here:
(If you're planning something like that, take a look at Gemma & Rob's wedding in our Real Weddings section)