The Ultimate Guide to Wedding Lighting

October 11, 2022 | kailey

Image by Jackie Rangel Photo. See more of this wedding inspiration here.

At Junebug Weddings, our job is to light up your wedding planning process making it easy and stress-free. That includes everything from behind-the-scenes logistics down to your overall wedding design. And when it comes to decor, we believe lighting is one of the most underrated design elements. 

Your wedding lighting is both functional and stylish. It sets the overall mood and helps show off all the details you’ve spent months putting together with your dream vendor team. That’s why it should be at the top of your wedding decor checklist. If you find yourself confused about where to start or just need some inspiration, this lighting guide will help you every step of the way.

Wedding Lighting Keywords You Should Know

Before you start looking for lighting ideas or reaching out to vendors for quotes, you’ll want to know these key lighting terms so you’ll be on the same page as the professionals.

  • Color Wash – A general fill of color used throughout an entire room that doesn’t highlight any particular area. It’s called this because it “washes” the whole room in your choice of color
  • Gobo Lighting – A custom template that light shines through to create a pattern, monogram, or motif on the floor, ceiling, or wall
  • Texture Lighting – Similar to Gobo light but with a preset pattern like leaves or a starry night sky
  • LED Light – This isn’t a type of light but instead a type of bulb that is cost-effective, long-lasting, and provides a more vibrant color than a traditional bulb
  • Pendants – Sometimes called drop or suspender lights, these are single fixtures that hang from the ceiling
  • Pinspot – Tiny lights used to illuminate a small area, like the centerpieces on a table
  • Spotlight – Lamps that project a narrow beam of light on one particular area or object
  • String Lights – Also referred to as twinkle lights, fairy lights, bistro lighting, or cafe lights. These strands of lights are the most versatile and cost-effective way to light up any space, making them very popular
  • Uplighting – This is just what it sounds like, lights that point up. These lights are placed on the floor to shine up walls and decor in various colors

photo by The Le Sueurs. See more from this wedding here.

Average Wedding Lighting Costs

Wedding lighting costs will vary drastically from event to event. It all comes down to your chosen venue, desired style, and overall budget. Because these factors are so different for every wedding, it’s hard to determine how much you should budget. 

Some couples decide to do lighting on their own, and others choose to bring in a professional. If you’re going with a lighting designer, here are the average prices you can expect to pay for wedding lighting, excluding labor and delivery, according to industry experts:

  • Uplighting for an entire ballroom: $700-$2500
  • Gobo lighting: $200-$500
  • Texture lighting: $50-$75 per light fixture
  • Spotlight: $30-$100
  • Pinspot lighting: $25-$45 per light/table
  • String lights: $3-$5 per linear foot
  • Chandeliers: $150-$300
  • Pendants: $15-$25 per
  • Projector, Computer, and Screen to manage lighting: $200-$600

Talk to your wedding planner or venue coordinator for pro lighting designer recommendations. When getting a quote or interviewing lighting designers, be sure to ask if labor and delivery is included in the price quote, so you’re not left with any unexpected expenses

DIY Wedding Lighting Costs

If you’re going the DIY route, start by digging through your at-home stash. Maybe you have Christmas lights or candles hidden away that can help bring your vision to life. It’s also wise to ask family and friends to pitch in any extra lighting they may have before purchasing any new items. 

If you do decide to take lighting into your own hands, consider buying lights and candles in bulk and repurposing them at events leading up to the wedding such as your engagement party, bridal shower, and rehearsal dinner. You can even use them in your home after the wedding day—we love decor that doubles as a functional wedding keepsake. 

image by Upon Two Weddings. See more of this real wedding here.

Questions To Ask Your Lighting Designer And Venue

It’s important to do a walk-through of your wedding venue with your lighting designer so they can understand the needs of your specific space. Try to schedule your walkthrough around the same time as your event so you can get a sense of what the lighting is going to be like on your wedding day. 

During your walk-through, don’t forget to ask your lighting designer and venue coordinator the following questions. 

Questions For Your Lighting Designer

  • How much time do you need to set up and take down?
  • How much power will you need for the entire lighting setup?
  • Will the designer be on-location during the wedding for operation and/or maintenance concerns?

Questions For Your Venue

If you’re hiring a lighting designer, they will likely ask these questions during the walkthrough. But if you’re opting to DIY your lighting, don’t forget to ask your venue these questions that’ll impact your ability to create the perfect ambiance on your wedding day. 

  • Where are the outlets located?
  • How much power can the built-in outlets accommodate?
  • What type of lighting is already provided?
  • Are there any types of light sources that are prohibited, such as open-flame candles?

Tips For Outdoor And Indoor Wedding Lighting

If your wedding ceremony is taking place indoors, you’ll need different lighting than you would with an epic sunset background. The time of day, amount of natural lighting, and your ideal wedding vibe will all impact your lighting choices. Here’s what you need to know for each option.

Indoor Lighting

For an indoor wedding, you’ll need to know what lighting is already in the venue so that you can simply add to it or work around it. Uplighting is great for accentuating architectural features or changing wall colors to match your palette, and color washing can help create different moods in different rooms throughout the venue. This is where a lighting design pro will be your best friend! They’ll help figure out what existing fixtures will work and what to add to achieve the look you want.

Outdoor Lighting

For an outdoor wedding, power is going to be your biggest struggle. For example, if you’re getting married at sunset, you’ll also want to make sure all pathways to the venue, to the parking lot, and to the bathrooms are lit for guests after the sun has set. All of those lights will require a lot of power. 

For a small backyard wedding, you can use simple string lights in and between trees and votive candles on every table. But, if you’re having a big outdoor celebration in a courtyard or tent, you’ll want to call in the professionals. They may bring in generators for more power, which will save you the hassle of trying to hang lights in high places.

Creative Wedding Lighting Ideas 

Now that you’re equipt with all the behind-the-scenes logistics, it’s time for the fun planning to begin. Whether you’re looking for soft, romantic lighting or extravagant glamorous lighting, here are some creative wedding lighting ideas to spark inspiration

1. Ceremony Aisle And Backdrop Lighting Ideas

2. Reception Table Lighting Ideas

3. Use Colorful Uplighting In Your Reception Space 

Image by Elisabetta Riccio. See more of this real wedding here.

4. Light Up The Sky With Lanterns, Fairy Lights, and Chandeliers

5. Custom Neon Sign Decor 

6. Light Up Your Wedding Bar And Signage 

7. Use Textured Lighting On The Dancefloor 

Wedding Lighting Decoration Checklist

Not sure where to add lighting? Here’s a list of all the places to keep light in mind for your special day:

  • Reception Tables
  • Overhead lighting and ceiling hang lights
  • Dance floor
  • Ceremony Backdrop
  • Ceremony Aisle
  • Sweetheart Table Backdrop
  • Food Station Backdrop
  • Dessert Table
  • Guestbook Table
  • Bar
  • Photo Booth
  • Lounge Areas
  • Cocktail Tables
  • Outdoor Walkways
  • Trees
  • Reception exit updates like sparklers and glow sticks

Now that you’ve got your wedding lighting lingo, inspiration, and checklist down, it’s time to think about the other small details that will upgrade your wedding day. We’re talking wedding signage.  Check out these wedding signs for every part of your wedding day. 

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  1. A wedding is not complete without a proper lighting installation. Kudos to your writing dear. Such a wonderful post to read out.

  2. You’ve done a great job breaking down the ins and outs of lighting for weddings, especially where you talk about the average prices. My fiance and I are planning to get married in the Spring and we are considering different decorative lighting options. Buying candles in bulk to repurpose sounds like a great way to start, for sure.

  3. Such a wonderful post. Great idea to make a wedding innovative. Without lights, wedding is totally incomplete. Will definitely try some day.

  4. Will use your tips on my wedding day. Thank you.

  5. Wedding lights are extremely important when you are going for the best moments of your life. Proper lighting can easily uplift the mood and make the entire event much more enjoyable.

  6. Wedding photos and videos are always better if you use the right lighting. I consider it an integral part of any wedding reception. Your tips are really strong. Thank You!

  7. These are really admirable tips to decorate with lighting, in particular, the indoor and outdoor one,! Please keep sharing such useful ideas regarding lighting. Thank you.

  8. I find it helpful to know that I should opt for antique lanterns, paper lanterns, or marquee lights if I want a rustic feel to my wedding. My fiancé and I are having an autumn wedding this September. We are looking for a lighting rental service, so I’ll make sure that they have those rustic lighting options that you have mentioned. Thank you for this!

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