R&R Productions

Set the Mood

The right lighting can dramatically transform a space and set a magical mood for your reception

Story by Jamey Bradbury
Photo by Alaska’s R&R Productions

Looking for that wow factor on your wedding day? It might be as easy as switching on the right lights. Hiring a pro to light up your reception is a great way to transform an ordinary, unimaginative space into a magical venue that delights your guests.

Not only will the right reception lighting help create a special mood for your event, but it will also help camouflage sore spots like less-than-stellar windows or even shabby ballroom curtains, and highlight your favorite details such as the incredible centerpieces or your cake table.

A Flash in the Pan

But forget pulsing lights and flashy colors. That was so yesteryear. Today’s brides are skipping the complicated patterns and laser light shows that gave venues a circus feel, says Evelyn Sizemore of R&R Productions. Instead, “people want romantic. They want elegant. Those old lighting programs that shot out patterns like stars or triangles on the dance floor, those are just too cheesy.”

Lasers have become passé for good reason: “They wreck havoc on your wedding photos,” explains Sizemore. “Lasers are also very strong. They look cool at first, but after an hour of looking at them, you have a raging headache.”

Finally, “anything that can be plugged in” is out, says Sizemore. Reception planners have gone wireless, using LED lights that can be moved around the room as the evening progresses. “We’ll do an uplight to highlight the cake table,” Sizemore describes. “But once the cake is eaten, it’s a waste of color to have that table lit up. So we’ll move that wireless light closer to the dance floor.”

An Evolving Evening

Movement is the name of the game: With the versatility offered by wireless lights and pre-programmed lighting schemes, a reception venue is no longer a static room; the right lighting can transform a space throughout the evening.

“We don’t just create a color scheme; we create scenes,” declares Sizemore. “So one moment the bride and groom can be having dinner under a gorgeous sunset, and the next minute they’ll be dancing under a starry sky. Then, at the flick of a switch, we can have a dance club that puts the hottest club to shame.”

For brides who want to bring the outdoors in, a combination of saturated colors and the right placement can create magic. “Alaskans love the northern lights,” says Martin James of APE-Alaska Professional Entertainment, “so we’ve got 40-inch bar washes that are very lightweight, battery-operated and wireless. We zip tie them to the tops of the pipe-and-drape systems that cover the walls, up to 36 feet in the air. Suddenly, you’ve got the aurora borealis.”

While flashing patterns are out, monograms or elegant patterns projected on the walls, the floor or even the ceiling of a room are all the rage. “The nice thing is, nothing has to be set in stone,” says Sizemore. “It can change throughout the night.”

A personalized lighting scheme that transitions throughout the night can help cue guests for what to expect next, whether it’s the couple’s first dance or cake-cutting time. “We can create a waterfall during a romantic dance, or a fire scene during a hot song – if that doesn’t change the mood, nothing will. When we add color and movement to an event, it completely changes the way people react.”

Spot On

“People want what they see on TV or the Internet,” says James – and that means more and more couples are surprising their guests with choreographed dance routines or serenading the crowd with a special song. Spotlights can make these moments all the more effective.

For a recent wedding that featured a grand entrance by a singing bride, Sizemore used a spotlight to draw attention to the bride as she descended a staircase. “Brides are wanting to make their receptions a little more elaborate,” says Sizemore. “Spotlighting a performance really brings the focus in on a special moment to make a great memory for the guests.”

Uplighting and pin spotlighting are also popular ways to draw attention to the special touches a bride has included in her décor. “Focusing a narrow spotlight on each table really accentuates a nice centerpiece, or it can completely light up the cake,” says James. “And you can use uplighting to really bring elements like pillars or the head table to life.”

Let There Be Light

Good lighting can create a magical atmosphere – and it can cut down costs by becoming the décor, rather than simply highlighting it.

“Now we don’t have to do the white Christmas lights or the tulle,” says James, “because lights now are so versatile; the lighting can evolve with the evening, with the couples’ needs or preferences.”

The “right” light is key: James recommends that couples in the planning stage find a lighting expert, then take a look at the venue when it’s fully lit to determine what kind of lighting will work in the space. “You want to avoid lighting that’s not going to do anything to the room,” he says. “If you’ve got a room with lots of windows, votives on the tables aren’t going to do much. But you can take a colored light that will lend emphasis in a room that’s already got a lot of natural light.”

A head table and cake table uplit with your signature colors; elegant centerpieces that lend the room drama when illuminated by a narrow spotlight; or a dance on the clouds, created by a layer of fog lit with the color of your choice: Whether your idea of a great reception is excitement and glamour or sophisticated chic, the right lighting can set the tone for your special night.