How to Set up Lighting for a Party

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Lighting is an important part of setting up a fun party. You don't have to spend a lot of time or money figuring out what you need, but you do need to make a couple of decisions about how to light up a room. There are many different light sources available, so choose what goes best with the type of party you're throwing. Figure out where you're going to position the lighting, then adjust it to create the perfect atmosphere. Give yourself plenty of time to test and troubleshoot the lighting so you can enjoy the party.
[Edit]Steps [Edit]Selecting Types of Lights Use candles to create an intimate atmosphere. Candles don’t cast much light, but that makes them perfect for smaller events like dinner parties. Place them on tables and other areas where people tend to gather. Since candlelight is dim, position candles close to your guests. However, keep them away from spots with a lot of activity to prevent them from falling over or getting blown out.[1] If you’re choosing regular candles, pick unscented ones to avoid irritating your guests. Place them in sturdy, enclosed holders to guard against fires in case someone bumps one over. Look for LED candles for better light control. Many offer unique features like colored lighting or even remote control. Since they don’t have actual flames, you don’t have to worry about activating the smoke detector during an indoor party. Another option is to hang up a candle chandelier for an impressive way to decorate your home when you host a formal event. Set up table lamps for brightness at casual house parties. Lamps are generally pretty bulky and cast a lot of light, so they have to be placed strategically. Since you probably have lamps at home, they are an easy source of lighting to use indoors. Fortunately, there are ways you can reduce bright lighting, such as by using dimmer bulbs and switches. To make lamps work for a more formal event, try using decorate lampshades.[2] If you’re looking for a unique lighting system, install low-watt bulbs in your lamps and put them where people eat and gather. Save your brightest bulbs to set up lighting away from the main party area. Take stock of the available electrical outlets and think about where you’re going to hide cords so they don’t pose a tripping hazard to your guests. Lamps are better for indoor parties than outdoor ones. If lamps are too bright or impossible to set up, try placing lanterns in areas you expect your guests to frequent. Hang up string lights for pleasant garden parties. String lights come in a variety of styles, so they can add a lot of style and atmosphere to your party. They are most commonly used for informal events outdoors where everyone can sit under the lights, though they work well as a decoration at all sorts of parties. However, you will need to string the lights across buildings, fences, and tree branches. Plug the lights into the nearest outlet or get battery-controlled ones for more options.[3] String lights can be hung up indoors if you have room for them. Use them to add color to your most informal celebrations. For a vintage vibe, go with Edison-style string lights. Try looking for fairy lights if you need something smaller and more decorative. Another option is to repurpose Christmas lights. Get some strands of LED bulbs that add style without overwhelming guests like traditional party LEDs tend to do. Set up LED lights for colorful dance parties. These kinds of lights are what many DJs use to light up a party in style. Set up wireless LEDs anywhere without needing to worry about finding an electrical outlet. Many LED lights are remote-controlled and may even have built-in speakers if you plan on playing music. You can choose the color setting you wish to display.[4] LED lights aren’t as bright as regular incandescent bulbs, but their coloring can make them irritating for some people. It’s best to put them away from your guests, such as around the edges of a dance floor. Start a fire if you have a fireplace or fire pit. A roaring fire brings a unique level of coziness to a party. Outdoor fires are great for friendly gatherings while indoor ones can make a simple party feel a little more formal. Fires work best in the evening on cooler days, but keep in mind how close you have to get to a fire in order to benefit from its light. Also, factor in the smoke and what you need to do to keep the fire burning.[5] Fires have a limited range when used for lighting. Unless your party is centered around the fire, you may need to set up additional sources of illumination. Fires can be dangerous if you and your guests aren’t careful around them. Take proper safety precautions, such as by keeping it away from flammable items. Set up lanterns to add a country flair to outdoor parties. Lanterns are good replacements for lamps and string lights if you can’t plug them in outdoors. Use them similarly to fires for fun, informal gatherings. They are portable like candles and offer more light, but you also have to be careful about how you use them. Refill the lantern as it runs out of fuel.[6] If you’re not planning on dealing with kerosene or another fuel source, try using battery-powered lanterns. Oil lanterns are meant to be used outdoors. Switch to harmless battery lanterns for indoor use. Use torches as a decoration for festive outdoor parties. Tiki torches are a popular lighting option in summer whether you’re throwing a backyard barbeque or a luau. Plant the torches in the ground, fuel them with citronella oil, then light them up when you’re ready to use them. You can find different styles of torches if you’re looking to create a theme for your party.[7] Torches aren’t hard to use, but you do need to take time planting them in your yard. Keep them away from flammable objects and have something absorbent on hand to clean up spilled oil. Make your own lighting to decorate fun, informal parties. Gather supplies for some inexpensive craft projects you can use as portable light sources. Try creating some paper lanterns by folding up a piece of paper and dropping a tea light into it. You could also pour wax or oil into a glass jar.[8] These small crafts are good stand-ins for regular, boring candles. They can add a little bit of illumination in dark settings. Custom lighting is often cheaper than renting or installing new light sources. [Edit]Positioning Lighting Find outlets and other places to set up your lights. Count the number of outlets you have available. This will give you an idea of how many electrical lights you can use and where you can put them. If you need to light a large space, you may need to get some extension cords. Plan your lighting system around the number of outlets you have so none of your guests end up in the dark. Keep in mind where you put electrical cords. They can be a tripping hazard for your guests. Strategize to tuck them away in corners, taping them to the wall or floor to get them out of the way. If you’re hosting your party outdoors, you may not be able to use electric lights. Fit them in where you can, then rely on lanterns, torches, and other options. Keep electric lamps near outlets, then fill in the rest of the party space with alternatives like candles to set the perfect tone. Set up lighting so it shines indirectly on your guests. Walk around the party venue, identifying good spots for lights. Party lighting works well when it isn’t aimed at your guests’ eyes. Space your lights out and point them away from where your guests are going to be. Stick to dimmer sources of illumination when you need to put lights close to your guests.[9] Leave bright lights like high-watt bulbs and LEDs close to the wall. Try pointing them at walls so they don’t inadvertently blind your guests. Dim electric lamps with solid shades The shades direct light out of the top and bottom, limiting the brightness. Transparent shades let out too much light for most parties. Keep candles and lanterns inside containers that limit illumination. Hurricane shades, for example, protect candles and serve as a party decoration. Hang up lights overhead to get them out of the way. Find secure spots for hanging lights, such as by attaching them to the wall, a fence, or tree branches. Measure out the distance you need to stretch the light strands to illuminate your party. Also, take into account how far away the nearest electrical outlet is.[10] Install wall hooks to create more spots to hang and secure overhead lights. You will need some solid surfaces to install the hooks, such as the side of a wall or tree. If you don’t have wall outlets, try using hanging lanterns. Place them on metal hooks, strong branches, and other durable hangers. Make patterns out of hanging lights to impress your guests. Arrange string lights to serve as both decoration and lighting. Try zig-zagging the lights across your yard, for instance. If you’re indoors, hang them along walls and rafters to direct guests or add color. Let them hang down a little bit so that your guests can admire them.[11] If you’re hanging up hurricane shades or candle lanterns, for instance, alternate fixtures of a different color. You could arrange them in a pattern on a fence for guests to admire. Try dangling string lights in an entryway, using them to spell out words on a wall, or framing objects like mirrors and ladders. Place small light sources on tables as centerpieces. Pick short or thin lighting such as small lamps, lanterns, and candle holders. These areas need to be well-illuminated so people can see one another, but don’t let the lighting get in the way. Make it as unobtrusive as possible and dim enough to maintain the same atmosphere as the rest of your party. Unless your party is unusually bright, expect to need some smaller light sources. Every table needs its own illumination.[12] For outdoor parties, keep candles or lanterns on tables unless you have overhead lighting, a fire, or torches nearby. Adding centerpieces often helps when dealing with low lighting in the evening. Add style to a party by buying or making your own centerpieces. Get some festive candle holders that match the party’s theme, for instance. Set up individual lights near where people are likely to congregate. Give your guests some spots to gather around. Put decent lighting next to furniture or move the furniture to take advantage of lighting placement. You definitely need some light at tables and near other furniture. These areas can be a little brighter than the rest of the lighting you use as long as you keep it away from the rest of your party.[13] The lighting can be pretty dim in these areas as long as your guests are still able to see what they are doing. Low-watt bulbs are fine indoors, but you could also use candles and lanterns. For outdoor parties, most people will gather around a fire if you have one. Otherwise, set up candles, torches, lanterns, and other alternatives in areas that require lighting. If you have extra rooms available, consider leaving them open to guests. Prepare brighter lighting there for guests who want it. If you’re outdoors, make use of natural lighting and supplement it with your own. Contact a rental company if you need help lighting up a large space. Search for party light or event lighting companies in your area. These companies offer all sorts of different lighting options, from beautiful string lights to colorful LEDs. They also have lots of special options, such as projectors that splash images across the walls. The best part is that you may not even have to set up the lighting yourself! Call the company to discuss pricing. Make sure you find out the cost of the installation if you plan on having the company do it. Renting is great for large or single-time events. If you throw parties often, especially at home, you may be better off investing in your own lighting systems. [Edit]Setting a Mood for the Party Choose colored bulbs to give your party a more informal tone. The tone of your party will help you determine what kind of lights you need and how to arrange them. If you’re going for something formal, then you probably don’t need lots of colors. It’s the opposite if you’re going for an informal party. Get colored bulbs and LED lights or put your candles in colored shades.[14] Pick which colors you want to display. Orange and green work well for a Holiday-themed party, for example. If you’re throwing a basic house party, try hanging some simple string lights. Use Christmas lights to add a little color. Fancy lamps and candles are enough for formal parties, so set the tone through other methods like lighting placement. Install low-watt bulbs in any electrical lights. The regular bulbs you use in your home are going to be too bright for most parties. Try switching them with 40-watt bulbs. Low-watt bulbs emit a much softer glow that sets a gentle tone perfect for most parties. Purchase some party bulbs, checking the packaging for the wattage to ensure you get what you need.[15] Keep in mind that LED and CFL bulbs put out less light than incandescent bulbs. LED and incandescent bulbs will be even dimmer than incandescent bulbs of the same wattage. Test the light bulbs before the party begins. Make sure they give off enough light for you to see, but not enough to distract from the party. Use bright lights to illuminate or direct guests at the party. The low lighting at a party makes navigating a little tricky sometimes. Set up your strongest light sources to draw attention to important spots where guests need to be able to see clearly. Keep the lights near the edges of your party space so they don’t get overwhelming. When they are placed further away than dimmer lights, they add some illumination while also giving guests a place to go when they leave.[16] For example, put bright lamps or spotlights near food tables, The lights show new guests all the delicious food you have prepared for them. When they head to the table, they will be able to see what they’re eating. For outdoor parties, add extra lanterns or torches as needed. You could keep food indoors or move it to the brightest part of your yard, for instance. Some other good places to put brighter lights include near the bathroom, the hallway, and the entryway. Install dimmer switches in order to set the lighting at the perfect level. Buy some plug-in dimmer switches to control the output from electric light sources. After connecting the light source to the dimmer, plug the dimmer into an outlet. Use the slider on the dimmer to gradually raise or lower the amount of light in the room.[17] If your party is indoors, also consider installing a dimmer switch on the wall. Remove the old light switch, then plug the wires into the dimmer. You will be able to set your home’s lights to a more party-appropriate level. Use strobes and other dance lights to make a party less stuffy. Strobes, disco balls, and similar lighting options are common at dances. Use them to get people moving, but don’t point them directly at your guests. Set the disco ball in the middle of a party area so people are either under it or far enough away that the light doesn’t bother them. Position strobes on the outer edges of the area, pointing them at a wall or ceiling.[18] These kinds of lights work well in areas with a lot of activity, such as a dance floor. You don’t need them around dining areas and spots where people go to relax. Position lights behind objects to create shade. Try using objects like plants or big pieces of furniture as blockers for bright lights. Small uplights placed in the right spot make visible shadows that lend an interesting effect to your party. It’s a clever way to improve the atmosphere by creating interesting shadows and highlighting decorations.[19] The lights also turn objects into focal points. Put a light behind your favorite piece of art, for instance, and every guest will look at it as they walk by. Hiding bright lights behind objects like tables can be very helpful for outdoor parties. Put a lamp behind a table or set up your party behind a tree that will block out the brightness. Disable bright lights in other rooms that are close to the party. The light from these rooms could end up blinding your guests. Electric bulbs are the most common culprit, so remove them or flip the circuit breaker to deactivate them. You still need some illumination there if you expect the guests to use the room. Put candles or dimmer light bulbs there instead.[20] For example, the light from a nearby bathroom can often be disruptive. If it’s close to the main party area, set a candle out to direct your guests there. [Edit]Video [Edit]Tips Most parties need a variety of lighting. Unless you’re setting up in a very intimate space, plan on getting several different light sources. Ask vendors, such as DJs, what they are planning to do for lighting. Many of them bring their own lights, which will save you some of the hassle of setting up. Lighting isn’t an area where you need to spend a lot of money. Save that budget for the rest of your party. Set up your lighting in advance to test it out before the party. This will allow you to make adjustments and add more lighting as needed. [Edit]Warnings Candles and open flames can lead to fires if you’re not careful. Keep on eye on them throughout the party and position them away from busy areas. Plug electrical lighting into outlets that have a circuit breaker to prevent fires or electrocution. Also, keep cords away from water and out of the way of your guests. [Edit]References ↑ ↑ ↑ ↑ ↑ ↑ ↑ ↑ ↑ ↑ ↑ ↑ ↑ ↑ ↑ ↑ ↑ ↑ ↑ ↑

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