Lighting is often overlooked when discussing wedding décor. This is unfortunate because lighting can have a significant impact on the look and feel of your wedding for a relatively small investment. The proper lighting can transform an ordinary room into a stunning work of art. In addition to transforming the room, different types and colors of lighting can create different atmospheres and moods throughout the course of the evening.

The first step in lighting for a wedding is to turn off any fluorescent lighting in the room; you are at a wedding, not in an office building! After the fluorescents are gone it is time to create your elegant lighting design using gobos, uplights, pin spots and intelligent lighting.


Chicago Wedding Gobo

When using lighting as part of your wedding décor the first element you should consider is having your name in lights. Having your wedding monogram or names projected onto the dance floor or a backdrop has the biggest “wow” effect for the least expense. It is a very chic and glamorous decoration that will amaze your guests as they first walk into the room and it makes for great pictures.

This is done through the use of a specialized lighting fixture and a gobo. A gobo is a special metal or glass disc that goes into the light fixture to produce the desired pattern wherever the light is projected. Gobos come in pre-made patterns or you can have one custom made for you with whatever artwork you would like. In addition to having your names projected gobos can be used to project patterns corresponding to your wedding theme onto the dance floor or the walls. Read more about gobos for your wedding here.


The second element in wedding lighting is usually uplighting. Uplighting consists of placing lighting fixtures around the perimeter of the room pointing up onto the walls or other architectural fixtures. The uplights create columns of light going up the wall and bathe the room in a beautiful glow. The uplights are color coordinated with your wedding color scheme to tie everything together. The amount of uplights required depends on the size of the room and the desired effect.

Chicago Wedding Uplighting

There are two major categories of uplighting fixtures; Conventional par cans and LED. LED uplights are the newest technology and offer several advantages over traditional conventional fixtures.

  • LED fixtures consume far less power than the old-fashioned par cans. Many times all of the uplights can be run off of a single electrical outlet which is very important in venues with limited power supply.
  • Traditional uplighting fixtures can become hot and pose a risk to small children who like to touch the lights. LED lights remain cool to the touch throughout the entire event.
  • LED lighting is often “intelligent” which means it can be programmed to produce millions of colors from a single unit and can be controlled to vary color, intensity, speed of color fade, etc throughout the course of the night to create different moods. This can create some truly dramatic effects as the walls of your venue change from one color to another as cocktails end and dinner begins and then again when the dancing starts.

The downside to LED lighting is that it is often more expensive to rent as the lighting fixtures cost substantially more than traditional ones. Another drawback is that LED fixtures have trouble producing some colors well.

The two biggest factors in determining which type of uplighting is right for you are; which colors are you using and how much power is available at your venue. Contact a lighting expert and give them an idea of what you are looking for and they will be able to tell you which type of lighting would work best for you.

Color Wash

Another popular effect is to use a pattern gobo on the dance floor and wash the dance floor in coordinating color. A wash is a lighting term that means to fill an area with light. Washing your dance floor will make it really stand out and a focal point of the celebration. You may also wash walls, ceilings, entryways or any areas you want to highlight.

Dance Floor Lighting Wash

Pin Spots

If you have elaborate floral arrangements or centerpieces on the tables, pin spotting is usually a great idea. Pin spotting is where light fixtures are put up throughout the room to provide “mini spotlights” for the centerpieces. Pin spotting is a very dramatic effect and will really accentuate your centerpieces and show them in their full magnificence. Your florist will love it and it makes for great pictures!

Centerpiece Pin Spot at a Chicago Wedding

Intelligent Lighting

If you are planning for a wild party later on in the evening and want more of a contemporary edge to your wedding you should consider intelligent dance floor lighting.

Many DJ companies carry intelligent lighting but the quality varies greatly so you should always ask to see at least a video of their lighting system in action. Intelligent lighting is a step above your normal DJ lighting. The light fixtures can be programmed either by a special controller or using computer software. The functionality and abilities of intelligent lighting go far beyond that of ordinary lighting and are only limited by the users imagination. With the use of the controller the lighting designer can control the patterns, speed, color and many other functions of the light fixtures. In addition, they are often brighter and have more vivid color and more color combinations than ordinary lighting. Intelligent lighting is the type of lighting you would see at nightclubs and concerts. These lights can add a lot of energy and a real “wow factor” to your event.

Intelligent Dance Floor Lighting at a Chicago Wedding

There are a wide variety of other lighting options available to make your wedding truly stunning and unique. For more information contact the Chicago wedding lighting professionals at MDM Special Event Lighting.

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