event decor lighting vintage lightbulbs

Event Decor Series: Light Up the Room

So you’ve got the color story and the floral arrangements down pat—now what about the lighting? Any seasoned event planner knows the dazzling effect that lights can have. If you have a client who’s on a tight budget, forgoing some of the bells and whistles isn’t so bad if you have a smashing light display.

Besides illuminating the decor and space of a venue, the lighting also sets the mood and atmosphere. As an event decor specialist, you have to choose the right type and placement of the lights to achieve the goals of the event. Rest assured, you’re not the only event planner to have clients ask, “Would neon lights work for a corporate dinner?” or “Should we have a laser light show at our wedding?”

Not sure where to start to achieve the perfect lighting setup? Here’s what you need to know to light up any event.

The psychology of lighting

happy outdoor friends

Have you ever noticed the spring in your step when the sun is out and shining? Or found that you seem to lean more into conversations at dimly lit restaurants with tea-light-topped tables? As with the color psychology discussed in our post on creating the color story, lighting can be used strategically to create different moods at an event.

Bright, natural lighting

Natural light will show all the colors of your event decor items in their truest forms. Natural lighting will induce positivity and create an uplifting mood. This type of lighting is especially great at interactive events as the brightness will enhance energy and encourage activity.

Warm lighting

Because it’s more natural in tone than cool lighting (we see warm light during sunrises and sunsets, after all!), warm lighting creates a comfortable setting for social interactions. It lowers guests’ inhibitions and draws people closer together.

Cool lighting

cool lighting

Cool lighting can instill a spacious feel to a room. Cool lighting has a bluish hue to it, so it promotes relaxation and peace. The downside is that it can sometimes wash people out.

Soft lighting

Contrasting against harsh and intense lighting, soft lighting downplays imperfections. It works best with warm colors to conjure feelings of intimacy. The shadows cast from decor throughout the room add contrast to the room.

Light placement

Ambient light from a chandelier hanging from the ceiling can effectively light up a room, but just having overhead light fixtures can get boring fast. Add variety and create interest by placing other types of lights throughout the venue at different angles and heights.

Perimeter of a space

If you’ve ever attended a stand-up comedy show, the lights are usually focused on center stage, and the perimeter is left in shadow. This makes the space smaller and creates intimacy. On the other hand, if you want to maximize the space in the venue, add lights to the perimeter of a room to give the illusion of space.

perimeter lighting for event decor wedding

Strong, focus lighting

Strong, focus lighting can be blinding and cause a glare if shone onto reflective surfaces. Instead, this kind of lighting should be used to highlight and add visual interest to centerpieces or other event decor.


To add some dramatic flair to a banquet hall, place lights on the floor pointing upwards against a wall to create streaks of light. This works best if the ceilings are high and the lights don’t touch the top of the wall. Add some drapes in and around the lights to soften the glow.

Under table lighting

If there’s a central head table or a buffet table with long linens, adding lights to light up the table from underneath creates a cool, romantic effect. Colors can be used to add interest and create different moods.

Below eye level

tea light candles for tables for romantic glow at event

Remember those tea lights found on restobar tables? They’re meant to ease you into a more open, relaxed mood when you’re having a drink. This isn’t just limited to candles, but a tea light is a popular choice since the warm, flickering light has a comforting effect that encourages mingling.

Creative lighting techniques

Goodbye boring, fluorescent overhead lights! The most visually interesting spaces include a variety of different lighting techniques and lighting equipment. Check out some of these innovative forays in the world of creative lighting.

Monogram lighting

Monogram lighting can be seen at casual lounges, corporate conferences, and everything in between. A gobo (a metal plate with a design cut into it) is placed in front of a light projector to cast the pattern onto the floor or wall. They can used to display symbols, patterns, logos, names—anything your heart desires. It’s a great way to add a personalized touch to any location.

Kinetic lighting

Are your clients sick of just having a single spotlight moving lazily around the stage? Create a more immersive experience with moving lights! Engineers set up and program the movements of the lights to add dynamism to music and special presentations. While certainly not the cheapest creative lighting option, it’s definitely one of the most versatile. Check out some of the things you can do with kinetic lights in this video!

String lights

We hold dear the cascading twinkling lights that breathe life and magic into any space, but let’s give this staple a new spin. From strings of paper lanterns to DIY yarn ball lights, draping these high up in a make-shift canopy or wrapped around tree branches gives the whole place a romantic glow.

lanterns and string lights for event decor

Floating Lanterns

If there’s a pool or pond at the venue, why not take the light display off-terrain? Floating candles are always a great idea, but they are specially made and can be expensive. For a DIY option, stick some glow sticks into balloons to create floating orbs.

Light columns

If your client is hosting the event by the waterside, but it’s not a contained pool, why not decorate around it? You can buy sturdy, pre-made columns to line the waterfront. As Martha Stewart shows, it can also be a fun DIY project if your clients are on a budget.

Curious about what other planners are doing in the world of event decor? Check out our post on finding event planning trends and inspiration.

2 responses to “Event Decor Series: Light Up the Room”



    Sloane Seguin says:

    Hi Corentia,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to read our article and for leaving a comment. We appreciate it and apologize for the delayed reply!

    To receive a copy of our FREE course catalog, simply follow this link and provide your first + last name and email address: https://www.qceventplanning.com/free-event-course-catalog

    Have a fantastic day! x

    All the best,
    The QC Team

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