The lighting for an outdoor party can serve equally as a decorative statement as it can simply for practical purposes. The right lighting can do wonders in setting the tone for any sort of outdoor gathering, whether it is an intimate celebration or a dazzlingly festive to-do. Candles, oil lamps, torches, lanterns, electric, and solar lights are all some great options to use on their own or in concurrence with one another.
Candles and oil lamps on their own may not do so well outside, which is why hurricane protectants and other sorts of coverings are of vital importance here. Not only are they practically necessary, they can be the most creative and versatile part of these sorts of outdoor light fixtures.
When creating light-based centerpieces or any sort of light source for a table, it can be tough to use electrical lights that need to be plugged in. Remember that tables aren’t necessarily located anywhere near electrical outlets. Candles or oil lamps can lend a more old time-y and intimate feel, especially for the more emotional or family-centered events. One of the most easy, inexpensive, and whimsically vintage ways to create a naturally-lit table is to make oil lamps out of apothecary bottles by filling them with lamp oil and wicks. You can protect the bottles the wind and climate without completely obscuring them from view by placing them in clear, glass hurricane shields. You can even use cake covers and cake stands for an even more vintage-inspired look.
Another sort of candle or oil lamp cover idea is making a three- or four-hinged photo frame made out of semi-translucent vellum paper. Especially great for anniversaries, birthdays, and weddings, they’ll literally be highlighting the guest of honor. Any sort of decorative vellum over candles or oil lamps, like those resembling paper lanterns, make great accents or centerpieces, especially if you already have paper lanterns hanging all over your party space. You can even stick chopsticks between the vellum to hold the separate pieces together, just for a little extra Asian-themed touch.
Building on the glass-with-candles or oil lamps centerpiece idea, it’s also quite pretty to hang glass jars or containers with candles or oil lamps inside from an arbor, porch, or trees. Also include small crystals to catch the light and refract it on to your surrounding walls. Make sure that you get deep enough containers so as to prevent your wicks from blowing out, and that your wire suspension lines are at least 12 inches away from any leaves or branches.
Torches are great for more tropically-themed parties, arranged either around the party space itself or next to buffet tables or pathways. This is best for when there aren’t any kids or pets around, however. An alternative might be a fire pit so you’ll only really have to worry about one large area.
Lanterns offer more of a variety of options than you think. First, there is the shape—round, square accordion-style lanterns can be very bold, while narrow diamond or cylindrical ones can be a bit more subdued. Tying streamers or ribbons to the bottoms, especially if they’re suspended from up high can add a more festive and youthful touch. Suspending them above the party, stringing them together along trees, along a trellis, lining walkways or pools, hanging them from bamboo poles, over seating areas, or even creating large lantern sculpture-like columns are all great ideas.
The best part about lanterns is that you can choose almost any sort of light source to go along with it—candles, oil lamps, electric holiday lights, battery-powered lights, or even solar-powered ones.
Of course, all sorts of electric and solar lights can be fashioned as a stand-in for candles or torches, including columns, votive candles, lanterns, in flower pots, mason jars, in pedestals, and stake lights. They’re great because they pose no fire danger and are not affected by the wind or almost any sort of weather issue.
Stringed holiday lights are great in their versatility. Consider stringing them to walls, columns, fences, trees, or any existing outdoor structure. You can even create your own structural centerpiece made almost entirely of holiday lights by creating a tent-like effect with a central pole. All you need to do is attach your light strings to the top of a pole at least eight feet in height, and back to a nearby wall, fence, or little stakes. As with candles and oil lamps, you can create or buy decorative covers for holiday lights, though these can be even smaller and more detailed, like artificial flowers. Make sure to use plastic hooks when hanging your lights, as opposed to metal nails or staples, which can damage the wires.
Flood lights, whether they’re recessed or not, are ideal for lighting poolside areas, foot paths, or as accent lighting for trees, fountains, sculptures, or anything else you might want to highlight. These are great especially because they eliminate any need for cords or outlets. Another cord and outlet-less option is to get eco-friendly solar-powered lights, which work similarly as electric lights do as a stand in for candles and lamps, or even as path lights. All you do is set them outside for a few hours during the day, and they’re ready to go. Keep in mind, though, that they’re not as bright as electrical lights and only last for about four hours.