Planning / Nailing Your Wedding Sparkler Photos
I’ll be the first one to admit that when I first started shooting weddings I had no idea how execute (much less shoot) sparklers at a wedding. Whether my couple wanted to just have everyone around them with the sparklers or if they wanted to do a real or faux wedding exit with them, I knew what I wanted the images to look like but I just couldn’t get it right. Capturing the sparkler photos correctly takes knowing exactly what settings to use as well as having a camera that is capable of shooting in low light conditions really well. But after doing some research and, of course, more experience, I think I finally have it down to a science! So here is my advice on what you can do on your part to help your photographer nail your sparkler photos.
First (and most importantly if you ask me), you have to make sure you get the right sparklers for the job. The small 8” sparklers we all know and love that we buy at the dollar store for 4th of July just won’t make the cut. They are too short and burn too quickly so by the time all your guests in the back of the lines have their sparklers lit, the first half of them are already burnt out. And trust me when I say that getting them all lit at the same time is near impossible! But I’ll address that in a minute. Back to what sparklers to buy. I have had several clients purchase their sparklers from Wedding Sparkler Outlet. They offer different lengths (the longer the better!!!) and they are incredibly reasonable in price and they have burned longer and brighter than others I’ve seen! (And, they have other products to customize your sparklers and other details at your wedding!) ;) You’re welcome.
The next thing you have to think about is how to light the sparklers. Of course there are always a few guests attending your wedding who smoke and they are usually happy to offer their lighters to help light them. And those little matchbooks with your names on them are adorable and make for great wedding favors and detail photos but they definitely aren’t efficient in lighting 100 sparklers in about 30 seconds! I serendipitously found the best way to light sparklers at one of the last weddings I shot in 2018. It had been perfect sun and clouds weather all day at this particular wedding in late October. We were outside, obviously, and the weather was starting to change, as the fickle Ohio weather does, and there was rain blowing in, so it was really windy, but this bride wanted these photos badly. And they had spent the money on the good sparklers and the little cards to go on them with their names and we were GOING to find a way to make this happen but we couldn’t even light one sparkler because no matter what method we used to light it, the wind blew it out. Then I remembered that there was a s’mores station inside for guests and on that there were three of those little chafing dish flaming bowls that caterers use to keep big pans of food hot.. they’re called chafing fuel dishes and they cost about $1.50 each at party stores and it was absolutely the best way we have ever been able to light lots of sparklers at one time. And it’s self fueled so you don’t have to worry about lighting it over and over again. It is a strong flame contained in a dish that you have to snuff out so it’s going to take a lot of wind to blow these out! If you had 4 or 5 of them placed along the lines of guests where lots of people could reach their sparklers into the flame at one time it would be perfect!
Now, what to do with the sparklers? The most popular thing to do is have your guests make 2 lines and you “run” from one end through to the other end and I shoot along the way, running backwards in front of you. Usually I will stop you to kiss along the way too because having all those soft lights surrounding you can make for pretty romantic photos! If you do stop to kiss, make sure to really get into it! This is a great time to dip or do the hug-and-pickup kiss. And be sure you look happy when you’re coming through. Don’t get so distracted by the sparks and being worried about your hair catching on fire that you don’t enjoy the moment and forget to have a great expression on your face. I’ve yet to see someone get burnt or have something catch on fire from sparklers! Candles on the head table seem to be the biggest pyro hazard at weddings (hello hairspray) but that’s another blog post entirely! ha!
Another option, and one we have used before, is to use the sparklers during your first dance, if the venue will allow you to use them inside. Have all the guests line up around the perimeter of the dance floor with their sparklers and have your first dance lit only by the sparkler light. It is absolutely magical! And you know, as a bonus, this also assures that your guests are paying attention to the dancing, which provides for great photos as well. There are few worse things in your photos than when the people in the background aren’t really aware of what’s going on, so to have all your guests actually participate means you have everyone’s undivided attention and their big, happy faces in your photos makes these wonderfully memorable moments even more special.
You could just use sparklers for some bridal party photos, if you don’t have it in your budget to buy them for all your guests or if you don’t want to stop your reception completely to do it. Or, to keep it really simple just get a small package of them to do some romantic couple portraits and we can even “write” with them! This takes some skill and patience but it’s fun and makes beautiful photos for social media and printing! And even if you want to do them for everyone at the wedding, we can keep a few aside for some couple photos with them, too!
The thing that makes your wedding unique and memorable will be all the little details throughout the day. These things, paired with the fun aspects you incorporate into your day will be what your guests remember. Sparklers are very trendy right now but if you can come up with something unique to do with them, everyone is guaranteed to remember your wedding! And if you want to do something fun but don’t want to be trendy, find another way to light up the night with your guests! ;)