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January 25, 2022

Ceremony Placement Tips for Backyard Weddings

Ceremony placement tips for backyard weddings blog feature image paired with a photo of bride and groom reciting vows during their ceremony

After photographing several backyard weddings, I realized that there are definitely a few things that can have a huge impact on how your photos turn out! So, I thought it would be a good idea to give some tips on Ceremony placement when planning a backyard wedding.

Consider the Lighting

The best piece of advice I can give when choosing how to set up your ceremony space on your property is to try and make sure everything is in even lighting. If the groom is in the shade while he is standing up at the altar and the bride is in the sun; one of you is going to appear really bright while the other will appear really dark in your photos. Same goes for your bridal party! If they are in direct sun but you are in the shade it won’t look right in your photos! So make sure the lighting is consistent up at the altar.

Ideally, you want the sun to be behind the altar and slightly to either side. You’ll get the glow of the sun wrapping through your hair and your skin tones will appear nice and even!

If you have the option to have a shaded area, this is also a great option to keep the light consistent. Ideally you would want open shade. This means you are in the shade but when you look straight above you, you only see the sky. There is no roof over you or trees hanging over you. This can be shade created by tall trees or a building without an overhang. The open sky above you will allow light to be reflected onto your face in your photos and help with consistent skin tones.

AVOID setting the ceremony up to have the sun directly to the side. This will cause one of your faces to be super bright and directly in the sun, while the other persons face will photograph darker.

wedding ceremony under giant wooden arch at timber run golf course wedding in Lanark, Ontario photographed by Brittany Navin. Altar is in ideal lighting for ceremony.
Example of wedding in full sun. Notice the shadows are angled slightly, the sun is behind them and off to the the side just a bit and it helps create even lighting across everyone. You’ll notice a little bit of light on the part of her dress that’s facing the sun, but overall, this is a pretty ideal set up. If the sun was just slightly more behind them, there would hardly be any over exposure on her dress!

Definitely look at your yard during the time you plan on having your ceremony. This way, you can ensure that the spot you have planned is going to be in great lighting! Lighting is the biggest thing that will impact your images so it’s definitely worth double checking before your wedding day!

PRO TIP: There’s a website called Time and Date that allows you to see sunset times on specific dates! It also allows you to see where the sun will be at specific times of the day. You are able to look up your wedding month and then click on your wedding date for more info. If you drag your mouse over different times of the day, it will tell you what direction the sun will be at that time. Using the compass app on your phone you can go outside and see exactly where the sun will be on during your ceremony time. Then you can plan the spot way ahead of time! Just be sure to double check the week or two before to make sure you don’t need to adjust anything.

Example of what the time and date website looks like when figuring out the direction of the sun in order to decide the placement of your ceremony at your backyard wedding.
On the chart where the sun is, is where I had my computer mouse. If you look to the right it shows the exact time of day I have selected and then below, underneath “heading” it shows the direction of the sun is 237 degrees.

Placement of the Altar

Something I’ve noticed more than once now, is that a lot of people tend to put their altar right up against the tree line of their property. If this is the best option for lighting or you literally have no other option in terms of space, then leave it in this spot. HOWEVER, if you are able to, pulling the altar away from the tree line will help create more depth of field in your images.

When the altar is right against the tree line, it can appear blended into the tree branches and less visually appealing. This is because the altar doesn’t pop right out to you when you look at the photo. By creating a bit of space, the trees in the background will be slightly blurred. This will allow your altar to pop more and stand out visually in your photos.

If you can create space between your altar and the tree line while maintaining good lighting, you will have the best chance of getting really beautiful and consistent images of your ceremony. It’ll allow all the attention to be easily pulled to the two of you at the altar!

Below are all examples of different backgrounds, some busier than others. Because there is enough space between the altar and what’s directly behind the altar, you are easily able to see the altar in the image with minimal distractions!

If you are planning your ceremony placement on your own piece of property and aren’t quite sure where to place it, reach out to your photographer for some guidance. We are ALWAYS happy to help! Especially if it’s about something that will have a huge impact on your images!

If you want to see what other tips I have for you lovely engaged couples, you can check out my other tips HERE!

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