Live Wedding Painting: Everything You Need to Know

Consider this the new and improved reception photo booth

Bride and groom with live wedding painter at Keswick Vineyards

Meghan Elizabeth Photography

It's no secret that wedding photo booths are getting played out these days. Sure, they're still super fun but it's pretty much been there, done that. Capturing the excitement and romance of the day is essential for any wedding reception—but before there was the camera, there was the painter. How about a live portrait painted right at your wedding?

What Is Live Painting?

Live painting is a form of "plein air" (outdoors) painting used to capture a special moment during the wedding. A professional live painter or artist brings his or her own canvas and art supplies to paint a scene in real-time at the wedding.

"Not only does the painting end up being a favorite wedding keepsake or heirloom, but having a live artist at your wedding ends up being a unique form of entertainment for your guests in attendance," says Brittany Branson, a destination live wedding painter. Sure, most weddings still have a photographer in addition to the live painter (after all, portraits take a lot longer than a quick photo) but these portraits can often capture very special and intimate moments that a photograph cannot. "As someone who had a live wedding painter at her own wedding, it still boggles my mind that my husband and I are able to stare at a completely custom work of art that was created on our wedding day. We treasure our painting, and it's such a blessing that I'm now able to provide my own couples and clients with their own precious pieces," Branson says.

Meet the Expert

Brittany Branson is a destination live wedding painter and niche coach for creatives. She currently resides in Washington, DC.

Whether you're hearing about this unique wedding idea for the first time or are looking to book your very own live wedding painter, we've put together a comprehensive guide to help answer all your questions.

How much does live wedding painting cost?

While there are various costs to factor in—including travel, the size of the canvas, and the number of pieces commissioned—you can expect to spend upwards of $1,000. "At the moment, my couples invest an average of $2,399 for their live wedding painting experience, as my packages range from $2,199 to $3,000 depending on the complexity of the painting," Branson says. Beyond having a custom piece of artwork to hang in your home and cherish for years to come, it's also a once-in-a-lifetime experience—one that you, your partner, your family, and guests will be able to witness firsthand.

Don't let out-of-state travel fees deter you from booking an artist you love. "Going along with the theme of truly loving an artist's portfolio: If it's financially possible, and the artist you love isn't local, don't turn down their amazing work because they're not local to you," Branson says. "I, personally, already incorporate a payment plan into my live painting packages. Ask your artist if they are able to accommodate a more extended payment plan to help make something like taking care of travel fees more attainable."

What are some tips for finding a live painter or artist?

While live wedding painting is growing in popularity, perhaps the trickiest part is tracking down an artist who has availability and fits your style. "There actually aren't too, too many of us live painters out there, so Google is always a great place to start," Branson says. You can further narrow your search by searching for live painters in your state—although, location isn't everything. If you find an artist that you really love, but they're not local, you may consider reaching out anyway. Take some time to peruse their personal website, read through testimonials from previous couples, and check out examples of their work. "I think it's incredibly important, as a couple is exploring hiring a live artist, to fall in love with that artist's portfolio and style," Branson adds.

Once you and your partner have decided that you want to hire a live painter for your wedding, don't delay. "In terms of booking, I always encourage couples to secure a live artist ASAP because there simply aren't many of us (even nationally) to hire. My couples tend to book me anywhere from eight months to a year and a half out from the wedding day," Branson says.

What are the different styles of live paintings?

There are three primary painting types to know before starting your search. "Each live wedding artist definitely has his/her/their own unique style of painting that tends to fit into the categories of 'realism' (your painting is such a reflection of real life it could be mistaken for a photograph), 'impressionism' (not quite realism, but an 'impression' of the people, light, and atmosphere), or 'abstractionism' (using shapes, forms, and colors to create a composition)," Branson says. While some artists may dabble in multiple painting styles, Branson shares that "it's super important to allow the artist to 'do their thing' in their natural style that comes quickly and easily to them. Trying to execute a different style of painting may result in a final piece that neither the couple nor artist loves. No one wants that!"

Work one-on-one with the live painter to come up with a composition that brings your vision to life. Whether there's a portion of the room you want highlighted or a floral display that you definitely want to include, be sure to relay that information. 

What are some questions to ask before booking a painter?

From general questions about pricing and setup to the style of live painting and the exact moment you want documented (such as the first dance or walking up the aisle), there's no shortage of details you'll want to flesh out beforehand. "For example, is it important for a couple to have their completed painting in hand by the end of the night? Or, are they all right with allowing the artist to take it home for additional touch-ups? This, more than likely, will end up influencing the type of artistic style they'll want," Branson says.

Be sure to include your wedding planner in the early planning stages as they'll be able to step in and serve as a point of contact on the day of. From making sure that the live painter has a place to access water for their paint brushes to providing them with a vendor meal, your wedding planner will be there to keep everything moving.

Ultimately, it comes down to the style of painting you and your partner envision for your special day. "The first thing couples should determine is what style of painting they would love to hang on their walls forever after," Branson says. "Art is incredibly personal, and we artists want our work to be cherished. Loving an artist's portfolio also helps to develop trust, because neither they (the couple) or me (as an artist) can necessarily control every aspect of what's going to happen over the course of a few hours. There are a few things we can plan out together (like general composition), but, in the end, my couples have to trust me and my expertise to bring their painting to life within such a strict time frame."

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