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Lighting and Media Trends in Weddings

Julianna Mabry


Every bride knows she has to stick to a décor budget and be it tight spending plan or an extravagant allowance, lighting is one of the most effective ways to maximize your décor dollar. A thoughtful and creative lighting design can pull your entire décor theme together. It’s the key element every good wedding planner knows will give an event that extra zing. Best of all, your other vendors, especially your photographer, will love you for hiring a professional lighting designer to highlight their talents! Bryan Azar, founder and head lighting designer of the Austin-based firm, ILIOS Lighting Design, says, “Lighting can make or break an event: the floral designer, the linens vendor, even the baker and caterer…we enhance all of their work with carefully positioned pin-spots.  Next, we create exciting dance floor looks for the DJ or band. Then our team finishes out the ballroom or tent with washes of ambient color, projected patterns, and media elements to complete the bride’s vision of her special day.” Knowing the basic types of lighting, the names of some of the different fixtures, and the latest in media technology will help you in conveying your vision to your lighting designer.

Here are some helpful terms:

Conventional Lighting: static, stationary, or “fixed” lighting that is put in place before an event and cannot be changed once in position. ie: overheard pin-spotting, hanging paper lanterns, or any type of permanent lighting fixtures in the venue, such as sconces or chandeliers.

Examples of conventional fixtures are: • Pin-spots: miniature, overhead spotlights used to highlight floral arrangements, guest sign-in table, the wedding cake, or a food station. Hint: Even if you do no other lighting for your event, pin-spotting is essential for bringing out the beauty of floral arrangements or table décor! •

Par Can: something like a flood light, used for lighting a large area of a floor or wall, can be colored by using a gel (a thin, colored sheet of plastic). Unlike LEDs (see under Intelligent Lighting) the color cannot be changed during event. Par Cans are very bright and can cover a lot of space, however they consume a large amount of electricity and can get VERY hot. They also tend to be a bit bulky and a bit of an eyesore if not properly disguised.

• Leko: used for projecting an image such as the bride and groom’s monogram, special patterns like stars and swirls, or objects, like a tree or bird. Images are cut into a steel disc or etched into a glass disc, called a Gobo. Gobos are inserted into the light fixture.  If you have your initials custom cut, be sure to ask your lighting designer for the gobo after your event, to use again at an anniversary party or to have as a keepsake for your wedding album!

The second category is Intelligent Lighting: automated or computer controlled lighting, that can be either pre-programmed or manipulated during an event. (i.e.: change color or images)

Some Intelligent Lighting fixtures are:

• L.E.D.s: A fixture that does not use light bulbs, but rather, “light-emitting diodes” that can create any color you wish. LEDs emit little to no heat and draw far less electricity than conventional fixtures, making them ideal for lighting ice sculptures, fabrics, or tight spaces with poor ventilation. Some LEDs are even submersible, meaning you could put them in a fountain or swimming pool and change the color of the water to match your décor!

• Movers: an overall term for motorized light fixtures than can swivel, tilt, and change their colors or internal gobos via a computer controlled operating console. These are excellent for creating a dynamic backdrop for your band or accentuating the action on the dance floor, however these fixtures can be weighty and usually need to be hung from a truss structure. (Truss is interlocking steel support beams that will need to be assembled by your lighting designer’s licensed rigging crew.) The latest advancements in LED technology have afforded lighting designers an unlimited color palette. This allows for a softer range of true bridal pastels, deeper jewel-tone hues, and much more precise color matching. With high-definition (HD) projectors becoming more affordable, photomontages of the bride and groom have moved from simple slideshows of the couple to sophisticated, more engaging video presentations on flat panel displays. Video projections are now even being used as backdrops for the band or DJ, as if you were at a real concert!

When you combine these advancements with the talents of a lighting designer who understands the flow of your event and knows how to create emphasis on key moments, you have the easy flexibility to transition from mood to mood during your wedding. For example, your guests could enter to a warm, elegant glow for dinner, later, the room could be darkened slightly and change color for the first dance to draw focus to the couple, and then finally, come alive with vibrant moving patterns and colors when the band stirs up the dance floor.

Bryan of ILIOS Lighting Design adds, “Lighting is something of an enigma, it creates the intangible, it helps bring out the emotions and set the tone for what’s happening in the room at any given moment. It is what helps an event leave such an incredible and lasting impact in your and your guests’ memory. Ironically, when lighting design is well executed, you may not consciously realize that you’ve been affected by it, but if it’s poorly done or if it’s not there at all, you will notice it.”

Indeed, who wants to spend a fortune on floral arrangements, a band, and additional décor, only to arrive at your venue and realize that you and your guests can hardly see your beautiful, carefully chosen details? 

Good lighting design completes the look and theme that you’ve put so much effort, time, and money into. You can make a $50 bouquet glow like a $500 floral arrangement with proper pin-spotting or get your guests out of their chairs and onto the dance floor with dynamic, nightclub-style lighting. Before calling a lighting designer, know your overall theme and colors, prepare a flexible lighting budget, and bring a preliminary floor plan with table placements and headcount. If you can, find out how much power (electricity) will be available at your venue and if additional generators will be needed.

Be aware that in addition to meeting the bridal client’s needs, lighting designers often need to meet the specific requests or requirements of the other vendors, and these needs must be discussed well in advance of the event. The more information you can provide, the more you will help your lighting designer create an effective and efficient schematic plan to fulfill your creative vision. Putting each of your vendors in touch with the others, or hosting a vendors meeting, will be invaluable for smooth planning. Now that you are familiar with the basics of specialty lighting and media, let your imagination run wild. A well-designed lighting plan is “the icing on the cake” that will take your special day from merely memorable to absolutely unforgettable. Whatever you and your intended can dream up, a good lighting designer will be able to make your ideas a happy reality!

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