Couples on the Mediterranean island of Malta believe that a rainy wedding day brings good luck. Other cultures feel the same way, but not so everywhere, where it seems like tempting fate by even thinking about the chance of rain on the date of your nuptials.
If it does rain, take heart. There are simple precautions you can take to protect your ceremony and guests. And rainy conditions can present unexpected, extraordinary opportunities for your wedding photojournalist to capture lovely, funny and sometimes dramatic photographs.
Take for example the recent award-winning image captured by Adrienne Maples, a WPJA member in Kansas City, Kansas, USA. It looks more like a frame from a movie than a wedding picture, thanks to the rain. Her plucky subjects, the groom and his groomsmen, defied a sudden downpour after the ceremony by taking a cocksure walk through Union Station, a 1914 landmark in downtown Kansas City, located near the church where the wedding took place.
“They had just gotten off the trolley and were walking toward me,” Maples says. “It’s the ultimate guy shot.” After she took the photo she wondered how the bride, Jessica, would react when she saw Matt, her drenched groom (In the picture, he’s third from left). “When Jessica saw them, she started laughing, saying, ‘That will be the coolest picture!’”
Maples learned early in her career to be prepared for rain. At one of the first weddings she photographed, an outdoor ceremony in Savannah, GA, it began to pour, and the bride and groom were not prepared. Thankfully, Maples had extra umbrellas to cover the bride and groom, bridesmaids and her equipment. But she had no protection for her camera or herself—“I got drenched and my polyester pants looked like clown pants!” Nevertheless, Maples captured an exceptional romantic, cinematic photograph of the rainy ceremony.
Like Maples, Jeff Tarantino, a WPJA photographer in Princeton, NJ, USA, is always prepared for rain, with lots of umbrellas and extra cameras. And like Maples, that’s due to experience. A former newspaper photojournalist, Tarantino photographed his first wedding four years ago when his brother-in-law got married in an outdoor ceremony. Not only was Tarantino the wedding photographer, he was also best man. It didn’t rain that day; it poured. “They had a tent but the roof filled up with rain like a basket, then it broke through,” he recalls.
Tarantino never gets involved in his clients’ wedding arrangements. “A photojournalist doesn’t manage the news, we document it,” he says. However, if a couple asks for his opinion about what to do in case of rain at an outdoor ceremony, he advises them to have a contingency plan or provide enough umbrellas to cover everyone.
But it actually was fortunate (photographically speaking anyway) that at one recent wedding Tarantino photographed there weren’t enough umbrellas. The event was held on the grounds of the Olde Mill Inn in Basking Ridge, NJ, USA. “The wedding was late getting started and it was getting darker and darker,” Tarantino remembers. “There was very little light, only skylight and the light in the gazebo.”
Once the wedding got under way, the rain began to fall. Because it was raining, everyone pulled closer together than they would have had it been sunny. That intimacy would have been difficult for Tarantino to capture had everyone been huddled under umbrellas, but an uncovered couple with their bodies pressed against one another conveys the closeness of the gathering. By capitalizing on the moodiness and shooting through the colorful stream of umbrellas, Tarantino’s shot leads the eye to the glowing gazebo where the bridal couple is enveloped in soft, warm light. Tarantino cinched the mood of the moment.
You’d think with all the rain in England that wedding photographer Simon Atkins, of Northamptonshire, would be an old hand at shooting in inclement weather. Indeed, about a quarter of all weddings he photographs annually get rained on, but typically the wedding party doesn’t go outside. “We tend not to get outdoor weddings and receptions because it does rain so much,” he explains.
That’s what makes his WPJA award-winning photograph of a wedding party caught in a deluge unusual. The wedding took place in Henley-upon-Thames, a picturesque town on the western bank of the Thames River midway between London and Oxford. After the ceremony in the town’s old stone church, the wedding party took a boat to Temple Island, where the reception was held under a large tent.
Unfortunately, they had to walk a little distance to get to the boat. “It had been raining on and off before the ceremony,” says Atkins. “The bride showed up in a convertible, not the best car for the day. It stopped raining during the ceremony, but then poured as they came out of the church. It cleared up later in the day, but it was bad at that point.”
Atkins turned lemons into lemonade, recognizing a great opportunity to get some special pictures. “I hung back a bit and saw the wedding party walking out with umbrellas into the pouring rain,” he recalls. “That was the shot that told the story of what was going on.”
“It rains quite a lot in England so you get used to it,” he continues. “But this was bad because they had to walk through this alleyway with puddles everywhere and the women were in high heels. Everyone took it well and remained in good humor. The first question people ask me is ‘what happens if it rains?’ I tell them to just carry on as normal. It’s an opportunity for me to get some great photographs.”
Wedding photojournalists aim to document weddings with exellence no matter what’s going on in the sky or on the ground. “It’s my job to capture the day no matter what happens,” says Adrienne Maples. “If it’s raining, I’ll take creative shots, like capturing reflections or raindrops, and incorporate them in the wedding photos. I’ll find a way to make it beautiful.”
Maples continues, “Every bride dreams of a perfect wedding day, where the sun is shining and birds are singing, but it’s not always like that. It’s up to the wedding photojournalist to capture the feeling of the day, and any good wedding photojournalist will tell you that those days when it’s harder are more exciting.”
—by Lorna Gentry for the Wedding Photojournalist Association