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WEDDING BLOG

The Ultimate Guide to Wedding Lighting

July 12, 2018 | morgan

image by Cara Mia Photography. See more from this vow renewal here.

When it comes to wedding design, wedding lighting is one of the most underrated elements. Wedding lighting sets the overall mood and helps to show off all the details you’ve spent months putting together with your wedding dream team

Lighting isn’t only for showing off your good taste in decor though. Without proper lighting, guests won’t be able to properly enjoy their food or the dance floor. And you’ll want your photos to be exquisite. You can’t do any of those things with poor or insufficient lighting.

If you’re unsure where to start, don’t know what to ask a lighting designer, or just need some inspiration to fit your wedding style, this wedding lighting guide will help you every step of the way.

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

Quick Tips For Wedding Lighting Guide Lingo

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

Color washing is 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

Gobo lighting is a custom template that light shines through to create a pattern, monogram, or motif on the floor, ceiling, or wall.

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

Pendant lights are sometimes called drop or suspender lights. These are single fixtures that hang from the ceiling.

Pinspot

Pinspots are tiny lights used to illuminate a small area, like the centerpieces on a table.

Spotlight

Spotlights are lamps that project a narrow beam of light on one particular area or object.

String Lights

These are 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.

Texture Lighting

This is similar to Gobo light but with a preset pattern like leaves or a starry night sky.

Uplighting

Uplighting 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 Linda Lauva Photography. See more from this wedding here.

Wedding Lighting Costs

Wedding lighting costs will vary drastically from event to event. It all comes down to your wedding venue, the size of your venue, and the style you’re looking for. Because all of these factors are so different for every wedding, it’s hard to put an exact number on how much you should budget

Some couples decide to do lighting on their own, and others decide 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

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

Talk to your wedding planner or ask your venue coordinator for lighting designer recommendations to help find a pro that can bring your vision to life. When getting a quote or interviewing lighting designers, be sure to ask if labor and delivery is included in the price quote. Don’t forget to ask for images of weddings they’ve done so you can see their work in action!

DIY Wedding Lighting Costs

If you’re going the DIY route, consider buying lights and candles in bulk and repurposing them at events leading up to the wedding–such as a rehearsal dinner or bridal shower. You can even use them in your home after the wedding day.

photo by Aperture Photos. See more from this 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 for your specific space. If you’re getting married in the daytime, try to schedule your walkthrough around the same time as your event so you can get a sense for the natural lighting. 

Similarly, if you’re getting married or your reception will be at night, schedule a nighttime walkthrough so you know how much light needs to be added to properly illuminate the space. During this walk-through, don’t forget to ask your lighting designer and venue coordinator the following questions. 

Questions For Your Lighting Designer

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

Questions For Your Venue

Your lighting designer or wedding planner will likely ask these questions during the walkthrough. But if you’re opting to DIY your lighting, make sure you find out the answers to these questions. They’ll impact your ability to create the perfect ambiance on your wedding day. 

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

Wedding Lighting Ideas By Style

If you aren’t sure of your wedding style, check your wedding mood board for the words listed below. Whether you’re looking for soft, romantic lighting or extravagant glamorous lighting, this style guide will help.

Romantic Wedding Venue Lighting 

If you’re hosting a romantic or classic wedding, you can’t go wrong with tons of candlelight, string lights, and crystal chandeliers. Keep the glow soft and warm to create a cozy ambiance that makes guests feel welcome and relaxed.

Rustic Lights For Weddings

If your style is more rustic you should opt for antique lanterns, paper lanterns, Edison bulb pendant lights, and marquee lights. These will bring a raw, natural feel to your wedding design. To compliment your rustic vibes your lighting should have an at-home feel, which requires simple lighting with a hint of charm.

Modern Wedding Lights

If your style is modern and minimal you’ll be best fitted for vases with floating candles, spotlights, and color washing–all of which can provide drama without too much fuss. You’ll probably want to opt for LED lights because they provide more vibrant colors than traditional bulbs.

Glamorous Wedding Venue Lighting

If you love a glamorous style, you’ll want to go for more dramatic lighting sources. This can include anything from crystal chandeliers, candelabras, lit topiaries, and curtains of lights. Since nothing says glam like a little glitz, make sure to add sparkly details—hello, disco balls—near the lighting sources so they reflect and add a glow to the room.

In addition to your wedding style, you should also think about what elements of your wedding are most important to you. If you invested a large portion of your budget into the flowers, you’ll want to be sure they’re sufficiently lit with pinspots or flameless candles so your guests can see every detail. If you’re more interested in getting everyone on the dance floor, consider disco balls, Gobo lights, or texture lights to keep the party vibe up all night long.

photo by Stephanie Sorenson. See more from this wedding here.

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 get 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. You might want to bring in generators for more power—which will save you the hassle of trying to hang lights in high places.

photo by T&K Photography. See more from this wedding here.

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, like signs. Check out these wedding signs for every part of your wedding day!

image by Joanna Baker. See more of this elopement here.

 

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10 Comments

  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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