Things to Consider When Choosing Your Wedding Venue:
From a Photographer’s Perspective
For most couples, choosing their wedding venue is the FIRST thing they do after deciding on a date for their wedding. This makes total sense! Before you can begin envisioning your wedding day, you have to know where it’s going to take place! While there are tons of factors that affect what kind of venue you choose – guest count, accessibility, local things to do nearby, budget, if you can bring in outside caterers, the getting ready space or indoor & outdoor options, not to mention your vision and the desired vibe for your wedding day – and so much more! The purpose of today’s blog post is to share a few additional things to consider when choosing your wedding venue – from a photographer’s perspective! I’m going to walk you through each portion of a wedding day and discuss how the venue affects lighting and space, and ultimately, your photos of the day!
What to Consider with the Getting Ready Space
If you are hoping to get ready at your wedding venue (instead of at an outside location like your home or a hotel room), then you’ll need to make sure the venue has a getting ready space you can envision yourself and your bridal party in. Take into account the size of your bridal party vs the size of the room. You definitely don’t want a cramped space with hair and make up artists trying to get around, too. If the bride and groom’s rooms are in the same building, you’ll need to exercise a LOT more caution when moving around to make sure you don’t see each other. It’s much easier when the bride and groom have their own separate buildings to get ready in!
Not only that, but when everyone and everything is all contained in one building do you know what that means for YOU? It usually means there are just TOO many people coming in and out of your room. This makes for a stressful morning, instead of exciting, relaxing, and enjoyable.
A good example: The Vineyards at Betty’s Creek.
The Vineyards at Betty’s Creek offers completely separate buildings for the bride, the groom, the ceremony site, cocktail hour, and the reception! This is ideal! They are spread out throughout their property – so much so that they have golf carts on site to carry people up and down the hill. So there is no need to worry about your groom accidentally seeing you too soon. It also means that the stress of setting up the ceremony space or reception room will be so far away, you won’t hear about any of it and you can relax!
Next, in order to create the well-lit, natural-looking photos you dream of, then I highly recommend getting ready in a room with a lot of WINDOW light. If the venue’s getting ready space is small and without any windows or access to natural light, then you might want to consider getting ready at a different location.
A photographer’s hack: What I have also done before when the getting ready space is a little less than ideal is stage the dress zip-up in a better location! We can move you to another area at the venue with better lighting and/or space and re-enact the “zipping up” and bridal portraits. This is what we did for my bride Jacqueline and her bridal party!
What to Consider with the Ceremony Site
If you want to get married outside then of course you’ll want to make sure the venue has a backup plan in case of poor weather. In both cases – indoor or outdoor – you’ll want to consider the lighting situation. For outdoor ceremonies, think about the direction of the sun vs what direction you and your partner will be facing. If you can find a spot with big, open shade then this might be preferable to spotty lighting or having one of you in direct sun while the other is in the shade.
In the case of no shade, I would rather have the sun straight on or straight behind BOTH of you. This would mean you’re either facing straight east or straight west, instead of facing north or south. I hope that makes sense!
Take a look at the image below. You can see by the direction the shadows are falling, that the sun is behind them. This means everyone in the bridal party is evenly lit – because the lighting is at all of their backs, I can expose equally for everyone!
The same concept applies to indoor ceremonies, as well. You will want to make sure that everyone is evenly lit, instead of having a spotlight on the bride and groom. In the example below, we had beautiful even lighting because of the giant round dome above their heads! It acted as a perfect light diffuser.
With all this being said….
A lot of times you don’t have any control over lighting! If you choose your venue because you LOVE the view and the sun is setting in the “wrong” direction, we will work with it! And the photos will still be beautiful! For outdoor ceremonies, I suggest starting about 3 hours before sunset. This will give us enough time after the ceremony for portraits, while also softening the shadows.
This is what happened with Kasi + Micah! You can see from the shadows that the sun is coming in from the left-hand side of the photo. This puts Micah’s face in full sun, with Kasi’s face in shade. If the ceremony had been closer to noon, these differences would have been even more dramatic. However because the sun was a bit lower in the sky the contrast is softened a bit. We also had a bit of cloud coverage which helped too!
Lastly, if you want a fun recessional after you say “I do,” make sure the venue is okay with you throwing confetti – whether that be flower petals, bird seed, bubbles, etc. Shri and Terry’s dried flower confetti made for some of my favorite images from their whole wedding!
What to Consider with Portrait Locations
On your venue tour, make sure there is a good spot for family portraits that is accessible for everyone in your family! Not too much walking (or at least a way to transport elderly + those in need of extra assistance). If you would like a LARGE group photo, then make sure your venue has a good portrait location for this to happen. Stairs or chairs come in handy in this circumstance! I strongly recommend doing your family portraits outdoors for the most natural, even lighting possible!
You’ll have to also think about your dress and how easily you’ll be able to get around in it! If there is an epic location you want photos at, make sure you’ll be able to easily get there without sacrificing your dress and/or shoes! Unless, of course, that’s not something you’re worried about – then by all means, let’s go for it!
What to Consider with Cocktail Hour + Reception
Are there separate spaces for cocktail hour, the ceremony, and the reception? Or is the reception room the same room as the ceremony site? As a photographer, I have limited time to photograph the reception decor before guests start arriving. If the reception area is completely separate from the ceremony site and the cocktail hour, then I can photograph it before the reception begins! However, if the reception takes place at the same site as the ceremony, there may not be enough time for me to capture it between the time it takes them to rearrange chairs and before guests start coming in!
Do you want a dance floor? Will they have enough space for that without breaking tables down after dinner? What about your final exit from the reception? I LOVE a good sparkler exit but some venues do not allow sparklers! If you have your heart set on a sparkler exit, make sure to okay this with the venue before booking with them! Or else I have also photographed bubble exits and glowstick exits 🙂
What to Consider with the Seasons
In case you are not touring your venue at the same time of year that your wedding will take place at, be sure to remember that the venue might look totally different during a different season! If you’re touring in the summer when leaves are in full bloom, then maybe a view will open up you didn’t notice before in the fall and winter! Or, perhaps in the spring they have AMAZING blossoms in their garden! The seasons will definitely change the look and feel of the grounds! Not to mention, the sunset time!
I hope this gets your wheels turning as you think about things to consider when choosing your wedding venue! However, if there’s one thing I want you to remember above all? A good photographer will make the most of any venue, any location, and any lighting situation! Hire a wedding photographer you trust and you’ll be in good hands no matter what! Then, choose the venue that feels most like “you” and everything else will fall into place.
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Meghan Rose Photography | Asheville Wedding Photographer
Meghan Rose Photography is an Asheville wedding photographer. Based in the Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina, she happily serves fellow sentimental romantic couples all up and down the Appalachians and the South. If you’re interested in working with her for your wedding, you can reach out to her here!