Planning an outdoor party? Whether your party will be held on your patio or at some other outdoor venue, lighting can make all the difference in creating an elegant, ethereal atmosphere for your party. Lighting can take your party from ho-hum to unforgettably delightful.

And the very same string lights that you might use to decorate your place for Christmas can make perfect party lights. The old Christmas standbys of C7 and C9 bulbs make great party lights. We'd also recommend that you consider G30 bulbs for your party lighting. Lots of people also love to use mini-lights for party lighting.

Patio lighting

But no matter what type of lighting you choose for your party, you'll be faced with the problem of hanging those lights. No need to worry, though; hanging light strings for parties is really pretty easy to do.

And we're about to tell you how…

Staple It or Stick It?

You can choose from two quick and easy ways to hang your party lights: stapling or gluing. Which is better? Only you can decide because it depends upon your particular situation and preferences.

But here are some things to consider in making your choice:

  • Stapling is fast and easy. For the installation, that is. When it comes time to take your lights down, the process might be a little slower and a bit more tedious than with glue. But on the other hand…
  • Clean-Up? If you don't care about leaving little bits of glue residue when you're taking the lights down, then light removal will be very fast and easy with glued light strings. Of course, it will be a different story if you want to remove every bit of glue. Removing each staple with a pair of needle-nose pliers will be easier than removing each bit of glue.
  • Surface? The surface to which you're attaching your light strings may determine the method of attachment. Attaching lights to a surface such as a brick wall, for example, obviously won't work well with staples. But glue will work perfectly. On the other hand, some surfaces really won't work well with glue. Painted surfaces, for example, can be prone to paint peeling away when you remove the glue residue.

So when you hang your party lights, you might be stapling or gluing. Or maybe a mix of both. Here are some tips for making the most of each installation method…

Tack with a Thwack

Using staples to hang your light strings is straightforward enough. But before you start thwacking away with a staple gun, it's important to consider how long your light installation will remain in place.

If it's going to be no longer than a few days, it doesn't matter what type of staples you use. But if your light installation will stay in place for weeks, months, or longer, then the type of staple you use does matter.

For long-term installations, stainless steel staples are recommended to help reduce (but not eliminate) the problem of rusting. And when you remove your light installation, it's important to also remove all the staples. Even stainless steel staples will eventually rust. And rusting staples will tend to leave unsightly rust stains on many types of surfaces, particularly wood.

As you're attaching the line, apply one staple per light socket. Locate the staple close to the socket, rather than midway between two sockets. And one other tip when using staples: Don't staple through your electrical cord! That's an obvious no-no, but deceptively easy to do.

Stick with a Squeeze

Some surfaces just aren't suitable for using staples but are great candidates for hot glue. Brick and concrete, for example. And while using hot glue to hang light strings might not be quite as quick and easy as using staples, it's still a very simple job to attach each light with a squeeze of glue.

But hot glue might not be the best choice for every situation. If you're hanging lights on any of these surfaces, it's probably best to avoid using hot glue:

  • Painted Surfaces. Paint might be damaged when you remove the lights.
  • Metal. The glue might not stick well.
  • Plastic. The heat of the glue could damage the plastic.
  • Small light bulbs. Light strings of smaller bulbs, like mini-lights, are more difficult to work with using hot glue.

When you're hanging lights using hot glue, consider leaving the bulbs off the line (if the bulbs are removable) until after you've installed the line. It's easier that way, and you won't risk getting globs of glue on the bulbs. It's a simple matter to quickly screw the bulbs into the sockets once you've hung the lines.

It's also important to use precision in applying each dab of glue. You'll want to apply glue to every light socket (and not to the cord). Most light sockets have a clip on the base; apply the glue to the side of the socket opposite from the clip. Avoid applying glue to the base of the socket - doing so might result in damage to the light during removal.

When you remove the lights, it's likely that some glue residue will be left behind. In most cases that's not a big deal. And over time, weather and sun will eventually do away with those bits of glue residue. But if you can't wait for nature to do the cleanup, you can use a hot air gun to soften the remaining spots of glue and scrape them away.

What if Neither Staple Nor Glue Will Work?

In some situations, and when working with certain surfaces, neither glue not staple will be a great choice for hanging your lights. But don't worry, there's a multitude of clips and attachment hardware available.

No matter your situation, you can be sure that there's an attachment method that will work perfectly for you. If you're unable to find a clip that works for your application, then consult with your local hardware store and they should be able to walk you through the best attachment method for your specific project.

Avoid Common Problems

No matter the method of attachment you choose, you'll want to avoid some of the common problems that people encounter in hanging light strings. These problems include:

  • Cord length too short or too long. You've probably heard the saying: Measure twice, cut once. Here's another tip: For each run of the light line that you install, use a piece of the string first to simulate the run of the line. Install the string exactly where the light line will go, using bits of tape if needed to keep it in place. Then you can use the string to measure your light line before you cut. Using this technique will assure that your light lines are all of the perfect lengths.
  • Damaged lines. Take a bit of time to plug in your light lines and check them before you hang them. Any problems, such as bulbs that need replacing, are easier to deal with before the line has been installed.
  • Avoid damaging the cord. Use precision and patience when installing the light lines. Getting in a hurry is a great way to accidentally damage the electrical cord.

And for your own safety, you should always wait to plug in the lights until after you've completed the installation. It's a great way to avoid getting a nasty shock!

Have Fun, and Have a Great Party!

Hanging outdoor light strings in preparation for a party can actually be lots of fun. As long as you know what you're doing (you do now, right?), and not fumbling around Clark-Griswold-style, hanging outdoor lights can be like a pre-party mini-party.

And when it comes time for the real party, your guests will surely enjoy the delightful, enchanting ambiance you've created with all of those lights. Every single thwack and sticky squeeze will have been well worth the effort.