Test Wedding Picture

The Definitive Guide to Wedding Reception Lighting: Painting with Light

by admin on August 30, 2012

What if someone told you that they could transform your bland, sterile, boring reception venue into a magical, exciting, and intimate space with the flick of a switch? Would you listen? Would that pique your interest? Proper use of lighting elements can do just that and more. This multi-part series will explain what goes into an amazing lighting design, inspire you to do more with less, and assuage your concerns and fears of using lighting at your wedding and reception.  If you are a lighting newbie or have never considered lighting in your venue, welcome to an exciting new world of decor with limitless options and possibilities….

Part 1:

Painting with Light

Lighting has always been an essential element of live productions dating back to ancient Greek and Roman theater. Modern lighting designers use color in theatrical productions  to accentuate and draw attention to the actors on stage. It is also widely accepted that different colors have different but predictable effects on people and their mood. Cool colors such as blues, greens, and purples have been found to calm the viewer and evoke moods and emotions of contentment, serenity, and relaxation. Hot colors like reds, yellows, and oranges stimulates, arouses, and energizes the audience.  Color can play a major role in creating a mood for your wedding reception. Lighting also is extremely cost effective when done properly. Tasteful lighting can make a major statement for very little expense.

Uplight The Walls…

One of the most dramatic and simple methods of changing the appearance of a room is to place medium to wide angle lighting fixtures on the floor around the edge of a room and aim them up the wall. Addition of colored gels from Rosco give you hundreds of color choices. When placing these fixtures, be sure to space them evenly around the room to create symmetry. A fixtures every 20-25 feet around the edge of a room is a common practice. If electrical limitations or physical space are a issue, place a single fixtures in each corner. Also, consider placing alternating colors that complement each other  to create contrast and visual interest.  Common fixtures are PAR 64s and PAR 56s. and both of these fixtures are readily available for rent from local theatrical supply companies. Be sure to consult with the staff at the rental agency regarding the proper placement and electrical requirements of using these fixtures. Additionally, remember that these fixtures will get hot. Keep drapes, fabrics, or other flammable items a safe distance from the lighting fixtures. The rental agency will be able to provide minimum distances required by your local fire codes.

Purple uplighting and dimmed house lighting creates a tasteful and intimate experience with great visual interest.

Red and orange uplighting transforms a bland hotel conference room.

Uplighting can be used to accent architectural features for a dramatic effect.

 Skirt Lighting…

Place a low wattage fixture with a colored gel to create an amazing lighting effect with your buffet and guest tables.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

jena rogers August 30, 2012 at 6:51 am

That’s pretty dramatic! Might I also add, as an aside…
I’m not a fan of the slideshow concept, as seen in the first picture. I find these things to be a terrible distraction at a social event… much like the multiple television screens now found in a lot of restaurants.


Library Diva August 30, 2012 at 10:58 am

I wish I’d waited until later in the day to check in here. Now, the wait to show these photos to my fiance will be excruciating! I would love to try some of this at my reception next year!


The Elf August 30, 2012 at 11:52 am

That’s so pretty! I shudder to think how expensive it would be to rig up, though. Especially the architectural one.


Hemi August 30, 2012 at 1:31 pm

Nice, very nice. Especially like the skirt lighting, but wonder about heat, even with the low wattage bulbs.


Politrix August 30, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Hmmm… to be honest, I’m not a big fan of any of it. I kinda like the red & and orange one, but only marginally. I’d rather the lighting be subtle, not dramatic. And it’s all too dark — I’d prefer to be able to see the wedding party and the food I was eating. These pictures seem more suited to a nightclub or upscale restaurant, not a gathering celebrating love and family.
I guess you could say that when it comes to wedding etiquette, the venue’s the only participant that should clearly try and NOT upstage the bride! 🙂


Powers August 30, 2012 at 9:27 pm

I like the effects, but I’m not sure they’re practical. Lighting this pervasive risks casting a pallor over both the guests and their food… Filet Mignon with a green tint is not appetizing! And in the last picture, note how dark everything /except/ the tables is. You’d sit down and see nothing but a slightly green silhouette sitting across from you.

Remember, a wedding reception is not a theatrical production. You can borrow elements and some techniques, but it’s all too easy to go too far.


The Elf August 31, 2012 at 12:41 pm

I think a lot would depend on the time. You can turn up the purple when the cake’s all been cut and people have taken the dance floor, for instance.


lkb August 31, 2012 at 6:58 am

These are all very pretty and attractive, but it seems to me that it is just one more (and honestly very trivial) thing to obsess about. (I’d rather worry about my guests having good food, good music and, above all, good company. Wouldn’t something like these lights be up to the venue?

Don’t get me wrong, please. They are gorgeous. Thanks for posting them.


Felisd September 1, 2012 at 1:32 pm

LOL! My fiance’s a lighting designer for theatre, though he has freelanced with corporate lighting companies as well. The skirt lighting is very popular at corporate events, apparently. Usually lighting like this isn’t actually turned on until after food consumption – usually when the music starts and the party portion of the reception gets going. Also, heat isn’t as big a problem now as it used to be due to the fact that LED fixtures are becoming more and more popular (which phases out the use of gels as well).

Expense though, can still be tricky. A lot of AV/DJ vendors offer these services as part of their packages. Thanks for the ideas! We will likely have some sort of special lighting at our wedding next year – with a lighting designer as the groom and a ton of theatre and AV contacts on the guest list, it would be a crime not to! 🙂


jena rogers September 5, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Lucky… 🙂


AS September 3, 2012 at 8:17 pm

I too get the feeling that the lights were very low. Might be good when the dance starts. But it would be nice if guests can see the wedding couple and other guests during the reception.

Even though it says inexpensive, I wonder if they were really inexpensive.


The Elf September 6, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Yeah, “inexpensive” seems to take on a new meaning when weddings are involved.


anonymous September 23, 2012 at 7:57 am

Yeah…I looked into this as at least one wall at our reception was a bit bland. Some uplighting would have been nice. For that one wall, the cords/power sources/lights etc. together would have come to a few hundred dollars. It was not inexpensive at all.


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