The most common types of special event lighting include Lekos, PAR, LEDs, and Gobos. But whether or not you’ve worked with them at other events before, there are lots of other special event lighting design ideas you can use to spice things up. Here are some tips you can use at virtually any event you plan whether it’s indoors or outdoors.
Outdoor Event Lighting Tips for Success
Outdoor events leave your lighting exposed to the elements and often require thinking outside the box in terms of power sources. Follow these best practices to overcome these challenges and maximize your outdoor event lighting design.
- Battery-powered and solar-powered are your best friends. Just make sure you have extra batteries on hand the day-of. Also, test out your solar-powered lights ahead of time to see how bright they actually are – if you’re using them in hard to light areas like entryways you need to make sure they’re actually effective.
- Stock up on LED candles for nighttime. You can place them anywhere you’d want to place regular wax candles throughout your event space. Here are some great ideas for decorating with flameless candles to inspire you.
- When booking an outdoor event lighting rental, make sure you ask the venue about their power sources, whether or not you’ll need to also rent a generator for the event, and what options you’ll have for grounding any hanging lights.
Now that you’ve got outdoor events covered, let’s tackle some of your indoor lighting concerns.
Indoor Event Lighting Tips Worth Considering
There aren’t really any limits with indoor lighting, so you can get as creative as your space and budget will allow! But here are some things about indoor lighting best practices to keep in mind anyways.
- If you’re planning to use real candles, double check with the venue first. They might have a policy regarding open flames in closed spaces.
- Get recommendations for lighting companies from the venue manager. Someone who has rented lighting equipment to them before will know the ins and outs of their space and what’s possible for your event.
- You’ll still need to visit your event venue at the same time of day as when your event will take place, especially if the space has lots of windows that could affect how much daylight will enter. You’d be surprised what a difference natural lighting at noon can make compared to natural lighting at 2pm, especially with windows that face West.
Now that you have those general tricks down, here are some specific lighting ideas you can add to your next event design!
30 Gorgeous Ideas for Event Lighting
Use one or more of these suggestions to fill out your event planning decor.
1. Suspend votives as chandeliers.
Looking to add a little glam and drama to your lighting design? Try any one of these votive candle chandeliers or use them to inspire your own.
2. Combine LED washes, GOBO’s, and moving lights.
Even if you don’t have a ton of space for other decor elements, this winning combination can be used to set the tone of the event, entertain guests, and call attention to any structural details you’d like to emphasis. Here’s a quick primer on professional moving lights to help you figure out which would be best for your needs.
3. Add fairy lights to greenery for garlands.
These DIY natural greenery displays incorporate lights in a bunch of creative ways that you can easily replicate for your event.
4. Create a waterfall with delicate strings of lights.
5. Provide extra drama with tall, tapered candles as centerpieces.
6. Spotlight fabric curtains and drapings.
Use a multi purpose LED spotlight accent lamp or UV bar to cast a glow. If you don’t want to take up floor space and don’t have the option to wall mount them, try a clip on mini pin light that can easily be secured to a curtain rod.
7. Use pillar candles in tall hurricanes to light pathways.
These are best for outdoor events when the weather is good or indoor events where guests need a little help navigating from the parking area to the entrance.
8. Show off event name, hashtags, and sponsor logos with lighting stencils.
9. Create cascading chandeliers made entirely of fairy lights.
You can buy them or DIY a few using hula hoops! Add flowers, greenery, or holiday ornaments to better fit the event theme.
10. Add drama to bare corners with uplighting.
11. Use outdoor lighting strands with naked, oversized bulbs.
When you hang them, start at the plug end so you don’t end up pulling them so far away that they can’t reach the outlet. Also, be sure to invest in glass bulbs. They’re more stylish and cast better light.
12. Place pin lights in or around your table centerpieces.
If your event is at night or if it’s during the day in a venue without windows, you’ll want to consider adding this to your overall lighting scheme. It will create more ambience, highlight elaborate centerpiece design details, and create a high-end layered look to your lighting design.
13. Create a light show with Perspex.
Perspex is a brand name for custom LED light panel signage and edging. Their products (and ones like them) are modern and look cool in any space. They’re most commonly used for corporate events to display business names, highlight sponsors, or emphasize event taglines.
14. Add colorful projections to bland presentation stages.
Light colored or reflective surfaces look best under colored projections, but you can still create some interesting effects on challenging surfaces. Here are some tips to help you do just that.
15. Line staircases with wide pillar candles in varying heights.
These stunning examples of candles on stairs show that there are plenty of options for both minimalist and maximalist event styles.
16. Display logos as cut silhouettes.
Use a program like the one offered by Silhouette Studio to turn a JPEG file into a DIY cut out for your lights.
17. Add vintage lanterns to dark corners or spaces.
Vintage lanterns add a touch of character to those overlooked event venue nooks and crannies. If you don’t have time to thrift shop for actual vintage lanterns or you don’t have the budget to buy premade ones, learn how to antique a lantern yourself.
18. Spotlight building exteriors.
Weather-proof LEDs are a must. And you’ll have to take the age of the building into consideration when choosing your color temperature. For example, historical structures should only be lit by 5000K or higher.
19. Hang glass orbs filled with candles.
If the event will transition from day to night, make sure you use remote-control battery-candles so you don’t have to get on a ladder to turn them on when it gets dark.
20. Use giant initial letters.
Marquee light up letters are available on sites like Amazon, Etsy, and Wayfair in a variety of styles ranging from modern to rustic.
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21. Include mirrored or extra shiny decor items such as disco balls, mirror chains, and glittery objects.
Hang lights inside or around them to add some bonus sparkle in your top lighting layer. Or shine an extra spotlight or two to really feature them.
22. Combine short string lights with bottles (when hung or placed on tables).
Here’s the DIY way to turn empty wine bottles into clever accent lights.
23. Outline door frames and entryways with colored LED strips.
12V LED strip lights are best for this because they are easy to use, have some flexibility to their structure, and come in ribbon form which can look very discreet. Use 3M adhesive backing (if your kit doesn’t already include it) and review these helpful installation tips.
24. Try floating candle displays.
These romantic tablescape additions can be combined with flowers, fruits, and branches to create a breathtaking centerpiece without breaking the bank.
25. Create themed background scenery like ocean waves, cobwebs, or the moon and stars.
If you have a particular image in mind, you can purchase individual LED projectors for small spaces. If you’re working within a larger space, use a combination of GOBOs and stencils or filters to create the look.
26. Place lights underneath bistro tables.
Use a LED cocktail table ring light in a variety of colors to upgrade your room layout and look.
27. Wrap paper lanterns around columns and through tree branches.
To wrap trees with outdoor lights, opt for a good base (bare, leafless trunks work well) and make sure you test out your extension cord ahead of time (make sure it works, is the right length, and has GFCI protection).
28. Bring attention to product displays with mini uplight panels.
Use 3W LED lights or portable mini spotlights. These will work for most table sizes and are small enough to not crowd your display.
29. Use electronic candles as table or seat markers.
Write guest names on the candles or attach labels and colored ribbons if you’re renting them. They’ll add just a soft glow to your table and upgrade your placement setting.
30. Stagger hanging LED tube lights in hallways.
Use RGB tube lights and an accompanying installation matrix to support them. They’re lightweight and easy to work with once properly set up.