Your wedding venue sets the stage for the entire feel of your wedding day. There are so many styles of venues out there and ultimately that decision will depend heavily on your personal style. However, I often show up to venues where the ceremony or reception spaces have difficult setups for photographers based on the lighting. So often what looks beautiful when you go tour the venue doesn’t actually photograph as well as you might think.
I’m providing some helpful tips from a photographer’s perspective to help you think about venues in a new way! Hopefully these tips will ensure that you not only find a venue that fits your style, but also one that will be perfect for the photos your dreaming of. I also include some logistical tips to think about as well!
The very first decision to make is whether you want your ceremony to be inside or outside. This will determine how big of a venue you need and impact what you want to look for from a lighting perspective.
If you’re having an inside ceremony, look for ceremony spaces that have plenty of natural light (aka – big windows!). Also, try to make sure this natural light is coming through clear windows and not stained glass/coloring. While stained glass looks beautiful, it photographs very differently and can add weird color situation. Also, light-colored paint on the walls, specifically white walls if you can, are the best for reflecting that light and making the inside of the space look really beautiful and natural! From a space perspective, I recommend trying to find a venue with separate reception and ceremony spaces instead of trying to do them in the same area. If you have to “flip the room” this sometimes requires the table setups to be in the back or in a corner and can cause extra stress.
I recommend having an outdoor ceremony, specifically if your venue is a bit smaller and has beautiful outdoor spaces. If you are wanting to have an outdoor ceremony it is SO important to think about the sun!! Ask the venue coordinator where the sun sets when you are touring the ceremony space. For the most beautiful light, you want the sun to set BEHIND the bride and groom when looking at them from the direction of the guests. This means that you’ll have backlit photos instead of bright sun on the front of you and your groom. Timing is also really important here! If you’ll be getting married a few hours before sunset, this is beautiful glowy light. If you’ll be getting married in the morning, it is important to flip this thinking and have the direction of the ceremony space in line with the sun rise instead. No matter what, you want to try and have the ceremony backlit. This may sound super confusing but I hope I explained that okay! Please email me if you have trouble understanding that.
Another important thing to think about is if there are an trees or greenery outside to help diffuse the sunlight. If there are tall trees behind the ceremony this is the best possible setup! That way you’ll have the sun beaming through the trees and it will be oh so beautiful!
Some ceremony locations, specifically churches, have pretty strict rules. Unfortunately, a lot of brides don’t find out about these rules until a few hours before the ceremony. I’ve been to ceremonies where I have to stand in one place the whole time or can’t stand in the aisle to get that down the middle shot of the kiss. If a variety of ceremony photos is a huge priority for you then you will want to make sure you’re having these conversations. Ask the church coordinators if they will have photographer rules and make sure you are okay with those before you book. However, if having your ceremony at a specific church that has rules is important to you – that is so fine!! It is much more important that you have your ceremony at a meaningful location that having those extra photos. I also work to my best within the situation to make sure we still get a variety of photos by using different lenses. Second shooters are also really important for situations like this!
Similar to indoor ceremonies, it is important to think about the lighting of your reception space. Now, natural light is not as important because it will likely be dark for your reception. White or light colored walls and high ceilings photograph very well in flash! The only thing I would make sure you are focusing on here is that the space is large enough for your guests and your dance floor.
Most of your romantic bride and groom photos will be taken outside, so it is very important that the outdoor space is a priority when booking your venue. I specifically look for beautiful trees (even if there are just a few), greenery, any water features (lakes, etc.), or nearby fields. These spots all photograph so beautifully, especially at sunset! If your venue is small or doesn’t have many photo locations, consider driving around the surrounding area to see if there’s any nearby fields or trees that we could drive to for photos.
From a logistical standpoint, there are a few things to consider. First, if you will be getting married at a separate location from your venue, how long is the drive? This can impact the timeline specifically if the drive is pretty far. Also, if you do choose to go with an outdoor ceremony, it is essential to have a rainy day plan. I know you don’t want that to happen, but it’s a reality that we sometimes have to work through. Luckily, I have successfully photographed many rainy day weddings and I know all the tricks to make sure we still get the photos you want!! We can even be flexible and move around timing of things if necessary. If you’ll be having an outdoor ceremony, I do highly recommend a first look. In the case of bad weather, a first look gives us a lot more time to take portraits throughout the day whenever the rain slows down.
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