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Even a single strand of drug-store string lights, taped haphazardly to a neighboring fence or strewn back and forth through the branches of a lone tree, does its job. It matters not if they're all in a row or helter skelter—the warmth of the tiny, low-light bulbs dotting the sky like mail-order fireflies has to be one of the easiest ways to get an "Aw!" from your friends when they come over for rosé on the patio.
But if you're looking for a more impactful way to string them, whether for a wedding reception or that big boisterous barbecue you plan to scrap together in a few days' time, consider letting gravity do more of the work. Instead of affixing both ends up high, rig just one.
If you want more than one strand raining down, you're going to have to acquire many more strings of lights than the two you started with—but the effect is worth it! A lone strand of vertical string lights is going to look a little sad.
But, suspended vertically, a number of strands of string lights arranged in lines make a "raining" effect—the lights dropping down in columns one after another, like a map of falling stars. Or a wall of electric snowflakes. Or just string lights, except used in a way you haven't seen them used everywhere.
If straight lines that are too straight cause you to wince a little bit, the effect can still be loose and bohemian. Suspending lots of strands in a range of heights, so that their ends drop right above peoples' talking, creates a cloud effect—its own atmosphere.
And if you want to do it up, plant them high in the trees (with the help of a professional), so far up that you couldn't have put them there yourself. People will notice. (And notice, of course, that it probably cost you a fortune to rig.)
The higher they go, the more complicated to take down when a bulb burns out, of course.
If you're hoping to try this out at home, suspend a cord horizontally where you want the wall of lights to start (or find a tall horizontal tree branch to work with). Remember, too, that it needs to run somewhere people don't want to stand, but instead look at: Along the top of a neighboring fence of your home or between sections of the event space are good places to start.
Make sure it's secured tightly, so the weight of the cords doesn't cause it to droop or snap.
From here, evaluate the lights you're using. If they're each on a battery pack, that's the part that should be affixed to the cord, the non-batteried end draping down near peoples' noses or to the ground.
If you're using lights that plug into each other, the simplest way to create a wall of them is to first plug them in end to end, creating one extra-long string of lights. Drape it over the suspended cord, down to the ground, and back up over the suspended cord in a zig-zag fashion until you reach the end.
For a more streamlined, dramatic look—like the one above—you'll probably need some special equipment. A long electrical cord with lots of outlets along it, twisted around the cord they're hanging from, would allow you to plug in a single string of lights in lots of places.
And you can also buy string lights in a raining formation—but where's the fun in that?
String lights, twinkly lights, or fairy lights? Tell me what you call them, in the comments!