Eco-Friendly Ways to Light Up Your Wedding

Guest blogger: Kate Harrison, creator of
After planning her own green wedding in 2007, Kate wrote 
the best-selling green wedding book, The Green Bride Guide: How to Plan an Earth-Friendly Wedding on Any Budget (Sourcebooks, 2008). In 2009, she founded to help couples use their weddings to promote social and environmental change while supporting the local green economy. Kate has a JD in Environmental Law and a Master's from Yale in Environmental Policy.

Research shows that lighting affects mood, making it an essential component for setting the ambience of your wedding.

At a daytime ceremony, additional light is optional. Look carefully at the natural light at your ceremony and reception sites in advance, at the same time of day as your wedding, and have a backup plan if the clouds intervene.

wedding reption lighting

Late afternoon and evening weddings — or tented weddings — can be illuminated in many different ways. If the facility offers overhead lighting, make sure it uses a dimmer if you want to add any of the following items.

These eco-friendly lighting options can also save you money:

Illuminating a room with candles creates an extremely romantic atmosphere and saves electricity. However, most candles you see in stores are made from paraffin, which is a petroleum product. In addition to being a non-renewable resource, paraffin contains as many as eleven documented toxins and two EPA-recognized carcinogens: benzene and toluene.

tulip candle
Photo Credit: Tulip Beeswax Candle, Sweet Bee Honey

Additionally, the chemical fragrances added to candles are not regulated, even though you breathe them in as the candles burn.

The key, therefore, is to find candles made from natural sources like soy or beeswax, which are scented with essential oils. Natural candles are available in many shapes and sizes.

beeswax candles
Photo Credit: Apothecary Bottle Beeswax Candles, Fresh Pastry Stand

Soy and beeswax candles are clean burning (emitting 95 percent less soot than paraffin candles) and often last longer, so you get more for your money. When burned, these candles release essential oils, which can add enchanting seasonal scents to the air. You can add essential oils to wax or pour scented oil directly into ornamental diffusers.

Rechargeable Candles

Some venues restrict or prohibit candles. If yours does, try rechargeable candles, which offer the feel of flickering candles without a flame. You can find them in tea light form, in votive holders and as pillar candles.

rechargable candle
Photo Credit: Smart Candle

Lamps and Lanterns
Lamps and lanterns make wonderful reception décor. You can use olive-oil lamps (which have been around since biblical times), ornate candelabras, or cut-tin or iron Moroccan-style lanterns on the tables.

round blue paper lantern
Photo Credit: Round Paper Lantern in Teal, Weddingstar

For luminous light from above, string up colorful rice-paper lanterns.

paper lanterns
Photo Credit: Kiss Me DIY Paper Lantern Kit, Create It Girl!

Solar Lighting
Solar-powered lights have built-in batteries and are charged with solar panels that absorb sunlight and convert it to energy. They come in many different shapes and sizes, from small path lights on posts to intricate lanterns that can be hung from trees to floating, illuminated lily pads. You will need to charge solar lights at least once a day ahead of time by leaving them out in full sun.

love lights
Photo Credit: Ashley's Bride Guide

Not all solar lights are created equal. Newer models that utilize LED technology can be almost twenty times brighter than their older predecessors. The LED solar lights cost more but will last for thousands of hours, meaning you can use them at home after the wedding — or resell them.

Any of these lighting choices will create a warm and inviting atmosphere at your wedding, whether it’s a backyard bash with LED string lights in mason jars or an indoor winter celebration with softly-lit candles. You can decrease the amount of energy your special day uses up by incorporating conscious choices into your wedding décor. 

—Kate Harrison