This is a topic that I am SO passionate about, because your venue will impact EVERY part of your wedding day photos! Choosing a venue is usually one of the first decisions made after getting engaged. From a photographer’s perspective, there are a few venue-related things that I look for at every wedding that can greatly impact your wedding photos.
If I have an upcoming wedding at a venue I haven’t worked at before, I look up the venue’s website, Facebook page, Pinterest, and Instagram to find as many photos as possible to give me a layout of the venue so that I can see what I’ll be working with on the wedding day.
There are three things that I try to get a sense of before the wedding day so that I can be prepared for all possible photo scenarios. (This also helped me when choosing the perfect venue for my wedding last year!)
1. Indoor/Outdoor Location
Let’s face it, rain happens. One thing that you cannot predict or control is the possibility of rain (or even snow!) on your wedding day. Even if you are wanting to get married outside, look for a venue that also has an indoor option OR the ability to put a tent on the property. (You can rent enclosed tents, so that if it is literally raining sideways on your wedding day there is protection from the elements!)
Many venues have indoor options for the reception, and this can often be used as your ceremony space as well when rain comes on short notice! The area may not be able to be completely flipped, as it can take hours for a reception space to be set up. However, your guests can still sit at their reception tables, and an area can typically be cleared away for a makeshift aisle for you to walk down.
Some indoor/outdoor venues also have indoor spaces large enough to hold both the ceremony and reception in different rooms, which is great for winter weddings!
2. Bride + Groom Suites
After arriving early at the venue on the day of the wedding, my second shooter and I take a look in the bride + groom’s getting ready suites to see what sort of light + space we’re working with. We also want to see if we’ll be able to take our detail shots in the bridal suite. (This is preferable, as we won’t have to move so many details to a different part of the venue, which can take up valuable time!) Even if there is space in the bridal suite for us to do detail shots there, one thing we must have for that is adequate light.
Bride + groom suites are such an important part of the venue, and it is ideal for them to have plenty of natural light! If your venue does not come with a bride and groom suite, or the suites do not have much natural light, see if there is another area indoors where you can stage your getting ready photos that has good lighting and a clean backdrop. (Tons of windows, a large opening to the room that allows light to flood in, etc.)
If I’m at a venue where there is not a groom’s suite (more common for this to happen with the guys than the girls) OR the suite is in a basement or somewhere else without good light, I often move the guys to a different room indoors that will have more light for us to use!
It’s also great to have some pretty mirrors in the bridal suite for getting ready photos! Too many mirrors can be a bad thing (I’ve had situations where I can’t escape them and then have to photoshop myself and videographers out of them. 😂), but 1-2 pretty mirrors can definitely add to your photos, especially if one is full length!
Remember how many people you’ll have in your getting ready room. On my wedding day there was me, my eight bridesmaids, my mother, the makeup artist, hair stylist, photographer, and videographer. Make sure your suites have enough space to accommodate everyone without feeling cramped.
3. Multiple Locations for Photos
During your portraits, I try and cover as much of the property as possible, using any locations with good lighting at that time of day. Because we are often doing portraits midday, I try to use places that have plenty of open shade or great natural reflectors. My goal is always to do the first look, bride + groom portraits, wedding party, family, and sunset photos all in different locations if possible to give a large variety to your wedding gallery.
One thing I ask all of my couples in their pre-wedding questionnaire is if there are any particular places they want to shoot any of these portraits at so that we can plan for it ahead of time, light permitting. When researching venues, make sure you’re not only looking at the ceremony + reception sites, but also at any areas that will work well for portraits. We’ll be taking hours worth of portraits on your wedding day combined, and it’s best to have many locations to choose from!
Choosing your wedding venue is one of the most important parts of the wedding planning process as your entire day will be built around that location, so make sure to choose one that you absolutely love and checks all of the boxes on your list! Every wedding vendor will have different things that they look for in the “perfect” venue, but I hope this blog post has been helpful and given you tons of tips from a wedding photographer’s perspective!
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I’m a wedding and lifestyle photographer based in Knoxville, Tennessee but available anywhere. If you have questions about booking me for a session or wedding, click here! To follow me on social media, check out my Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.