The Sparkler Send Off: Tips and Tricks
Ahhhhh the sparkler exit, the last big "event" in your already gorgeous wedding day. You've dreamt of these photos, all glowy and dreamy and perfect. The day comes and it was the stuff of dreams. Your hair and make up has never looked better, he cried when he saw you walk down the aisle, you danced the night away, ate cake and drank champs until you were stuffed! Now it's time, the sparkler send off that your best friend got the most gorgeous photos from.
Then there were barely any "sparks" left because the sparklers were tiny
Then you started running to try to catch the last bit of sparks
Then drunk Uncle Dave and cousin Charlie throw the sparklers to the ground for funsies and there's a commotion halfway through the exit cause the grass lit on fire
Then you looked around and noticed everyone was suuuuuperrrrr far away from you
Then when you dip-kissed you were so rushed you almost fell over and you were like 3 steps from the front of the photographer's camera
Woah nelly. Sounds like a mess doesn't it?!
I want you to know that it doesn't have to be a mess. Most people planning a wedding are going to plan to do a sparkler send off. Because it is so popular (and because we take 4th of July so seriously here in the USA that most people have played with sparklers since they were five) couples forget to actually plan that part of the night. This is much to a photographer's chagrin. Seriously, it gets stressful. As you've probably learned from consults and timeline creation we love a good plan or two. So what's a couple to do if they want to plan a sparkler exit? Below are my favorite tips and tricks to nail the sparkler send-off and get those dreamy sparkler photos!
TIP #1: PUT SOMEONE IN CHARGE
DUH LAURA. But I can't stress enough, no...your photographer should not be in charge of this. While I love to be in charge, I do not like running the exit. I will definitely let your coordinator, planner, or person in charge know exactly how the exit needs to be "set up" but I don't want to be the one corralling guests, trying to help light sparklers, or yelling instructions all while trying to make sure my camera is ready for the big moment.
Moreover, whoever you put in charge needs to be a take charge type person. You can't ask a shy person to get a large crowd ready for this...it just doesn't happen. You need someone who is going to be nice, but firm on the instructions. I only give a few instructions to guests, so it isn't a lot for them to have to do, but I think those rules make or break the photos.
TIP #2 : BUY LARGE SPARKLERS
This one also seems like a no brainer, but you cannot go to your neighborhood fireworks stand to get these (unless you are in San Antonio and live near me...we have a legit warehouse and they may just have the sparklers you need haha.) Most of the couples that work with planners don't have to worry about this because their planner takes care of the details, but if you are sans planner you need to head over to Wedding Day Sparklers to get what you need.
The 36 inch sparklers last for around 3 minutes and produce no smoke so you are golden for you big moment! You want to buy the big ones because you have all these guests, some...if not all... have had an alcoholic beverage or two, and they are trying to light the sparklers at the same time so you don't run out of sparks. These long ones give you just the right amount of time that by the end of the walk through some couples even have time for an encore run through the glowy tunnel!
TIP #3: NO RUNNING
The sparkler run is a photographer's nightmare. Literally...I have been haunted in my sleep by this nightmare. Because the exit is typically done at night and in many different lighting situations, when you run it makes it much harder for my camera to focus and often results in photos that are fuzzy. If you want to ensure your photographer gets a good shot of your groom fist bumping his buddies or your blushing bride waving to her grandma, you need to slowwwww dowwwwnnnn.
I always tell my couples to enjoy the moment, trying to memorize each face in that moment as they pass or take a moment to look at each other and memorize that moment as well! This day, while amazing, is fleeting so it's important to really soak it all in.
TIP#4: HAVE A PLAN FOR CLEAN UP
First and foremost, you need to prep guests by having a sign or having it on your detail card in your invitation suite that you are doing a sparkler exit. The couples that I have worked with that put this somewhere for guests have always had more people for their exit. If guests don't know there is a big send off, they will leave early. Weddings are long days for everyone, guests included, and many will grab their cake and go. Keep them around by telling them there is a sparkler send-off at 10 pm.
Second, have a plan for clean up! Sparklers are probably one of your venue's nightmares. If they have beautiful white concrete and your guests just drop the sparklers on the ground, now the venue manager has to power wash soot for the wedding behind held there in the morning. Obviously dropping the firework in the grass is a terrible idea, but I've witnessed plenty drunk people doing terrible ideas to know that this happens more often than you think. My suggestion: get a few metal buckets or construction buckets with water and have them placed outside the lines so people can drop their sparklers in there.
TIP #5: THE LINE NEEDS TO BE TIGHT IF YOU WANT A TON OF SPARKLES IN THE PHOTO
This is one of the "rules" I give to the guests if the couple so chooses. Of course, the closer the line is the more you run the risk of having a stray spark or two hit your skin or clothes, but I'm somewhat of a risk it for the biscuit type person. If your guests are really far apart you won't see a lot of sparkle. If you stop kind of mid way, I also encourage guests in the back to squeeze in so there are sparklers behind you too.
TIP #6: DIP KISS MORE TOWARD THE MIDDLE
This goes along with tip five. If you kiss more in the middle, it's easier to capture a ton of sparkler action. If you wait until there very end, you're probably really close to the camera, sparklers have burnt out and it's just anti-climactic cause no one is right there cheering in your ears. You could even go mid-end of the line and still be good. Just don't wait until the very end to give the people what they want. (Unless you planned some big fireworks finish...then the end is okay lol)
TIP #7: FAKE THE EXIT!!!
This is probably my favoriteeeeee tip out there and I suggest it all the time. Faking the exit has sooooo many benefits to you and to your photographer. I tell the couple to only invite their immediate family members and wedding party to the fake exit because with less people, I can control the crowd and there is no need to have another person run the moment. An additional bonus to having just the wedding party is that they are wearing all matching stuff and that looks aesthetically pleasing in your gallery.
When I fake it, I also like to have the couple hold sparklers too and the group crowd around you guys in like a half-moon so we get the ultimate sparkler effect! We can pose, laugh, dip kiss....like all the things. Seriously, faking the sparkler exit is awesome. You might even have friends like Sarah and Dash below who planned a firework show after the sparkler exit...makes more the most EPIC PHOTOS!
The last positive of a fake exit is if we don't get what we want, we do it again! If the sparklers ran out too fast or we didn't get enough light on your faces....we just light em up for one more round!! It rarely happens that another go at the fake exit is needed, but I never say never and it's nice to have the back up plan should we need it. One example of something that might cause you to need a redo is if it is raining. With a fake exit, we can crowd 10 to 12 people under an awning and get those photos even in the rain, but obviously rain puts out the firework so it's nice to re-light and go again.
Whew!!! And those are my tried and true sparkler send off tips!! I hope this gives you some confidence in your big exit and you are more than ready with a sparkler plan for the best end to your night ever!
Laura Stiles is a San Antonio Wedding Photographer who loves to capture couples who are excited for their new life together, love to cheese for the camera, and have a slightly quirky side. Interested in learning more? Click here! www.laurastilesphoto.com/texasbrides