Creating the perfect event lighting – advice from the experts

When planning an event there is one element that can make a huge difference to the atmosphere of the occasion – the lighting.

The right lighting will direct attention to the most important areas of the space, create the desired mood and ultimately set the scene for the occasion, whether it is a conference, a trade show, a corporate occasion or a private party.

To find out more about how lighting can make – or break – an event we spoke to events planners Julie Girgenti owner of Exceptional Events and Ellen Davies owner of LND Events.

Here’s what they had to say:

Setting the tone

  • Lighting is absolutely crucial to every event and is one of the best and easiest ways to make your dream become reality – it sets a mood, it tells us where to set our attention and it can create an incredible impact. Lighting is never to be overlooked or neglected. Having lighting that is not controllable or adaptable is like watching an incredible performance in the studio, rather than the theatre. JG
  • Everything is very much dependant on the individual’s needs rather than the type of event, however in my experience, weddings and parties want softer lighting such as fairy lights or up-lighters and business events want lighting that is more adjustable. ED
  • Every event must have lighting that has been specially designed for that occasion. This is how you begin to create a real visual wow-factor in any space. It’s also how you set the tone of an event experience and how you keep people awake and in tune to what’s going on around them. JG

Lighting for business events

  • Avoid bright white florescent lights at all costs. These are really harsh on the eyes and can make one’s vision tired and blurry. Soft, warm lighting around the sides or natural lighting from windows is always uplifting and energising for delegates. JG
  • Remote lighting is great for business events as lighting can be dimmed as speakers come on and brightened for Q&As and in between speakers. It is definitely beneficial for both concentration and atmosphere.  ED
  • Depending on the nature of the business, the content being discussed or the speakers on stage, theatrical lighting at the front of the room can really help to draw everyone’s focus and attention onto the stage. JG

Visibility at trade shows

  • Traditionally, trade shows take place in terribly overcrowded venues with bright florescent lights. Again, I would highly recommend avoiding this if you want people to stick around for a while. Warm ambient lighting draws people into a space and where visitors are comfortable and happy, they want to stay longer! JG
  • Ensure that each stand has its own theatrical or warm lighting effect that draws the target audience’s attention towards particular areas. JG

Bringing private parties to life

  • Lighting for a private party or wedding must be considered with respect to the time of day, the venue and the mood and ambience you’re trying to create. JG
  • For an elegant cocktail hour, I would choose a mixture of warm lamp lighting, candle lighting and carefully positioned up-lights for a bit of theatricality and to draw focus to certain design elements. JG
  • For dinner, I would recommend increasing the number of candles, adding a bit of moonlight and other much softer but still warm lights around the ceiling and/or the floor so people can make out the space around them without feeling like the rest of the word outside the dinner table is in the dark. This kind of dinner lighting keeps the attention focused on the table and the meal, and everyone sitting around the table will look particularly good as well! JG

Creating the perfect wedding lighting

  • A wedding ceremony’s lighting is really dependent on the time of day. For a morning or afternoon wedding, it’s always best to go natural. Let the natural light pour into and over the space and add further warmth with some candles and maybe some warm overhead spotlights. JG
  • Always keep the attention on the focal point at the front (where the couple will actually be wed) and to keep the lighting warm and glowing. This helps to keep the atmosphere positively charged and everyone feeling happy. JG
  • After the ceremony, the lighting in the reception can again be dictated by the time of day, the venue and the ambiance desired by the couple. Here, a lot of couples add in some coloured lighting effects around a dance floor but bear in mind, warm lighting can help draw out the colours of the decor without changing the entire vibe of the space into that of a dance club. JG

Consider the photography

  • Photographers take the lighting of a room extremely seriously so I will often arrange site visits with them to discuss. It’s usually venues with a lack of real light from windows that are the hardest to work with. ED
  • I know photographers who are working my events have struggled or not enjoyed the venues as much when they have to work with poor lighting. ED 

Complementing existing lighting

  • I always supplement the lighting that a venue offers with my own. Typically, I find the lighting most venues have in place is either far too harsh or far too bland to be impactful in the way I want and need the lighting to be. I will almost always have an AV or production team on board to enhance the space using professional lighting design techniques and equipment. JG
  • I hire in additional lighting when necessary based on the photographer or couple’s requests. For business events, I work with the venue’s availability but often a venue can be picked with lighting as a large factor. ED
  • Remote lighting is fantastic and the more control I have as a planner and organiser the better! Sometimes the natural light pouring into a room through the windows can become quite grey and gloomy and this can have a really depressing impact on a space. What you always want for any event is the control to add warm ambient lighting that uplifts a space energetically and emotionally. JG
  • Even when there is natural lighting available, I still like to be able to control the lighting levels for when the natural lighting begins to change. JG
  • Natural light can be beautiful but things like unpredictable weather can effect that and it’s good to have a back-up and be able to work with a mixture of both natural and artificial light. ED
  • Warm light equals a happy environment. Just as being outside in bright sunlight makes people happy and they start to glow from the inside out, lighting inside a space can have the same effect. The goal is to find the perfect balance between happy mood lighting and the desired ambience lighting. JG

And finally… do a test run

  • Test the lighting in the exact conditions in which they will be experienced. There is absolutely no point testing or finding the perfect lighting for a room that has natural light pouring into the windows if that room won’t be used or experienced until after dark. JG
  • If you are having a photographer and not consulting with an event planner or someone else with experience, definitely have a site visit with them to ensure they’ll get the best out of your event. Otherwise just work to your tastes but ensure really dark areas are lit for safety reasons, events where there is no lighting to guide people to their cars at outdoor events, is a bugbear of mine.  ED