April 29, 2020
I’ve called Oregon home for the last 17 years and let me tell you: Pacific Northwest weather can change on a dime. You notice this kind of thing when you’re a wedding and elopement photographer who regularly hikes to waterfalls for work.
Whether rain makes you say “Heck yes!” or “Oh no!” I’ve got tips for how to have an Oregon elopement or wedding that you’ll love, whatever the weather.
People often think of just two factors when it comes to rain and a wedding: location and time of year. But in my experience, there’s a lesser-known third element: You and your partner’s comfortability with the unknown.
Some couples prefer to throw their hands in the air and welcome whatever Mother Nature may throw their way. Perhaps they picked Oregon for their elopement or wedding specifically for the rain-soaked locations. If this is you two, own that sense of adventure. Make a memorable (if slightly wet) experience for you two to share.
Other couples want the pine trees and the majestic mountains but could live without the wet outfits and muddy shoes. No shame — how you feel is what matters most. You might also be factoring in the needs of a larger guest count or the mobility of certain loved ones and a little rain could make a big difference.
Whatever your feelings about rain, here are two slightly more specific questions to ask when you’re considering weather and your wedding:
What type of day do you two want? How much will rain influence that day?
When it comes to planning your wedding in Oregon, one size doesn’t fit all. Our corner of the country has several climate regions that contribute to Oregon’s diverse landscape — and not all of them are soaked.My state’s notorious rainfall is also why spots like the Willamette Valley and Columbia Gorge are so lovely. Oregon’s bright foliage, colorful wildflowers, plentiful ferns, mossy trees — that’s thanks to our rain!
So if the green, the vineyards, the waterfalls are what call to you in Oregon, it may be worth it to choose a spot that actually gets a little more love from the rain!
Oregon is never truly immune from a rainy day anytime of the year, but the consistently driest months are July and August with July averaging out at 0.5 inches falling on five to six days.
Both June and September are also fairly dry, but, in my experience, can also be wild cards. (I’ve photographed elopements and weddings in both months. Sometimes it’s bright and sunny, and sometimes it’s rainy and cold.) October through May are usually the rainiest months with December taking the cake as the wettest (an average 3.6 inches of rain falling on 20 to 21 days).
You’re going to get the highest chance of rain in the western third of Oregon. If any venues you’re considering mention the “Willamette Valley,” they’re referring to a vertical stretch of land that includes Portland and the Columbia River all the way south to Eugene. Any place that falls within that valley or farther west along the coast are going to experience significantly more rainfall than the rest of Oregon.
The Columbia Gorge also experiences a decent amount of rain. The Gorge is slightly northeast of Portland and runs along the Washington-Oregon border. It’s beautiful but is going to have a slightly higher chance of rain at certain times of year than, say, the arid desert of Eastern Oregon.
There’s a financial upside to all this wet. Some venues in Oregon will offer a discounted price if you book in the “off-season” (usually November through April, or when rain is more likely). Be sure to ask as you vet venues. You never know what they might offer.
Also ask about any venue’s options for both indoor and outdoor settings. A few good questions to ask the venue:
What’s the plan if it rains?
Does the venue have indoor and outdoor options for your ceremony and/or reception?
Does the venue have a tent on-site? If so, what’s that tent look like? When does the venue need notice if they need to install that tent? Who puts it up?
Does the venue have any umbrellas on-site in case of rain? Towels to wipe down seats?
None of the questions are necessarily deal breakers but they will inform you and your partner about what exactly you’re getting with any given venue. I saw this in action when I did a September wedding at The Cedarville Lodge in Gresham, Oregon.
Checking the forecast for the day of your elopement or wedding can turn into a bit of an obsession as the date approaches. My advice: Check, plan, move on. My friend and fellow wedding vendor, the Portland-based wedding coordinator Elisabeth Kramer, agrees.
“Of all the things I can control on a wedding day, the weather isn’t one of them,” she says. “As such, I really encourage people not to worry about it. Of course, have some idea of a backup plan, particularly if your wedding is all outdoors with very limited to no access to a covered area, but thankfully, your marriage will still be just as valid even if it rains.”
If your weather app of choice does predict rain, you and your partner can take some good steps to keep everyone a little drier day-of:
Pack a few towels. These are great to wipe off muddy shoes or damp surfaces.
Stock up on some warm fleece blankets. Ideal for guests who might feel a little chilly.
Communicate an “in case of rain” plan. If things are really looking torrential and/or rain drastically impacts a major part of your wedding such as where your ceremony and/or reception might be or where people can park, let your guests know. Email, a wedding website, texts to your closest friends with directions to spread the word — all work wonders to help guests prepare.
In some situations, an outdoor ceremony can become an indoor ceremony with minimal fuss. This September wedding I photographed at Gray Gables Estate made the switch to set-up the ceremony in the indoor ballroom when the original outdoor spot was rained out.
And sometimes? Well, sometimes it just rains. My best advice is to remember that there are going to be things that happen on your wedding day that are out of your control, and that is OKAY. The only thing that needs to happen on your wedding day is saying “I do” to your love. Everything else is icing on the cake.
As for your guests, they’re there to support you and your marriage. They understand that you can’t control the weather. If possible, it’s helpful to have some sort of protection from the elements that can accommodate older, younger, and/or immune-compromised guests but beyond that?
If you’re willing to get a little dirty and brave a little rain, a whole new world of adventure opens up to you! Wear boots with your wedding outfit and get ‘em muddy! Rediscover your childhood joy of jumping in puddles. Dance in the rain with your love.
The weather is temporary, but the memories and photos of that experience will stay with you.
Whatever the weather
See that waterlogged lady? That’s me, having the time of my life on the Oregon Coast. I was soaked through but I didn’t care. I’m happy to photograph your love no matter the forecast (it’s why I weather-seal my gear, too).
So whatever the weather, let’s talk.
I want to help you have a wedding day that’s special, rain or shine.