While it’s easy to spend months designing table decorations, invitations, and scouting out the perfect location for just the right ambience, lighting is something most people overlook when it comes to planning their party. Don’t assume that the lighting provided will be adequate—make sure you observe your location at its darkest if you plan to hold your event at night. Look for walkway lights, floodlights, and lamps that might be available. If it looks like you might need to bring additional light sources, take note of the number of electrical outlets and their locations.
If a dim glow is what you’re after, candles are an obvious choice. Buying them in bulk will save you money. If your location allows it, place them on every curtain free ledge you can find: windowsills, fireplace mantles, down the center of long tables and grouped together at the center of round tables. For a customized look, try wrapping cylindrical candle holders with paper, or collect a variety of glasses, jars, and vases from a thrift store for an eclectic impression.
Electric string lights provide an inexpensive solution, but
can look wimpy if you don’t use enough. Don’t be afraid to cover every square
inch of the ceiling or the walls instead of draping a few random strings. Here’s
a great way to spruce them up a bit, from Real Simple magazine. Cut a small
slot into the bottom of a plastic cup and slide it over the bulb of a string
light. They’ve used clear plastic in this photo, but white paper, or printed
The difficulty with string lights is how to hide the ugly tangle of plugs that stem from the wall. Try twisting tulle around the string. You can create disguising drapes to cover the excess wire.
Or go wireless with battery operated push lights. Place them under tables with sheer tablecloths for a dramatic effect, or arrange them on the walls in a pattern.
For more of a backdrop, try setting up a slide projector to illuminate a wall near the entrance of your location, with a photo of the birthday girl or boy, the happy couple, or a company logo. An overhead projector might serve the same purpose. If you’re tech savvy, connecting your computer to a big screen TV can create lots of options. Try a slideshow of photos, or use the abstract art visuals of your music software to create the perfect scene for a cocktails or a dance party. You can download lots of different visuals with a quick internet search.
Check out the Martha Stewart website which has some great DIY luminary tutorials, using candles, string lights, jars, lamp oil, and colored vellum. Whether you focus on finding a location with adequate lighting, or opt for DIY charm, don’t keep you guests in the dark.