Lighting Types, Terms & Definitions

st. francis community center event lighting

Understanding the types of lighting used for events shouldn’t be difficult. See the visual guide to lighting terms and definitions so you can better understand what tools are available and how they work to make an event shine.


Light fixtures project washes of light to add color, warmth and depth, and to complement, match, or contrast the colors of your decor. Uplighting looks fantastic in photos and is a great base layer for transforming the event space.

Generally you need a light for every 10ft-20ft of wall length, depending on the overall look that you want to achieve. In the example to the right the spacing is every 10ft.

Uplighting can come in any color of the rainbow for your event. Amber (pictured), blues (we love teal especially!), purples, reds, and yellows all look really nice for uplighting. Oddly enough, green can be unflattering when used exclusively, and colors like black and brown can’t be achieved. Silver can be done as a variation of white light, a texture light, or in conjunction with a fabric background.

You can do a solid color throughout the room, multiple colors, or have the lights cycle through the rainbow, or change for different parts of your event during the evening.

amber uplighting example national press club washington dc

Amber Uplighting

Six wireless uplights shine on a white sheer fabric, creating a lovely backdrop for a wedding.

Texture Lighting

Texture lights project patterns on walls, ceilings, floors, dance floors, stages, etc. to create depth, contrast and interest. Patterns can be matched to your event design choices to provide a fully immersive theme, tying all the design elements together. We especially love creating texture lighting from wedding invitation design elements, and sometimes even a wedding gown’s lace pattern!

There are hundreds of stock patterns that can be used, ranging from simple to ornate to abstract. Custom designs can also be made based off of decor elements. The actual equipment used for projecting the pattern is called a Gobo. Here is a good definition of Gobos.

Texture lighting may also be referred to as leko lighting, Gobo lighting, source 4 lighting or altman lighting.

texture lighting on the floor

Gobo Texture Lighting

Texture lighting adds ambient light and interesting patterns on the floor, walls or ceiling.

Pin-Spot Lighting

Very narrow beams of light are focused on specific elements in the room, highlighting them.

Centerpieces, the cake table, place cards, guestbook area, sweetheart table, and bar areas can all benefit from this type of lighting.

This type of lighting is key to creating a high end, elegant, high contrast look.

The extra spotlight on each of the tables allows the overhead light in the room to be lowered, which in turn allows us to create the perfect ambiance.

pin spot light on tall floral centerpiece baby blue and white

Pin-Spot Lighting

Pin-spots illuminate & highlight elements in a room with a tight, focused beam of light.

Cake Spotlight

A form of pin-spot lighting, cake-spot lighting is tailored specifically to illuminating the cake. We use a combination of light fixtures from different angles to illuminate the cake in the most flattering light possible.

The fixtures we use are very small and we hide the custom-built lights into the physical attributes of the event space. They are unobtrusive but pack a punch! These lights are perfect for highlighting your beautiful cakes, cupcakes, desert tables or any other feature elements in the space.

cake spotlight

Cake Spotlight

A cake spotlight is the perfect way to highlight this focal point of your reception.

Monogram Lighting

Monogram lighting is a form of gobo lighting. We’ll work together to come up with a design and have it created into a piece of equipment called a gobo that we mount into a light.

We can project the monogram anywhere you would like in the room. Popular locations include the dance floor, prominent walls in the space, behind the head table, at the entrance of the room or on the outside of the venue.

The picture on the right shows a grayscale glass gobo which allows us to have the large S in the background while the names Mandy & Dan appear on top of the logo. More information on types of gobo materials.

teal wedding monogram design light

Monogram Lighting

A monogram offers a great way to personalize an impersonal space quickly and make an impact as a focal element.

Centerpiece Lighting Discs

Battery powered light discs that can be placed underneath items like centerpieces, buffet displays or photos. They project from underneath and can be set to any color. Centerpiece lighting is another great way to highlight special pieces on your table and add warmth and color into the room above and beyond traditional candles.

They help your flowers shine and your guests see the decor and elements at each of their tables. These are a great option for teen parties, weddings, or in venues that don’t allow open flame candles.

centerpiece lighting with LED battery powered discs

Centerpiece Lighting

Lights placed under centerpieces can illuminate them from below and create a striking effect.

Starry Sky Effect Light (Blisslight)

The Blisslight creates thousands of pinpoints of light that look like stars that slowly move toward and away from each other, creating a slow-moving starfield effect.

This light has a very large coverage area of about 50ft x 50ft making it a great value in terms of overall coverage. The lights come in blue pinpoints and green pinpoints.

Behind the pinpoint “stars”, the light produces a blue/purple nebula/cloud effect that slowly moves, which creates a captivating 3-D effect making the ceiling feel taller. It’s a great light to use throughout the evening to dance under the stars or to create a fairy tale party theme.

The Blisslight is excellent to use with low ceilings. The optics create a large coverage area without having the light be far away from the surface.

The light also works well on white drape, walls, floors, and anywhere that you need a very large, dynamic lighting effect.

starry sky effect on drop ceiling

Blisslights (Starry Sky Effect)

Blisslights create a sky full of stars that slowly move and oscillate.

Pipe & Drape

Pipe and drape refers to the pipes that hold up fabric panels that can be used to define spaces, create stage backdrops, cover up unsightly room features, create cabanas, or create beautiful backdrops behind features in the room like sweetheart tables.

Generally white and black drape are the most common, but there are hundreds of color and fabric options available. White fabrics work really well with uplighting because they reflect and bounce the colors from the lights really well. Sheer fabrics and customized colors can also be used to achieve really high end, color-matched results that will help set your event apart.

white pipe and drape behind a stage

Pipe & Drape

Pipe and drape can hide unsightly aspects of an event space, help soften a room, or block unwanted sources of light.

Budgeting for Lighting

Lighting costs vary greatly and depend on the following: the market, length of event, date of event, travel distance, venue, types and amount of lighting fixtures, seasonal & citywide demand, planning, theme, engineering, etc. Many variables go into determining the exact pricing for an event.

Now that you have the tools to understand wedding lighting terms and definitions, learn more about budgeting and how much wedding lighting costs through our guide on wedding lighting pricing.

Lighting In The Big Picture

Lighting is the most cost-effective way to transform and enhance your reception space.

Think about how many hours of your reception take place after sunset. When natural light is gone, add lighting to signal to your guests that the party has started!

Flowers, cakes, place settings, food, photos, venues and people all look better in the right light.

Vision is the most important sense in entertainment. Lighting is the magical element that helps you define exactly what your guests will see.

st. francis community center event lighting

Uplighting for a Non-Profit Event

Lighting creates event ambiance and transforms the ordinary into extraordinary.

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Let's talk about your event! We want to hear your plans and see your vision. We're ready to make this your best event ever. Are you?


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