“Life is all about good seating and lighting.”—Graydon Carter

Arguably, the same could be said about special event design. Purposefully designed and well-executed lighting establishes a mood faster and more effectively than just about any other decor element. “Lighting is the unifying design element by which all other decor elements are perceived,” says Greg Christy, president/CEO of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.-based Brite Ideas. “Without carefully considered lighting, any other elements are inconsequential.” Raymond Thompson, co-owner of Los Angeles-based Images by Lighting, explains, “It’s not just about lighting some ‘thing,’ but creating a total enveloping environment.”

MAKING AN ENTRANCE First impressions are everything, which is why entrances and pathways need careful consideration when it comes to lighting—safety issues notwithstanding. “I love to light entrances with a series of layers of overlapping texture,” says L.A.-based Images by Lighting co-owner Curt Stahl. “It gives a sense of importance to the event. The entrance telegraphs what people can expect to see and feel throughout the event.” (Photo of lighting design by Images by Lighting / photo by Yoshi Morimoto.)

Jon Retsky, owner and lead designer of San Francisco-based Got Light, agrees, adding pathway and landscape lighting to the top of the “to light” list. “These areas are not often a first consideration when planning an event," Retsky says. "But, the results can be stunning, as well as utilitarian,” he says. From the simple (staked camping path lights, solar rocks, copper hooks with dangling lanterns) to the more complex (customized illuminated inflatables), pathway lighting, he says, can have a huge impact on overall event decor. "Bold washes of light onto tree canopies, pattern washes inside pools, and other landscape uplighting can indirectly create an amazing backdrop for outdoor events.”