24 Unique Wedding Lighting Ideas

Here's how to make your day shine—like, literally

Updated 09/06/17

Photo by Amber Gress

We are all about the wedding details—cakes, flowers, monogrammed invites, and more. But we have to admit this understated fact: Lighting is the single most important décor element at your wedding. And while, at first, that thought sounds more functional than fun, hear us out: The bulbs and candles you select (whether they're simple votives or over-the-top chandeliers) are what will ultimately light your perfect venue, make your photos just right, and keep the party going—even after the sun sets. So, yeah, lighting is important, and it's an essential element of both your budget and wedding-day décor. But that doesn't mean you can't have fun with it—in fact, you should have fun with it! As with any other design detail, treat choosing, planning, and installing the night's illumination as yet another opportunity to carry out your design vision—whatever style that is.

And we don't just mean "style" in terms of whether you're a modern, romantic, or glam bride. Instead, take a moment to think about your priorities and create a lighting plan around that. For instance, if you're a foodie bride who envisions a wine-fueled night under the stars, consider hanging string lights above the dinner area or placing a long line of taper candles down the middle of the table. Both would spotlight the night's main show (the food!) and keep your guests in their seats way past the final course. Same goes for you flower ladies. If you're spending that much per bloom, show them off with plenty of votives scattered about. And if you already have your dancing shoes ready for a night on the dance floor, make a show of it with a disco ball up top or paper lanterns around the area's perimeter. (You can see examples of both below, but a lighting statement here almost guarantees a good party—why do you think you like dancing at a night club so much?!)

But seriously, as you start to think about your lighting plan, remember that the options are endless and can be easily catered to any venue, budget, and style. Keep scrolling to see dozens of picture-perfect wedding lighting ideas that will make your day shine—like, literally. This is your time in the spotlight so now's your chance to choose the right light!

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Bring The Outside In

Hanging greenery with candles

Photo by Lauren Fair Photography

At this Philadelphia real wedding, floral and lighting designer Oleander Curated brought the bride's vision for an outdoor vibe indoors with hanging greenery, hanging votive handles—and even more candles on the floor.

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Create a Ceiling of Lights

Unique lighting idea

Photo by Sara Lobla

How amazing is this photo?! We love how the ceiling of lights defines the dinner space while also creating the look of a starry sky (even in day light).

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Incorporate String Lights

Unique lighting idea

Photo by Sylvie Gil Photography

Again, string lights up above for the win! This lighting example works especially well because the lights can be easily strung through the existing trellis of greenery.

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Mix Garlands and Drapes

Minimalist ceremony venue with lights

Photo by Chaz Cruz

At this Brooklyn real wedding, planner Jove Meyer filled the empty blank space (thanks to those gorgeous high ceilings!) with greenery-wrapped garlands, string lights, and white draping. The result: Lights perfectly shining from behind said simple sheers.

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Hang a Fixture

Unique lighting idea

Photo by Davy Whitener

You can always make a statement with one eye-catching fixture. This antique bronze the trick—and is perfect if you want your reception to feel like an at-home dinner party.

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Use Taper Candles on Tables

Photo by Nirav Patel Photography

We can't get enough of this light-filled scene. Who knew the balance of taper candles on tables and bistro lights up above could be so perfect?

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Line Up Lanterns

Guests dancing at reception

Photo by Jillian Mitchell

A line of lit lanterns provides light for an open-air dinner, while also setting the scene for one serious dance sesh. (The sand dance floor isn't required but highly encouraged.)

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Create Chandelier Orbs

Photo by Sylvie Gil Photography

Are these cool chandelier orbs more perfect for a Restoration Hardware catalog or a wedding reception? Hard to decide—but we sure do love them filled with greenery against a sleek white backdrop!

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Scatter Spot Lights

Photo by Lauren Fair Photography

It may sound obvious but use lighting to show off your beautiful venue (duh!). Here, golden spot lights are used along the perimeter of the dinner space to highlight beautiful stone walls.

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Illuminate The Outside

Candles Outside Tent

Photo by Corbin Gurkin Photography

Don't forget to illuminate the outside of your space too—especially if you're pitching a tent in the middle of a dark field! Here, Tara Guérard Soirée lined the edges of this white-draped tent with pillar candles in tall glass vases.

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Hang Mini String Lights

Photo by Kylee Yee

String lights come in all shapes and size but these mini ones are especially cool. Why? The small bulb size means they make enough of a statement but also don't distract from those perfectly-planned table settings.

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Mix Garlands and Statement Candles

Reception Dinner

Photo by Chaz Cruz

Don't think you ever have to choose between a long table garland and statement candles! Here, short pillar candles are used on the outside of each garland centerpiece for one statement display.

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Line Your Staircase

Photo by Rebecca Yale Photography; Flowers by The Bloom of Time; Planning by Taryn Leach Events

Remember to light up the tricky areas where your guests will gather after dark. Staircases are such places, as are paths to the bathrooms and bar. That being said, we can totally see this candle-lined staircase as a first look location or ceremony site.

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Light Up Trees

Wedding reception venue

Photo by Lauren Fair Photography

Now here's a unique idea: Set up your tables around well-lit trees! We're obsessed with how the table arrangement, trees, and spot lights draw your eyes upwards (towards cool, wooden beams!) and fill up this large, industrial venue.

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Hang Chandeliers Outdoors

Photo by Brian Marcus of Fred Marcus Studio

If chandeliers are your thing, think outside the box by hanging them outside of a ballroom. We love this unexpected take when sparklers are hung at different heights in a natural setting.

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Use Candles of Varying Heights

Reception Table

Photo by Sarah Falugo

When you spend months curating the perfect place settings and centerpieces, you best use candles of varying heights to show off your handiwork. These tall, black pillar candles and mini votives do such the trick!

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Hang Lights Around Trees

Table Setting

Photo by Suzi Jacobs

We've talked about hanging lights from trees but you can hang them around trees too. At this garden wedding in San Diego, string lights look beautiful when wrapped around a statement tree's base and branches.

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Use Moroccan-inspired Lanterns

Reception

Photo by Meg Smith Photography

At this elegant backyard bash, a cluster of Moroccan-inspired lanterns kept the open-air tent lit well into the night. We especially love how the silver hue adds a metallic accent up above (and coordinates with the marble-inspired table settings).

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Mix Antique Chandeliers with Greenery

White tablescape

Photo by Lisa Poggi

Talk about a statement installation! Here, an unexpected mix of antique chandeliers and flowing greenery makes for one serious photo op moment.

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Light Hundreds of Candles

Italian cathedral venue

Photo by Lisa Poggi

This photo is yet another reminder of how to use lighting to highlight your space. This real bride wanted to highlight the natural beauty of her ceremony site (and rightfully so!) so she lined the aisle and altar with hundreds of candles—and zero flowers!

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Use Candelabras

Reception Tent with Candles

Photo by Corbin Gurkin Photography

Tall candelabras do double duty in that they add both light and height to your tabletops. At this wedding, white candles mixed with white linen tablecloths let the gold accents (and candlelight!) show off.

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Create an Illusion

Table with Greenery Garland

Photo by Two Twenty by Chi Chi

Here, string lights are hung in straight lines to visually draw your eye towards the peak of the tent. This all-time favorite design works especially well with clear-top tents because it creates the illusion of stars after dark.

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Hang Glass Orbs

Bride and groom during first dance

Photo by Chaz Cruz

Can you say epic photo?! This shot features a couple on the dance floor that's surrounded by hanging glass orbs filled with mini votive candles.

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Dance Under a Disco Ball

Couple at Sweetheart Table

Photo by Sarah Falugo

And speaking of dance floors, don't underestimate the power of a retro disco ball against string lights. The result is pure magic—and let's be honest: Who doesn't want to be in the middle of this dance floor?!

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