When it comes to producing an event there are a lot of things to consider. From catering and staffing to the venue and location, the list goes on. But one thing that can make or break an event is lighting. And if you have put together an event before, large or small, you know that event lighting is a lot more complicated than it sounds. You will need to consider the placement and density of your lights, what colors will be used, and if there will be patterns to the lights. But all of this hinges on the purpose and overall aesthetic of your event.
We know this can be an overwhelming part of your event planning process, so we are here to help. Check out our tips and tricks below to ensure your next event has a stellar lighting setup.
1. Ask Questions
Whether it’s your own event or one you were hired for, make sure to ask a lot of questions about the occasion so you have all the details. Some items to consider include:
- What type of function is it – corporate convention, awards ceremony, gala, wedding?
- Where will it be hosted – hotel ballroom, convention center, church, tent?
- How many guests will be in attendance?
- Will food be provided- buffet-style or table service?
- Will there be tables? How big will they be?
- Will there be centerpieces or displays?
- What are the room dimensions and ceiling heights?
- Are there any permanent light fixtures present such as chandeliers?
- Is there a theme or color scheme?
- Will there be dancing, entertainment, or speakers?
- What is the event timeline – load in and load out?
- Is it a union or non-union venue?
- Will other vendors be setting up and breaking down at the same time?
- Is there a room where extra equipment can be stored?
- Are there any municipal or facility regulations to be aware of?
- What are the insurance requirements for the venue?
- Is there a budget for the project?
Think critically about the types of details you will need to successfully create a detailed lighting plan for the entirety of the event. Your goal is to walk away with as much information as possible, but if you forget to ask your client something you can always go back to them later.
2. Create a Project Plan
Once you have all the facts about the event, it’s time to get organized. Depending on the magnitude of the function, you may need to develop a more extensive project plan and quote for your client. This is an important step that can often be overlooked but will set you up for great lighting and an overall successful production. Most importantly, put together an accurate budget for your client. List out all equipment, establish an event timeline, and include a floor plan for the event.
You can create the lighting design for a room layout using a CAD (computer-aided design) program if available, otherwise, a hand-drawn sketch is appropriate. When creating the layout, you should include all the major elements that will be present on the floor – tables, buffets, a stage, the dance floor, and any bars. This lighting design will help you get a better sense of what types of lights you may need and where to position them. Be sure you understand the atmosphere of the event and where the action is taking place so you can design an appropriate lighting plan.
3. Highlight High Traffic Areas
Use your lighting plan to highlight the areas that people at the event will spend the most time around or need to be able to see. Buffets, bars, and tables are good examples. Guests will want to be able to clearly see what is available to them at a buffet while highlighting the bar and their tables simply help them to navigate the room more efficiently.
Pin spots can be used to artfully light centerpieces, floral arrangements, buffets, and bars but must be done with caution so as not to cause a glare in the eyes of guests. These lights are a concentrated rather than a dispersed beam of light which can vary in cost depending on the style. Traditional pin spots will cost a little less and have a softer edge around the light while LED pin spots may be pricier but offer a more defined spotlight.
Use LED Lights
When it comes to your event lighting equipment, consider using LED (light emitting diode) lights for the majority. LED lights are approximately ten times more efficient, last longer and are often cheaper than their tungsten equivalents. This means you will be able to use less electricity to produce the same amount of ambient light when you use LED event lights and they will last hundreds of hours longer before burning out. As an added bonus, using a combination of red, green, blue, amber, and white light emitting LEDs will allow you to electronically create any desired color giving you and your clients more flexibility.
5. Use Color
Speaking of color… using colored lights at an event can set the mood and have a significant impact on the guest experience. Consider washing the room to help create an ambiance that allows guests to see clearly and look their best without being too harsh or bright. Washing the room in the right color gives the room a warm glow and makes guests feel comfortable.
Another way to incorporate colored lighting is to light the walls and ceiling. This can be especially effective in transforming the event space if you are in a tent or otherwise bland room. However, you will want to use this sparingly to avoid a circus aesthetic. Instead, use a singular color on all the walls and maybe one additional color on the ceiling at most.
6. Consider Lighting Effects
Special lighting effects like Gobos or dynamic video can really impress your audience or guests. Gobos are lights which project a bright corporate logo or patterned design into the event space. These can be static or moving or fade in and out. Use Gobos to display patterned lights onto the walls or ceiling of an event space can create a magical atmosphere.
Similarly, dynamic video projections give you unparalleled flexibility into the design of what image you choose to project. You can use these projectors to adjust the focus, angle, width, brightness, and color of video displays in real-time. The effect is like having an animated Gobo which can be used to produce incredible effects. For example, projecting a video display on a loop with strong texture and color can simulate an immersive space for your party guests such as a forest or city skyline.
7. Don’t Forget the Exterior
The exterior of an event often falls from mind when planning an event, especially in terms of lighting. But if you or your client wants to create a unique experience for their guests, they should start from the moment they step out of their vehicle. Outdoor event lighting ideas are endless and can include many of the same concepts used inside of the even such as:
- Uplighting exterior walls
- Projecting logos using Gobos
- Using pin spots to light an entrance
- And taking advantage of color
8. Get Creative
There are so many different ways you can light an event and create a specific atmosphere, you need only to think of it. In recent years, novelty lights like bistro and twinkling lights have become popular for wedding lighting and other social gatherings while uplighting remains a classic technique to create a more dramatic and elegant environment. It is up to you (or maybe your client) to decide what you want to create and execute on those ideas.
Hopefully, our tips and tricks helped you gain a better understanding of how to light your next event. There is a lot to consider and in turn, a lot you can achieve with the right event lighting. But if you need help executing on your ideas, that’s where we can help! At Vario, we have years of experience planning thousands of events and are excited to help bring your next vision to life. Don’t worry about finding the right vendors or ironing out all the details because our team will ensure your next event is an absolute success.