24 Romantic Ways to Decorate Your Wedding With String Lights

Set the mood with this magical lighting technique.
Samantha Iacia - The Knot wedding style expert
Samantha Iacia
  • Samantha writes articles for The Knot Worldwide, with a speciality in wedding decor, trends, and fashion
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Samantha was a features and weddings contributor for The Baltimore Sun
  • She is based in Washington, D.C. and holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism
Updated Feb 06, 2023

Wedding string lights are an ultra-romantic yet relatively affordable decor detail that can totally transform a space. Depending on your venue and wedding vision, there are so many different ways to use string lights for your wedding: wrapped around banisters, hanging vertically against the wall or draped across the ceiling of a reception tent, to name a few. Ready for even more ideas? Check out these 24 different ways to incorporate bistro lights, twinkle lights and fairy lights into your wedding. Then, start searching for local wedding lighting pros who can help you get the job done.

In this article:

The Different Kinds of Wedding String Lights

Bistro Lights

These European-style lights are reminiscent of French cafes and old towns with cobblestone streets. The medium-sized bulbs are attached in a straight line to dark cords for a neat and tidy look. Use bistro lights at your wedding if you envision a sophisticated but laid-back atmosphere.

Fairy Lights

Perfect for wrapping around pillars, tree trunks or coiling up in a jar, fairy lights are small LED bulbs on a flexible rope-style cord. These types of wedding string lights are often battery powered, which makes them easier to use in locations where there isn't an electrical outlet nearby.

Twinkle Lights

These are the same type of lights you see during the holiday season. The cords are decorated with clusters of tiny glass bulbs that create a warm, romantic glow, making them the most classic wedding string light choice. Twinkle lights can be hung vertically, horizontally or wrapped around structural elements.

Wedding String Light Ideas

1. Wedding Ceremony Canopy

Can you think of a more romantic setting for your vow exchange? The glow of string lights overhead will make the room feel even cozier.

2. Bistro Light Curtain

Hang the string lights vertically behind your ceremony altar, cake display or head table—or decorate a blank wall for an Instagram-worthy photo backdrop for your guests.

3. Clear Top Wedding Reception Tent

Cover the ceiling of a clear top tent in string lights to make it look like you're celebrating beneath a galaxy of stars. The night sky will show through the translucent ceiling after dark, making the illusion look even more realistic.

4. Rustic Greenery Chandeliers

Accent greenery chandeliers or garlands with round bistro light bulbs for a modern farmhouse vibe.

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5. Wedding Venue Pathway

String lights are especially handy after dark if you have an outdoor wedding venue. Use shepherd's hooks and strands of lights to clearly designate the main pathways to the restroom, bar and other important areas.

6. Illuminated Tree

You can recreate this wedding string light idea in almost any space. For an indoor venue, ask your wedding florist to help you find large branches or a potted tree to act as the focal point. Outdoors, choose a tree that's surrounded by enough open space to set up chairs or a lounge area.

7. Edison Bulb Chandelier

Transform an old wooden ladder or door frame into a one-of-a-kind chandelier by adding Edison bulbs on long cords.

8. Outdoor Wedding Venue Space

Mark the boundary of your outdoor reception space with a perimeter of string lights. The addition of overhead lighting will also come in handy once the sun goes down, especially if there isn't another light source nearby.

9. Papel Picado Banners

Papel picado is a symbolic Mexican wedding tradition, but it's also a decorative element. Hang the banners alongside strands of bistro or fairy lights to add even more whimsy.

10. Cocktail Table Umbrellas

The addition of bistro lights on the umbrellas transformed these high top tables into cozy mingling areas perfect for a rehearsal dinner or cocktail hour.

11. Floating Candles

Pair the string lights at your wedding with small votives or hanging candles to amplify the glow even more.

12. Mix-and-Match Bulbs

Old-fashioned Edison bulbs have a more industrial, contemporary look compared to standard string lights or fairy lights. Hang individual bulbs from long cords throughout the venue or above an area you want to spotlight.

13. Alternative Wedding Tent

Create the illusion of a tent at an outdoor venue by draping wedding string lights in a canopy shape above the space.

14. Vertical Light Strands

The trees at this enchanting reception space look like they're filled with fairy dust. Use long strands of string lights or LED rope lights to recreate a similar look.

15. Dance Floor Canopy

You don't have to hang lights over your entire wedding space. If you want to emphasize one specific area, like the bar or dance floor, concentrate the lights there to draw guests' attention.

16. Reception Table Tunnel

Amp up the dinner ambiance by setting up a long banquet table in a tunnel of string lights. We love this idea if you're having a smaller wedding and want to create an extra-intimate vibe for the evening.

17. Sheer Fabric Backdrop

Hang string lights behind a layer of organza or tulle to create a slightly more subtle backdrop.

18. Rattan Lamps

Unexpected lighting installations are a wedding decor trend that we can definitely get behind. The rattan lamp shades bring a boho, laid-back vibe to the bistro lights in this reception tent.

19. Wedding Venue Entrance

Wow your guests from the very start of the party by decorating your venue entrance with a string light canopy or archway. It will set the whole tone for the reception before they even walk into the room.

20. Backyard Reception Space

Wedding string lights can quickly add decoration to a space where there isn't much else. For a backyard wedding, keep it low-key by hanging simple bistro lights in between rows of picnic tables.

21. Stone Pillars

Dealing with unsightly structural elements of your venue that you can't change? Camouflage them with bistro lights or string lights, like the ones wrapped around these pillars.

22. Modern Cluster Chandeliers

If you have the budget to work with a wedding lighting specialist, consider creating something totally custom. Show them your space and let them pitch you a few ideas of how they could brighten it up, like a chandelier of string lights or modern bulbs.

23. Arched Ceremony Aisle

Forget candles—this stunning wedding string light tunnel is a must-have if your ceremony is taking place after dark.

24. Illuminated Walkway

Bring double the glow to your reception space by adding candles or paper luminaries to the ground and pairing them with string lights overhead, like this walkway leading into the light-filled tent.

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