Backyard party lighting ideas: 11 enchanting looks to dazzle your guests

These backyard party lighting ideas will give any celebration a welcoming glow – from string lights to lanterns plus more

outdoor dinner party with backyard party lighting ideas from sparkle lighting
(Image credit: Sparkle Lighting)

Good backyard party lighting ideas are crucial for giving any celebration an extra dose of pizzazz. So if you really want to throw an event to remember (for all the right reasons) then you'll need to consider them in your plans.

Sure, outdoor lighting ideas will boost the ambience and practicality of your garden all year round, but it's fun to go a step further when it comes to entertaining. And there are so many options to choose from to create a magical scene. 

'Solar-powered candles and fairy lights automatically twinkle as the sky darkens and will look beautiful strung up in the branches of trees and intertwined through archways,' says luxury furniture company Oxenwood. 'A roaring fire pit will keep your guests warm and cozy long past sundown, while hurricane lamps and pillar candles will add a stylish glow to your tablescape.' And if you're looking to curate a more playful scene, then brightly-colored lanterns or characterful string lights are a winning choice.

To help you get inspired for your next big do, we've rounded up some of our favorite backyard party lighting ideas. There's something suitable for all kinds of themes.

11 beautiful ways to set the scene with backyard party lighting ideas

From festoons and fairy lights to LED candles, string lights and outdoor wall lights, these solutions will help bring your outdoor occasion to life.

1. Layer up colorful solar lanterns

colorful solar lanterns from ella james

These vibrant lanterns are from Ella James

(Image credit: Ella James)

Chinese-style lanterns with flame-effect LED bulbs will instantly bring a party atmosphere to a backyard. And not only do these ones look great – they're also solar powered, so are super low maintenance. Suspended en masse at varied levels, they fill the vertical space with color and life (and we love the addition of foliage, too).

The tealight holders extend the vibrant theme. 'Dot tealights around your garden on as many surfaces as you can to really create that serene, warming feel – the more the better,' says Jess Martin, Decoration Expert at Ginger Ray. Opt for LED versions to reduce any safety risks.

Love the idea of lighting without the hassle of outdoor plugs? Our best solar lights buying guide has lots of lovely picks for everyday use.

2. String festoons overhead for an elegant display

outdoor dinner party with festoon lights

A table set for a special occasion, featuring festoons from Lights4fun

(Image credit: Lights4fun)

'Adding festoon lights above or around a space is an easy, low-cost way to give the space a warm glow and a touch of magic,' says Dani Tayor, Product and Creative Director of Cox & Cox. She explains how they're a personal favorite of hers, 'as they can be left out all year.' Look for solar-powered designs for extra ease.

Jess Martin, Decoration Expert at Ginger Ray adds: 'Festoon lights are also bang on trend at the minute, and are a great option if you're going for a festival look and feel.' When swagged along a fence or above an outdoor dining set-up – as seen above – they will bring an extra-special quality to any evening event.

We've got lots more inspiring ways to use them in our festoon light ideas feature, whilst our buying guide to festoon lights has lots of top picks to add to your party-planning shopping list.

3. Create a magical dining scene

table with lights from sparkle lighting

These pretty copper fairy lights are from Sparkle Lighting

(Image credit: Sparkle Lighting)

Festoons are fantastic, but if you prefer a more subtle and twinkly look, then delicate wire lights are perfect. These starburst designs, used both overhead and woven along the table itself, will elevate the mood instantly.

Pair with an assortment of flickering pillar candles and pretty dinnerware in a tonal palette. Providing plenty of cozy blankets or throws will ensure everyone stays cozy as the night draws in.

Looking for more outdoor dining ideas to make eating in the garden a joy? You'll find plenty to inspire in our feature.

4. Add character with butterfly lights

banner with butterfly lights at party

Bring a playful element to your party decorations

(Image credit: Simon Scarboro/Future)

No party would be complete without a range of garden decor ideas. And these beautiful butterfly lights are certainly decorative whilst offering a cozy glow. We think they're perfect for welcoming guests to a birthday party, bringing an air of fairytale magic to the occasion. 

There are lots of other looks readily available to buy – from light-up daisy chains and animals to miniature mushrooms – all of which are sure to spark a sense of delight. Hang them around windows or along a fence for an eye-catching backdrop. Keep a lookout for outdoor-appropriate ones – that way you can keep them in place to enjoy once the celebrations are over.

5. Make your own paper lanterns

paper lanterns at party

Line pathways with glowing lights

(Image credit: Simon Scarboro/Future)

If you want to impress your guests without splashing the cash, then paper lanterns are a quick and easy lighting solution that you can create yourself. All you need to do is grab some paper bags, carefully punch or cut out designs, and add a handful or two of sand to the bottom to weigh it down. 

Pop an LED tealight inside and place along pathways to give your garden an enchanting vibe. Short on time? You can find ready-made ones online at an affordable price.

We have lots more cheap garden ideas in our guide.

6. Mix party lights with foliage

table setting with candles and foliage

This set-up would work well for a garden wedding

(Image credit: Cavan Images/Alamy Stock Photo)

Whether you're searching for backyard wedding ideas or simply want to go the extra mile for a more low-key event, then this look certainly won't disappoint. Securing branches of pretty foliage overhead, interspersed with softly glowing lights, will bring a woodland feel to your alfresco table.

Keep the dinnerware minimal for an elegant yet contemporary look, or go for ditsy patterns and vintage jugs full of blooms for a rustic and whimsical theme. Of course, a line of candles down the center of the table will only add to the appeal.

7. Hang lanterns with ribbons

hanging lanterns and gazebo at garden party

We love this enchanting look

(Image credit: Noppadol Nimmanee/Alamy Stock Photo)

If you have a tree or two in your garden, this is a lovely idea that will definitely get your guests' attention. And although it looks fancy, it's straightforward to create.

You'll need to find a few lengths of ribbon (pick a color to match your theme), then tie them to an array of simple, lightweight solar lanterns. Tie the other ends of the ribbons to branches overhead, varying the heights – you might need to use a stepladder to do this so ensure you follow proper safety precautions. Add faux flowers as demonstrated here for a beautifully botanical touch.

If you don't have trees that are tall enough, you could hang the lanterns from the side of a large pergola instead, to create a 'wall' effect.

If you've got a gazebo in your plot, don't forget to add some lighting solutions to it too – that way it can serve as a cozy extra room for your guests when night falls.

8. Decorate your pergola with twinkling string lights

pergola with string lights

These outdoor lights are from KooPower

(Image credit: KooPower)

There are some backyard party lighting ideas that are totally appropriate for elevating your plot on the daily. Take these twinkling string lights for instance, which immediately give a pergola a warm and inviting tone.

We love how they elegantly fall from the beams to the floor behind the sofa, creating a subtle divide for the zone. With patio lighting ideas like these, the ambience will feel cozy and uplifting: the perfect setting for entertaining friends (or even enjoying a good book and an evening cuppa).

9. Curate a cozy chill-out zone

colorful lanterns in patio cover with fireplace

This warm and inviting nook is ideal for relaxed entertaining

(Image credit: Simon Scarboro/Future)

Fire pits and outdoor fireplace ideas are fantastic additions to an outdoor party. They offer warmth, an enchanting focal point, and a cozy, flickering glow that will make everyone feel at ease.

The beauty of a fireplace is that it can be used all year round as a permanent feature of your garden, allowing you to enjoy your outdoor space whatever time of year. If it's integrated into a covered area, as seen above, even better – that way even a spot of unexpected rain won't deter you. 

To give the zone a lift for a special event, add plenty of vibrant colorful lanterns and be sure to provide lots of comfy seating. Depending on the size of your yard (and the amount of guests you've invited), it can act as a tucked-away chill-out zone, or as the main party area.

10. Use lanterns en masse for a magical feel

garden with lanterns

The more lanterns, the merrier

(Image credit: Francisco Martinez/Alamy Stock Photo)

Masses of lanterns dotted around your space will instantly transform your day-to-day view into a captivating scene. To ramp up the drama, more is more, so position them to the side of steps, on tables, along walls, and hanging from trees.

Shepherd's hook stakes are useful for adding more low glowy lights to a lawn or flowerbed, whilst garden tiki lights will add a tropical tone. 

For an even bigger impact, wrap string lights around your trees or shrubs too. You can find more outdoor tree lighting ideas in our feature.

11. Create mood-boosting vignettes

lanterns from lights4fun

Create an eye-catching focal point with ornate lanterns – these ones are from Lights4fun

(Image credit: Lights4fun)

To give your outdoor seating ideas an extra dose of wow factor, take time putting together a pretty and illuminated central display on a coffee or occasional table.

Decorative lanterns will create interesting shadows as the candles flicker in the breeze. Add a potted plant or a vase of blooms for a splash of color, then weave a delicate trail of wire lights around the ornaments to elevate the look further. Just make sure to leave enough space for your guests to put down their drinks, and perhaps a few bowls of snacks.

How can I light my backyard without electricity for a party?

If you don't have an outdoor plug installed, or want to save on your bills, then there are plenty of garden party lighting ideas which don't require electricity. Solar lights are now available in all kinds of forms, from string lights and festoons to stake lights and lanterns. These days they are much more reliable than they used to be – with the sun giving them enough power to glow for hours on end when night falls.

Don't forget about battery-powered lights too – there are lots that are outdoor suitable. Alternatively, you can't go far wrong with traditional candles, just avoid leaving them unattended or near anything flammable.

solar lanterns from sparkle lighting

The colorful outdoor solar lanterns from Sparkle Lighting are bound to turn heads

(Image credit: Sparkle Lighting)

More top tips for garden party lighting ideas

Hopefully by now you'll be full of inspo when it comes to lighting up your garden party ideas. But we've put together some quick tips for illumination solutions below, for easy reference.

  • Decide where the main area of your garden party is going to be, and make sure it's lit accordingly. If you're hosting a sit down meal, take the opportunity to get creative with the table settings by weaving tealights, candles, or fairy lights around the dinnerware, whilst stringing lanterns or festoons overhead.
  • Add subtle lighting around the rest of your plot too to extend the celebratory feel. Lining pathways or borders of patios with lanterns can be practical as well as aesthetically appealing, as it will enable guests to see where they're going more clearly. Twinkling lights wrapped around or hanging from trees is another lovely touch.
  • Don't forget about LEDs as an alternative to real-life candles, that way you can enjoy your party without worrying about fire risks. Look for waterproof designs that are suitable for outdoor use.
  • Layer up different types of lighting for added visual interest, but don't go too bright. You want the result to feel soft and welcoming, not harsh and sterile.
  • On that note, warm, amber-hued lights rather than ice-white ones will always feel more relaxed and inviting, so are generally the way forward when planning your backyard party lighting ideas.

sparkle lighting from cox & cox

(Image credit: Cox & Cox)
Holly Crossley
Acting Deputy Editor

The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then. She's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator – plants are her passion.