As the guru who (literally) has put the spotlight on Beyoncé, Marc Anthony, Alicia Keys, and Sheryl Crow in concert—and on Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson at the Wedding Crashers premiere—Bentley Meeker definitely knows how to make a star shine bright. That's why brides who crave a special limelight seek him out. Meeker has lit up the weddings of celebrities like Star Jones, Robert De Niro, Regis Philbin's daughter Jennifer (J.J.), and Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas. "The job of a lighting designer is to create a space that's gorgeous, that feels great to be in, and makes everyone look completely amazing," says Meeker. "We do everything from screwing in lightbulbs and angling spotlights to programming computer-run 'intelligent lights' that move around and change color."
Though hiring a lighting specialist is definitely a luxury (many venues have on-site technicians who can help you with basic lighting), brides who want to pull out all the stops appreciate the Meeker magic. His newest trick is to combine lighting technology with digital background videos, creating wall-sized tapestries of enchanted gardens or oceanfront views. "We can turn one wall of your tent into a lake shimmering in the moonlight, then add in porpoises jumping or trees blowing in the wind," he says. "Dream it up!"
If this sounds like a scene from a movie, it's no accident—Meeker began his career as a teenager working as a lighting technician on film sets. He then launched his own lighting firm at age 22. Today, Meeker's work covers the whole spectrum, from elaborate Hollywood-like receptions to more casual affairs, where the bride simply wants her event shown in the best light possible. In fact, making a reception space squint-free and comfortable for guests is high on Meeker's lighting to-do list. "I went to one party where I spent the entire night staring at a badly placed spotlight, so keeping the glare out of people's eyes is a cardinal rule," he notes. Paying attention to lighting always pays off in the end.
Meeker's top tips
1. Color it beautiful. Ask your site manager to swap white lightbulbs for amber, peach, gold, or pink ones that make everyone glow.
2. Cut the lights. You'll create major ambience by dimming every light down to around 30 percent.
3. Get moody. Instead of overhead lights, cast a shadow on tables with votive or pillar candles.