Finding the Perfect Wedding Ceremony Lighting

Client Education

Planning your big day? Let’s talk perfect wedding ceremony lighting!

I had to share a few incredible ceremony locations because the lighting and timing were just perfect! I know it’s not your job as the couple to know all the things about lighting, but it’s something to keep in mind when choosing your venue! You deserve to have beautiful images, and a big part of that is finding perfect wedding ceremony lighting!

Usually, photography is picked AFTER the venue, so I hope this can help anyone BEFORE booking! If you’ve already booked your venue but realize you might not be obsessed with the ceremony spot – talk to your venue coordinator! Maybe there’s another option or a different time of day that could work better!

Here are the BIGGEST elements that make ceremony lighting beautiful and easy on the eyes:

BACKLIGHTING

The ceremony in these images are all backlit meaning the sun is setting BEHIND the couple! That’s perfect and super easy on the eyes in a photo.

It feels like 9 times out of 10, venues have a designated ceremony spot where the sun is facing directly on the couple, or worse, it’s blasting toward one partner and not the other! This uneven lighting causes one person (and the people standing on their side) to be squinting and REALLY bright, while the other side is standing in shade!

This is not only harder to photograph, but it also makes editing take much longer because we have to hand-edit the super bright parts to match the super dark parts.

SUNSET TIME

Another aspect that works for the images you see here is that the ceremony is close to sunset! The timing for your ceremony is super important if you can control it! As the sun sets, the lighting isn’t as harsh and bright. Think about a sunny day at 12 pm versus a sunset at 6 pm where it’s all golden and glowy!

If you can ask your venue to coordinate the ceremony around the sunset, that’s ideal!

If you’re planning a 30-minute ceremony and having a first look, I recommend scheduling your ceremony to be at least 45 minutes if not an hour before sunset! This allows a little extra time in case anything runs late OR allows us to take a few golden hour photos right after the ceremony! You can plan the ceremony earlier than that, too, but I don’t recommend planning your ceremony right into sunset time. That would mean it would be dark by the end of your ceremony. This isn’t the worst thing, but consider if you want your cocktail hour to be outside! If so, do you want that to be during the daylight?

Ceremony timing can be super tricky! No need to worry, I help create a seamless timeline for all of my couples to make sure we get all the photos in beautiful light whenever possible!

TREES & LIGHT DIFFUSERS

Another reason why this spot works so well is that the trees are diffusing the light! If you can choose a location that blocks the sun a bit (like having the sun peek through the trees or the fabric softening the light), this will help keep the light even and soft on you and your guests! This also helps so your guests aren’t staring into the sun while you get married. They’ll be squinting, wearing sunglasses, or sweating if that’s the case!

BEFORE booking your venue:

PLEASE look up real weddings to see it in action! Look for ceremonies that happened in broad daylight so you can see where the sun was hitting at the time you’ll likely be getting married!

If you notice that it looks ‘aggressive’ meaning really harsh or people are squinting, your ceremony could look the same in that spot! Keep in mind, you’ll have to stand there squinting through your ceremony, too! It’s not just for the sake of photos but rather for your whole ceremony experience!

If your venue is already booked:

  • Decide if you care! Some couples couldn’t care less about this while others will find it very important. If you love the look of these images, you might be someone who cares! 🙂 If you don’t mind at all, no need to worry! Keep things how they are and your photographer will make it beautiful no matter what!
  • Look for even lighting whether that is fully backlit (sun behind), fully direct (sun facing directly on both of you, not just one), or shaded (the space is entirely in the shade without much sun peeking through). Fully direct light may look harsher, but it will at least be even and clean looking. The biggest lighting I recommend trying to avoid is side light/directional light meaning the light is hidding one of you and not the other like I mentioned above! The safest bet is always going to be full shade!
  • Find ways to block unappealing light! Notice how the couple above added fabrics behind them? This helped diffuse and soften the light! Maybe there’s a way to shade an otherwise sunny space at your venue by getting creative!

Truthfully, it’s pretty rare that venues have a PERFECT spot for ceremonies, and I think it’s a big missed opportunity for beautiful images! Make sure you’re looking up real weddings before you book to ensure that you love the lighting from bright daylight to overcast to golden hour.

I know this is all a biiiiit technical, but since your photographer is not usually with you to help analyze the location before you book your venue, I hope this helps when making your decisions! Please feel free to send any questions if you need help!

Did you find this post helpful about perfect wedding ceremony lighting?
Check out another blog post on planning the perfect wedding day timeline and the importance of adding buffer time into your wedding timeline!

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