Café Lights

Strings of café lights are an easy way to make a room glow

Hosting a large event, especially a wedding or rehearsal dinner/celebration, involves a huge amount of planning. The big things – venue, guest list, food – are all obviously important and should be the first things you hash out. But don't forget about the seemingly small details that come later once you have the when, where and who locked down.

In particular, lighting can make a big difference when it comes to those less tangible items like mood and atmosphere. It's also something you might not even think about if you've never been in charge of a large-scale event. I certainly never would have made it a priority if I hadn't been involved with planning events at work.

Lighting affects our moods much more than you might realize. Think about it – do you relish the sensation of sitting under harsh florescent lights at the office? Compare that to how you feel at a romantic dinner, surrounded by that small, cozy glow created by flickering candles and dim house lights. One is meant to keep us awake and alert, while the other is meant to relax and foster romance. And it works.

So, what do you do about it?

Café lights are one of the event design industry's best tricks. These aren't the little twinkle lights you wrap around your Christmas tree or string up in a dorm room. First of all, they use big bulbs and are meant for large spaces both indoor and out. They're typically not inexpensive, either. They are, however, widely available – Google them and you'll find that the longer strands, which you likely need, range anywhere from $40-$100. Usually, I'm a big proponent of less is more but with something like café lights, you really have to commit and string up a large amount to achieve the right effect. In other words, it gets pricey fast.

Spending hundreds of dollars on something you likely won't ever use again doesn't make a ton of sense. Added to the fact that the day of our rehearsal party was already crammed with about 50 different chores and to-dos made stringing the things up myself way too time consuming. The first event design company I contacted quoted us at about $700, which was more than we were willing to spend (way more, actually). After some hunting around, I came across a company offering a much, much more reasonable fee. Not going to lie – the fiancé took some convincing and my mother thought I was going a bit overboard, but once they saw the end result everyone agreed that it made a huge impact. 

The other great thing about this style of light is the versatility. They look great at everything from an informal barn party to a sophisticated wedding.

Café lights create a lovely soft glow that can light up a large room on their own. This allows you to dim the typically harsher house lights or turn them off completely. If you're having an outdoor or tented event, you can light the whole thing with lights like these.

One of my favorite things about the lights in the barn we used was the way they really took a tall, open space and made it feel cozy and intimate. This is another event design trick – make the space look smaller than it is. I'm not talking about rearranging furniture to make people cram in close together. This is a visual trick that's often achieved with lighting. In this case, we "lowered the ceiling" with lights by stringing them between the loft area.

Categories: Planning, Trends