Jan 7, 2020

Top Tips For Your Wedding Ceremony Lighting

Wedding Ceremony Lighting Is Everything

Wedding ceremony lighting is everything, particularly if you want those dreamy outdoor wedding photos you have seen on my blog. Light will impact every part of the day, and it can make your photos so much better if you plan to work with it in advance. Even with the most gorgeous décor or location, without great lighting, your ceremony could be threatened. If you use some of these tips, I’m positive that your wedding ceremony photos will benefit a lot.

Ceremony Location

It is critical for your photos that you plan your ceremony around excellent lighting. Especially if it is an outdoor ceremony! It is also crucial that you make sure your ceremony location works in your favor. Really, there are several key elements to look for as you plan. I want to give you my professional tips on how to pull off a gorgeous, light-friendly outdoor wedding ceremony. 

Golden Hour

Golden hour is a magical time of day where the light is it’s absolute prettiest for photos. It is the time about 1-2 hours before the sunsets. It’s called golden hour because it is what produces those golden, glowing photos every photographer & couple love.

When planning your ceremony, try to plan about 1 ½ to 2 hours before the sun sets. This will give you time for both your ceremony & husband-and-wife portraits during the golden hour. These will hands down be your favorite photos because the lighting is surreal!

Wedding ceremony during golden hour


The shade will be your photographer’s best friend. Unless it is golden hour, it is vital to have shade. This will mean you & your significant other will be in the same beautiful light throughout the ceremony. You want this if you can get it because it will give you gorgeous skin-tones. Moreover, it will prevent any distracting light from hitting you or making you squint. Trust me, and this is vital to an earlier ceremony time. That’s one of my absolute top tips for your wedding ceremony lighting.

Wedding ceremony light under a roof

Open Shade

As a bonus, the best kind of shade is called open shade. Look for a shaded area where you can still see the sky above you. This is hands down the prettiest type of shade. If you’re not quite sure what I mean, reach out & I can let you know if your ceremony location achieves this! Open shade is a very flattering type of wedding ceremony lighting that makes for soft & beautiful photos.

Wedding ceremony photos in open shade lighting


Your Background

Choosing the spot where you will get married is a huge deal! I suggest looking first for somewhere that will be well-lit during the time of year & time you are looking to hold your ceremony. Ask your photographer what they have seen work best. It may surprise you that the prettiest looking locations can sometimes have the worst light, which could mess with your photos. Of course, a gorgeous backdrop can also be your best friend! It is all about finding a balance that works best for your wedding vision! Try to choose the location based on the direction of the sun. You don’t want to be squinting because of the sun is glaring in your eyes! You both have to stand in identical lighting for harmony in your photos.

Best backdrop for wedding ceremony photos

Light You Have To Avoid

As you know by now, outdoor ceremonies have to be my preferred ceremonies to photograph. Being outside surrounded by nature gives a relaxed setting for the bride & groom, including their guests. BUT, I had a nightmare situation I want to tell you about so you can avoid it!

The bride and groom were standing in bad dappled light during half of the ceremony, and the second half in an entirely different light! It is a photographer’s nightmare that we want to avoid, if possible. 

Dappled light is the sun shining through the leaves. The result is a mix of light & shade spots across either or both of your faces. Dappled light is probably one of the most unflattering light situations to photograph due to the uneven effect. Hence you don’t want to be standing in dappled light.

It’s a great plan, a day or two before the wedding, to revisit the ceremony site at the same time of day that your ceremony is taking place to observe what the light is doing. 

For the second part of the ceremony, the bride was in harsh sunlight & the groom was standing in the shade. Exposing both of them the same is impossible — a huge problem to be honest.

Ask Your Vendors

When in doubt, ask your vendors. If you have any specific questions as we build your wedding day timeline, reach out! You aren’t a photographer, so there is no expectation you’ll know everything about wedding ceremony lighting off the bat. I am here to help make your planning & wedding photos go as smoothly as possible!

Your wedding venue can also be a massive help if you’re planning a destination wedding & won’t be able to tour the venue before your wedding day. You can even ask them to show you photos for the time of year & location from past weddings they have held there. It definitely doesn’t hurt to at least ask!

Wedding ceremony photo with directional side lighting

I hope all these tips help you plan a gorgeous wedding ceremony with the most magnificent light possible! If you’re looking for information about family & formal photos on the wedding day, this article might be useful.

xo, Isabelle

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