Lighting and décor is a delicate blend of aesthetic and technical creation that can literally be used to create an infinite number of dramatic effects. By using effective tools of varying color, intensity, shape, size, texture and contrast, these can be used to evoke a full range of moods, and emotions, from calm to excited, joy, to utter exhilaration. Frankly, no other medium exists that can establish mood more effectively than well done lighting and décor. In the end, effective lighting completes a full circle of both the emotion and performance action in any production, wedding or event, to accent words, music and movement.
Lighting is the language of photography and video. Patterns of light convey information much in the same way the spoken word does, including definitive statements, grammar and vocabulary, so having well done lighting will enhance the photos and video.
So, now you’ve probably heard the term LED (Light Emitting Diode) for lighting everywhere and it’s supposedly best – right?
Maybe not. Everything depends on the effect. Consider this:
Traditional Theatre Lighting (par cans)
- True theatrical design and implementation from an artistic standpoint
- More volume and flexibility with bulb wattage, beam spread, and color for a “true” and natural looking light
- Very low cost (which can allow more room saturation to full “paint” a room versus some lighting companies opting to use LEDs but less fixtures)
- Traditional par cans can get a true white, true champagne and “natural” looking colors
- Beams can be shaped
- Lower initial cost and lower maintenance cost (easy to replace a bulb versus a whole fixture)
- Plug in and go
- Silent operation
- Controllable with dimmers or various wired controllers
- Consistent color from fixture to ceiling
- Matched color (ie exact the shade of blue will be the identical shade of blue in every fixture)
- Heat to the touch and output
- Difficult to change throughout the night. Once a room is set, it’s set.
- Short bulb life compared to LEDs
- Need use theatrical lighting gels to “color” the light
- It often takes multiple fixtures (or different gels in different fixtures) to achieve multiple colors
- Inefficient and take more power (lumens per watt)
- Typically “tethered” with wires to both electric receptacle placement and controls
- Limited to only thousands of colored gel selections
- More energy efficient
- Longer bulb life
- Less cost to run long term (especially in permanent installs)
- Low heat (LEDs still produce head but it is often dissipated out the back, not radiate from the front)
- Smaller and more compact than traditional par can lighting
- Units can be controlled wireless or tethered
- Can select wattage / brightness when purchased
- The ability to easily change color at an event
- Flexibility to put more units on a single circuit (but still have to work within distance / geography / placement) as the same limitation
- Theoretically millions of color choices
- Limited to LED wattage / brightness when purchased
- Cannot change brightness / wattage after purchased
- With a spectrometer, it’s difficult to match or maintain colors compared to traditional can lighting (can get close to a hue, but the wavelength isn’t necessarily the same from fixture to fixture or manufacturer to manufacturer)
- Inconsistent. One color on one fixture (ie. blue) may not equal the same color (ie. blue) in another. Even fixture to fixture in the same model / company can vary
- Higher cost per can to get true RGB+AW, or the same end net effect
- Color limitations (especially with true amber, white, pastels and certain colors). A “white” in LED uplighting is a variation of blue. “Amber” is a variation of yellow.
- A noticeable halo effect in photos coming from wedding photographers / videographers. (read more in some of the many photographer and videographer forums about how LED lighting “ruined” the photographs)
- Can’t focus the beams – you get what you get
- Intensity drops off with further distance
- Lots of variation with LED fixtures, manufacturers, etc.
- LEDs are directional and only lights from the top half. Therefore, LEDs do not scatter light in all directions as traditional lighting
- LEDs, by nature, have a poor dimming curve
- Considered hazardous for disposal according to some States. (ie. University of California (Davis and Irvine) suggest that LEDs may bring their own “environmental burdens.” LEDs could be considered “hazardous wastes” as defined by United States and California standards, look at how the threat might vary across different LED types and look at the overall life-cycle impact of LEDs. Broken LEDs have to be treated as if approaching broken CFLs. Wear gloves, mask and use special brooms and other equipment to gather the debris.
- LEDs reportedly create eye fatigue faster
LEDs are great for color washes but cannot replace ellipsoidal fixtures or the beam quality / spread or natural color and white output of traditional par cans.
So, in exploring both sides of lighting, clearly there are advantages and dis-advantages to both LEDs and traditional theatrical lighting when it comes to lighting for weddings. Your Colorado wedding, whether you realize it or not, will bring your guests on an emotional journey, from joy, surprise, friendship, laughter, love and hope. Your lighting and décor (working in tandem with music) should compliment these emotions to produce a one-of-a-kind wedding celebration.
Ultimately, in working with Amore’ Lighting & Décor, it depends on three criteria:
- What is the effect you want the lighting to create? A subtle ambiance? To highlight something? To completely transform a room? To create or emphasize a theme or create an experience? To add a splash of color? To create a contrast? Why do you want lighting?
- It depends on the perspective with which your event is approached and HOW that person views lighting. Is it a tool to “paint” your room and viewed as “art” (theatrical in design and implementation) or “science” (a simple function of the number of fixtures around a room). From a Lighting Designer’s perspective, it’s viewed as “art” to specifically create the ambiance or create a mood, feeling or invoke an emotion to theatrically enhance a key wedding highlight (ie. the cake, etc). The “scientific” approach simply specs out the minimum number of “units” to efficiently make it work. It’s a mechanical function of the “what” to do and not the “why.” We do the “why” because we understand it is a tool to enhance a wedding as part of the overall décor budget in the same manner as flowers, table linens, chair covers, fabric, and centerpieces. Lighting and décor is the only element that will enhance the overall atmosphere, mood and comprehensive entertainment experience.
- What is the budget to work with?
Consider the following real example that just occurred yesterday:
A client was having 225 guests in a 3,800 sqft gorgeous ballroom. The room had lots of architecture with character in the newly remodeled room that could easily be lit to enhance the room; including several columns with power on each column. There were tan walls on each side of the room measured to be 180 feet long; nice, new tan marble drop chandeliers and wall sconces. A classy, elegant room with 30 foot ceilings. There was a “Mardi Gras” theme with the colors specifically gold and “eggplant” purple.
Same event, but was done with two different approaches:
- A “theatrical” approach by a Lighting Designer. The room to be designed after a consultation with the client understanding precisely what the client’s vision for the event. It was specifically designed in accordance to what the client wanted guests to feel and think as they saw the room. How would chosen lighting enhance the ambiance or emphasize key architectural features of the room? With an eye of an artist, the room was designed and needed a minimum of 34 up-light units to up-light the room “properly.” The chosen color was “champagne” to add the soft, romantic glow of a candle, including lighting EACH of the four sides of the columns in the design. The color champagne was chosen to accent the gold, and compliment the purple colors of their theme color. Lots of forethought and care went into the planning, design and creating the total effect.
- A “product” approach. A DJ showed up and offered 12 LED RBG (red blue green) up-light units for the 3,800 sqft room. The color HE chose was the typical wedding lighting color of “hot pink” – of which, most LED uplighting wedding pictures you see at weddings are with pink, turquoise or purple lighting. He only put two units on each wall measuring 180′ long. You heard right. Only two. None of the new ballroom architectural features or columns were hi-lighted. At best, pretty plain and perceived as an “oops” afterthought with zero creativity nor vision on his part. He went for fast, and simple by plopping down a couple LEDs along the 180 foot long wall, dialed in hot pink with the dip-switches and walked away…and that’s how it looked: very little effort, creativity or forethought.
So, which one was “right?”
We think approach #1, and here’s why.
Approach #1 was us (Amore’ Lighting & Décor) with the attempt to understand the vision and do precisely that Approach number one was a cheap, local Colorado DJ who bought a few LED uplights and wanted show off what they could do.
In our approach, the lighting was designed specifically to the client’s goals with an artistic eye to enhance the event with the right colors, create the mood and compliment other décor, no matter how many lighting “units” it would take to create balance, unity, contrast, emphasis and shape. We calculated 34 traditional par cans in champagne to create a total room ambiance and do exactly what they client wanted for the 3,800 square foot room.
So, what happened?
Sadly, the client truthfully chose #2.
It was price. The client was falsely led to believe the end result would be “the same” effect with a third of the LEDs used by a fast talking, in-experienced DJ pretending to be a Lighting Designer. So, we were invited to briefly visit the event by the client and check it out. It was bad. Really bad! The end effect wasn’t even close to what the client said they wanted or described. It was embarrassing. It was not only the wrong color (hot pink) because champagne isn’t a color that can be made correctly with LEDs, but this guy had no imagination or creative room design, and left the room riddled with a lack of balance and gaping washes of black with only two “punches” of hot pink on 180 foot walls. It looked horrible!
So, why would a DJ “push” a client to LEDs?
It’s new. Fancy. Sexy and fun to sell. Very high quality commercial LEDs are still expensive until technological advances bring the price down to a comparable price of theatrical lighting. Think of it this way: If a DJ has $3,500 to spend on new lighting, he can buy 30 to 35 traditional par cans used in theatre with all the advantages and dis-advantages mentioned above, OR buy 10 or 12 RGB LEDs (which limit colors to variations of red, blue, green or combinations thereof and be forced to eliminate white, champagne or pastels), OR only five theatre grade RGBAW (Red Blue Green Amber White) LED units (but still present a tainted amber where the bride looks like she has jaundice or the white/blue LED tint at best). It was simple: he didn’t have the right attitude, the right knowledge, the right equipment, nor the right quantity. He clearly didn’t care and just wanted the sale.
However, as plain as I can say it, “tools don’t make a mechanic. It’s what they do with those is what matters.”
If a room, based on it’s simple size, “needs” 34 units to do it correctly, then 12 units won’t cut it. That’s the simple fact.
In the end, the client lost out. Their guests lost out on the mood, the emotion and the total comprehensive experience. They would’ve paid the same amount with us, done correctly, but was led to believe that LEDs in this application were better. They weren’t.
Yes, truthfully, in SOME application, LEDs can be okay; especially for dancing and a club environment. In others, where a very distinct ambiance needs to be created, or shooting perfect pictures or video without any “second chances” is the most important factor (like your wedding), they simply are unacceptable!
Matt Martindale – Amore’ Wedding Lighting & Décor
*Professional Wedding MC / 3 Time Award Winning Wedding DJ Expert™
*WeddingWire Bride’s Choice Award Winner (Top 5 percent of all Wedding Professionals Nationally)
800-501-5993 (ext. 0) – Outside Colorado
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