At outdoor parties that begin at dusk, outdoor lighting is a necessity. People need it to navigate unfamiliar territory in darkness, converse with fellow guests, and see whatever it is on their plates that they're about to enjoy. But what's equally true is that even in an environment already replete with flowers and foliage, lighting can function as your most potent decorating tool. It sets a romantic scene, expresses a sense of style, and evokes feelings that range from ebullient to sentimental.
Candles and electric lighting yield different results -- the former soft, golden, and flickering; the latter radiant and steady. A few words of caution: Always shield candles with a hurricane or other protective cover; plug electrical devices into outlets with a built-in circuit breaker, called a GFCI, that reduces the risk of electrocution (also available in portable versions that plug into existing outlets, making them safe for outdoor use); and ensure that the extension cords are approved for exterior use.
Shaded String Lights
Bright Ideas for Lighting Up the Party
Martha Stewart Living, July 2006