Hot and sunny wedding photography tips

How to keep your cool - and get beautiful wedding photos - in the heat

When it comes to braving the hazards of the UK weather as a wedding photographer, I’m a little like Elsa: The cold never bothered me anyway. But when my Nikons and I are sweltering in the sunlight? Yep, colour me worried. But summer wedding photography doesn’t have to be too hot to handle.

The truth about summer wedding photography

The wedding guests, all grinning brightly at me: “Gee, Sarah, lucky it’s such a beautiful day! This must make your job so much easier.”

Picture me as I pry a wry smile and nod enthusiastically, while secretly screaming “No, no, no, no, nooo …” on the inside. Because a splendidly sunny day might seem picture-perfect … but it’s the hot weddings that worry me the most. Everything else is easy in comparison.

Want to know why? Well, when temps soar even the coolest of cucumbers lose their chill. As temper(ature)s rise, it’s not uncommon for me to watch my couple and guests grow from gleeful to grouchy as the heat makes them feel crabby and cross. Which isn’t just bad for the wedding day vibes – it also means fewer happy relaxed photos … and more snaps of squinty smiles and grumpy grimaces.

Not to mention the beads of sweat and sticky neck while you stand – and burn – in the blaring, glaring sun. Plus, let’s face it, wedding outfits might look stylish, but they’re generally not designed for hot days. Then there’s makeup melting and hayfever running amok. And yep, it’s difficult to capture moments when you feel comfortable and look your best.

In fact, the only creatures that have a soft spot for the summer heat are the wasps backstroking through your drinks, the flies divebombing your dinner and the ants marching through the marquee.

Yeah … such a beautiful day.

But the good news? You can still get great photos despite the heat.

Bright blue sky behind couple leaving church

Here’s where to begin …

Sweat-free wedding photography suggestions

You’re clever, so I’ll assume from your summer wedding date, you’ve already taken the possibility of a really hot day into consideration. So, I’m not here to tell you to avoid serving spicy bowl food to your guests or not to time an outdoor ceremony with the midday sun. You’ve got that covered.

But just in case you unexpectedly find yourself in the middle of a heatwave on W-Day, I’ve curated a collection of tips, tricks, and secret weapons you can use to help everyone look as happy and relaxed as possible in your wedding photos.

Things you can do:

  • If you start to overheat, run cold water (or ice cubes) on your wrists to cool down. Your blood vessels are close to the surface of the skin here and the cold will lower your body temperature faster. You can also try a facial mist spray to keep your face and neck cool – just go easy on it to make sure your makeup doesn’t slide off. Speaking of which …
  • Go pro with your makeup. A professional makeup artist will know how to make sure your makeup stays put and withstands the heat. Whenever I have mine done professionally for shoots (which is akin to a 12-hour workout sesh) it always lasts the day. If it’s particularly humid, have some spare make-up so you can freshen up later in the day. If you do sweat, dab – don’t wipe – with a soft cloth.
  • Hair – the only way is up. You know this already, but heat and humidity wreak havoc on hair. And sweaty neck? Not a look. Instead, let the air circulate by keeping your luscious locks up, up and away from your neck. Even if this means changing plans with your stylist at the last minute, it’s worth it to keep you cool and help your style hold. If you have your heart set on having your hair down for your ceremony, maybe throw it up afterwards and create a second look.  
  • Designate a dress wafter. A dress wafter is somebody – usually a laidback wedding party member with strong arms – responsible for fluffing your dress from time-to-time so the air can circulate. They’re invaluable.
  • For the suit-wearers, this isn’t my beauty bag, but my hubs assures me that hot weather maintenance is easy: Keep a fresh shirt close and a cold beer even closer. 
  • Choose comfort over style. I know you want your photos to look gorgeous, but the truth is that it’s less about what you wear and more about how you feel. So don’t try to tough it out! You’ll feel uncomfortable and that will reflect in the photos. Have your MC make an announcement to encourage the gents to remove their ties, take off their jackets, and roll-up their sleeves. Kick-off your shoes and slip into flip flops. Embrace hats and sunglasses. And allow people to change into lighter outfits after the group photos.
  • Stay hydrated. It’s easy to forget, especially in the morning as you rush to get ready. So, keep water and glasses readily available for everyone. You could even make it pretty – and tasty – with citrus fruits and ice cubes with edible flowers frozen inside. But limit the alcohol intake … soz.
Wedding guests cooling down with ice creams
  • Treat everyone to ice-cream. Too late to book the vintage ice-cream bike truck? Easy fix: Just fill a large container with ice and send someone to Waitrose. Your guests will love you for it.
  • Take your special moments outdoors. If you haven’t got a venue with air-con, the heat can build up inside. So do the evening formalities like your first dance, cake-cutting and speeches outside where it’s cooler.
  • Slip, slop, slap. Apply strong sunscreen to your face and anywhere the sun can see – then reapply and reapply. Be pedantic about it. And protect your guests too by popping some parasols outside and offer mini sun-creams in baskets for them to help themselves to.
  • Host outdoor games in the shade. This will encourage people to stay out of the sun and give them something to take their minds off the heat.
  • Keep your cake in the coolest place possible – especially if you have a chocolate or buttercream cake! In order of heat protection priority, it goes: You, your love and your guests, and your cake. Seriously. We don’t want that baby to melt.  Consider saving your cake-cutting for later in the evening when it’s cooler, or doing it as soon as you arrive at the reception so it can be safely stored.
  • Print your order of service. It’s a pretty memento that doubles up as a fan. Perhaps grab some mini battery-powered fans, too. You won’t regret it.  
  • Buy citronella candles. When the sun goes down, the mozzies come out to play bite. Place some citronella candles in outdoor entertaining areas to guard you and your guests against bitey bugs.
  • Keep water in vases for flower bouquets. When they’re not starring in your photos, encourage your wedding party to pop their bouquets in the vases so they don’t wilt. Then nominate someone to keep an eye on the water level to make sure everything stays hydrated in the heat.

How to heat-proof your summer wedding portraits and group photos

Okay, so you’ve managed to keep your cool during the ceremony and reception. Now it’s time for your family photos and couple portraits. Here’s how to handle the heat:

  • Seek out the shade for the sake of your sanity. Take shelter beneath a canopy of trees or at the side of a building. You’ll welcome the cool.
  • No shade available? Keep the sun behind you. “But, Sarah, you’re not meant to take photos into the sunnnn.” Trust me, shooting into the sun will prevent you from squinting, and will eliminate unflattering shadows on your faces (especially for ladies in hats where the brim causes extra shadow).
  • Schedule your portraits for later in the day when it’s cooler and more comfortable. We’ll also get a softer light, which is more flattering. And since it’s sunny, we stand a good chance of getting a gorgeous golden hour. (More on why I’m obsessed with golden hour wedding photography.)
  • Over-prepare. Group photos are the worst part of wedding photography when it’s hot, so be extra careful with your plans. Limit your group list as much as possible. (It works best if you can keep it small and sweet with just immediate family and the wedding party. If you need others in group shots, save it for later when it’s cooler.) And allocate a Guest Herder who’ll gather guests so we can complete your group photos as quickly as possible.
Wedding guests enjoying drinks reception in the sun

What to expect from your wedding photography on a hot day

Now you’re prepared to handle the heat with poise, you might wonder how your wedding photographer will take beautiful photos for you (without succumbing to the sun and wilting in the heat themselves). And if your photographer is me, you can expect me to:

  • Be on top of my game. I won’t let hot weather prevent me from giving your wedding photos my all. But I also won’t miss a moment because I wasn’t taking care of myself. Which is why you can expect me to take short breaks in the shade so I can sip water, stay hydrated, and cool down from time to time.
  • Start early. If it’s possible, I’ll arrive early to photograph your venue and décor shots while the flowers are fresher and the temperatures are kinder.
  • Weave the weather in as part of the story. If we’ve got a heatwave, I’ll work with it not against it. I love to capture uni friends chatting while wearing their sunnies, condensation dripping down bottles of champagne, summer flowers, and kids licking ice-cream off their fingers. These moments make your wedding memorable, and I’ll make they’re saved forever in your photos.
Bride and groom walking in the sunset

The truth is, while I worry about hot weather the most, it also leads to some of the most magical wedding photos. But seeing is believing, right? So let me show you Tom and Kate’s hot sunny wedding – it’ll give you love heart eyes.

Decided against a summer wedding? Or want to prepare for every UK weather worry?

I’ve got a blog – or few! – for that.