Strands of cafe lights 30" apart with varying sizes of white even-ribbed paper lanterns.  Image by Mark Davidson Photography.

Strands of cafe lights 30" apart with varying sizes of white even-ribbed paper lanterns.  Image by Mark Davidson Photography.

I wanted to start a series that takes individual design elements and breaks them down to show you how you can incorporate them into your special event, corporate event or wedding and also to show you the cost associated with each element.

Today I'm talking about cafe lights.  They're a very versatile and cost effective lighting element that you can customize to fit your color palate, overall event theme, and even your budget. 

Here's some of the great things cafe lights can do for your event:

  • Create a lower ceiling, making a room or tent feel more intimate
  • Create a special area within a room or tent- dance floor area, VIP area
  • Add color to your overall design
  • Add texture to your overall design
  • Add ambient light when placed on dimmers
  • Add helpful overall light when used at full power
  • Use them alone or with paper lanterns, or with a mix of exposed bulbs and lanterns
  • Create an old-school or antique feel to your event using old-fashioned Edison bulbs

How do you install them:

Cafe lights aren't for the faint of heart when it comes to the installation, especially when you're in a tent. I would suggest hiring a lighting or event design company to take care of this task for you.  In a tent: You already have lots of hanging points to work with in a tent- center poles and side poles.  You also have the ability to add additional hanging points with the help of strong cables installed down the middle of the tent along the center poles.  These cables allow you to hang from the middle of the tent but not just at the center poles.  The more hanging points you place, the more cafe strands you will need.  That also means the more paper lanterns you will need so that adds to the expense and the overall installation and breakdown time.  Also, you need lots and lots of zip ties to secure each strand and cable to ensure the design stays in place.

In a venue: Some venues will have hanging points you can work with.  Others have drop ceilings you can tie into.  If you have no options and are not allowed to install any hooks or nails at the venue you're working at, you can bring your own hanging points.  A large base and upright pole in the corner of a room can create a hanging point for multiple strands of cafe lights. Make sure you have plenty of sandbags to weigh down each base, as these can get pretty heavy when you add lots of strands of lights.

What do they look like:

Here are a number of examples of cafe lights in different venues, styles and colors

A traditional ocean side tented wedding at the ViewPoint Hotel in Maine. Image by Mark Davidson Photography.

A traditional ocean side tented wedding at the ViewPoint Hotel in Maine. Image by Mark Davidson Photography.

Star lanterns on cafe light strands installed with heavy bases and upright poles in a sports arena, Fieldhouse Sports, Bow, NH.

Star lanterns on cafe light strands installed with heavy bases and upright poles in a sports arena, Fieldhouse Sports, Bow, NH.

Star paper lanterns on cafe lights installed on heavy bases and uprights at Block Six in Portsmouth, NH.

Star paper lanterns on cafe lights installed on heavy bases and uprights at Block Six in Portsmouth, NH.

Cafe lights 12" apart with layers of ombre crepe paper rolls installed at Discover Portsmouth, Portsmouth, NH.

Cafe lights 12" apart with layers of ombre crepe paper rolls installed at Discover Portsmouth, Portsmouth, NH.

Cafe lights 12" apart installed with vintage map garlands at Discover Portsmouth, Portsmouth NH.

Cafe lights 12" apart installed with vintage map garlands at Discover Portsmouth, Portsmouth NH.

Paper lanterns on cafe strands installed on a long pole to create a cluster of clouds at a private tented wedding in Maine. Image by Brian Adams Photographics.

Paper lanterns on cafe strands installed on a long pole to create a cluster of clouds at a private tented wedding in Maine. Image by Brian Adams Photographics.

Close up of the cloud lantern installation. Photo by Brian Adams Photographics.

Close up of the cloud lantern installation. Photo by Brian Adams Photographics.

Drop ceiling cafe lights installation with paper lanterns at the Museum of Science, Boston, MA.

Drop ceiling cafe lights installation with paper lanterns at the Museum of Science, Boston, MA.

Multi-layered lantern and cafe light installation over a dance floor in a Sperry Tent.

Multi-layered lantern and cafe light installation over a dance floor in a Sperry Tent.

Exposed cafe lights installed throughout a double-wide Sperry Tent, private wedding in Cumberland Foreside Maine. Image by Emilie Inc.

Exposed cafe lights installed throughout a double-wide Sperry Tent, private wedding in Cumberland Foreside Maine. Image by Emilie Inc.

Star lantern installation with cafe lights in a Sperry Tent for a welcome reception on Martha's Vineyard, MA.

Star lantern installation with cafe lights in a Sperry Tent for a welcome reception on Martha's Vineyard, MA.

How much do they cost:

The cost of a cafe light installation depends on a number of things: the type of installation, the scale of the installation and the types of embellishments to the installation.  A tented wedding or special event with just exposed cafe lights on one cable run down the center of a tent could range in price from $750-$2000.00 If you added paper lanterns to each of the lights that could add an additional $250-$1000.  At a venue that has a drop ceiling or hanging points, the cost will be similar to a tent.  Stand alone installations without any hanging points can add additional cost.  Cafe lights are a great way to add a high-impact design element at a reasonable cost to your overall budget.  This cost, however, includes not only the cafe strands or paper lanterns themselves, but also the labor for installation and break down of the lighting element.  It takes anywhere from 1-5 hours to install a cafe light design with anywhere from 1-4 staff members.  All of that has to be taken down too after the event it over.  Ladders, scissor lifts, safety cables all have to be incorporated into the cost of the total installation.

We think cafe lights are a great addition to your event or wedding design.  Hopefully these images and the information we shared with you helps you decide whether they're right for your event and budget.  Happy designing!

KM

Malloy Events is an event design and production company specializing in corporate events, weddings, and non-profit galas.  Based on the Seacoast of New Hampshire, serving New England clients and beyond.