The first dance has been done and the cake's been cut—now it's time for the grand finale. It's easy to make your wedding exit just as exciting as your entrance with a little help from your guests. And you can customize it to fit your personalities perfectly. "We once did a lighter send-off for a rock-and-roll musician couple," recalls wedding expert Heather Balliet. "Such a fun and personal way to end the night!"
Meet the Expert
Heather Balliet is an event planner and stylist with over 13 years of experience designing one-of-a-kind weddings. She is the owner of Amorology, a California based event coordination and design house.
Whether you're timing it at the very end of the special night or as you depart from your ceremony venue, en route to the reception, this fun tradition is always super fun and interactive for everyone. "Send-offs on the dance floor!" exclaims Balliet. "We have seen a lot of our couples combine both their last dance with their send-off and have everyone gather together on the dance floor as the night comes to an end." And who can forget those epic photos that are captured as a result?
While Balliet mentions that streamers are the favorite send-off request, she's executed everything from wheat to oats to rose petals. "For our oatmeal loving couple, we incorporated oats into their décor and had their guests hand-toss oats as they left for the night," she recalls. And don't fret if you're tackling the wedding details sans planner or are sticking to a budget. "Get creative," advises Balliet. "Using confetti, glow sticks, and bubbles can all be budget-friendly and simple for the to-be-weds to organize."
From streamers to sparklers to balloon releases and beyond, here are our favorite wedding send-off ideas.
Light the Way With Pillar Candles
Your guests can light the way out with romantic pillar candles so you and your love exit through a sweet sea of candlelight. Or, opt for a hands-free approach and create a candle-lit aisle while your guests gush over the two of you. "Our favorite part of the send-off is always getting to give a big hug to our newlyweds as we send them off with all of their guests," says Balliet. Dim interiors and nighttime celebrations are the perfect environments for a little romantic glow, but please consider using votives to protect the flame (and everyone else!).
Provide your guests with colorful streamers to wave at you as you leave the wedding. The vibrant colors will make for exciting wedding photos and a whole lot of fun for you and your newly-minted spouse to make your way through. And, naturally, you can coordinate the streamers with the hues of your wedding.
Have your guests release a sea of biodegradable balloons into the sky for a truly uplifting moment. One of Balliet's brides even creatively replaced the idea of a traditional guest book by having guests tie their well-wishes to balloons and collectively releasing them from a balcony. This is best for a daytime wedding so you can watch as the balloons ascend into the sky.
Have a Balloon Toss
Don't fret if your wedding is indoors. A playful balloon toss is just as magical and possibly even far more fun. Have your guests toss them towards you and your spouse as you attempt to dodge them or return the volley. Choose colors and textures that befit your wedding style and venue and wait for the fun-filled photos.
Release Sky Lanterns
If your wedding reception will end after dusk (as most weddings do), you can have your guests release sky lanterns as you take off. There's nothing more romantic than watching these pepper the sky. Many even consider the ceremony to be good luck and charge the lanterns with their personal wishes as they ascend toward the heavens. (Use battery-operated lights, however, instead of an open flame, which can lead to a fire.)
Blow Tiny Bubbles
Streamers and petals are pretty, but require extra post-ceremony cleanup. Bubbles double as fun favors with less mess—just don't get too sticky. While you may think these suds only lend themselves to daytime celebrations, we disagree. With enough ambient lighting, a bubble fest will be just as visible after dusk—or you can even opt for glow-in-the-dark bubbles. And if you really want to get serious about your bubbly exit employ a bubble machine.
Setting butterflies free symbolizes new beginnings and happiness. (Just make sure to find a butterfly release company that ensures the safety of the butterflies, first and foremost). The butterflies will flutter about the new couple before flying free, making for a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity and a final wedding memory you'll never forget. "These are always so pretty and it is a sweet way for guests to let them go with good wishes for the newlyweds," says Balliet.
You can't go wrong with sequins if you're looking for a super sparkly exit. Plan a sequin toss for daytime festivities or in a well-lit area as the sequins will need a source of light to refract for optimal glimmer. We recommend having a sequin or glitter toss somewhere with hard flooring (like pavement or wood) rather than grass or sand as cleanup is much easier.
Set Off Confetti Poppers
Like glitter, the confetti will explode everywhere and make for colorful pictures. There's less sparkle and shine, but easier cleanup. Replace a traditional confetti toss with a biodegradable version so the natural landscape surrounding your venue won’t suffer.
"Consider if your venue requires you to pick up any send-off items," advises Balliet. "We have been at venues throughout the wee hours of the night to collect every last bit of confetti!"
Toss Artificial Snow
There's really nothing more perfect for a winter wedding exit than handfuls of artificial snow tossed on the newlyweds as they make their way to the getaway car. Of course, you can always opt for the real thing if you've had a falling of fresh powder on the big day, but this could turn into an all-out snowball fight. Either way, magical photos of a glistening getaway are a surefire result.
For a fall wedding, leaves are totally on-theme. As an added bonus, gathering up leaves in gorgeous autumnal hues is absolutely free (just make sure they're completely dry and not damp). You can also add glitter to the leaves for some extra wedding shimmer, then prepare to dash off into wedded bliss amidst a flurry of golden autumnal goodness.
Wave Ribbon Wands
For a sense of rustic whimsy, create ribbon wands for your guests to wiggle back and forth as you make your great escape. Bonus: These colorful wands are a super easy DIY project. Just pick out your favorite ribbon combo and tie to dowels for the most dynamic (and photogenic!) wedding exit.
A Flameless Approach
Some venues aren't entirely amenable to the idea of open flames. So what substitute can provide couples with equally spectacular visuals without breaking the rules? If you're looking for a no-flame sparkler consider lighted branches, glow sticks, fiber-optic wands, or LED balloons. Battery-operated lighted branches or wands offer a similar effect to actual sparklers.
For an extra delicious exit, have guests toss handfuls of sprinkles your way. Did you know you can buy sprinkles in bulk, up to 25 pounds? We'd say that's a pretty sweet deal. And, if you want to go for an all-out theme consider having your wedding cake decorated with the little delights or opt for a layer of funfetti.
Skip any kind of toss and have your guests ring tiny bells as you depart for a melodious goodbye. Going for a country vibe? Cowbells should fit right in. Having a festive winter wedding? Sleighbells ring, are you listening? And if it's really just a tune that you're looking for, feel free to use any instrumental substitute like tamborines, maracas, even kazoos.
Fly Paper Airplanes
Imagine paper airplanes soaring back and forth above the scene as you and your honey walk toward the getaway car. We're not talking about the kind of paper airplanes you threw back and forth in eighth-grade geometry, either. Make yours out of origami or craft paper in hues that complement your wedding colors. It's one of the most whimsical, one-of-a-kind wedding send-off ideas.
"A favorite of ours is lavender," says Balliet. "Not only is the color stunning, but bunches of lavender smell amazing and create such a romantic feel." A lavender toss would be especially lovely at a wedding in the spring or summer and adds a bit of provincial French flair to any occasion. You can also incorporate other dried flowers like chamomile or calendulas to the mix.
A Hindu Vidaai Ceremony
For Hindu brides, the Vidaai ceremony is a deeply emotional send-off finalizing the end of the wedding festivities. At this time, the bride gives her heartfelt farewells to her parents before leaving with her new spouse. As she exits, she tosses rice and coins over her head as a symbolic show of gratitude for the lifetime of love and prosperity she was given by her parents.
While there is no truth to the rumors of rice being dangerous to a bird's digestion, birdseed tosses have gained tremendous popularity as a result. Sustainable, eco-friendly, and easy on the budget, this alternative is a win in our books. Just be sure to orchestrate the send-off during the day time so the birds can actually assist with the cleanup.
Both rice and bird seeds have similar physical structures that can cause people to slip and fall when walking over them. Exercise caution if the toss is occurring in places with hard surfaces like pavement, wood, or tile.
Throw Local Greenery or Herbs
There's nothing we love more than fully incorporating the natural environment of your carefully chosen locale. So going local with your exit toss is a no brainer. Sourcing from local finds that are native to that region like olive leaves, eucalyptus, or herbs like sage or rosemary will not only be budget-friendly and sustainable but also provide complete immersion into the destination.
Fan Palm Fronds
Planning some hot festivities? Stay on-theme with your tropical wedding by having guests create an aisle of fanning palm fronds as you make your regal exit. The photos will be incredible and you'll probably be thankful for a bit of breeze. "This creates not only a beautiful send-off but is eco-friendly as well," adds Balliet.
Bust Out the Colored Smoke Bombs
How about a real smoke show? Equip your guests with hand-held smoke bombs (or have a professional release them on cue) and dash off through clouds of color from delicate wisps and plumes to a full-blown, ethereal backdrop. You can even time it so your getaway vehicle drives through the mystical haze. But please only use these in outdoor settings and double-check with your venue first. Also, keep in mind that the colors may stain clothing and that any photographer should be made aware of your intent to use them beforehand.
Wedding send-offs tend to be an emotionally-charged atmosphere. Equip your guests with handkerchiefs to comfort them during your grand exit or to be joyfully waved as they bid you bon voyage. Have the hankies customized with the wedding date or a sentimental message so they double as a token from the big day.
Flags and pennants are a great way to personalize your send-off and custom tailor the event. You can have simple flags of your wedding colors, assert your fandom for a favorite team or alma mater, or show off your new monogram or crest. This couple had guests wave flags with a laurel wreath encircling their monogram initial, an emblem that holds sentimental meaning to them.
Plan a Second Line Parade
A second line parade is a longstanding New Orleans wedding tradition that has the newlyweds, bridal party, and wedding guests take to the streets in a celebratory fashion. The procession is often accompanied by a brass band and led by a grand marshall. Traditionally, the newlyweds lead with parasols or umbrellas.
Join a Parade Procession
Wedding parades aren't only limited to NOLA locales, traditional processions of the wedding party and guests are cultural mainstays throughout Mexico and other Hispanic countries. These are subject to much fanfare including professional dancers, mariachi bands, and group tequila shots along the way. “The exit and parade will forever be some of the best minutes of my life, holding Jeremy’s hand and smiling wildly while we danced through town,” recalls bride Hilary.
Schedule an Airshow
Go out in style with a fully-fledged, elite squadron of aerobatic aircrafts leading the way. Whether you have an affinity for aircrafts, would like to pay tribute to military service, or just want an adrenaline-packed exit this wedding send-off will definitely be one for the books. We suggest arranging for this nuptial exit during the daytime with clear skies and plenty of unobstructed sky views.
Cue the Cotton Candy
If you have a sweet tooth, we've got a tasty send-off idea for you. Cotton candy! This delectable prop will add loads of color and texture to your grand exit, not to mention tons of youthful fun. Plus, it doubles as a post-ceremony or late-night snack for your guests. Just be sure to keep out of rain as the colorful floss disintegrates when wet.
A Land Getaway
Last but not least, if you don't quite have your sea legs or an affinity for the open water there are quite a few options for a memorable getaway. Consider a vintage car, a retro motorcycle, a fairytale horse-drawn carriage, a playful tandem bike, a snazzy golf cart, or, dare we even say, a hot air balloon? Don't forget the "just married" sign and accompanying accoutrements for your flashy exit.