We’ve all seen them. Sparkler wedding receptions exits have been a trend for years, and when successful, the photos can be truly amazing. Many couples want to close out their wedding day with a fiery bang. Unfortunately, sparkler exits are often more hazardous than fun, and for the safety of your friends, family, and paid wedding vendors, it might be time to say farewell to this tradition.
Sparklers Are a Major Safety Hazard
This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone reading this, but any time that fire is involved at a wedding, the possibility of injury increases. Add a fair amount of alcohol to the mix and that risk quadruples.
We’ve heard our fair share of sparkler horror stories over the years, and this tale of a wedding photographer who almost lost his hand remains one of the scariest to date. Sadly, his story is not rare. Almost every wedding vendor we’ve talked to who has participated in a sparkler send-off had similarly terrible things to say. The couple wants to capture that amazing sparkler photo, but often things don’t work out as planned.
“At a friend's wedding many years ago where I was the 'friend-tographer', the couple did a sparkler exit and a spark fell on my wife's skirt and it burst into flames,” says Atlanta photographer Amanda Summerlin. “I missed photographing their exit because I was putting out the fire.”
Wedding guests aren’t the only ones at risk. If you’re getting married in a dress with lots of extra fabric, you are putting yourself at risk by walking through a tunnel of fire. At a wedding photographed by Upstate New York photographer Jacqueline Connor, the sparkler send-off had dire consequences for both her and the bride.
“The bride’s dress was on fire, and the ground was on fire around the couple,” says Connor. “Oh, also, my hair was lit on fire.”
We’re pretty sure no one wants to start their marriage with severe burns. If after reading this, you’re still considering a sparkler exit, here are some extra things you need to know.
Double Check with the Venue and Your Vendors Before Planning a Sparkler Exit
For any kind of send-off, you need to talk with your venue to see what type of celebrations are allowed. Many venues ban everything from sparklers to confetti, so read their contract closely and talk with your venue manager ahead of time. Dry grass and landscaping can easily catch on fire. If you’re close to a building during the sparkler send-off, major damage can be done with one stray spark.
Venues and photographers aren’t the only ones who are uneasy about this trend, though. It can also be a wedding planner’s worst nightmare, and many vendors have started adding clauses to their contracts to say they won’t work weddings where sparklers are involved.
“It's in my contract that I won't coordinate any activities with sparklers or amateur fireworks,” says Leah Weinberg, the lead planner and designer of Color Pop Events in NYC. “In June, a venue coordinator showed me her hands that were covered in scars from when a drunk guest lit sparklers she was holding, but not intending to light. She had the sparklers behind her back and someone lit them.”
Talk about a nightmare scenario.
Not All Sparklers Are Created Equal
Many traditional sparklers that you might have seen at Independence Day celebrations are actually terrible for weddings. These traditional sparklers may be made of wood, and can create a lot of smoke and ash that can make your photos look terrible, damage your wedding decor or attire, and can potentially harm your guests.
If you opt for sparklers (and get the approval from all of your vendors), make sure you buy metal sparklers that emit gold sparks, and that are long enough such that they don’t burn our after a few seconds. These metal stick sparklers often give off less smoke than their wood or colorful counterparts. Do your research, and be sure to ask any retailer whether the sparklers you’re about to buy are wedding-friendly.
Get Wedding Insurance
Some venues will require couples to pay for event insurance coverage for their wedding, or may require it in the specific instances where sparklers are used. If your venue doesn’t require you to have insurance, check with each of your wedding vendors to see if they have their own insurance coverage. If your wedding vendors don’t have enough coverage, be ready to buy your own.
Wedding insurance, like any other type of insurance, is going to vary. Much depends on the plan you have and what additional coverage you opt for. If you have renter’s or homeowner’s insurance, you might be covered for your wedding as well, but you always need to double check with your insurance provider to be sure.
If you are signing up for wedding insurance, expect to pay anywhere from $150-$600. Much of the price will depend on the number of guests, the venue, and what type of coverage you choose. If you’re including a sparkler exit, candles, or any sort of pyrotechnics, pay a little extra and make sure you have personal liability and medical coverage to ensure that you won’t be liable if your guests are injured during your wedding day.
Rethink Whether Your Dream Photos are Actually Achievable
If your end goal with a sparkler exit is to have amazing photos of you, your partner, and all of your guests, then consider what it will take to actually coordinate all of your guests for this type of send-off. In many cases, it can become a bit like herding cats. All of the risk you’ve taken on by having sparklers might not even be worth it.
“Some weddings I’ve shot have had major issues getting everyone coordinated enough to make a sparkler exit happen,” says Bay Area photographer Rachelle Rawlings. “Guests can’t find lighters or can’t get the sparklers lit. It’s hard to coordinate any exit but sparklers take it to a new level.”
There are steps that you can take, however, to reduce your risk and increase your likelihood of capturing that ideal photo.
“My new policy when someone wants sparkler photos is to require that it happen earlier in the evening when your guests are less drunk, and only include the wedding party,” says Philadelphia wedding planner Natalie Diener. “It’s a smaller group to organize, and you still get the same photos.”
No matter what you decide to do, always use caution to ensure that you, your guests, and your wedding vendors all leave without injury.
Jen Siomacco is the CEO and Creative Director of Catalyst Wedding Co. She works to mesh together her love of feminism, love stories, equality and design into the layout and brand of Catalyst while she sits on her couch and snuggles up with her SUPER lazy cats.