Let me be honest with you about lighting.
When we first started thinking about our decor arrangements, I have to admit that it was pretty low on our priority list. I’d read all the blogs and advice, I knew how important it was for creating an atmosphere, but beyond candles, I couldn’t see why we needed anything more. Along with photographers, videographers, entertainment and catering, it seemed yet another wedding expense that ‘we couldn’t possibly overlook’ if we wanted to create the perfect day – apparently.
Well – a few months on, my opinion remains largely unaltered due to the fact that candles happen to be most appropriate form of lighting for our ceremony and reception. What I have learnt in the last few months (despite my initial cynicism) it that it really is worthwhile looking into lighting options – particularly if you’re working from a blank canvas. So if you’ve no idea where to start and you’re in need of some professional and unbiased advice, make sure you read you RMW’s lighting guide here & here, and check out my tips at the bottom of this page!
Those of you who’ve been following my blog may remember that the venue we’ve chosen is a former monastery in Italy. Built in the 7th century and occupied by monks until 1890, it still remains a very holy and enchanting place. The church walls are covered in ancient frescoes and the main courtyard (where the evening reception will take place) has antiquity and raw beauty in abundance. So with this in mind, we’ve decided to keep the decoration simple and lighting subtle to compliment the venue rather than overpower it. If you missed the feature on the venue the first time round, you can read about it again here.
We want to keep the Church as close to its natural state as possible, so we plan to decorate it in nothing but candles. Candles down the aisle, candles on the altar, candles on the stairs! We’ll be buying a mixture of shapes and sizes to create a haphazard look, and I’ve got my eye on some Jo Malone candles scented with incense to add a bit of atmosphere when the guests walk in. Fortunately for us, plain candles (and I stress plain candles here because Jo Malone candles are definitely not cheap!) are one of the most cost effective ways to decorate your venue, and the result is both romantic and enchanting. Once the ceremony is over, they’ll all be moved to the courtyard ready for the evening meal – one of the few budget wins!
The theme for our wedding is ‘timeworn opulence’ (inspired by the fading façade of the frescoes and what was once a richly decorated church) so we’ll be combining muted colours with pops of gold, indigo, teal and eggplant (a real colour apparently). I’ve been collecting brass candlesticks and vases which will house candles of various shapes and sizes and be placed on the tables. The stairs will also be lined with a mixture of pillar, votives, and taper candles and the bushes in the cloisters will be wrapped with fairy lights for a subtle twinkle. We’ve not yet decided whether the party will take place in the courtyard or a room within the venue, but as we don’t have a dance floor, our plan is to construct a canopy of lights or string paper lanterns across the top of the courtyard (once the dinner is over) to mark the territory of the dance floor! After doing a little research, I’m also rather fond of ‘up-lighting’ – a technique where lights are placed on the ground and pointed ‘up’ to project the light off a wall or object. It’s often used to highlight certain features, and a subtle hue in the arches of the cloisters could really enhance the look.
Lighting in the garden is a lower priority for us as our guests will be based in the courtyard most of the evening, but as this will be their exit route, I think it deserves at least a little bit of attention. My plan is to line the pathway that connects the courtyard to the main entrance with candle-lit mason jars. Although I’m not a huge fan of the mason jar, all you can see at nighttime is the flickering light and I can’t deny how damn pretty they look! I also plan to raid my parents/neighbours/their neighbour’s entire collection of Christmas lights and rig them up the poplar trees in the garden so they twinkle. There’s a weeping willow towards the back of the garden (the perfect hideaway for a secret midnight smooch), and I think it would look gloriously romantic covered in fairy lights and hanging candles as well. In my mind this is a very simple task but I have a feeling this will not be the case…!
Before you get started, check the lighting restrictions with the venue. Some have strict rules on the use of candles and what can be hung from walls and ceilings. Also enquire what lighting equipment the venue has and where it’s normally used. This will give you a good place to start and a better idea of what additional lighting you might want.
Look at images of weddings that have taken place at your venue to see how lighting installations have been arranged. When we compared pictures of our reception area with and without illumination, it was glaringly obvious how effective it was. If previous weddings don’t offer much lighting inspiration, look at similar venues to see what styles work best. I took a lot of inspiration from the Asylum in London and Castello di Vincigliata in Florence.
This particularly applies to destination weddings, but if you’re getting married abroad, try and visit your venue at least twice before your wedding. It’s unlikely you’ll be thinking about the intricate details on your first visit, and even if you do, things will crop up later which you’ll need a second visit to remedy. On your second visit, take pictures of every nook and cranny as well as the walls, windows, ceilings and light fixtures. When it comes to planning your light arrangements and décor later down the line, you then have images to refer back to.
If you’re planning an evening reception, it’s worth visiting your venue at least once in the dark so you can see how it’s lit and where you might need additional lighting.
Choose lighting that’s appropriate for your venue. As much as I’d love to dine under chandeliers and hanging bulbs, they wouldn’t be appropriate for our venue and the mood we want to create. If you’re not sure about where to start, contact some lighting specialists and see what they recommend.
If like us your evening meal and party is taking place in the same location, consider using different light features to set the dance floor apart. Strung lights are relatively easy to set-up providing you have something to attach them to, but if you’re hiring a band or DJ, definitely look into disco-style/coloured lighting for when the party really kicks in – it will make all the difference on the dance floor!
If you’re low on lighting supplies, use what you have around the perimeter of your reception rather than random walls or objects. This will make your dining area become the feature. And if you’re concerned about bare walls, why not consider renting a projector and creating a slide show of images of your guests? As our wedding party is multilingual, we’ll be using a projector to translate the speeches. Once they’re over, we plan to do the same as a fun feature before the dancing begins.
If your venue has a path or steps that people will be using throughout the night, consider lining them with mason jars and pop a candle inside. This is an inexpensive and extremely effective way to create a visual impact in the dark, but it will also help your guests to see where they’re going!
Lastly, if you’re on a budget but desperate for some mood lighting, consider asking your family and friends to lend you their Christmas lights – fairy lights aren’t just for Christmas after all!
Well I hope you found parts of this blog useful and you’ve been inspired by all these pretty images! If you’d like even more wedding lighting inspiration, have a look at RMW’s Pinterest board.