3 Popular Lighting Styles to Help Set the Mood at Your Wedding

(Almost) everything is illuminated!
lights at a wedding reception
Photo: Roy Nuesca Photography


Let there be light! At a from-the-ground-up gala for 100 peeps at a remote beach venue, when there are oodles and oodles of options, such a thing is easier said than done. That’s especially true when brides realize the big truth about the transformative effects of lighting styles. Here’s our beginner’s cheat sheet to a few of the most popular lighting types and how to navigate your way through them.


Elaborate twinkly lights

Create: Fairyland-esque canopies and cathedral roofs

D.I.Y.?: Not recommended

Beware of: Hidden costs from vendors, including installation fees, generator requirements and breakdown charges.

These are the go-to, mini fairy lights that make you think of Christmas trees and December eaves. In the wedding world, they’re the magical building blocks for some romantic ambiance. Think strings upon strings affixed to peaked tents for a stunning cathedral-like atmosphere that will really set the mood at night. We’ve also seen brides blanket whole walls with them (maybe just behind the sweetheart table?) for an otherworldly backdrop that silhouettes the couple to perfect dramatic effect. The downside? While some wall-coverings are doable yourself, hoisting yourself up into the lofty peaks of a tent, stringing a zillion of these bad boys and figuring out the outlet/generator situation (please don’t fry your venues circuits) is probably best left to pros. Your rental company can definitely make this happen for you, but it won’t be cheap—think $2 or more per foot of strings.


Bistro lights

Create: A rustic and relaxed country vibe

D.I.Y.?: Maybe

Beware of: Installation time if you’re trying to D.I.Y. Also, make sure there are places to hang the lights from at your venue, that all the bulbs work (even if you just bought them—seriously!) and that the outlets you plan to use can handle the number of strings you have. If you’re completely away from outlets, best to skip doing it yourself and hand things off to a company.

These have been taking the rustic aesthetic by storm, inside and outside the wedding industry. Been to a beer garden lately? An outdoor art showing? A lawn-chair community music show? You’ve probably seen these chunky, retro-style bulbs. The throwback, Edison-style bulbs have a decorative charm all themselves and, when you go for the heavy duty version available at Costco, you can definitely have enough firepower to light up the night. These are showy enough, so skip the fancy cathedral peaks and twirly shapes, and stick to straightforward, functional setups, hung over areas that need to be lit, and affixed wherever you can find a spot: looped through trees, threaded through roof supports, hooked onto screws in the wall. The homey feel is part of the charm, so embrace it!



Create: Intimate table settings

D.I.Y.?: Absolutely!

Beware of: Candles let off very dim light. If you’re outside, in the middle of a field, deep into the night you’ll need another source of light or guests will be tripping all over themselves and won’t be able to see their plates.

Ah, good old-fashioned candles. They still can’t be beat for intimate, romantic tablescapes, and they have oodles of décor potential. Slightly unconventional details can add a ton, such as a deep burgundy candle shade that complements your flowers, instead of the typical white, or selecting elegant taper shapes instead of the standard pillar. Plus, while we all love the classic look of a real, flickering flame, safety—often, your venue’s requirements—demand you go for the modern battery-powered faux versions. Luckily, the flickering options look realistic!


Read more stories by Natalie Schack