Bride Tip – Lighting Design & Atmosphere

The Bride Tips Series is brought to you by New England Wedding DJ Chillin McMillin.

Lighting is almost always the last thing anyone ever thinks about. When you really think about it, in every production, lighting is so very important. No matter if it’s a concert, a big corporate event, a news station, or even a YouTube show in your basement, or even a good selfie. Even the science of wedding design can’t escape the rules and impact of great lighting design and placement. In fact, it should be embraced!

Lighting ~ and the type of lighting, is key.

There are all kinds of lighting out there, but when it comes to weddings, here is the basic idea:

Natural lighting: (daylight) that usually occurs early in the event. Perhaps supplemented by the venue’s normal light.

Cocktail Hour & Dinner lighting: This could still be some day light and/or venue lights, but more often you could have what are called up lights. One of my favorite brands is a German company called ApeLabs, because there is so much functionality to them while packed into a tiny sleek package.

These are colored accent lighting that can really make your room pop with elegance and will actually change the feel of the atmosphere in the room. (We’ll touch on that in a minute)

Dance lighting: These are meant for exactly that. Dancing. They are designed to bring your atmosphere to the next level, and will actually energize your guests. Dance lighting, when used effectively and timed perfectly at an event, can act almost like a switch that will warm up and turn on all the dancers in the room.

As the owner of DJ Chillin McMillin, LLC, I have always been crazy about lighting design. Even when I first started out as a DJ, I loved lighting so much that I offered free stage lighting shows for several locals bands. I would memorize their recorded music and strategically plan lighting scenes so I could manually play my lighting console much like a keyboard, so it matches every aspect of the song. I even built and wired the lighting console with switches and dimmers. Lighting made a HUGE difference in the overall show and stage presence.

I absolutely love how lighting has the ability to do so many things. Here are just a few:

  • It can bring out subtle structural characteristics that people may have simply passed it by otherwise, such as well designed structural beams, pillars, great wall and ceiling designs, and other aspects.
  • Creatively light oddly dark spots in the room while also making the room uniform.
  • Through color changing, you can actually set a specific tone which can manipulate or heighten a particular emotion in the room.
  • The way light is changing or moving can actually impact behavior and even conversations believe it or not.

Check out this IES Light Logic Table. You can read more about this from

As you can see by this chart, uplighting and dance lighting fits the profile. When you want people to be relaxed and have a feeling of spaciousness… uplighting fits the bill perfectly. The lower the source of the light (uplighting is almost always placed on the floor), warm steady color tones, and shines up the wall onto the ceiling.

When uplighting is used, most venues recognize that they can then lower their overhead lights to really aid the atmosphere, and your DJ will usually locate and test house lighting.

Now… When it comes to dance lighting, it is another animal for sure. You can see in the chart that this might best fit in the “Tense” category since the light is coming from above.

Most of the time, the projected light is moving, and perhaps the uplights are flashing to the rhythm of the music as well. Basically your uplights will convert into supplemental dance lighting, which is AWESOME!

When your emotions become tense, what do you usually want to do? For me, I typically want to get up and do something due to a feeling of being antsy or slightly uncomfortable. If I don’t have anything to do, I might pace with boredom LOL. That’s the Matty in me haha.

But this is where the music and it’s own set of characteristics come into play. You can see in this video some of these practices that come to fruition.

The music at your event is actually the avenue to relieve that “Tense” feeling, and is a perfect match with the lighting. This is what makes most people get up and dance. Especially when the music and dance lighting are working in tandem with each other. The light is dancing to the beat, and changing scenes at the ups and downs of the track.

So essentially the lighting is meant to subliminally energize the crowd, while the music is what will ultimately satisfy the antsy nerves. Such a great trick for the human condition.

Pretty amazing to see the scratch of the surface science behind it right? That’s why I love lighting and music so much, and that is why being a great wedding DJ can be a challenge.

I’ve always jokingly said, “I have the power to make you move involuntarily”. Well, it’s not too far off the truth. It’s all about the level of understanding the science behind each aspect, and having the tools to make it happen.

I hope you enjoyed this geeky post! I had such a blast finally putting my practices to writing.


~ DJ Chillin McMillin

Published by DJ Chillin McMillin

Prominent New England Wedding DJ Based out of Nashua NH.

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