How to Make the Most of a Rainy Day Wedding // Advice from Vivian Chen's Couples

 All photos by Vivian Chen

All photos by Vivian Chen

Vivian Chen considers herself a "rainy day photographer" because she loves the unexpected delights and the sense of adventure that rain brings on a wedding day. If you think you may have rain on your wedding, find tips, encouragement, photo inspiration, and advice from three couples who have been there below.


“A wet knot is harder to untie.” The first time I heard that saying was at my childhood best friend’s wedding. It was your typical humid East Coast summer day where intermittent July storm clouds rolled across the sky. It poured during dinner while we celebrated outdoors, and I’ll always remember the sound of the rain as it washed over us—soothing and uniting us all under the large white tent set up next to a small pond.

I love the rain. On my days off, I love hiking and exploring the parks in the Bay Area, especially the redwood forests. I’ve had some of the most magical times hiking alone in the woods on wet weather days. There’s a sense of quiet and wonder watching the rain fall as the fog breathes between the trees.

Of course, in the wedding industry, rain is not the desired condition for traditional weddings. The image most people tend to think of is happy, sunny, glowing couples. But having shot several rainy day weddings, I’ve grown to absolutely love them.

The Danish have a word called “hygge,” which translates to the feeling of being cozy with good people in a pleasant atmosphere. I believe that rainy days bring out hygge in all wedding celebrations.


 Vivian Chen San Francisco Rainy Wedding Day Photography

How to make the most of your rainy day wedding:

  • Clear umbrellas are the perfect portrait prop (stylish and functional!).

  • If it’s really gonna pour, a cute pair of rainboots can provide functional and stylish protection while walking around.

  • Put longer hair in an updo or braid for a low-maintenance, rain-tolerant style.

  • Let go of expectations, go with the flow, and enjoy the adventure. Good times will happen with good people, regardless of the outdoor conditions


 Vivian Chen San Francisco Rainy Wedding Day Photography

Advice from Three Couples Who Had Rain on Their Wedding Days

Nicole + Santiago // Rainy Day on the USS Potomac in the San Francisco Bay

 Vivian Chen San Francisco Rainy Wedding Day Photography

How did you approached the weather report?

About 10 ten days from the wedding we started seeing the weather reports, and it wasn't looking good. I went through a little denial for a few days, but once it became clear it was going to rain, I had a few moments of sadness that I wasn't getting my sunny-blue-skies day, but then just moved on and accepted it. I loved the theory everyone told me that rain on your wedding day actually signifies good luck.  

 Vivian Chen San Francisco Rainy Wedding Day Photography
 Vivian Chen San Francisco Rainy Wedding Day Photography

How did the day turned out, and how did the rain factor into the day? Or was it not even a factor at all?

We had our wedding ceremony on a 180 ft yacht, and had planned to use the upper deck for our service. Additionally, our reception was going to be at an outdoor patio at a nearby hotel.  So my plans were definitely affected by rain, but certainly not ruined. Once I accepted it was 100% going to rain, I honestly just listened to my venue manager and caterer for both sites.  They were the professionals and had dealt with this numerous times, so I trusted them to suggest the best options. My friends got cute silver umbrellas that everyone could share and that would look good in photos.

 Vivian Chen San Francisco Rainy Wedding Day Photography
 Vivian Chen San Francisco Rainy Wedding Day Photography

Did it meet your wedding day expectations?

Other than not exactly turning out how I had envisioned, the day took on a special quality—we, along with all the guests, felt like we were sort of on an adventure. And the rain made our space very "cozy," so people were just laughing and having a great time, despite a little chaos and water.  Our band helped ease a lot as they played fantastic brass band tunes, and it was difficult to not feel upbeat.

 Vivian Chen San Francisco Rainy Wedding Day Photography
 Vivian Chen San Francisco Rainy Wedding Day Photography

What helped you make the most of the rain?  

I've had people tell me that my wedding was one of the best and most fun weddings they had ever attended! And it wasn't due to it being "perfect," that's for sure. I think it became a sort of shared adventure, and there was a lot of love in the room, and it just made the day super special. The reality is, you are there to share the love of you and your partner with your friends and family. That's the whole point—not the scenery, the perfect setting (or weather). So I would just advise—you cannot control a lot of things about your wedding, other than how you handle them. Stay focused on why you're there, and just go with the flow. 

PS—the rain actually made our wedding photos amazing! All of my friends commented on how they took on a beautiful vibe due to the lighting.  (Thank you, Vivian!!)


Kial and Phil // Rainy, Intimate Wedding in Beazell Memorial Forest in Philomath, Oregon

 Vivian Chen San Francisco Rainy Wedding Day Photography

We scheduled our wedding for December in Oregon, so we were well aware that the forecast would most likely be rain. We purposefully scheduled our wedding for the rainy season because the forest is so much lusher and more beautiful during winter than summer. We visited the spot where we got married during the dry season and knew how beautiful it would be once it became verdant again.

 Vivian Chen San Francisco Rainy Wedding Day Photography

Our photos were very important to us, so we planned ahead and got our guests matching umbrellas to ensure a cohesive look. The rain was colder than we expected on our wedding day. However, I purchased a day coat for the occasion. I wore the coat in some photos, which gave great variation.

 Vivian Chen San Francisco Rainy Wedding Day Photography

I wore my hair in an updo because I was nervous about the unpredictability of how it would react to the weather. My sisters both wore their hair down, which was fine. I was more conservative than needed in that regard and may have chosen differently, had I known.

 Vivian Chen San Francisco Rainy Wedding Day Photography
 Vivian Chen San Francisco Rainy Wedding Day Photography

To summarize, we purposefully chose the rainy season for our wedding because we knew the photos would be gorgeous. We absolutely adore the work Viv did and could not have asked for a better wedding day.

 Vivian Chen San Francisco Rainy Wedding Day Photography

Severin + Robert // Rainy Day Wedding in Kauai incorporating a Na Pali Coast Hike

 Vivian Chen San Francisco Rainy Wedding Day Photography

Do I wish it hadn't rained or had rained less on our wedding day? Sure. Did we still have an amazing wedding with gorgeous photos in spite of the rain? Absolutely.

 Vivian Chen San Francisco Rainy Wedding Day Photography

You don't get the lush, verdant green of Kauai without rain, and when your wedding day includes a 4-mile hike along the mountainous coastline, we always knew rain was a possibility. We had talked with Vivian about the potential for rain and how to handle it in advance, and she had showed us photos of other weddings she had shot in the rain, which made us feel better. The rain made hiking a little slower and more logistically complicated (I'm still amazed none of us fell in the mud!), and maybe we didn't get every picture we would have if it had been a perfect sunny day. But every person who's seen our wedding photos has said about the rain, "You can't even tell!" And despite the fact that the rain seemed to start up again every single time we tried to take family portraits, Vivian made it all work out.

 Vivian Chen San Francisco Rainy Wedding Day Photography
 Vivian Chen San Francisco Rainy Wedding Day Photography

Instead of the beach, we took portraits in this cool grove of trees that provided a little shelter, and they came out amazing. Vivian literally jumped across rocks to cross a river in the pouring rain to take photos for our wedding. She was in great spirits the whole muddy hike; the pictures turned out phenomenal, and we have some very special memories. Rain is a factor of life if you are planning outside wedding events, but that doesn't mean rain needs to overshadow the fact that it's your wedding day.

 Vivian Chen San Francisco Rainy Wedding Day Photography
 Vivian Chen San Francisco Rainy Wedding Day Photography
 Vivian Chen San Francisco Rainy Wedding Day Photography

We had done some planning to account for possible rain—we had rain jackets packed, I wore my hair in a fishtail braid hoping that it was a style that would stand up to wind and rain (and it did!), and Robert changed from a suit jacket to a vest and boutonniere to make hiking easier, but there was really only so much one can do. I was definitely a bit stressed and obsessively checking the weather in the days leading up to the wedding, but once it is the day of, you just have to let it go and enjoy the day. It helped to have a photographer and groom who were unfazed by the downpour. My absolutely favorite unexpected moment from the wedding was the 50+ strangers who passed us on the hike, realized we were wearing wedding clothes, and stopped to congratulate us on our marriage.

 Vivian Chen San Francisco Rainy Wedding Day Photography

Meet Vivian Chen: I collect rocks from my travels and save trail maps in a binder that’s bursting at the seams. I’m a sucker for well-told stories, perfectly crafted jokes and good conversation. I prefer meeting friends for hikes rather than for cups of coffee. I’ve filled my home and office with too many houseplants and believe that trees are my spirit animal. Cloudy skies are much more interesting to me than clear blue ones. Once I missed a flight because I was too busy playing with Norwegian ponies and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Fresh mangos, lian wu and lychee from Taiwan are my weakness. My husband and I make up silly songs and sing them to our cat, Osiris because it makes us laugh. The week we spent backpacking in Yosemite's High Sierra backcountry left me awe-inspired, humbled and head-over-heels in love with California.