Getting the lighting right at your wedding is one of the keys to making a welcoming environment, and to identifying exactly how you want your wedding to feel. There are a wide variety of lighting options that can work great for outdoor weddings, including full-sized string lights, with or without Edison bulbs, fairy lights, solar hanging lanterns, metal torches, etc. Wedding String Lights can be used inexpensively to provide significant ambient lighting for that special day!
Much depends on what your target is for style, of course. If you’re looking for a sleek, modern vibe, then you will probably want to follow a few different techniques than if you’re going for a cozy warm handmade, DIY modern farmhouse feel.
How to Run Wedding String Lights
In this article, we are mainly focused around wedding lighting ideas, but in some cases, we will touch on a few products that could tie in nicely depending on what you’re looking for.
Typically, string lights are suspended from a ceiling, but not always, and we explore several other ways to use string lights further down. Here are some quick thoughts on how to run string lights suspended above.
Techniques to Running String Lights
There are two ways to run string lights: the typical way, which is when the lights are run across the span, and the straight line method which uses guy wires. Depending on the look you want to achieve, you should consider both.
Standard String Light Suspension
The usual way to run string lights is to attach one end to an object, pull the string across to the other end, and tie it. This results in an arc-like suspension, with the string drooping down over the course of the run.
This technique can often look great, though if you’re running multiple runs of string lights, getting the same curve can be difficult.
And while you’re at work, getting everything to look perfect, you may find yourself screwing around with the string lights way more than you need to while the DJ is asking what you want to play first and your caterer is asking where to place the canapes and your soon to be mother-in-law is… oh, sorry, where was I?
If you have a second person on the ground to help you get a sense of what looks parallel, or similarly-curved, you will have an easier time suspending your string lights in this fashion.
Suspending Lights using Guy Wires
By starting out running steel guy wires, you can get a much more taut line across your span. You can then clip your string lights to the steel guy wire, and get nice straight lines with very little arch, and a much more modern and clean look.
These lights also tend not to blow and sway so much if there is a breeze, which makes them a bit less distracting.
However, be sure to consider how strong your anchor points are, as the steel wires will definitely put more lateral strain on your anchor points. If you are using posts that aren’t really designed for lateral loads, consider additional bracing on the bottom, just in case!
Wedding String Lighting Ideas
Make a Few Focal Points
When considering your overall design, you likely want to make a few focal points for lighting. These points may be anything, but a few common ones are the wedding guest book area, the entry area, over the dance floor, and in the wedding ceremony area.
Wedding Guest Book/Entry Area
This can be a great spot to create a focal point, as you want your guests to come and sign the book, and it is frequently a wonderful introduction to the wedding event. However, this area is often more of a refuge, and not necessarily part of the primary wedding reception area, so using some subtle but impactful lighting can be a great technique to modestly drawing attention to the area.
By using a few hula hoops, or other metal rings, combined with some string lights, you can create a really interesting side area.
For this sort of lighting, you may want to stick to solar fairy string lights like these fairly lights [Amazon Link], which do not have to be plugged in once charged and can fully wrap around an object without having a cord going to a plug.
Just be sure to plan ahead and ensure that all of your solar lights are fully charged before the ceremony starts, as you don’t want your lights to die halfway through the reception!
Dance Floor Lighting
Running high-quality string lights over the dance floor can be quite festive and elegant. By keeping the focus of the light on the dance floor, you will draw your guests to the light, and hopefully get them on their feet instead of sitting down the whole time!
For dance floor lighting, you likely want full-sized string lights as opposed to fairy lights. Wedding string bulb lights will provide a significant amount of functional light, while still providing the charming feel of a string light design.
You can either run these the traditional way or using steel guy wires to get a straight line.
You may also want to consider using a single central point of origin, at the center of the dance floor and have the string lights radiate out from there. This can create an extremely interesting dome-like design that will be great fun to dance under!
Wedding Ceremony Lighting
Curtain string lights like these [Amazon Link] can work as an outstanding backdrop to a ceremony where everyone is focused around the bride and groom. When overused, these lights can be a bit much, but placing a few runs of curtain lights around a specific area, such as a wedding ceremony area, can work extremely well.
Also, combining a curtain light run with translucent fabric can work really well, as the glow of the light illuminates the fabric, which in turn provides a beautiful setting.
If you’re not careful with these curtain light runs, you can create an environment that is way too closed off, so use them sparingly.
It’s tempting to go wild with them, since the process of hanging them is fun, and it feels like you’re making progress with each section you hang. But when you install too many, you may find that you’ve made the environment worse, and then you’ll be removing some, and running more extension cords, etc.
It’s best to use curtain string lights sparingly, and they will have a great effect!
Use String Lights with Objects
By wrapping string lights around objects, either objects found on the wedding location, or objects you bring in like wire spheres, you can create some great makeshift lighting with inexpensive design and loads of style.
You can make these pretty easily using solar fairy string lights [Amazon Link] and grapevine balls [Amazon Link], or simply purchase a few pre-made ones [Amazon Link] if you have too much other stuff on your plate.
Suspending a few of these babies above the reception tables, or perhaps around the dance floor, will make for a wonderful atmosphere.
Just be sure to get a few different sizes, as having multiple dimensions of the same theme can really cement the impact of these lights.
Mix String Lights with Other Lights
Mixing string lights with outdoor fireplaces, chimineas, lanterns, metal torches, and other lighting types to create a dynamic environment can be a big help in bringing your lighting design to the next level. While the typical bamboo tiki torches are reminiscent of mid-century Tiki lounges, or just cheese in general, the modern design of metal torches can be quite elegant, without being kitschy. By using eucalyptus fuel, you can even help keep the bugs away, too!
Real fire brings a different element to the lighting environment that electric lighting can’t match. It’s obviously unwieldy at times, but you may want to consider a modern chiminea or two to warm up the environment as well.
There’s generally not much of a need to go crazy with a million different types of lighting. A few candles in mason jars, some solar hanging lights, some accent fairy lighting, etc. will give you a great vibe without making everything feel too cluttered, with no theme.
You can get some great, inexpensive results for outdoor wedding lighting by using string lights in creative ways! By combining string bulb wedding lights with other types of lighting like candles, torches, lanterns, etc., and coming up with creative ways to draw the eye to visual focal points, areas, and sub-environments, you’ll have a great wedding light plan in no time!
Try to accentuate the interesting features of the wedding setting itself, and if there aren’t enough natural features, create a few zen visual points, and you’ll have your guests wowing all night!