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Lighting For Weddings and Events

One of the most effective yet forgotten about methods of making an event come to life is lighting. Whether it be atmospheric, projecting your logo/ monogram, or simply allowing guests to see certain key areas that you want to draw their attention to, lighting for weddings and events is a very important detail that shouldn’t be overlooked.

I had a chance to sit down with Fusion Events very own lighting designer, Sam Fleming, to speak about how he applies science, art, and common sense to create a perfect atmosphere at your wedding using just lighting, and why you should NOT put your DJ in a corner!

  • How does lighting design for weddings and event integrate into entertainment?

I’m passionate about this stuff because if we already going to do the event, we are already DJing and need our sound system and technician, so let’s make it look beautiful too. You can have all the fancy décor you want, but if the space isn’t lit properly it’s just a dark room. I’ve come from the theatre side of entertainment, so let’s picture the whole room blacked out and put lights just where you want people to look. You need to focus their attention on the centerpieces, podium and head table to start. Then the dance floor needs specials if you want to get people dancing and show off the venue too. Often you want to pick architectural features like pillars for example. Also, you want to have dimmable lights for dinner, as you want your guests to see the colour of the food, but bring them down to almost off after dinner. You can have the most beautiful food and flowers in front of you, but if there’s no white light on it you don’t see the full range of colours. However, if the dance floor is too bright people will feel self-conscious and will not want to dance.

  • Is there a formula for a good lighting designer?

If you really want to get into lighting design you have to think about the circadian rhythms, which is about how humans are built to be awake when the sun comes up or go to sleep when sun goes down, so when it gets dark after dinner we start yawning it’s your body telling you to go to bed. A lot of it has to do with light. I try to take this into consideration in my lighting design and go more with red, as it is a good colour at night. Red has the widest range than any other colour, but it’s really easy on your retina. You know when go out in the woods and somebody shines a flashlight in your eyes and it takes time for you to regain your night vision again. Red does not do it. This is my perspective on it, taking the actual science and how your body and mind works and apply it to lighting design to create just the right atmosphere.

  • Can you tell me more about the basic lighting fixtures?

It depends on what kind of feel a couple wants after you meet them, the most popular trend LED lights. They can be long bars or par cans. Their colour saturation is excellent, so if you want to get into theming an event, it can give the whole room this electric glow. However, they don’t put out a warm colour temperature, their white is slightly cold, although some couples like that effect. There are new LEDs that are called RGBA and now include Amber with the Red, Green and Blue, so they have an amber dimension for that warmth.  You can use them as stage washes or for certain architectural features of the room you would want to inhance. They can be programmed like any lighting fixture and can change the feel and colour of the room as need be. The darker the room is, the more power they have.

When you have an entertainer, for example, a stand-up comedian or a singer, you black out the room and have a follow spot so that everybody in the room is forced to focus on them. It is little bit of mind control, a little bit of setting the scene. Follow spot is a big canon of light. You can control how wide the circle is and like with the most lighting the further away it is the bigger circle you can create. You normally need to have a good through distance on it, so it is recommended for bigger theatre style rooms. Plus if there is no natural balcony it needs to be on a riser, because as soon as everybody gets up it is going to hit the backs of their heads, you need downwards angle. It all depends on the use, but when you have it follow spot can be used for the podium or if you put a disco ball it is really powerful light it will really make that effect pop.

Up Lighitng at Wedding Reception Toronto

Uplighing using LED par cans

PAR cans are old school but still powerful lights; you can use them to light up the whole front of the building. You just have to make sure if they want to go with incandescent lights there are no children, because you could cook a grilled cheese on this thing. You can use these as a nice stage wash too. There are not as crisp as the Lekos but have that warm colour temperature the LED’s lack.

Lekos are pro theater lights. You can control these fixtures a lot more. Say you have an area way off in the distance, so you focus the light to where it should be. Plus, you can cut the light off so it’ll be just a little slimmer, or into a different geometrical shapes. They are multi-purpose so they cost more.  Gobos can be created and cut and put inside them to have anything from a forest scene to corporate logos or monograms to project on the venue.

Pin spots are great for centerpieces or any special queues where you just need a little bit of light at one place. The thing with pin spots you have to put them really high and on the sides of the venue, so the lights come in with more of an angle. Avoid mirrors when you are doing pin spots, because when the lights hit the mirrors the light can hit another person in the face. Also, it looks good for photography, as it bounces off the tables and gives everybody nice splash of light on their faces.

Uplighting, Followspot, Gobo, Video DJ

Uplighting, Pinspotting, Followspot, Gobo, Video DJ

  • What are other crucial things to consider while lighting up a space?

The thing with coloured lights or any kind of lights you need to bounce them off white surfaces, so it’s kind of like painting on a canvas. Say if you’ve got a room with really dark walls and it becomes really tricky to get anything out of LED lights.  They bounce up the fall and back down off the ceiling to give a room this coloured glow.

  • What would you say is the biggest obstacle in the industry when it comes to entertainment?

Getting a sturdy table and getting pushed into the corner. I always have a hard time when I’m in these rooms and they put the DJ and tech in the corner. Also the dance floor is further away. It’s not about me being the centre of attention; it’s more about me being able to see the whole room and read people. It’s always better to be on the short side of the room, then on the long side. A lot of halls insist on doing it the other way, so you have to insist and say this why we do it the way we do it. It’s your responsibility as a wedding planner to catch it in the beginning with the floor planning and to make sure I’m on short wall and in the centre if you want to make it easy to have a successful show.

Up lighting is a popular theme, but too often they are just placed around the room without much thought or focus. Playing with the light, focusing it, tweaking it a little bit, pushing it in or out, changing the colour is essential, you have tune the AV in the room like a guitar to get the most out of lighting.

And for dessert here are pictures of properly set up lighting at the events by Fusion Events. For your enjoyment and inspiration!

Thompson Hotel Toronto Rooftop

Thompson Hotel Toronto Rooftop

Uplighting Head Table Draping

Uplighting Head Table Draping




Certified Event Coordinators, Wedding Planners, And Talent Management