It’s your wedding day and you are about to do your grand exit. You may be asking yourself, what can I use instead of sparklers at a wedding? Or what do you throw at weddings instead of rice? Well, the good news is that there are many fun options to choose from (glow sticks are one of our favorites). We have also included many eco-friendly wedding send-off ideas.
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Creative Wedding Send Off Ideas After your Wedding Reception:
Glow sticks are a great alternative to wedding sparklers. One reason we love glow sticks is that you can use them on the dance floor for the last part of the reception and then reuse them for your big exit.
Photo tips for a glow stick send off:
Make a plan with your photographer ahead of time to get the best results from your glow stick exit. Your wedding photographer can slow down the shutter speed on their camera a little bit (somewhere between 1/30-of-a-second and 1/4-of-a-second). Then by adding a pop of flash (set up high and off to the side if possible) they can freeze you and your husband/wife while capturing the movement of the glow sticks. It’s a really cool look if done correctly.
Make sure to stop about halfway through your exit to give each other a kiss (or a dip). This will get everyone cheering, which will give the photos a much more energetic feel.
If you are having a winter wedding, fake snow could be the perfect choice for your wedding reception send off.
You can either use a snow machine (rent, buy or ask your DJ if they have access to one) or you can use white/silver confetti. We recommend using biodegradable confetti.
If you are using a snow machine or confetti, make sure you check with your wedding venue to get the rules and requirements for your send off.
For the best photo results (whether you are using a snow machine or confetti), follow these tips:
- Have someone in your wedding party coordinate the send-off (pick someone loud). This way they can get everyone to toss the confetti at the same time right as you’re walking down the aisle for your exit.
- Stop halfway down to kiss (or dip) for better photos (your guests will get more animated and cheer).
- Have your photographer use a flash behind you (and another off to the side). This really makes the photos more dramatic.
- Check out the snow photo below for a great example (this was 2 snow machines with one flash up high and to the side of the couple and a 2nd flash behind the couple. you can see how it really makes the couples pop from the scene and it adds lots of texture and details to the snow/scene)
Sky lanterns can look really amazing in photos, but they can also be really high maintenance. We have watched many couples struggle with trying to get them to work. We have seen weddings where guests started walking away because it was taking so long. And even after getting them warmed up and lit, only 1 went up every 20-30 seconds. We recommend doing your homework if you are going to do this at your wedding. Don’t wing it.
If you end up doing a sky lantern send-off, here are a couple of tips to get the best results from your photos:
- We recommend only having the wedding party, the couple, and the family lighting the lanterns. This gives you a better chance of getting those up at the same time (better photos). Plus this gives the rest of your guests the chance to simply enjoy the view.
- Have your photographer/videographer get a few shots up close of the two of you lighting and sending the lanterns up.
- Then have them back up quickly to get photos/video of the entire scene with the group watching the lanterns rise up in the air (if they have a 2nd photographer, they can cover both of these angles without having to reposition).
- The main thing is making sure you get a close-up shot of you lighting the lantern, and then a wider photo of the lantern going up above the crowd into the night sky.
- Note: Make sure to talk with your venue before purchasing these lanterns. Not only do many venues not allow things like this, but some states like California also have a statewide ban on them. You can pretty much count on not doing them if you are getting married anywhere where there are wildfires or grassfires.
- Opt for a battery-powered light instead of an open flame for a safer lantern send-off.
Confetti is a really popular send-off option for the big day because it looks great in pictures plus it’s easy to find (you can even make it yourself). We recommend using biodegradable confetti (or making your own).
As with every other send-off idea, the couple should stop about halfway down the aisle to kiss.
Make a plan for cleanup. Don’t hesitate to ask your venue if they offer the service or if you are required to do it yourself. It’s better to know ahead of time.
We recently helped with a wedding where the bride’s uncle put his ShopVac in his truck. After the sendoff, he brought it out and had the entire mess cleaned up in less than 3 minutes. Awesome!
Confetti poppers can really add some additional excitement to the big exit/entrance.
If you are looking for more ideas like this to use at your wedding ceremony, check out this article: Non-traditional wedding ceremony ideas
School cheer poms
If you are having a wedding that incorporates your college colors/mascot into the theme (this is a really big thing with Penn State Alumni and similar colleges), using cheerleading pom-poms for your send-off would be a fun way to do your grand exit (or even your reception entrance).
You can easily make your own or you can order cheer poms with your school colors from Etsy.
If you’re a Star Wars fan, would there be anything more epic than having a lightsaber send off at your wedding?
Remember. The force will be with you. Always.
Silly string is a great option for a send off. Definitely only use this one for the reception exit. If you do this right after the ceremony, you will be trying to pull silly string off of yourself for 30 minutes.
Have your photographer add a 2nd flash behind you to really light up the string and make it pop.
Fireworks are the ultimate end to any celebration. Who doesn’t love a great firework show?
Many venues will not allow fireworks so it’s best to ask on your venue tour if it’s something that is important to you. If the venue does allow them, they will probably be able to give you a referral to a company that does them. We recommend only going with a very reputable company.
If you do have the space and budget for a firework send-off, here are a few tips on getting the best photos:
- The couple should be out in front of the guests (just a few feet will do).
- If your photographer is experienced with flash, have them add in a pop of flash from the side (or back) to really make the couple stand out.
- Take a lot of images
- Coordinate with your photographer and have them take a few of you kissing or dipping as the fireworks go off. These will make amazing photos for your album.
- Play around with different shutter speeds (anywhere from 1/30 of a second down to 1 full second). If taking photos at 1 full second your photographer will want to use a tripod or monopod.
- By using a combination of slow shutter speeds and a pop of flash, you will get photos that show the couple really sharp, and at the same time, you will capture the movement of the firework bursts. You can see a sample of this technique above.
A wedding sparkler send off is by far the most common way to end a wedding reception. In the past 5 years, over 75% of the weddings that we have covered have ended with a sparkler exit.
Why are sparkler exits so common? It’s a great way to end the night and they look awesome in photos (if done right).
Tips for the best wedding sparkler exit photos:
- All guests should be lined up across from each other in a line (half on each side, facing each other).
- Have multiple people lighting the sparklers from both ends on the line. A small torch works really well for this. Ask your venue if they have one. Many of the venues we have worked with will offer this if they allow sparkler exits. If no torch, buy multiple wind-resistant butane lighters (the long ones). Pass out a few at the beginning, middle, and end of the line.
- Once the couple is ready, have the venue coordinator, best man, or maid of honor (or anyone with a loud voice) give the green light for lighting the sparklers.
- When the couple gets about 1/3 of the way down, they should stop and kiss (of a dip). This gets everyone cheering and makes for better photos. They should stop and kiss/dip again about 2/3 of the way down.
- If you purchased sparklers that are big enough (20-30 inches), you will have time to go down the aisle again. This is the perfect opportunity for your photographer and/or videographer to backpedal right in front of you to get a really close shot of the action.
- We recommend talking with your photo/video team ahead of time to make this plan. We recommend having them photograph/video the first walk down the aisle from the back of the aisle. This allows them to get great shots and gives all of your guests the opportunity to see you walking down the aisle.
- We have seen many weddings where the couple did not coordinate this with the photo/video team. So the photographer and videographer immediately walked backward with the couple and blocked the view from almost all of the guests. We have heard many guests complain about this.
- This problem can be solved by having the photo/video team getting their shots from the back of the aisle and then the 2nd run with them walking with you (up close). You get a great variety of photos and your guests will love it!
- Your photographer can photograph this moment with natural light, or for a more dramatic look they can set up a flash behind you (and/or) up high to the side. Don’t be shy about asking them how they are going to light this moment. If they are not very experienced with flash, it will probably be best to have them photograph it with only natural light.
- Below are two examples (the photo on the left is with natural light (no flash), the photo on the right is with a flash behind the couple, and a 2nd flash up high on the side (held by an assistant).
Joy Michelle shares a few tips and samples using some of the techniques that I mentioned above. Check out the short video (or share with your photographer if they do not have experience with sparkler exits):
Safety tip: Make sure to have a bucket or 2 filled with water or sand at the site of the sparkler exit. This way your guests have a safe place to put the sparklers once they are used. Make an announcement before you light them. This way everyone is paying attention.
Best Wedding Ceremony Exit Ideas (The Recessional)
Bubbles are by far one of our favorite wedding exits (for either the ceremony or the reception). The reasons we love them so much is that they are cheap and affordable, most wedding venues don’t have an issue with using them, and they look amazing in photos.
Here are a few tips to get the best results (and photos) from your bubble exit:
- Use bubble guns! A few weddings that we have photographed used bubble guns and the results were amazing (sample photo above). The amount of bubbles that these things produce is simply awesome.
- Put the loudest person you know in charge of coordinating the bubble send-off (telling everyone when to starting blowing bubbles). The reason for this is you want everyone to blow bubbles at the same time just before the couple exits. This will result in the most bubbles (and the best photos). When you leave it up to the guests, they will typically start blowing bubbles once they see the couples starting to exit. By the time the majority of the bubbles make their way high enough for cool photos, the couple is already past them. The key to a great bubble exit is blowing lots of bubbles just before the couple exits.
- The happy couple should stop halfway down the aisle and kiss (or do a dip or a twirl). This will automatically get people cheering (which makes for a more energetic photo), plus it allows even more bubbles to get into the air for even better photos.
- As mentioned above, bubbles are a great exit option for the ceremony or the reception. If doing them after the wedding reception (when it’s dark), have your photographer use a flash behind you and another up high and off to the side. The flash positioned behind you will backlight the bubbles and the couple, and really make them pop from the scene. The flash up high and off to the side will add a lot of texture and detail to the photo. If you only use the flash on your camera, the photos at night will come out a little flat and washed out looking (the key is getting the flash off your camera (behind and/or up high and to the side of the couple).
Pom Pom Balls
Pom pom balls are a really fun idea for a wedding send-off. They are cheap and can be purchased online or at any arts & crafts store.
Cleanup tip: Bring a ShopVac and have someone in the wedding party clean up right after the send-off. It only took 2 minutes to clean up all of these pom pom balls.
Rose petals (or any other flower petals)
Rose petals (or other flower petals that you love) are perfect for couples wanting a truly romantic send-off at their wedding.
Throwing rose petals look amazing in photos and will give your images that romantic comedy end-of-movie-wedding-scene look that we have all know so well.
If you are passing small cones of flower petals out to guests as they arrive for the ceremony, have a small sign displayed that gives them instructions.
You want it to say something like: “Shower the couple with these flower petals as they make their way down the aisle after the ceremony. Throw them up high over the couple”
Once great thing about flower petals is that you can color coordinate them to your wedding colors/theme.
Talk with your venue before the wedding to make sure they allow flower petals.
Streamers (ribbon wands)
Ribbon wands and streamers are a great option for wedding send-offs because they do not make a mess, and they are easy to find (you can buy them off of Etsy or you can easily make your own).
We love using streamers and ribbon wands because the couple can color coordinate them with the bridesmaid’s dresses/wedding decor (they come in an endless variety of colors). Plus they make for beautiful photos.
Paper airplanes are a great send-off option for couples looking for something a little more unique or different.
For the best photo results, here a few tips for the paper airplane toss:
- Have the best man or maid of honor loudly give instructions to the guests
- Have guests form 2 lines facing each other
- When the couple starts walking down the aisle, all guests should start throwing their paper airplanes up in the air at the same time (the more planes in the air together, the better the photos.
- The couples should stop and kiss as soon as the planes get tossed.
You can make your own paper airplanes or you can buy custom made planes with your name and wedding date on them.
Leaves can be used anytime of year for a send-off, but if you are having a fall wedding, using autumn leaves is a no-brainer.
You can either have guests throw full sized leaves, or you can break them up into smaller pieces.
Another great idea is getting a heart-shaped hole punch (or circle, star, or any other fun shape) and making your own fall leaf confetti.
Beach balls make the perfect exit idea if getting married on the beach or in a beach resort (or any outdoor wedding that has a beach theme).
They are cheap and easy to clean up.
They make for really fun photos. Bring them along to the reception and have your guests bounce them around the dance floor as you see at a summer concert.
Horse and carriage
Throwing rice as the couple exits the wedding ceremony dates back to ancient Roman times. Guests showered the couple with rice, wheat, or oats (depending on the area and what was available) as a symbol of growing from the ground up. The couple’s new life was starting a brand new chapter from the beginning.
Out of all the send-off ideas, tossing rice is probably the easiest and cheapest.
A quick safety tip: Rice is extremely slippery if stepped on while on a hard surface like wood or concrete. Be careful if using in an area like that.
Just like rice, bird seed is a classic wedding exit thing to throw to/on/at the couple after the wedding ceremony.
It’s cheap and easy to purchase.
Just remember, if you are doing the exit on a hard surface, the bird seed can make the ground very slippery.
Classic antique car (or any car you want)
An antique classic car is definitely a way to arrive or exit your wedding in style. Make sure you get a few fun posed shots with the car.
Some other vehicles we have seen used are: A 57 Chevy, A 65 Mustang, A VW convertible bug, A Hummer, A DeLorean, and a Harley Davidson.
A butterfly wedding ceremony release can be amazing if done properly. Make sure you talk witn your butterfly farmer and follow their instructions.
We recommend only doing a butterfly release in spring and summer. This way the butterflies have plenty of flowers and nectar to eat after the wedding day.
Smoke bombs have become really popular these past few years. We love that you can color coordinate the smoke to your wedding colors/theme.
Saber arch (swords)
Motorcycle or dirt bike
This was one of the most epic wedding reception entrances and exits that we have ever seen. The bride and groom arrived to the wedding reception on custom made Honda dirt bikes. They ate dinner, danced with friends, and left the reception in style on their new rides.
We photographed this wedding in the backyard of a lake house in New Hampshire. The bride and groom did a sparkler exit, got in their boat, and drove to the other side of the lake to a private cabin. Definitely a unique wedding send-off!
A few more wedding send off ideas that we are working to get photos of:
- Biodegradable balloons
- Edible sprinkles
- Dried Lavender
- White handkerchiefs (colored handkerchiefs would work great too!)
- Mini flags
- Percussion instruments (tamborines, kazoos, cow bells, etc.)
- Cap guns
- Mardi Gras style musician line (perfect if you have a band with a horn section playing at your wedding reception)
Wedding send-off tradition (what is the meaning?)
Sending the newly married couple off at the end of the wedding reception is a tradition that dates back hundreds of years (Ancient Roman times). It was a way to end the celebration and signal the couples new chapter of life together.