It is amazing at how quickly Uplighting is becoming a “must have” item at Weddings. No, it doesn’t surprise me that discerning brides are wanting this after all, when done correctly, it adds more “wow factor” than perhaps any other single decoration you can do. That said, as a wedding lighting supplier who does this on a regular basis, I’d like to share a few bits of wisdom that will help you with your own Uplighting.
1) “Colour selection” – I have to be honest, I generally cringe when a client says “We want a very subtle colour.” The whole point in going to the time and expense of Uplighting is to enhance the facility. Vibrant colors are what make your pictures jump off the page. They also, quite noticeably change the mood of your guests. It’s been proven in Scientific studies that colors have a dramatic impact on mood and energy. If you’re really after a subdued vibe for your event, white or amber are excellent choices. However, aren’t most brides always the ones telling me they “just want our guests to have a great time”? Use colour to your advantage! Magenta, Purple, Blue, or Red (or shades thereof) are some excellent choices, but we have 16.7 million colours to choose from.
2) LED or Incandescent? – Incandescent cans/fixtures still are used fairly regularly by some lighting suppliers. I believe it’s primarily because these fixtures are cheaper. We only use LED (TRI or Quad colour) we don’t typically recommend incandesent for Uplighting for several reasons; 1) They get hot and little ones are drawn to them like a moth to a flame. It’s a sure-fire recipe for little hands that get burned and that translates into wailing kids at YOUR event. 2) It takes a lot more power to run them and that means more and bigger extension cords to power them. 3) Limited colour choice. These fixtures use gel paper to shade the bulb for whatever colour you’re after and that means, no changes at the event. If your chosen gel paper colour doesn’t mix well with the paint on the walls, tough luck as there’s no way to tweak the colour shades on the spot.
LED fixtures are cool to the touch, use very little electricity and the colours can be changed quickly, at the venue. If the colour you picked at your meeting gets changed by the colour on the wall, your technician can often adjust the shading on-the-fly, prior to your guests’ arrival.
3) Table/Chair Placement – Uplighting is usually done by placing fixtures on the floor, next to the wall. We recommend a 3 foot buffer zone for all tables/chairs. This keeps guests from bumping, moving or even damaging the lighting fixtures. It also gives the lighting technician the ability to do a more even spacing between each fixture, improving the overall look of the presentation.
4) How much is enough? – One thing I tell all my clients is “Don’t skimp on the number of fixtures.” When you run short on a colour presentation, it’s very apparent to everyone in attendance. It’s better to slightly over-do it than to come up short. The biggest question I hear is “How many cans do I need?” As you would expect, it obviously depends on the size of the room(s), the number of guests, and what wall-space is available for lighting. What I can tell you is, for most of our jobs (125-200 guests), the magic number always seems to come up to 20. This is roughly a 1500-2500 sq ft room. For rooms of 2500-4000 sq ft, I generally recommend 30 cans, sometimes more.
5) DMX vs Stand-alone (LEDs only) – LED lighting fixtures have two modes they can be operated in; stand-alone or DMX. I won’t bore you with the techy details but basically DMX means the lighting fixtures can be controlled remotely (either wireless or wired). Of the jobs we’ve done, almost all have been DMX. Without going into specifics, basically DMX adds a new level of lighting to any venue not to mention the fact that it will add extra flexibility it gives, our customers have stated that it’s simply worth it. Yes, we’ll be happy to make your entire venue “beat to the music” or “make the colors change between songs” Stand-alone is for hallways or highlighting plants etc.
6) Static or Colour-Change – Most LED fixtures can be programmed to roll gently from one colour to the other. This is known as “colour change mode”. We do have a fair portion of our wedding clients that opt for this setup, but I’d place it as the minority. Practically all of our weddings typically will either go with a single (static) colour or perhaps may use alternating patterns of colour (“red – white – red – white”). Only you can decide what works best for your colour scheme and venue. (but we will advise) One thing I will add is that it also can be dictated by the wall space available. A hotel ballroom typically will have a lot of open wall space and will get too busy with so many colours going on. Better to choose a static colour, or pattern of statics and stick with that.
7) Chair Rails, how to handle them – When we do an install, one of the things we’re always trying to do is to keep fixtures out of the way and close to the wall. First, we don’t want guests tripping over our fixtures but also (to be transparent) we really don’t want guests stepping on (and potentially breaking) our expensive fixtures. One of the problems we regularly run into are chair rails. While these do a great job at preserving paint from chairs and tables, they also block off light as it travels up the wall area. The only way to overcome this is to set fixtures further away from the wall, usually about a half-foot. However, keep in mind table and chair placement (see 3 above).
8 ) Uplighting sets the tone – One of the things that I regularly say to my clients (most of our engagements include DJ service as well) is that we create great events by setting the tone from the very start. The moment a guest walks in we want them to do “WOW” (as I like to call it). That’s where they walk in the entrance, then pause as their eyes widen and they take in all the sights and sounds we’re presenting. If we’ve done our job correctly, this raises the expectation of your guests. Once that expectation is raised, it’s much easier to push it on into “off the hook” territory. Uplighting is a tremendous tool for setting the tone of an event. When a guest walks into a room with bright, vivid colours all around, they can’t help but to expect a fantastic evening and expectation creates energy.
9) Do it yourself or Pro? – I know that everyone is looking for ways to save a buck, especially in today’s economy. While it’s true that fixtures can be rented, most people don’t realize what it takes to get power to all your fixtures. By the time you rent the fixtures, then buy all the extension cords needed, it often is the same price (or more) than just paying a professional outfit to do the install, not to mention the job of tearing it all back down and returning the fixtures. But even beyond the “hassle factor” involved, having a bunch of extension cords often creates a huge mess and that’s not something you want on your special day. We use special IEC daisy chain cables for our installs. These are long strands of cable (10ft & 30ft) that link all of our lighting units to one power source. It puts a much cleaner line against the wall but, more importantly, it helps to keep spacing even between fixtures. There’s nothing that will ruin a lighting presentation faster than to have a 5ft gap, then 7ft, then 4ft, etc.
10) Children – I debated strongly whether to mention this or not and let me say it first, I LOVE children. I have a son of my own. That said, for some unknown reason, a lot of parents have a tendency to not keep watch over their children at weddings. Add Uplighting into that picture and you have an almost guarantee that the children will be messing with fixtures, expensive lighting fixtures. There’s nothing worse from a wedding lighting suppliers perspective than to look up and see some three year old walking along the wall, kicking your fixtures like a football. It’s a delicate subject but, if you’re going to do Uplighting, please make your guests (with children) aware of the situation and ask their assistance to keep things in control. When things get broken, it’s the client who ends up paying. We use a protective shield around our lights to hopefully stop problems from happening.