A Light on Lighting

28.04.19 01:40 PM Comment(s)

Shining a Spotlight on Lights:
​An Illuminating Look at Lighting on Your Wedding Day

Ahhh, spring! The season of sniffles, sneezes, and the first soaring temperatures is finally in full swing. Even Detroit cracked 70F last week. With buds blooming and leaf-out inching its way north it’s not surprising that all this celebration of life coincides with the return of the wedding season. 

Sure, people say their ‘I Dos’ in the middle of winter. But May is the beginning of the “marriage season” where according to TheKnot.comthe majority of Americans (78 percent ) pronounce their love from mid spring to early fall and in the famous words of Beyoncé, “put a ring on it.”

But putting a “ring on it” is only one part of a bride and groom’s magical day. Ensuring that magic requires the coordination of many elements: great entertainment, be it a DJ or a live band, professional sound equipment including microphones and speakers, delicious food, creative drink options, an indoor or outdoor space that’s appropriate to the size of your guest list, and decorative table centerpieces that tie the whole room together. With a list this extensive, though, lighting is often overlooked. 


Maybe it’s because we take lighting for granted in other aspects of our lives. Flip a switch, tap an app, talk to Alexa or Google Home and the lights go on. Ask an event planning expert, however, and proper lighting is crucial to wedding day success. 

Lights in the Limelight

Just like the wedding itself, quality lighting involves many factors. Brightness, bulb quality, heat generated, type of bulb(s) used, the spectrum of light it puts out – red shifted light is a warmer glow whereas blue shifted light has cooler properties – color selection, software programming for complex lighting sequences, and strobes and lasers all work in concert to create the look you envision. It’s a look wedding planners are keen on selling you from their polished (sometimes too polished) brochures. 


As experts in the lighting business know, looks can be deceiving. Don’t settle for cut-rate prices thinking that a light is a light is a light. They aren’t. (Thomas Edisonsaid as much when he reflected on his dogged pursuit of a successful, filament-sustaining bulb. “I have not failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”) 


In light of that truism – and the budding marriage season ahead – here are some terms,as well as the pitfalls and promises of what to look for in professional-grade entertainment lighting. 


  • Learn the lingo – Lighting is a complex topic. So it helps as a consumer to know what you’re getting into. That way when a lighting professional goes in for the technical deep dive you can demonstrate your knowledge. Here are some of the more common wedding-related lighting terms and how these lights can add ambience to your event:
    • Par Can –These are parabolic (curved) reflector lamps that provide superior beam control and are used to focus light on dinner tables and bars from an upward or downward direction. Heat can be an issue so many opt to house these lights in white boxes.
    • Pinspot –Essentially this is a focused narrow spotlight and it shines light on specific objects, allowing them to stand out from surrounding tables and equipment. Wedding cakes and ice sculptures are often illuminated in this way.
    • LEDs –In the last decade LEDs, or light emitting diodes have become increasingly popular. Long gone are the days where LEDs could only produce a single type of cold blue-shifted light. Their most popular application is for multicolored programmable light sequences whose patterns and repetitions can liven up any party. They’re also highly energy efficient and generate little heat.
    • Goes before Optics (GOBO) – These are patterned plates that go in front of a light and are used for projection. Made from glass, steel or brass, glass is often the preferred material, although it can be more costly.
    • Color Wash – This has nothing to do with laundry. A color wash illuminates a large area like a wall and changes its color. Think the reverse of a focused beam.
    • Projection light –Thanks to the advent of powerful, portable lightweight projectors, videos and images can be projected on screens or walls anywhere you desire.
  • Mood matters most – Just like stage lighting for a concert or a play, professional wedding light is one of the most effective tools for setting the mood. Lighting is all about the manipulation of shadows and using angles to your advantage. Color choice can evoke powerful emotions, enhanced by the music, food and drink. Lighting can even appear to alter the physical dimensions of your wedding space, making it appear larger and more grand, or smaller and more intimate. For instance, with the right accent lights, you can quietly direct (or redirect) your guests’ attention elsewhere.
  • Up lights, down lights, and everything in between –Up lighting, as the name implies, is any light that’s placed on the floor or table and directed upwards. This has the effect of creating a more intimate space, especially when you add programmable color changes. Down lighting is any light that shines from the ceiling or an overhead display like a CHAUVET DJ lighting rack. Aquatic lighting is used for pool illumination and often involves a combination of underwater up lighting and overhead projection.

Bright Ideas: Quality and Quantity Count

Of course, even if you’ve done your lighting homework and have taken the time to learn the above lingo, finding quality – and quantity – is your next biggest challenge. That’s because too few lights can have just as negative an impact on your event as too many. Thus, finding the best quality at the best price in the most appropriate bulk is of top concern.


While the numbers on this point vary, Junebug Weddings, a company dedicated to providing resources for celebration success, offers the following average prices:

  • Uplighting for an entire ballroom: $700-$2,500
  • Gobo light: $200-$500
  • Texture lighting: $50-$75 per light fixture
  • Spotlight: $30-$100
  • Pinspot lighting: $25-$45 per light/table
  • String lights: $3-$5 per linear foot
  • Chandeliers: $150-$300 each
  • Pendants: $15-$25 per
  • Projector, computer, and screen: $200-$600

If these estimates prove too costly there’s always the DIY approach. However, this too, can be fraught with challenges. What may seem cost effective at first can quickly become a real time and expense nightmare. Generally happy couples are happiest when they leave this type of work to the professionals. 


On the other hand, when selecting professional lighting assistance it helps to ask probing questions like: does the total cost include labor? If it does you want to know how much time it will take to set up and take down, how much power will be needed to illuminate the entire space, and will the designer be on location for the entire event?


Also, be sure to check with the venue to ensure you’re not purchasing double the material due to lighting that’s already included on-site. Of course, it goes without saying that part of your homework means checking references to make certain you’re working with a lighting professional and not some fly-by-night operation. (Because in Miami that never happens. J) 


After all, there really is a measurable difference between high quality and low quality operations. Off-brand lighting products pedaled by third-rate companies will not produce the color range or warmth you expect. The quality and type of lights used during an event truly makes a difference.

Lavish Luminescence Delivered

Ultimately your wedding day (next to the birth of your child) is among the most important days in a young couple’s life. It’s a day envisioned years, sometimes decades in advance. Having that day go off without a hitch is as important as saying “I do.” 


At Dry N Wet, the leaders in event planning and live entertainment solutions, we understand these needs well. With a combined 20 years experience in the entertainment planning industry we know a thing or two (or three) about professional lighting. And our expert staff remains on hand to “shed some light” on this most illuminating topic. 


Lighting puns aside, this spring, as you’re reviewing your wedding day checklist, in all the hubbub and hullabaloo, don’t forget the importance of professional-grade lighting and effects-based illumination.


May, a month (possibly) named forthe Roman goddess Maja, and associated with agriculture and fertility, really is the month of rebirth and love. Heinrich Heine, a 19thcentury German poetmay have described the fifth month of the year best: “In the marvelous month of May when all the buds were bursting, then in my heart did love arise. In the marvelous month of May when all the birds were singing, then did I reveal to her my yearning and longing.” 


This spring, express your love for your soon-to-be life partner in the best light possible and you can expect a glowing response!

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