While there are many things to consider when planning a wedding reception, one thing that should not be overlooked is lighting. The right lighting can often determine if your reception is a party to remember or a bust.

Time of Day

Is your wedding reception being held at night, or during the day? If in daylight, you might consider darkening the room in some way with drapes or blinds. Darker venues are more conducive to dancing and sociability, though creating the right mood requires the right lighting. You may want to start your reception later to allow for the light to be right when, for instance, dancing starts.


You may want to think about how lighting will affect the different things that encompass a wedding reception: introductions, eating, dancing, speeches. Consider which type of lighting would put the activity in the best light.

Be sure to visit your reception venue in both the daytime and nighttime, to observe the differences in lighting. For a morning or afternoon wedding, chances are that the reception will start in the daylight while people are eating and talking, but when dancing begins, it may be dark. This is an advantage, because when it is darker, people are more likely to dance and have fun. Think about how you wish to adjust the light to correspond with both the activity and the time of day.

Different Areas

Do you want different lighting for the dance floor than for the dining area? Do you want to call attention to the cake or dessert table? Do you want the head table back-lit? You can use different methods to light different areas, but also be sure to take into account the entire effect of this--too many different types of lighting might look disjointed.

You can also use lighting to direct the flow of guests. Create a pathway of paper bag or tea light votives to light the way towards the reception. Use uplighting behind the cake or use creative lighting to draw attention, as with a gobo light with the couple’s initials aimed behind the head table.


Do you want soft and romantic? Pink and warm colors are your best bet. Do you have more of a celebratory theme for your reception? Bright, cool colors are best for when promoting a good time is your aim. For table lighting and centerpieces, be sure to pick appropriate accessories – Victorian-inspired candle holders, for example, for an elegant or romantic reception, or fun flower arrangements lit with LEDs for a more modern effect.

Lighting Basics

See what the venue has to offer. Do they have overhead fluorescents, or soft lighting in hanging sconces or chandeliers? Are the lights on dimmer switches? Take note of the time the sun will set, and plan accordingly. Ask if there is any in-house additional lighting available, or if they work with anyone to arrange extra lighting.

A little prior planning can help you to have a wedding that you and everyone else will be able to enjoy.