Wondering whether you need a pre-wedding venue visit? Check out this post for all of the info

“Have you worked at my wedding venue before?”

“Can we meet at the venue to check out portrait locations/ the lighting?”

With close to 300 weddings under my belt, I’ve worked at the same venues a surprisingly infrequent number of times.  It’s likely that only one of my weddings in any given year will be at a venue I’ve worked at before.  You could be forgiven for thinking that knowing a venue well would be an advantage, but I actually prefer not to have any preconceived ideas about how I might work on the day because doing so impacts on my creativity. If you’re wondering whether you need a pre-wedding venue visit keep reading!

pre wedding venue visit black and white portrait

It rained torrentially for Laura and Matt’s wedding. If I’d planned lighting or locations based on the weather on the day of a venue visit, the plan would have entirely gone out of the window. Instead, I scouted the venue and location for pockets of beautiful light, to get this intimate and lovely shot of them.


I’d like a pre-wedding venue visit or my venue would like you to visit before the day

My main message, always, is that it’s your wedding and you should definitely do whatever you do whatever works best for you.  I don’t include pre-wedding venue visits as standard because they’re not necessary for me from a photography perspective, and you can read more about that below. If you do want to book one anyway, that’s absolutely fine and you can find more details about pricing at the bottom.

What’s your approach if the weather is terrible on the day? Won’t a pre-visit mean you’ll have a better idea of your contingency plan?

The above image was taken using available light, but I turn up to any given wedding with everything I could possibly need to work in any given situation.

I have cameras, back up cameras, high spec professional lenses that are “fast” enough to allow me to shoot in very low light, Speedlights for use on and off camera, lighting modifiers to soften and sculpt the light from my speed lights, lighting stands to put them on and a whole bag full of bits and pieces that allow me to work in any given situation.  I’m an experienced low light shooter, including winter weddings where it’s dark at 4pm. All of the above means I am technically ready to go, where ever you put me.

Bride and groom first dance lit with flash
I added an off-camera flash to light Andrew and Dina’s first dance and to balance the colourful lighting.

But what about the ceremony? Don’t you need to plan for that?

Most ceremony officials don’t allow the use of flash during your wedding ceremony. In some venues, if it’s very dark because there’s very little natural light, I might set up a discreetly placed video light.  I’d say that happens at most around once every couple of years, because my equipment is of a professional standard that means it handles low light really well. I also shoot creatively for exposure, rather than always exposing shots evenly. Pockets of light are fun and create beautiful images.

pre wedding venue visit dark venues

This is one of the aforementioned DARK venues. The Electricians Shop at Trinity Buoy Wharf is lit mostly by fairy lights. Again, I couldn’t add flash but I worked with the pockets of light that were available to photograph Selena and Ramesh’s ceremony there.

pre wedding venue visit outdoor wedding

You’d think outdoor weddings would be a breeze but there’s often strong contrast between the light under outdoor structures (required to legally marry in England) and the light outside, so you have to balance the light without using flash. Keira and Jake were married at Two Woods Estate

I am really, really experienced re the format of most wedding ceremonies (I’ve photographed weddings in CofE, Catholic, Coptic and Greek Orthodox churches, I’ve photographed Hindu and Sikh weddings and I’ve photographed civil ceremonies everywhere from crumbling deconsecrated churches to the edge of the ocean in Ireland.  In every case, I’m 100% confident in my skill and ability to tell the story of your ceremony as it unfolds, without needing to visit the location beforehand.

Light and weather are changeable!

One of the main reasons I’d suggest that you don’t need a venue visit is that light is changeable, especially in the UK where the weather seemingly switches every five minutes. If I visit your venue at 3pm on any given day before your wedding, the chance of the light being the same at 3pm on the day of your wedding would be slim.

As a creative documentary wedding photographer I work reactively and a crucial part of this is working with the light that’s available to me at the time or adding my own light where I need to.

Indian and Iraqi wedding coupleAnother huge reason is creativity.  I am at my most creative when I am working reactively.  Reacting to the environment and also to you as humans means I c apture images that are authentic and real. I react to the outfits you’re wearing and whether you’re having a free-spirited wedding in nature, or a wedding in the city.  All of these things come together to make your photos.

If I pre-scouted locations, without getting a feel for you and the vibe of your wedding day, I might have a fixed idea in my head about how the shoot will pan out that means I’m blinkered and miss other opportunities that present themselves.

Scouting on the day, to see what light and backdrops are available

With all of the above said, I definitely look at your venue and locations, either on the start of the wedding day or during the drinks reception.  I have a whole host of apps which I’ll keep an eye on, to see what the light is doing, when sunset will be and what the weather might be like later in the day. stoke newington wedding photographer

You can read about different types of light and the effect it can have on your wedding photos here.

Booking in for a venue visit if you still want one

Relying on my experience, having the correct equipment and checking out possible locations on the day means that I don’t need to do a pre-wedding venue visit. That said I know that peace of mind is definitely worth investing in, so I do offer them as an add on.  If you do want to book a pre-wedding venue visit you can add a weekday, 1/2 day visit for £250 plus travel costs. And do check out the rest of my Planning Your Photography series.

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  1. This is brilliant, Laura. It’s a question my couples often ask me, too – and what you’ve written sums it up much more elegantly and eloquently than I can. Great stuff x


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