We are all about the wedding details—cakes, flowers, monogrammed invites, and more. But we have to admit this understated fact: Lighting is the single most important décor element at your wedding. And while, at first, that thought sounds more functional than fun, hear us out: The bulbs and candles you select (whether they’re simple votives or over-the-top chandeliers) are what will ultimately light your perfect venue, make your photos just right, and keep the party going—even after the sun sets. So, yeah, lighting is important, and it’s an essential element of both your budget and wedding-day décor. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it—in fact, you should have fun with it. As with any other design detail, treat choosing, planning, and installing the night’s illumination as yet another opportunity to carry out your design vision—whatever style that is.
And we don’t just mean “style” in terms of whether you’re a modern, romantic, or glam bride. Instead, take a moment to think about your priorities and create a lighting plan around that. For instance, if you’re a foodie bride who envisions a wine-fueled night under the stars, consider hanging string lights above the dinner area or placing a long line of taper candles down the middle of the table. Both would spotlight the night’s main show (the food) and keep your guests in their seats way past the final course. Same goes for you flower ladies. If you’re spending that much per bloom, show them off with plenty of votives scattered about. And if you already have your dancing shoes ready for a night on the dance floor, make a show of it with a disco ball up top or paper lanterns around the area’s perimeter. (You can see examples of both below, but a lighting statement here almost guarantees a good party—why do you think you like dancing at a night club so much?)
But seriously, as you start to think about your lighting plan, remember that the options are endless and can be easily catered to any venue, budget, and style. Keep scrolling to see picture-perfect wedding lighting ideas that will make your day shine—like, literally. This is your time in the spotlight so now’s your chance to choose the right light.
Bring the Outside In
At this Philadelphia real wedding, floral and lighting designer Oleander brought the bride’s vision for an outdoor vibe indoors with hanging greenery, hanging votive handles—and even more candles on the floor.
Create a Ceiling of Lights
How amazing is this photo? We love how the ceiling of lights defines the dinner space while also creating the look of a starry sky (even in daylight).
Incorporate String Lights
Again, string lights up above for the win. This lighting example works especially well because the lights can be easily strung through the existing trellis of greenery.
Mix Garlands and Drapes
At this Brooklyn real wedding, planner Jove Meyer filled the empty blank space (thanks to those gorgeous high ceilings) with greenery-wrapped garlands, string lights, and white draping. The result: Lights perfectly shining from behind said simple sheers.
Hang a Fixture
You can always make a statement with one eye-catching fixture. This antique bronze chandelier does the trick—and is perfect if you want your reception to feel like an at-home dinner party.
Use Taper Candles on Tables
We can’t get enough of this light-filled scene. Who knew the balance of taper candles on tables and bistro lights up above could be so perfect?
Line Up Lanterns
A line of lit lanterns provides light for an open-air dinner, while also setting the scene for one serious dance sesh. (The sand dance floor isn’t required but highly encouraged.)
Create Chandelier Orbs
Are these cool chandelier orbs more perfect for a Restoration Hardware catalog or a wedding reception? Hard to decide—but we sure do love them filled with greenery against a sleek white backdrop.
Scatter Spot Lights
It may sound obvious, but use lighting to show off your beautiful venue (duh). Here, golden spot lights are used along the perimeter of the dinner space to highlight beautiful stone walls.
Illuminate the Outside
Don’t forget to illuminate the outside of your space, too—especially if you’re pitching a tent in the middle of a dark field. Here, Tara Guérard Soirée lined the edges of this white-draped tent with pillar candles in tall glass vases.
Hang Mini String Lights
String lights come in all shapes and sizes but these mini ones are especially cool. Why? The small bulb size means they make enough of a statement but also don’t distract from those perfectly-planned table settings.
Mix Garlands and Statement Candles
Don’t think you ever have to choose between a long table garland and statement candles. Here, short pillar candles are used on the outside of each garland centerpiece for one statement display.
Line Your Staircase
Remember to light up the tricky areas where your guests will gather after dark. Staircases are such places, as are paths to the bathrooms and bar. That being said, we can totally see this candle-lined staircase as a first look location or ceremony site.
Light Up Trees
Now here’s a unique idea: Set up your tables around well-lit trees. We’re obsessed with how the table arrangement, trees, and spot lights draw your eyes upwards (towards cool, wooden beams) and fill up this large, industrial venue.
Hang Chandeliers Outdoors
If chandeliers are your thing, think outside the box by hanging them outside of a ballroom. We love this unexpected take when sparklers are hung at different heights in a natural setting.
Use Candles of Varying Heights
When you spend months curating the perfect place settings and centerpieces, you best use candles of varying heights to show off your handiwork. These tall, black pillar candles and mini votives do the trick.
Hang Lights Around Trees
We’ve talked about hanging lights from trees but you can hang them around trees, too. At this garden wedding in San Diego, string lights look beautiful when wrapped around a statement tree’s base and branches.
Use Moroccan-Inspired Lanterns
At this elegant backyard bash, a cluster of Moroccan-inspired lanterns kept the open-air tent lit well into the night. We especially love how the silver hue adds a metallic accent up above (and coordinates with the marble-inspired table settings).
Mix Antique Chandeliers With Greenery
Talk about a statement installation. Here, an unexpected mix of antique chandeliers and flowing greenery makes for one serious photo op moment.
Light Hundreds of Candles
This photo is yet another reminder of how to use lighting to highlight your space. This real bride wanted to highlight the natural beauty of her ceremony site (and rightfully so) so she lined the aisle and altar with hundreds of candles—and zero flowers.
Tall candelabras do double duty in that they add both light and height to your tabletops. At this wedding, white candles mixed with white linen tablecloths allow the gold accents (and candlelight) to be the focal point.
Create an Illusion
Here, string lights are hung in straight lines to visually draw your eye towards the peak of the tent. This all-time favorite design works especially well with clear-top tents because it creates the illusion of stars after dark.
Hang Glass Orbs
Can you say epic photo? This shot features a couple on the dance floor that’s surrounded by hanging glass orbs filled with mini votive candles.
Dance Under a Disco Ball
And speaking of dance floors, don’t underestimate the power of a retro disco ball against string lights. The result is pure magic—and let’s be honest: Who doesn’t want to be in the middle of this dance floor?