Consider The Lighting

By Kristen Castillo

June 21, 2018 6 min read

Wedding planning is filled with details: picking the perfect save-the-date cards, choosing a fitting color scheme and designing the ideal menu. But have you thought about lighting? It might seem like a nonissue; whether the venue has windows, lamps or chandeliers, you may think that as long as everyone can see what's going on, that's all that matters. But think again. Lighting is about more than illuminating a space.

"When it comes to lighting, I say go big or go home," says destination wedding planner Aviva Samuels of Kiss the Planner, who plans weddings and events in Florida, Mexico, the Caribbean and more. "Lighting is an expensive proposition but it can really take your event from ordinary to extraordinary." Consider these lighting styles and techniques to complete your wedding aesthetics.

*In the Mood

"Lighting can be used to set the tone, mood and feel for an event -- it can completely transform a space," says Dee Wood, senior catering sales manager at The Ballantyne luxury hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina, which hosts weddings most weekends throughout the year. Don't just use white lights. Spin the color wheel instead. "The color used enhances the mood of the event," says Woods, who explains that oranges and soft yellows create a cozy feel, while purple and blue uplights create an energetic vibe.

Samuels notes that an easy way to set the mood for the party is to "simply dim the existing lighting fixtures or eliminate them altogether by simply turning them off."

*Find the Focus

"Always focus lighting where you want your guests eyes to go," says Greg Jenkins, partner and co-founder of award-winning event planning and production company Bravo Productions. Do you want to highlight an area, like the cake table? Or do you need to draw attention away from an area?

"You can always use pipe and drape to mask areas in the venue," he says. Echoing Samuels, he adds, "Another option is to turn off lights where you don't want guests to notice." He warns couples not to use green lighting to highlight the food station because it makes the food look unappetizing. Some colors like burgundy can be rich, but they can also be too dark and, therefore, wash people out. He recommends soft pinks and peach to make guests look great throughout the event. Once you figure out whom or what features you'd like to draw attention to, find the most desirable color and shade.

*Don't Skimp

According to Samuels, couples should go all in with lighting. "The problem with not going full impact is that it can sometimes look worse than what you started with, if it's not done fully," she says.

As an example, uplights around the perimeter of the room close to the walls can look beautiful, shining light and color. But if you don't use enough, the resulting look appears striped, not a consistent and overall wash of color. The fix is to add more uplights around the perimeter or wash the walls with color from a distance. "If the lights are elevated and placed on 'light trees,' they shine across the room and have a wider wash," Samuels explains.

She also suggests using pinspot lighting, a focused beam of light directly overhead, to illuminate your tables and centerpieces: "This is highly effective when it comes to opening the door to the room and seeing the drama immediately, versus not really getting a good look at the beautiful floral centerpiece until you get close up to it."

Going all out with lighting might seem too high-drama, but it can actually create a balanced and wholesome aesthetic.

*Perfect Patterns

Project unique patterns on a wall, ceiling or dance floor with gobo lights. Wood notes that they personalize an event and can "add whimsical and fun touch." Templates can be customized, such as a design with the newlyweds' last name, initials or a logo. Or go with a standard pattern like hearts or stars. This offers more design freedom and flexibility with choices.

*Camera-Ready

The right lighting will highlight your most flattering angles. Wedding photographer Joanna Moss says, "I love when brides consider adjusting the lighting at reception venues when they see it'll be dark or unflattering on their wedding day." And there are many clever ways to do so. Simply draping a sheer white fabric can soften the look of the venue's standard yellow overhead lights, she notes. You and your guests will be ready for awesome photo-ops.

*Budget Tips

Great lighting is even possible on a budget. Jenkins suggests spending money on lighting instead of extras like pricey linens, as the right lighting will make decor look less plain. Candles are an affordable option, and they create a warm, romantic look, too. And most importantly, Samuels advises focusing on one lighting method: "Make sure to do it right, rather than trying to do a little bit of each type."

With lighting done right, everything about your wedding will look better, from the cake to the guests. Play around with these ideas to transform your space into something magical.

Kristen Castillo is a three-time Emmy Award-winning journalist. An editor and writer for wedding magazines, she's written hundreds of wedding articles, as well as an e-book, "Weddings on a Dime."

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