So with wedding season coming up, the most important question that a bride has to ask herself is "Where do we want to get married?"
Then usually followed by "Who wants to take our pictures?"
Picking a venue can be overwhelming. I will have to tell you that I wish more brides picked a location based on photography.
Most of the time, a location is picked because of popularity, distance or pricing, not whether the location will be ideal for the photos that you want.
Every location will bring a different mood to your photos. If you get married at an old farm, then your photos will have a lot of natural light and a rustic feel. If you get married in an old church with high ceilings and yellowish candlelight, then flash will be necessary to have, to fill the space with lighting.
As a photographer, I have shot at state parks, church gyms, historic homes, gardens, community centers, the beach, people's homes and many other places. I can tell you that if I sat the bride and groom down before they even picked a location, then I think their photos would be more suited to their needs.
Most of the time, the bride and groom will already have a location picked by the time they talk to me. That's fine, but a lot of times I ask them questions, like: "What time do you want your photos?"
And they answer, "The place only allows for 10 minutes of photos after dark when the place closes."
Or "The venue only allows the photographer to stand behind a curtain in the very far back of the room to get photos."
Or my favorite, "You are not allowed to use flash at all at the venue. But the wedding will be at 8:30 at night. And we want pictures outside."
So what they are saying to me between the lines, is GOOD, CLASSY, MEMORABLE photos are not a priority in their wedding planning.
Good wedding photography takes times, it's an art form. Good wedding photography is best during the daylight hours, drenched in natural light. I use side flashes and softboxes during the reception if I have too. But window light is my favorite.
1. The first thing I would recommend while looking for a good wedding venue is choosing a location that is ALL IN ONE LOCATION. The last thing you want is for your photographer (and family) to drive 45 minutes to the picture location, then get in the car and drive to the ceremony location and then then drive 30 minutes to the reception area.
A lot could happen en route to places. People could get lost. Things could get lost. Your photographer could get into an accident!
So having a location where you don't have to drive would be best!
2. I can't say it enough, but having a location that has flattering natural light is ideal. Museums are very popular places to have weddings, but the mixed overhead lighting is unflattering to take portraits in.
If your having your pictures inside, look for LOTS of big windows and skylights. This is a photographer's dream!
Having a low white ceiling is also okay, because of the ability to have bounced flash.
3. I was once shooting at a location that was basically a community center. The bride and groom had not planned on doing many photos at all, especially not outside. There was only a parking lot in the back of the center. So I basically had to set up my softboxes and have them all stand on the stage with their family. I had to stand on a chair and yell out to the crowd of 300 people, "Uncles, Aunts, and Cousins." No joke 25 cousins and 10 aunts and uncles show up.
Then, for the bride and groom portraits, I had to have them against a bush on the side of one car to get some headshots at least. It was a FREEZING cold day in march though, so weather was a factor.
If I was a little bit more experienced, I would have pushed them to take pictures at a nice location somewhere, or at least put in their schedule time for more pictures. I only had 5 minutes with the bride and the groom! This was not enough time at all!
It really makes it nice if your church or venue has a garden in the back or a bunch of areas around the church for pictures.
4. I remember at one church, they only allowed me to stand behind a certain line, because I wasn't the religion of the church that I was in. I definitely couldn't use flash, and even my 70-200 wasn't close enough to even reach very far to the front of the altar. There was no way that I could get different angles or even their fronts, because of the church's rule.
Asking these questions of the venue before booking a place is very important.
5. At one wedding, they didn't have a "plan B" and they had to fit 75 people in the space of a two car garage. I was stuck against the side of one wall with my camera and flash. It was sleeting outside, but there was no way to shut the garage door because of the number of the people squeezed in, so I was freezing!
I couldn't even squeeze in and out of the tables to get people. It was very frustrating. Plus the lighting in the garages was dingy and there were old wires everywhere!
There were no dancing, no tosses and no reception. Not that we could do all of these things in such a small space., but I really missed having those moments. My photos seemed lacking to me personally. They missed heart and laughter.
6. I can't tell you the number of weddings that I see that want to be held in the evening time. Apparently, it's a very American tradition. But honestly, no one looks good in pictures at 10:30 at night, when they are all sweaty from dancing. Even the bride looks wilted at that time of night.
I think the best time to have a wedding is from 9-5, so that your guests don't get too drunk, everyone seems fresh, and the photos have more life to them.
Breakfast weddings are really fun. Who doesn't like breakfast food. Plus, I heard that catering is cheaper for it!
7. I remember at one church I was in, the bride had to get ready in one of the nursery rooms in the basement. There was toys everywhere and no natural light. I actually prefer for the bride to get ready at her home, if there is no venue for this because at least I can have the ability to have window light.
8. I am from the beach area in Virginia, so I see a lot of people that want to get married there. I know it's romantic. But honestly, between the light being very harsh at certain times of the day, the sand in everyone's shoes, the wind blowing everyone's hair, and the possibilty of a storm, honestly, I don't really like the beach very much.
I only like being at the beach if there is a overhanging pier or a pavilion of some type to shade the ceremony. Maybe if the beach had a wooden walkway or something, so that bridesmaid in high heels wouldn't feel uncomfortable. Plus it's really hard for grandma to walk in the sand to get to the ceremony. I remember one time, some lifeguards and a drunk guy had to carry a grandma across the sand to get to the ceremony.
So in your search for a great location, don't forget about the photos. Photos will last longer than your dress, longer than your cake, longer than your salmon or chicken.
So think about these 8 things before you book a location!
Let me know if you have any other questions!
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