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Planning a Wine Country Wedding in Any Season

We've broken down the year to help you plan your wine country wedding no matter when it is.

Spring

Weather: Napa never got the memo on the whole "April showers" thing. The rainy season actually ends by mid-April, welcoming tourist season and blooming flowers.
Best time of day to take photos: Photographer Catherine Hall of Catherine Hall Studios in San Francisco always suggests her clients take formal photos before the ceremony, so they don't miss their cocktail hour or reception. When it's possible, she loves to take couples out before sunset. In wine country, the vineyards have many hills that block the sun's rays, so head out at least an hour-and-a-half before scheduled sunset times. In May, the sun sets around 7 p.m., so that magic window is anywhere between 5:30 and 6 p.m.
Look out for: Browning fields. If you want your vineyard wedding to look really lush and green, May is the month to catch it, since California is dry and gets browner with each passing month. Vineyards are youngest in early spring.
Must-have: Photographer Augie Chang of Photography by Augie Chang in San Francisco suggests a photo shoot surrounded by the beautiful flowers that bloom this time of year. Look for them in fields and around the highways. Simply pull over and cheese it up.

Summer

Weather: You don't have hot summer nights often in wine country; expect typically pleasant evenings. It's generally hot with blue skies during the day, but thanks to the dry climate, once the sun goes down, it cools off to a comfy 55 degrees.
Best time of day to take photos: In July or August, the sun sets at about 8 p.m. (not that much of a difference from spring). And the timing still applies: An hour-and-a-half, maybe even two hours before sunset is the way to go for perfect lighting. Chang advises that mid-day is not ideal for photos because shadows are harsh and the temperature is usually high.
Look out for: Overcrowding. Summer is the most tourist-ridden season in wine country. Most people get married at vineyards, but if you want a church ceremony, you'll have to see how far of a drive it is to your reception siteā€¦in summer traffic.
Must-have: An outdoor wedding reception. The weather during the summer months is most cooperative and it's also the best time for a soiree on a patio lit with twinkling lights. You can also take advantage of your surroundings with an outdoor reception -- keep the decor to a minimum and let the lush landscape speak for itself.

Fall

Weather: Wine country is blooming! Vines are fully grown and the crops are plump. The landscape is browner compared to the spring or summer, but it's pretty in a rustic, totally autumn way. Napa tends to have a nice extended summer, so it stays warm for months.
Best time of day to take photos: For November evening weddings, for example, when the sun sets around 5 p.m., it's best to get all the formal photos taken before the ceremony. Because by the time vows are exchanged, it'll be dark. If you're planning a daytime fall wedding, just make sure you'll be able to get outside around 3:30 for photos.
Look out for: Busy bees. Harvest season is the second-busiest time of year, with workers and trucks going in and out of the roadways. Find out how much work will be happening at the venue on your day and check the noise level--you don't want your vows to be drowned out by truck noise.
Must-have: That perfect vineyard-in-the-fall theme. Play up the wine country vibe more in this season than any other. Incorporate grapes into your signature logo or centerpiece decor, or work with a rich yellow and plum color palette.

Winter

Weather: It's California, so it never gets brutally cold (temps stay in the 50s during the day), but winter is definitely wet. The vines are dormant and the soil gets pretty moist. Beware of sinking heels!
Best time of day to take photos: Into January and February, sunset doesn't happen much earlier than 5 p.m., so that 3:30 window from fall is still the best time. Chang says sunlight in the winter is usually less strong compared to the summer. "We usually get overcast skies during this time of the year," he adds. In his expert opinion, photographing in the morning and just before sunset usually works out perfectly.
Look out for: Amazing deals. This is the best time of the year to work your budget magic with hotels, venues and vendors, as they're seeing much less traffic from tourists.
Must-have: A plan B if you're doing anything outside. Make sure you have a tent on hand for bad-weather emergencies. Winter weddings must be flexible to combating the elements.

-- Jaimie Dalessio