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Tips for Lighting Up Your Event

The Gracie & Lacy Show - Charleston, SC

Create the perfect ambiance for your event, hush a crowd, infuse energy, contribute to decor, and create focus, all with the use of lighting!

Are you using lighting to its fullest capacity to enhance your events? Here are a few ideas to add to your power planner list. As always, I love to hear from you too. I welcome you chime in with your comments on what has worked well for you.

The Welcome Light

Never underestimate the power of outdoor lighting. From the moment your guests are shuttled to the venue, you want to begin setting the mood. This can be achieved by lining the entry walkway with luminaries. Another concept growing in popularity is color-washing the venue with LED light - perhaps to match your organization's logo or theme. You can further enhance the building's facade with projected logo gobos or even simple elegant swirls and textures. If there is outdoor seating, strings of outdoor lightbulbs always beckon a party.

Meet & Greet

Lighting should be a gentle contrast from the outdoors so your guests are not blinded upon entry. However, keep in mind that upon entry, introductions are often made and one should be able to see well enough to recognize faces.

The Decor

One of the recent trends we are seeing in the events world is the use of color changing LED lights. These are often placed around the perimeter of the room to cast a brilliant color effect on the wall. Again, gobos are also often used to continue the branding or offer the texturized effect. Check with your vendor to see if they can provide wireless LED fixtures as this eliminates the hazard of cables.

The Hush

It is magical to an event planner when one does not have to clink on a glass, ring a bell, or verbally hush a crowd. A simple, semi-dramatic dimming of the lights creates an automatic hush. Be sure to immediately cue your emcee or voiceover as after just a few moments of silence the murmuring will resume. In addition to dimming the "house," raise the lighting on the point of focus whether it be the stage, a podium, or video screen.

The Stage

Be sure to test the lighting cues to make sure the stage lighting does not wash out the video projector screen. Also, if you are having theatrical lighting trees brought in to light your stage, ask for "No Color Pink" and "No Color Blue" lighting gels instead of hard white light. Typically, you should have a warm color (pink) and a cool color (blue). This gives a more human skin tone look, not to mention your photos and video will look better. You will also want to consult with your videographer on the intensity of stage lighting and run a test beforehand.

Consider the attire of your speaker. A good lighting designer will be able to enhance the color of clothing worn onstage. The wrong lighting will completely change the color of clothing. I once wore a beautiful royal blue gown onstage and afterward an audience member told me they like the brown dress I was wearing!

If pipe and drape is used as your backdrop, consider using white. This gives you an open slate of color options. You also have the opportunity to change the color throughout the event. Depending on the opacity of the drape you select, you may be able to have the fixtures placed behind the drape for a cleaner stage picture.

The Follow Spot

A follow spot is a great way to enhance an entry and create a "Ta Da" moment. Be sure you know the dimensions of the room as a different fixture is used for a ballroom as opposed to a stadium distance. Check your sight lines - you may need to elevate your follow spot operator if you are in a ballroom setting.

The Classroom

In your eagerness to create the mood of the event. Don't forget to consider those at the event who will need to be reading. If you are hosting a lecture where folks will be taking notes, give them enough light to do so.

The Entertainers

If you chose a dimmer setting during the entertainment, don't forget about your musicians. Many provide their own music stand lighting, however, you don't want to find out at the last minute that they can't see. Also, don't forget about backstage lighting if speakers or performers are entering from behind a curtain - direct the lighting away from your drape and cover with a dark lighting gel if necessary. Our group always travels with glow sticks to show entrance pathways, steps, etc.

The After Party

If your event culminates to a reception with dancing and music, you can go all out with lighting to inspire an energetic crowd. Moving, or color changing lights bring out energy. A disco ball with dim lighting is perfect for a first dance or slow dance. If your guests are hesitant to make their way to the dance floor, it could be that it is lit too brightly and the feel like they would be almost on a stage. Dimmer lighting for dancing makes your dancers feel less vulnerable.


- Always ease into lighting changes

- Be sure to connect your technical company with the venue to ensure the proper power sources and voltage are available.

- Consider faux candles for both safety and reusability. There are many realistic brands available.

- Try white table cloths and use wireless LEDs under tables

- White Christmas lights on indoor shrubbery creates an elegant effect - be sure to use lights with green cords instead of white.

- Test what it is like to be a guest at various seats in the room to be sure no one has a lighting fixture shining in their eye.

- Amber lighting creates warmth

- Blue lighting creates a cooler feel

Lacy Miller is an events and entertainment professional at SSL Entertainment and The Gracie & Lacy Show based in Charleston, SC.

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