10 Ways to Create a Stunning Candle Lit Reception

Looking for the right touch to add romantic and sophisticated flair to your wedding? Learn how to use candles to create that wedding glow.

By The Zola Team

Candle Lit Reception
Photo by Julie Wilhite Photography

The First Look ✨

  • Utilize candles alongside elements like greenery and flower petals to make your entrance shine.
  • Use a variety of candle sizes to add a special ambiance and romance to your walk down the aisle.
  • Illuminate the evening by using candles up high, like glass orbs or lanterns that hang from the ceiling.

When it comes to creating a romantic and ethereal atmosphere for your big day, few things do the trick as well as a candlelit wedding reception.

Candles are incredible for a handful of reasons: they’re inexpensive, they smell nice, they instantly add a pleasant ambiance, and they’re completely customizable based on your tastes, colors, and styles of weddings.

Whether you're thinking of integrating wedding candles at the cake table or the entrance, using white candles or colored candles, big or small, here are some of our favorite ways to use candles for wedding decor that wows.

10 Ways to Create a Stunning Candle Lit Reception Photo Credit // Unsplash

1. Make the Entrance Glow

If you’re planning on using candles at your wedding, one of the most important places to start is the entrance. A glowing entrance will guide your guests inside and pave the way for your sophisticated wedding. Use lanterns surrounded by greenery propped up on wooden crates, place candles in glass holders on top of flower petals near your guest book, or create your pathway with tea lights to entice your guests inside. If the entrance glows, the rest of the evening will, too.

2. Decorate the Cake Table

Candles and cake are a natural match, making the cake table a perfect place for your display of wedding candles. Although you may not be inclined to place candles on the cake, you can certainly place them everywhere around the cake. Use tea lights, hurricanes, taper candles—any type of wedding candles your heart desires. Some of our favorite candles for wedding cake tables are floating candles, as they add a whimsical flair to the dessert area. You can also decorate with flower petals, bouquets, and a cute sign that bears your name or a favorite quote or saying (like “love is sweet”).

3. Use Candelabras

Candelabras have multiple arms, which make for a dramatic display of wedding candles on the big day. They’re often found in silver, rose gold, and gold and look great as beautiful centerpieces on long tables. Depending on your wedding type, you can also scour for crystal, shabby chic, or dark-colored candelabras (which are gorgeous for a winter wedding). Though some brides and grooms keep things simple with just the candles, we’ve seen candelabras decorated with florals for something that’s both delicate and unique. Although candelabras will add elegance to any venue, they’re especially spectacular in venues that exude history and old-world charm.

4. Incorporate Candlesticks

When it comes to wedding candles, it’s easy for our minds to drift to hurricanes and tea lights, but candlesticks have elegant shapes and heights that truly make a statement. Simple white or cream taper candles and brass or gold candlesticks are just about as pretty and sophisticated as it gets. You can utilize them at the table, which looks stunning once incorporated with some greenery, or place them just about anywhere else you can think of (entry table, cake table, bathrooms). If you’re planning a candlelit wedding reception and worried about tall taper candles at the table, use a glass or transparent cover. This way, guests can still converse, but candles won’t be so “out in the open,”

5. Line the Aisle

If you’re looking for one of the easiest—but most memorable—ideas for wedding candles, line the aisle. You can stick to one size or use a variation of sizes to add dimension. Lanterns keep things easy, so the flame isn’t exposed. If you’re nervous about the open flame, but still want to create the ambiance, you can also consider flameless candles. For something extra special, use tall cylinder vases filled with water and flowers and a floating candle placed at the top. Space them out every other row, and add a handful of flower petals near the bottom for an extra hint of natural beauty. What could be more romantic, after all, than walking down the aisle surrounded by candles on either side and a hint of all things floral?

6. Fill Extra Space

Using wedding candles is a clever way to fill up extra space, like that decorative fireplace in the corner of the lonely table at the entrance. Once you nail down your colors and theme, you can go wild with candle collecting. If the task seems overwhelming (and costly), enlist the help of family members and friends. You’ll be amazed by how many hurricanes, pillar candles, and antique candle holders people have lying around for holidays and gatherings. You can also check out thrift shops for inexpensive antique holders.

7. Reach for the Sky

Your initial list of ideas for a candlelit wedding reception may start on the ground and at the table. But once you get going, you’ll find that the sky’s the limit. Using wedding candles up high will help illuminate the evening and have your guests swooning over that twinkling, star-dusted feeling. Hang glass orbs with tea lights or lanterns from the ceiling. If you’re hosting an outdoor reception, you can also hang your candle holders from tree branches for a rustic yet classic feel. Combine your candles with hanging paper lanterns to get things glowing even more.

8. Line the Stairs

From a spiral staircase leading up to the deck to classic stairs guiding guests through the front door, the chances of your venue having stairs somewhere are likely. If you’re incorporating candles for a wedding, stairs are the perfect place to start. You can use lanterns, glass hurricanes, and even mason jars. We also love the look of flowers interspersed with the candles (hint: glass vases of hydrangeas with white pillar candles are gorgeous on a staircase). The key with lining the stairs is to make sure you have enough room for guests—and their flowing dresses—to move about.

9. Go for Height

One of the simplest yet most effective ways to create a stunning candlelit wedding reception is to go for height. One of the great things about decorating with candles and candle holders is that there’s a bounty of size variations available. You can opt for big round candles or tall narrow ones. Add height with candlesticks or pillar candle holders. Whether you’re decorating the guest book table or the dining table, utilizing height will help create an impact and draw the eye to the other various parts of the decor (like the flowers). Remember, putting your wedding candles in clusters and groupings will make them instantly eye-catching.

10. Sand Vessels

Whether you’re hosting a beachside celebration or simply looking to create a coastal atmosphere, sand vessels are the perfect addition. If you’re planning to do DIY candles for your wedding, this makes for a simple centerpiece. You can use mason jars or glass holders complete with sand, seashells, and of course, candles. Some candle creators opt for rustic tea lights with twine, while others go the route of seashells and rope to give a truly nautical feel. For the ambitious wedding planners, we also love the idea of jars with DIY “ombre sand” to incorporate your colors—like different hued pinks or blues. You can also keep the idea of candles and sand going with a unity ceremony before the reception.

Other Ways to Add Glow to Your Wedding

10 Ways to Create a Stunning Candle Lit Reception Photo Credit // Unsplash

Wedding candles are just one fantastic way to add a glow to your celebration. Here are a few other ways to light up the night:

Twinkle Lights

As far as we’re concerned, there’s no such thing as too many twinkle lights. Put them on trees, hang them above your head, or use them to decorate your wedding arch. There’s a reason why they’re called fairy lights, after all—they’re majestic.

Light-Up Letters

Big light up letters with the bride and groom's initials, a fun saying, or the date, give another boost of light and make for a fun photo prop.


Projections, whether they’re in shapes or letters, will help to illuminate the floor. Specifically, we love the idea of using projections on the dance floor and aisle for a romantic night time ceremony.

Paper Lanterns

As we mentioned above, combining lit-up paper lanterns with your candles will instantly create the evening glow you’re searching for.

From wedding candles and twinkle lights to paper lanterns and projections, there are so many endless ways to give your wedding that classic glow you’re searching for.

When it comes to a candlelit wedding reception, here’s a bit of good news: It’s hard to go wrong. Candles automatically add a special ambiance and a feeling of warmth and relaxation. Ease your guests into a night they’ll always remember by adding candles to the tables, the bathrooms, and everywhere in between.

We’re certain that however you choose to harness the magical abilities of wedding candles, your evening will glow... and so will you. From the Zola team to you—have fun, get creative, and most importantly, make sure to savor every candle-filled moment of your wedding day.

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