Looking On The Bright Side

Amy and Stuart Photography

Amy and Stuart Photography

So you’ve found the perfect, magical, dreamy location for your wedding, the one where you most see yourself and your fiancé tie the knot and dance the night away with family and friends. Before you call it a day, though, allow yourself time to scout your venue to gauge lighting, and whether you need some tweaks to make your day as bright as you’ve ever dreamed.

Light, whether it be hard or soft, natural or artificial, affects your ceremony and reception in ways that not only impact your official photography but your guests’ Instagram posts too (it’s not ALL on the photographer).

The quality of light will have a dramatic effect on your whole wedding day. From your first married kiss, your first dance, as well as the moment you and your spouse give the cake a first cut, here are three tips for you to ensure that with regards to lighting, picking your wedding venue isn’t (pardon the pun) just a shot in the dark.


If you’re getting married in late summer, chances are you will check out venues sometime in late winter or early spring. Remember that on the day of your October wedding, the sun will set at a different time and angle than in March.

To plan ahead, start with this helpful calendar to get a sense of what to expect on your wedding day. Ask the venue to show you photos of weddings that took place at the same time of the day and year as yours. You still won’t be able to predict the weather, but at least you’ll figure out the arc of the sun and the time it sets in advance.

Having this information will help you schedule the official time of the ceremony to start sending your save-the-dates and invitations. Knowing more about the natural light will help you determine the direction of the seating for the ceremony. Details about the lighting conditions whether you should offer harsh lighting solutions for your guests, like providing them with sunglasses, parasols and handheld fans. If it’s the middle of summer, you might want to consider renting large market umbrellas or a tent.

Amy and Stuart Photography

Amy and Stuart Photography


Your natural and artificial surroundings have a huge impact on the quality of light at your venue site(s). Depending on the time of the day, buildings, trees, mountains, even the gazebo you get married under create shadows, which you should be mindful of.

Where will the sun be during the ceremony, and where will the shadows fall? Will you give your back to the sun? Will one of you be in full sun and the other in shade? Most photographers would agree that having you both in the same quality of light makes for better photographs.

Sometimes you need to help Mother Nature with additional lighting or shade structures. Sometimes you just need to embrace the natural angle of the sun and the ensuing shadows.

Talk to your photographer about the best ways to work with the natural light at your venue. They’ll know what’s ideal for you and your spouse, your guests and, obviously, the timeless photo graphs you’re shelling big bucks on.

Amy and Stuart Photography

Amy and Stuart Photography


Plan on scouting your venue during your ceremony and/or reception time, so you can see what the light looks like. Try your best to match your scout time to your ceremony time six months from now. Keep in mind daylight savings changes and seasonal sunset times, referencing the time and date calendar.

If you are having a brunch wedding, arrive a bit before your planned ceremony time. Look at how the light falls on your and your fiancé’s faces when you are standing at your ceremony site. Have someone photograph you together, so you can see if you want to add a solution to create shade, or relocate your ceremony area under the giant oak trees on site.

If you are having an evening reception, scout your inside sites and then go on a leisurely walk on the grounds at the time of your ceremony or when you will be taking romantic portraits. Arrive before sunset, stick around through dusk (when the sky is a beautiful indigo blue), and stay until the sky turns black. Pay attention to the quality of light. If your reception is outside and the sky is a solid black, you may want to consider adding market lights and lanterns to create texture for your nighttime photos.

Be especially mindful of all outdoor locations where guests will congregate, especially if later in the evening or at night. Take lots of non-flash pictures of the space, the floors, the ceilings, so you can get a rough idea of what those spaces will look like in photos without any additional lighting. Most importantly, photograph each other on your scout (again, no flash) in different spaces, like the ceremony site, a stage, the dance floor, your sweetheart table…

Amy and Stuart Photography

Amy and Stuart Photography

A basic phone photo can tell you a lot about the existing light you are working with. It’s not a perfect test, but it’s a starting point that can be used for future conversations with your planner, lighting designer and photographers.

Our eyes have a way of evening out contrasty light differently than a camera does. Photographers have different styles and approaches when it comes to using available light and adding to it. When you book your venue, talk to your photographer about how they will be photographing the whole day as the lighting scenarios change. If they are available to do a scout with you and the planner, videographer, and lighting designer, it’s a huge help. It’s also a great way for your team of creatives to get to know each other better before your big day.

If the venue doesn’t have any or any adequate lighting for the inside and or outside locations, it is critical to note it and plan accordingly—by hiring a lighting designer, and/or taking family formals or romantic photos at your epic venue while it’s still light out.

Once you have more information about your lighting, you may want to consider adjusting the timeline to make full use of the natural light, take family formals before the wedding, plan a first look, or prioritize those romantic sunset shots you’ve been hearting all year on Instagram.

Planning lighting at your wedding will require more time, tricks and tweaks than these three tips cover. But if you start on a solid footing, it will make your special day that much brighter.