What not to do in your sparkly grand exit
When I was thumbing through bridal magazines and nosing through online picture galleries during our wedding planning, one image that repeatedly struck a chord with me was that of the sparkler send-off: the bride and groom passing through a “guard of honor” with sparklers held by their guests, on the couple’s way out of (or even into) their wedding reception, though it could also be used to make a gorgeous circle of guests around a first dance. The pictures looked stunning, magical, and – a term I don’t use too lightly – swoon-worthy. We were determined to include a sparkler send-off in our wedding festivities, to end with evening with a bang (though hopefully not a literal one).
What we did right
The first thing that we did in preparing for our wedding sparkler send-off – and which other couples should also do first – is check with their reception venue whether they will allow the use of sparklers, and if there are any conditions attached to their usage. Consider for example if you’re in an area prone to forest fires, or exactly what number of sparklers you will have alight. In our case, the reception venue said that it was fine to use sparklers, but only on the deck outside the party room and absolutely not indoors (fair enough, really). The outdoor-but-undercover deck, however, was equipped with smoke detectors that the venue coordinator would need to disable right before our exit. If we had simply assumed it was hunky-dory to run our sparkler send-off without warning the venue in advance, not only would we have had to pay a fee for the smoke detectors calling out the fire brigade on a false alarm, but the automatic sprinklers would have drenched our guests… How’s that for a dramatic wedding exit?
The next thing to do is find the right types of sparklers at the right price. The average sparkler, which you might put on a birthday cake or crack out for New Year’s Eve, takes around half a minute to burn up. This doesn’t give you enough time to get the final sparklers lit before the first ones you lit burn out. As such, you’ll need to source sparklers specially built for this very purpose, which stay alight for at least three minutes. You will also need to find a supplier within your country; strict laws usually govern the transportation of combustible goods and it might actually be illegal to send sparklers by regular post. Confirm that the supplier you have in mind has an authorized courier service already in place.
On the night of your wedding, make sure the sparklers are stored out of sight until it’s time for the grand finale. Mischievous or tipsy guests might otherwise stumble across them and start the fireworks early!
When it comes time for your big send-off, it obviously can’t be the bride and groom that coordinate the guard of honor; it doesn’t work so well as a grand exit if the happy couple have already run back and forth a few times through your guests getting the sparklers set up! As such, you’ll need to brief your venue coordinator / wedding planner, bridal party or family (or all three) in advance on what you have in mind. Make sure your helpers know where the sparklers are being kept, have lighters or matches on them (the more there are, the faster you can get all the sparklers lit), and know exactly where to line up your guests and what signal you will give when you’re ready for them to start lighting.
At the Reflective Wedding, our sparkler send-off began with our DJ giving some instructions to our guests on what would happen, in a script we had prepared for him earlier: “It’s now time for the bride and groom to make their grand exit for the evening. For their big send-off, we will be doing a “guard of honor” for the newlyweds out on the terrace – but instead of you guys lining up on either side of them with swords, you’ll each be holding a sparkler. So please take a sparkler from the beautiful bridesmaids by the door, and the friendly staff will help you to light your sparklers once we have everybody lined up. You can return to the room afterwards for your bags and coats.” (We could see that everyone, particularly the ladies in the room, were glad for the final sentence as they clutched their bags hesitantly during the instructions.)
The DJ then launched into a playlist of sparkler-themed songs that we had requested in advance: Fun’s “We Are Young” (“so we’ll set the world on fire”, and also a song suitable for ending the night), “Burning Down the House” by Tom Jones and The Cardigans, and “Disco Inferno” (“burn, baby, burn!”) by The Trammps. A bridesmaid was positioned on each side of the exit door holding a large vase of sparklers, and handed them out as the guests passed by. (Stationing a helper on both sides of the door meant the sparklers could be distributed faster and not cause a bottleneck by the door). Our other two bridal party members were stationed outside getting the guests lined up; this sounds (and admittedly looks) a little Draconian, but you need to ensure the guests are wide enough apart – about two meters from each other – so that the side-by-side newlyweds can pass through it comfortably and without getting too close to the sparks. (Yes, there are apparently horror stories of sparks landing on the synthetic fabrics of wedding gowns and causing some singes!) Two staff members darted about with what looked like a mini-flamethrower lighting guests’ sparklers, and guests also used their own sparklers to ignite those of the guests beside them.
What we did… not so right
So what didn’t work so well? First up, our thinking with providing music during the sparkler send-off was a great idea – not only to add atmosphere to the exit itself, but also something to fill in while everyone is receiving their sparklers and getting lined up. Unfortunately, our DJ hadn’t positioned a speaker by the exit, and certainly not one facing outward into the deck area where everyone was lined up. As our guests couldn’t exactly clap with a sparkler in their hands, our grand exit ended up taking place in an eerie silence with our guests all speaking in hushed tones. Not quite the atmosphere we were hoping for! My Reflective tip: definitely plan music for your sparkler send-off, but arrange with your entertainment to position (or re-position) a speaker in an optimal location so that it can be heard outside. Not possible? If there is a power-outlet by the exit, bring an iPod or computer outside, ideally with some small speakers. Still not possible? Ask your bridal party or family to start some whoops and cheers to fill in the silence… other guests will quickly follow suit!
Remember how I had fallen in love with the idea of a sparkler send-off after seeing such gorgeous pictures of them online, and coveting such pictures for my own wedding photo album? If you love a sparkler exit for the same reason, make sure that someone with some photographic skills is around to capture the moment. We only hired our professional photographer up until the beginning of the reception… so by the time of our sparkler exit, we only had guests left to snap pictures of the moment – on their phones. As such, we didn’t end up with the amazing photos of the guard of honor that we’d hoped for and planned the whole moment around!
The final, and a most important, tip is not to rush your walk through the sparklers. About 60 guests participated in our send-off, meaning 30 guests on each side… so when the Reflective Groom and I set out at a normal walking pace we were halfway up the line of guests within 10 seconds. Not exactly a good use of our three-and-a-half-minute sparklers! Fortunately my very clever groom realized this at the halfway point, and stopped to steer us to turn back and wave at the guests we’d already passed. Our tip: take a nice and eeeasy stroll past your guests. Before you set out, take a few seconds to wave to your guests (photo op!). On your walk, you can force yourselves to slow down your pace by individually thanking each guest you pass for joining your special day. With a live spark nearby it might not be so wise to hug them as you go, but you can certainly shake hands or touch their arm as you reach them. Halfway through the guard of honor, stop and strike a pose (again, photo op!). Try a romantic kiss, a grand dip or another wave to your adoring crowd.
Are you planning a sparkler send-off for the grand exit at your wedding? Do you have any concerns or questions about how to pull it off logistically?