It still sounds crazy right? Well it is!!! Congrats! So now you've begun the amazing yet daunting journey of planning a wedding. Wow, so much stuff to do! Where to start? Well I've been to a lot of weddings and I feel like I have a decent grasp on what most couples find important at a wedding. And almost nothing is more important than your venue choice.
"WAIT HOLD ON! You're a photographer! You don't think a good photographer is the most important choice? What kind of business are you running here?!"
I know... and I once truly believed that hiring a good photographer was the top priority. 10 years into your marriage, the only thing you're left with after your wedding is your photos. However, the more weddings I shoot at a variety of venues, the more I have realized that it is definitely a more important decision than your photographer... which is why almost every couple who has hired me already knows where they're getting married.
"Okay Mr. Photographer... why do you care so much about where I get married? Aren't you going to get paid either way?"
You're right! The decision of your venue does not impact me in any way financially... but that's not what this blog is about. You would not believe the impact a venue has on the quality of your photos! And when I have to deliver photos that I do not believe are of my highest quality, it breaks my heart. So I want to help couples with this decision so they know what to look for in a wedding venue, in regards to photography.
What To Look For In A Wedding Venue
This should go without saying... but I do not understand every aspect of running a wedding venue and how they will affect every detail of your wedding. Please do not make your decision solely on my opinions... do plenty of your own research. I'm here to only tell you about what to look for in a venue based on how it will impact your photos.
1. Check where the sun sets at the venue
This only applies if you plan to have your ceremony outdoors. Many venues are very conscious of where the sun sets and will be sure that during your ceremony, the sun isn't in your face. However, it seems so strange to me, but some venues will have the sun set behind the guests. At these venues, the sun beams right down onto the couple. Not only will this make you super uncomfortable and hot during your ceremony, but your photos will look much darker and contrasty. Also your eyes will be squinty in every photograph. So when you are touring a venue, be sure to note where the sun is setting. The best venues will have the sun set somewhere in front of where the guests are.
2. If you're getting married outdoors, then check for adequate weather protection
Bad weather happens... a lot! And as unpredictable as the weather is in my home state of Texas, you will want a venue that has a backup plan. So when you're touring a venue, be sure to ask about what they will do for you in case of bad weather. Unfortunately I've been to a few venues that didn't have preparations for bad weather, and it's really difficult to take good photos of a ceremony when everyone is squished into a tiny room never meant to be a venue. However, I can usually convince the couple to take photos in the rain, so there's a silver lining there!
3. If any part of your wedding is indoors, check the lighting
So this one is pretty important. Whether it is your ceremony, reception, or both, indoor lighting is usually terrible for photos. If you don't believe me, find a recently married couple on facebook, and look at all of the cellphone photos they were tagged in by friends and family. You will notice that any photos shot indoors almost always look horrifyingly bad... either blurry or dark. The main culprit is dim harsh lighting. When you're checking out a venue that has indoor ceremony/reception rooms, look for large windows and/or many bulbs spread around the room (string lights are a photographer's best friend.). If you walk into a room and it only has a couple of lights directly overhead... RUN. These rooms are a photography nightmare.
4. Check for noise levels
This doesn't really affect photography at all, but I felt it was so important that I added it anyway! If you're looking at a venue and parts of it look like a normal house... you're probably not imaging things. Many wedding venues are actually normal houses where people lived at some point, before they sold it to an investor who turned it into a wedding venue. However sometimes there are noise sources that, while normal for day to day life, are disastrous for a wedding... including close neighbors, train tracks, and nearby traffic. So when you're touring a venue, even if it doesn't look like a former home, take a moment by yourself to listen to the ambient noise level and decide if it's acceptable for your wedding.
5. Look for interesting photo locations
This point is going to be a bit more vague, but I'll do my best to make sense. Many venues will be sure that there are plenty of good locations to shoot photos at, such as a nice water feature, or an old beat up stepside truck, or a pier on a pond... etc. However a few venues I shoot at regularly don't really have many locations to shoot photos, so I end up using the same few spots over and over again due to the lack of options. So my suggestion is that, while you're touring a venue, ask the manager where photographers usually photograph the couples.