Creating a reception that is memorable requires setting a great atmosphere. If the mood is right, and the guests are having a great time then your reception will be the topic of conversation.
Setting the atmosphere can be very simple and does not require elaborate decorations or a budget in the stratosphere. Lighting is key to setting the ambiance and mood, but it must be done in a strategic and planned manner. This article at theweddingvendor.com explains some of the options and nuances of lighting your reception.
One of the best ways to light for atmosphere is to use uplighting. this of course can range from the simple to the extravogent, but even small lights can make a huge difference. Here is a photo from a San Antonio wedding last year that I shot while the room was still brightly lit before the reception started. As you can see there is some lighting on the ice sculpture as indicated by the red tint at the bottom.
Now for a photograph of the ice sculpture once the lighting was turned down for the reception.
The lighting was used in several other areas as well making for a very nice atmosphere within the venue. It was accomplished by using small battery powered pen lights from a dollar store. It made a huge difference in the center pieces and other decorations around the room.
If you are looking to enhance the impact to your guests and stay within budget consider using the uplighting technique and remember it can be accomplished at a very reasonable cost.