Bringing in additional lighting for your wedding is a surprisingly expensive endeavor, but it's an important one both in terms of safety and aesthetics. Depending on the kind of lights you want—those pretty, glowing string options are among the priciest since you need so many strands—you might be shocked by the quote you receive for your lighting specialist. Which begs the question: Why does wedding lighting cost so much? If you're not working with a wedding planning and design team, it can be hard to figure out why the price is so high. To make things easier, the pros are giving us a behind-the-scenes look at event lighting, plus explaining why it's actually worth the splurge.
It's a safety must-have.
The primary purpose of adding lighting to any venue is to ensure the safety of all your guests, explains event designer Nicole Sillapere. "If guests aren't safe and comfortable, it doesn't matter how fabulous the event is. They'll be busy looking down, making sure they aren't tripping on something!" she says. You'll want to be sure that all event spaces and walkways are well lit. Although many wedding venues have built-in lighting, private estates and smaller venues tend to need some extra help. Kelsey Sheofsky, event planner and owner of Shelter Co., says that residential landscape lighting just isn't sufficient for a large party. "There are inexpensive ways to light pathways for safety and add light to trees and design elements for a more ambient glow," she adds. Your lighting designer should be able to recommend a few options within different price points, depending on the setup of your venue and the look you're trying to achieve.
Lighting helps with the visual aesthetic.
Not all lighting options are expensive, but you'll want to be specific about how much of a priority good lighting is for you. "This is one of those things that when it's done right, you don't notice it's there," Sillapere says, "but if it's wrong, it's too late by the time you've noticed it." She encourages her clients to make lighting as much a priority as each splashy design element is, noting that if guests can't see the installation once the sun sets, it's a loss. Affordable pin spots are often her go-to for the cake table or a big, bold floral arrangement. Chandeliers and customized lighting installations tend to come with a bigger price tag because they cost more to purchase and more to install. Simpler elements like bistro lighting and spot lighting are more affordable options, so these are good options if you're hoping to cut costs.
Remember that lighting adds up fast.
Small lighting details that add up quickly include things like adding dimmers to all the big fixtures or having white light covers on-hand so the black par lights (those big, aluminized reflector lamps you usually see around stages) don't show up in photos or against a white wall. That said, some lighting companies include these elements in their pricing while others will quote them as add-ons. And, of course, as you increase the overall number of lights you're bringing in, the more expensive your bill will be.
Don't forget installation costs.
Labor costs for lighting can run particularly high depending on the installation's complexity. Some lighting installs may take place over multiple days, while others may require a large team to assemble. If you're having anything fabricated for your event, or if you're planning to slightly customize something a rental company owns, the labor and installation costs will increase accordingly.