Planning For The Perfect Wedding Ceremony Lighting

December 13, 2021

Tips, Wedding

Today I want to talk about a part of wedding planning you might not have considered before, but that makes a huge difference to your experience: wedding ceremony lighting. Not only does lighting set the atmosphere in the moment on the day, but your wedding ceremony lighting plays a huge role in the end result of your wedding photos! That’s why it’s so important to talk to your venue manager and have a solid plan for your lighting well ahead of time.

Outdoor Wedding Ceremony Lighting

Your wedding ceremony lighting strategy is going to vary hugely depending on if you’re getting married indoors or outdoors. If you get married indoors, you probably have a lot more control over the lighting than if you’re dealing with the weather and the elements outdoors. But having an outdoor wedding ceremony doesn’t mean you can’t have great wedding ceremony lighting! Here are some of my top tips for smashing the lighting at an outdoor ceremony:

#1 – Ask Lots of Questions

This is a big one. Your venue manager knows their venue from top to bottom. They’ll know it at all times of day and from all angles. So, when you tour the venue, make sure you ask them loads of questions. It’s helpful to know the time you want to hold your ceremony at because When you’re looking at ceremony sites, you’ll want to ask questions like:

  • What’s the best time of day for a ceremony here?

  • What angle is the sun coming from here at this time of day?

  • Is there any shade here?

  • Are there any big shadows that get cast here during the afternoon?

Ask to see photos of ceremonies that took place in the ceremony sites at the same time that you’re planning to hold your own ceremony. If you have any concerns, feel free to ask about alternative ceremony sites.

#2 – Even, Balanced Shade

My biggest point for you to consider in outdoor wedding ceremony lighting is shade. If you’re standing in full sunlight, you’re going to be squinting – plus, you may well have harsh shadows on your faces, which doesn’t matter at the moment but looks strange in photos.

The big thing with shade is to make sure that it’s even. Fun fact, I actually didn’t do this for my own wedding and I’m standing in full sun at my ceremony, with Dean, my husband in full shade. The split lighting looks awful! Learn from my mistake and make sure that you, your spouse, and your officiant are all in the same even wedding ceremony lighting.

#3 – Avoid Harsh Light in the Middle of the Day

The middle of the day has gorgeous blue skies – but the bright sunlight in the middle of the day is actually pretty unforgiving in photographs. This wedding ceremony lighting will cast harsh shadows and leave your wedding guests reaching for their sunglasses – not ideal. A 3 pm ceremony – as I suggest in my wedding day timeline advice – will give you softer wedding ceremony lighting. Golden hour, just before sunset, is the best time for photos, but any time after 2 pm is acceptable for an outdoor wedding ceremony.

Indoor Wedding Ceremony Lighting

#1 – Time of Day Matters

It’s not just outdoor wedding ceremonies where the time of day matters. If your indoor ceremony space has windows (and I hope it does!) then the time of day is going to determine how much light these windows let in. Are you going to get diffuse and indirect light or dramatic beams coming through the windows? Again – talk to your venue manager to get a clearer picture of how natural light affects the mood of the room.

If you’re going for a deliberately moody and evocative wedding ceremony lighting scheme, you might want to think about covering the windows for maximum effect.

#2 – Avoid Backlighting

I love a dramatic light installation at the altar as much as anyone – just make sure that you balance it out. If most of the light is coming from behind you as you stand in front of your guests, you’re going to show up only as silhouettes. Not a good look – for your photos or your family!

If you’re going to be standing in front of lights, make sure you have an equal or greater light source shining on you from the other direction, too. This is one of the reasons it’s so important to have a rehearsal, which brings me to my next tip:

#3 – Have a Trial Run

Don’t leave your wedding ceremony lighting to the last minute! Make sure that you get to set everything up and trial the lighting before the big day actually comes. This will usually happen the day before your wedding when you’re setting up – if for some reason the venue can’t allow you in until the day of, work with them to find an earlier day when you can come in and make sure your wedding ceremony lighting is solid.

This is especially important if you’re bringing in your own light sources apart from what the venue provides – I’m thinking lanterns, candles, and string lights. Make sure you test your setup and give yourself time to tweak it.

#4 – Remember the Flash

You might think that a dim, romantic, candlelit service is the perfect way to celebrate your wedding ceremony. I’m not going to argue with you about the atmosphere – low-lit wedding ceremonies can feel so intimate and special. But remember, if it’s too dark, the photographer is going to have to turn on their flash.

That’s one thing on a dark dancefloor, but it’s totally different in a wedding ceremony! A flash can feel abrupt and disruptive in a dim room, so if this is something you want to avoid, talk to your photographer about the wedding ceremony lighting that they need.

Designing the Perfect Wedding Ceremony Lighting

I hope this blog has helped you to think through some details you might not have considered before. Wedding ceremony lighting is so important, and when it’s done well, it can really make an event feel so special!

And the last thing you want is for your perfect wedding ceremony lighting scheme to be interrupted is a bunch of little flashes from your guest’s phones – and that’s just one reason why I think you should have an unplugged wedding ceremony. Read on for more!


Translucent Photography is an Australian Wedding Photographer specialising in Candid & Authentic Wedding, Elopement & Family Photography. Based near Wollongong on the NSW South Coast, we often capture moments across the Southern Highlands, South Coast, Illawarra, Canberra & Blue Mountains regions.

Share with friends

want more information?

we can't wait to hear from you!