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Lighting Paper Lanterns – The Quick Guide

  • by admin
  • 3 min read

What are your choices for lighting paper lanterns?
The VERY short answer is: bulbs on a cord, or an LED light for each lantern.

Bulbs on a cord – left. Single battery-operated LED – right.

As you’re shopping around for paper lanterns, you need to know that lanterns do not come with lights already in them. You must buy your own lights separately.

The only exception to this is string lights, which are small lanterns (about 4 inches) that you buy in a set. When you take them out of the box, they are already attached to a string of lights, similar to traditional Christmas lights.

Fuschia String Lights – from our String Light Collection

If you buy light cords for lighting paper lanterns you must also buy light bulbs. Keep this in mind when you do price comparisons.

Lighting Paper Lanterns
What are the differences between lighting with cords and lighting with LEDs?

Let’s compare the two approaches using a 30-foot long wall as an example.

  • Lighting Paper Lanterns with the cord: You can buy a 30-foot cord with 15 bulbs on it for $24.95 on the Luna Bazaar web site. (Note: If you buy a dozen of more you will get a discount.) Add to that the cost of light bulbs. You can use ordinary incandescent bulbs that you would use anywhere in your home. The cost of a light bulb can vary a lot, as you can certainly find a deal by buying them in bulk.  If the cost is between 50 cents and a dollar, our cost will average 75 cents. You will spend $11.25 on light bulbs. In total you will be covering 30 feet for approximately $36.20.
  • Lighting Paper Lanterns with LEDs: There is no cord, so you will need some fishing line. A spool of strong fishing line that is 330 yard long costs $6.99 or less. You can also buy it at most hardware stores, or sporting goods stores.The LED lights themselves cost $3.50 each, but they are discounted to $2.95 if you buy more than 12. The cost to span a 30-foot wall at $2.95 each would be $44.25. With the fishing line the total cost is $51.24

At $36.20 for lights on a cord, and $51.24 for LEDs, light on a cord win the price comparison.


  • Lighting Paper Lanterns by cord: This works best if you want to hang a string of lanterns in a straight line – that is, along a pole, or across the top of a wall. With a cord, you can’t place the paper lanterns at different distances from each other. Remember, you must be within reach of an electrical outlet.
  • Lighting Paper Lanterns by LED: You don’t need an electrical outlet, and you can place the lanterns wherever you like – they don’t have to be a set distance apart from each other. Batteries that last 15+ hours come with the LED lights. You do have to go around and turn them all on before the event.

Conclusion: It depends on your personal preference.

Lighting Paper Lanterns – Not Necessarily Either Or

You don’t have to choose between bulbs on cords and LEDs. Most brides use a combination of the two depending on the positioning of the paper lanterns in the tent or reception room. For example, in a tent, use light cords around the perimeter of the tent, and battery-powered LED lights in the center.

I hope this quick guide about lighting paper lanterns has been helpful. For more details see this earlier Luna Bazaar post. Or see our main page for lighting. Good luck decorating!

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