Choosing Your Venue: The Ceremony Site
This week we’re focusing on things to consider when choosing your ceremony site. This is part two of a series on Choosing Your Wedding Venue – all from a photographer’s perspective. Last week we chatted about important things to consider with your getting ready space for those beautiful detail, bridal, and groom portraits.
Choosing a location with meaning
This one is kind of a big deal. Since this is actually where you’ll be saying those all important vows, this should be a memorable, meaningful location. Maybe you share religious beliefs and choose to have a religious ceremony. In that case, the location of your ceremony will probably be obvious to the two of you. If marrying in a church is not a necessity, you could choose a location that has some sort of family history context to either or both of you. Or perhaps you both have a love for modern, simple design. Or you want a place with an incredible view if the mountains or hiking are meaningful to you or your relationship (helllllo Smoky Mountains, right?!). Wherever you choose, I hope it holds a bit of significance to you. If it doesn’t it will after your wedding day!
Inclement Weather Plan
Unfortunately, we can’t control what the weather will do on your wedding day. So if your hopes are to get married outside, you’ll still need to make sure your location offers a backup option in case of bad weather. Most venues either provide tents or work with a tent rental company. While this can be an expensive option, you can think of it as “bad weather insurance.” Other venues have both an outdoor and indoor space for a ceremony to happen. Either way, you’ll need to discuss with your fiance, your wedding planner, and your venue coordinator your preferences for a rainy day solution and make sure you’d still be happy with Plan B.
Consider the lighting
If you are having a church ceremony, one suggestion I have for lighting is to make sure there is not a spotlight on the bride and groom during the ceremony – at least not for the entire duration of the ceremony. If you have a spotlight on the two of you, what happens is I cannot expose for everyone in your bridal party. You will be in the light, and they will be in the dark. If, instead, you have nice even lighting throughout the entire bridal party and ceremony space, everything can be properly and similarly exposed. I try not to use flash during the ceremony because I don’t want to detract from the reverence of the moment, so even lighting is preferable. If you have a choice in which church you get married in, take note of the ceiling above the ceremony space. In the photo below, you can see the round dome above my couple. This acts as a giant light reflector and helps to create even lighting over everyone underneath the dome.
If you’re getting married outdoors, we have a different set of rules. Some ceremony sites are in shade. This is great – as long as the shade is LARGE AND WIDE. It makes things much more difficult if the shade is dappled – this causes light spots on the two of you, your bridal party, and guests. Try to avoid having just one of you in shade while the other is the sun. That is just all around tricky to photograph.
In fact, I may prefer shooting in the sun over shooting in the shade! In this case, here’s what I suggest. If at all possible, try to have the sun either directly on everyone’s backs or directly on everyone’s fronts, rather than coming in from one side or the other. That way I can properly expose everyone the SAME. If the sun is coming in from one side or the other, then what happens is one of your face is in the sun while the other is shaded. As I said above, this makes everything tricky.
BUT! I know we can’t control the direction of the sun. And likely you chose your outdoor venue because you love the view. Or maybe the venue doesn’t allow you a choice in the location of the ceremony or the direction you’ll be facing. Don’t worry. We can make this work, too. One tip I have for this is to try to schedule your ceremony closer to sunset. If you choose a 12:00pm start time, when the sun is directly overhead, all those shadows we talked about are going to be extremely dark and contrast will be high.
I would suggest a ceremony start time of around 2-3 hours before sunset. The shadows will soften, the highlights will dim, the contrast will be less. And we’ll still have plenty of times to get portraits done after the ceremony before the sun is completely set. This also means all your portraits will be done in the gooey-ist, most warm light of the day. Win-win!
Be aware of rules or restrictions
Some ceremony sites have photography and flash restrictions, or even rules on where the photographer can stand during the ceremony. In fact, LDS temples don’t allow any photographers inside during the wedding ceremony. If you want to get married in a National Park or State Park, there are necessary permits to obtain.
You can also check out Tips on Having a Destination Wedding in North Carolina here.
Lastly, if you think you might want a fun recessional, such as bubbles, bird seed or dried flower petals being tossed as you and your now spouse (!!!) walk back down the aisle together, you’ll need to confirm that that’s allowed, too.
Prefer video? Watch below!
Choosing Your Venue: From a Photographer’s Perspective
Thanks for checking out this post on Choosing Your Venue: The Ceremony Site. This is Part Two of a Four-Part Series on Choosing Your Venue: From a Photographer’s Perspective. Part One discussed things to consider when Choosing Your Getting Ready Space. Next week we’ll chat about the Portrait Locations at your venue. Want more tips for couples planning their wedding? Check out:
Meghan Rose Photography is a hybrid digital and film wedding photographer in the Carolinas. She happily serves sentimental romantics all over the South.
Interested in working with her for your wedding? Reach out here!
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