Giving the issue of lighting some thought could make both your and your clients’ lives a little easier, and a little brighter, says Isabel Smith

In fairness, lighting isn’t necessarily the most exciting topic for a business person trying to build their new wedding / event space brand. It isn’t all that exciting a topic to me and I have 10 years experience of getting event lighting right!

However, as well as ensuring your pricing is appropriate, profiling your ideal target market, writing the perfect marketing strategy and, of course, ensuring your facilities and services are in line with your client’s needs, lighting is one of those things that really deserves some careful thought.

After all, what is the point in having the most gorgeous grounds or views if, when it comes to nightfall, no one can enjoy them? And the perfect, level field for guest parking is all well and good, but who is liable should guests trip over while searching for their cars? Allow me to ‘enlighten’ you (see what I did there!).

Pic: Boggio Studios

Gardens and grounds
Picture the scene. You have a stunning farm or field with a view, or are using your stately home as the backdrop for incredible marquee weddings overlooking the carefully manicured gardens. Your client books your venue and loves every inch of it (having only visited in daylight of course).

The event takes place, it is perfect and then… darkness falls. Suddenly, that stunning exterior or view that you so capitalised on falls into shadow, looking not just ‘nothing’ but positively creepy in the darkness. Is that really the feeling you want all 100 or so guests to leave your property with? No? Then why on earth not invest in some outdoor lighting? It doesn’t take a lot to install some uplighters to your most mature and prized trees, or elegant floodlighting to the vista. Water features like lakes or fountains also tend to get overlooked, which can actually cause a safety issue should intrepid guests go a wandering.

Lighting House
Pic: Joe Short Wedding Photography

Ensuring your property shines
Likewise, if your setting includes a building of some sort (be that a stately manor or a refurbished barn) think about how you can both enhance the guest experience andensure everyone remembers the venue at its best by installing some sort of lighting appropriate to your brand and offering. If you’re offering a more rustic barn, then outdoor fairy lights wrapped around the external beams might be just the ticket. A grander property might require more powerful uplighting, which should ideally change colour in response to your client’s theme.

If nothing else, there are going to be one or two smokers heading outside throughout the evening. Surely they deserve to be able to see where they are going, and indeed where the ashtrays are that you have so carefully provided to prevent them dropping stubs where they stand; after all, it is likely to be you who has to pick the damn things up! In fact, combining lighting and heating in this scenario will serve you well (she says, sitting in the cool Autumn weather in Rome next to a rather sophisticated and elegant outdoor heating solution).

Interior event lighting
This is where things have the potential to be complicated. If you’re offering a blank field for marquee events and using a hire company, then hurrah! Interior lighting can absolutely be left to the client and the marquee/lighting supplier. If you’re offering more than that then ‘eek’ – this really needs some thought. Standard strip lighting in the rafters of your barn is not going to cut it. It is harsh, unflattering and unromantic. Really, you need to liaise with an expert on lighting systems. As mentioned previously, an integrated, dynamic system that allows for colour changes and response to music is going to go a long way to impressing potential clients (and saving them money on production, meaning they are much more likely to book with you).

Wedding Dance
Pic: Lillibrooke Manor/Chris Giles Photography

Interior lighting can be on dimmers and arranged by zone so that you can assist your client in creating different moods in different areas.

If you can’t offer a permanently installed solution, make sure you have a good, reliable and broadly priced lighting company on your preferred supplier list who can offer anything from simple uplighters dotted around to more interesting lighting solutions.

You can’t imagine how much effect coloured lighting can have on mood. I once attended an event that aimed to recreate the 12 hours from dusk until dawn through lighting alone, and let me tell you, after three hours I was absolutely convinced it was morning!

And what about candles? Candles offer the most stunning soft light. Venues that don’t allow candles drive me mad as a planner, but I do understand that for some properties there is a legitimate safety risk. If you can’t allow your clients to provide their own candlelight, why not invest in the most realistic and authentic battery operated candles that money can buy. You could always charge a small hire fee to recoup your costs, and this would turn a profit over time.

Pic: Kata Tipis

Practical essentials
On any occasion where you anticipate guests or members of the public making their way from your perfectly lit building or marquee to their vehicles, you need to think carefully about the route they will take. The chances are it will be well into the night at this point, and some guests will be a little worse for wear and/or in heels!

Even the smoothest pathway can develop potholes, and for most outdoor venues we are talking grass, mud or gravel paths. At the very least you can line the way with the solar charged ‘stick in the ground’ lights you can buy from any garden centre to prevent accident or injury. However, when the business is strong enough and can support the investment, permanent, wired ‘lampposts’ for night time pathways and more powerful downlighting for the car park area are a must. After all, you really don’t want to be held to account for a drunken fall or vehicle damage. Remember, etiquette is defined as the art of putting others at ease, and whether your efforts will be recognised by clients or not, you will be the master of good etiquette by ensuring a safe guest experience from arrival to departure.

All in all, the right lighting might not absolutely make or break the success of your event space, but you can see how giving the topic some thought could make both your and your clients’ lives a little easier, and a little brighter!

Isabel SmithAbout the Author
Isabel Smith has 10 years in the wedding industry behind her as one of the UK’s top wedding planners and business consultants to venues and other suppliers. Isabel’s expertise spans marketing, sales and operations as she helps new vendors launch as well as assisting established businesses should they find their sales fallings. /

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