From Color Wash to Gobo: A Quick Guide to Wedding Lighting

Wedding Style & Decor

Nothing transforms a wedding space as dramatically as the right lighting. Glowing candles, twinkling strands of lighting, walls awash in color — all of these lighting elements create a mood and add warmth to indoor and outdoor celebrations. Not to mention the fact that good lighting can make everything — including your wedding flowers, cake, and even guests — look better. So, if you're considering booking a lighting vendor, here are the terms you'll need to know:

Break-up pattern
Using a gobo (see below for definition) to project a large pattern onto the dance floor, a wall, or the ceiling. Break-up patterns work especially well for tented receptions, where the entire tent ceiling can be used as a canvas for a large-scale pattern.

Color wash
Light fixtures that create a "wash," blanketing an entire area such as a wall or ceiling with color.

Globe lights
Also called bistro lights, cafe lights, or string lighting, these are strands of round- or pear-shaped bulbs that are often used indoors or outdoors to create a luminous canopy overhead.

A specially designed metal or glass stencil that is placed over a light to project a design or pattern on a wall, dance floor, or tent top. Popular gobo designs include monograms, the wedding date, textures, patterns, or any custom motif.

See More: From Budget to Blowout, Three Ways to Add Lighting to Your Wedding Reception

Intelligent lighting
Lighting fixtures that can be controlled through the use of special controllers or software. This will allow your lighting designers to change the look and feel of the lighting throughout the reception.

Short for light-emitting diodes, L.E.D. lights are popular because they use much less electricity and generate very little heat compared to conventional lighting fixtures. Some L.E.D. fixtures are wireless, making them more discreet, as well as programmable. They can produce thousands of different colors and can be set up to change colors throughout the event with the help of a lighting technician. L.E.D.s are also commonly used in votive candles (as a flameless alternative to real candles).

Pin spot
A miniature spotlight used to highlight focal points at the reception, such as centerpieces, the wedding cake, and the sweetheart table.

Up lighting
A series of freestanding light fixtures that are placed on or near the floor to illuminate upward toward a wall, ceiling, or architectural feature like a column or pillar.

Give a Subscription to Brides Magazine as a Gift

Get personalized planning advice, exclusive offers and must-read wedding news.

Thank You
for Signing Up!

Check your e-mail inbox for the latest updates from