• Ajay Manaktala

Ballroom and Wedding Lighting 101

Updated: Sep 29, 2019

Are you getting married or hosting an event soon and using a ballroom/venue for you special occasion? You’re probably confused since many people realize they also need to pick lighting and decorative packages.


Since for most of us renting a ballroom isn’t exactly a yearly activity, I put this guide together to explain all you need to know for lighting up your event. 


wedding lighting ballroom guide
Pinspots are small lights in your center pieces and flower, pattern projector look closely at the back wall.

Ballroom Lighting 101


What is Ballroom and Event lighting? Event lighting usually refers to:


  • Lighting up the walls, called Uplights

  • Lighting up the stage and dance floor with spotlights and movable intelligent lighting.

  • Decorative detailed lighting like stencils/designs/patterns you see on walls and dance floors called pattern projection. 

  • Market lighting or fairy lights, which are very common for outdoor functions to really give the terrace or cliffside some mood and decor. 

  • Pinspots, which light up the tables, flowers and centerpieces and basically try to act like stronger candles to light up tables, pillars, etc..

  • Wash lighting which is less common in weddings, but very common in raves and concerts and late night parties.  It’s basically when you try to fill up the entire stage or venue as one color like green or red or yellow. You see this a lot at high school dances and concerts that might have one consistent theme (like green for St. Patty’s day)

  • Gobo lighting to stencil your name or hashtag. 


Event lighting usually does not refer to:

  • Candles on walkways or trees

  • TV screens and Led Screens (but most companies offer these)

  • Light shows like a bellagio fountain or light-dance performers (although most companies can arrange those as well)

  • Fireworks

  • Chandeliers (although your DJ, event planning and/or hotel will have their own suggestions as well). 

A common plain ballroom would look like this which is what the hotel provides:


hotel lighting before
This is what you get when you book a ballroom.

The same ballroom after being decorated and lit up would look like this: 


ballroom lighting before and after orange county los angeles
same ballroom with conference seating removed, dance floor added and stage built.


Event light is extremely important at: 

  • Indoor weddings receptions and ceremonies  

  • product launches, 

  • birthday parties, 

  • Corporate events

  • Trade shows

  • Award shows

  • Industry dinners and galas

  • And many more special functions. 

If the above images and explanations are adequate, I’m glad and hope it helped.  


However, if you’d like to know specific details on each type of lights, what type you’ll need for your event, how much they generally cost and tips on how to save and hacks you can do, please read on! 


This post is structured in the following way if you want to skip ahead:

  • Importance of Event Lighting

  • Types of Event Lighting

  • Common Lighting Mistakes

  • Costs of Event Lighting

  • What Factors Affect Lighting Costs?

  • Do I Really Need Lighting at my wedding?

  • What kind of lighting do I need for my wedding?

  • What kind of lighting do I need for my corporate event?

  • Related Questions

  • Tips to Save Money and Hacks You Can Use

  • Questions to Ask Your Lighting Vendor

  • How to Get a Lighting Quote

I initially wrote this post for our Indian wedding guests but it applies to pretty much ANY wedding, private event or luxurious special occasions and has helped many people quickly realize what they want.  


We’re also based in Southern California in Brea and Orange County so if you live in this area and are looking for wedding lighting or corporate event lighting near you, please reach out to us!


Importance of Event Lighting


Lighting is what makes your event feel “complete.” and also affects how your photo and video turns out.  It subconsciously alters the guest’s perception upon entering the ballroom and sets the tone with music and decor.  


In the simplest analogy, lighting is the makeup for your ballroom.  And just like makeup, there is the extreme makeover and also the minimal “no makeup, makeup look.” Event light is all about color, quantity and placement. 

For example: 


  • red lighting against the walls would be a James Bond/Casino Royale sort of theme, 

  • pink/purple/blue often are elegant dining vibes you’d see at a classy reception

  • white could be for wedding dinners and receptions as well

  • yellow/green/orange could be multicultural affairs, also music concerts and festivals. 


In fact, I feel bad for lighting guys (that's me) and sound guys (that is also me).  

The joke in our industry is if you did a great job, nobody says anything.  If you messed up...everybody will tell you.



Lighting would be coming from the ceiling and small pinspots on the table/LED candles.


I mean imagine going to a Coldplay concert and after all went fine, you wouldn't be like "Thank goodness the 600 sound guys did their job!"  But if you couldn't hear properly or there was too much feedback...you would definitely say the sound guy sucked! 


Types of Event Lighting


Lighting might seem daunting at first but trust me, it’s very simple and straightforward once you understand about 4-5 pieces of vocabulary.  It’s not like flowers or wine where you might have 900 choices and jus nod along so everybody thinks you get it.  


Most events use 95% of what you see below and if you have questions/clarifications please do comment below. 


Uplights



Fairly obvious now right? all that blue!


Used For: Indoor Weddings, corporate events, wedding receptions and pretty much any ballroom event.  Maybe a few needed for outdoor events. 


These do most of the heavy lifting in ballroom lighting. They’re the lights you see that would be against the walls, shooting pillars of light up the walls.  Typically a massive ballroom will have 10-12 of these lights across each wall, sometimes more, sometimes less depending on how you want to decorate it. 



Spotlight



Used for: Indoor Weddings, corporate events, concerts, speeches, product launches, big events with stages, performances, singers, etc..


Most weddings may not need a spotlight since the entire dance floor and front two seats for the couple will be well lit, and the rest of the room will be dimly lit and decorated to create that mood.  However most big lighting contracts will anyways bring one or two in case you want to shoot a narrow focused beam during a speech or first dance, for example. 


Pinspot


pint spot lighting orange county
Notice how all the flowers are extra bright? Pin spots!

Used for: lighting up centerpieces, your cake, all your flowers, walkways, mandap (Indian weddings), decoration.  


You know when you walk into luxury wedding and you get that initial wow factor by seeing 20 tables all beautifully decorated and can’t wait to walk to yours?  The pinspots are doing a lot of the heavy lifting here. Pinspots are required at most events across the board these days, with the exception of standard corporate events or sales meetings where decor or mood isn’t really a priority. 


Market Lights



Used for: terrace or beachside vibes, sundowner pool parties.  Also called hanging fairy lights. 


I personally love market lights. They’re inexpensive, their high enough to avoid insects and they’re just so pretty that I never get tired of them.  From a backyard to a fancy hotel courtyard, they have their place. If you’re having an outdoor function, yes, please find a way to use these!


Also See: How Much Does an American Wedding Reception DJ Cost?


Texture or Pattern Lighting


Back wall is all pattern!

Used for: weddings, birthday parties, product launches or company parties


Pattern lighting is a great way to give some character beyond the pillar beams you get with uplights.  The negatives of this is the light is projected from a distance away so people can potentially walk in front of it, or the pattern may not be in everyone's taste (like the feathers of a peacock or spirals).  I personally see we’re using them more and more but it also has to fit with your decoration and venue, otherwise they’ll just look odd. Pattern lighting is usually good to go behind the stage yet not lighting up the artist or couple. 


Gobos


gobo hashtag los angeles
Imagine how many IG posts you'd get tagged in if this was your hashtag here!