Weddings & Life with Taylor Nicole, a podcast by Denver Wedding Photographer,
Taylor Nicole Photography
Intro: So if you’re planning a wedding and looking for an awesome send off picture at the end of the night this episode is for you. A send off isn’t something you need to plan very far in advance but the regulations about what materials are allowed to be used for a venue send off can be limiting and tricky to navigate. If you live out west like I do more often than not the classic sparklers are banned for fire risks. So I have gathered a list of the best send off alternatives from a photographer’s perspective, which matters a lot because you’re basically doing this for the photos after all right? And if you listen to the end I will share my number one send off piece of advice. Basically if you want to guarantee picture perfect send off photos you will want to listen all the way through… or fast forward to the end haha I guess that’s up to you! Thanks for listening to another episode I can’t wait to dive into this topic with you!
Whew we’re back friends! Happy May. I know my last episode technically released May 3rd but I had recorded that in advance so this is the first time I am recording in May. Big news on the personal side of things, well really the business side of things too. I have several fun updates for you all. To start, my wedding season officially takes off this weekend. And by take off it’s more like an explosion of weddings coming up. Mid May through early June is my busiest month of my entire year. I actually spent yesterday organizing the timelines and going over notes and sharing those with my second photographers and associate photographers. It might have looked like 4 hours of organizing and emails while I was snuggled up on the couch with my cute cat Mila. If you aren’t following me on Instagram you might not have seen her before but she is an all gray cat and happens to be very cute while she is asleep so that was my version of a fun night. I am very excited for weddings to pick up again and I have done everything possible to organize my life, both personal and business to set myself up for success these next 4 weeks. My husband and I are training for a half marathon in June and then a full marathon in October and I have a feeling that my training is going to be a little less consistent for a while now, but thankfully I think I am ready for the half marathon and can really get back into the harder training after this rush of weddings.
And the second announcement that I am so so excited about is that I purchased my first medium format film camera! I had been using little 35mm film cameras with Austin before now and that is basically the equivalent of a point and shoot camera, but manual.. A medium format camera uses larger film so the grain is less noticeable and the tones have a really unique richness from what I have seen from others so far. I photographed my first two rolls of medium format film last week while we had Spring blossoms in Colorado. I expect to get those film scans back in a few days and the excitement is unreal. I learned how to use a handheld light meter to meter for the shadows instead of the overall image and it is truly an art form I cannot wait to get more experience. Photographing film is something that I have done for myself almost more than my business. Film is expensive to buy and develop and my clients aren’t coming to me for film photos specifically, but learning to photograph with film has opened up a new creative side of myself and feeling refreshed and like an artist with film has gone a long way to keeping me excited and growing in creativity in my work. I will give a film update in a future episode but I couldn’t wait to share!
Okay so that is all for the updates for now. I love sharing life with you all as I keep recording these episodes. Now we are moving on to send off ideas and alternatives! Let’s start by defining what I am referring to when I say send off or grand exit.
Generally at the end of the reception the remaining guests will line up and cheer the couple on as they leave the reception to their get away car. Usually holding, waving, or tossing something. It used to be common to toss rice, but as we basically all know now rice kills birds so in an effort to not do that anymore we have moved on from rice. I don’t think I have photographed a rice exit once in the last 9 years (ahh I can’t believe this is my 9th year of weddings)
So let’s talk advantages and disadvantages to the traditional send off at the end of the reception-
Disadvantage #1- remember when I said your remaining guests? I’ve mentioned this in the last episode but wedding guests have this invisible social level and once it is filled they are out of there. Doesn’t matter if you’ve fed them and hired the most amazing entertainment for the day when a guest is ready to leave they’re done. So what often happens is a good portion of your guests will leave before the end of the night. I wish there was a way to prevent this but I’ve seen it happen in all sorts of weddings.
The nice thing about this is that for a great send off photo you don’t actually need 100+ guests waving sparklers over you, you can actually create great exit photos with just a handful of people gathered around you. Like your bridal party for example.
And then that brings me to the alternative I’ve mentioned before, if you would love photos of all of your guests with that high energy exit feel then the ceremony ‘send off’ is a great idea. Basically having your guests toss flowers ect over you as you walk back down the aisle after the first kiss. It is bright out during this usually and all of your guests will be there.
Advantage #1- some exits really shine in the dark. The best example is sparklers- imagine having your guests hold sparklers in the middle of the day, still super fun but not the dark dramatic images that you’d hope for. So having your grand exit at the end of your reception can really make for some stand out images!
Disadvantage #2- relates to your vendor hours and coverage. Specifically to your photographer and videographer. Depending on your plans of the day having your photographer/videographer present through the send off might look like 12 hours of wedding day coverage. Yes I actually have a wedding this Summer that was best suited for 12 hours of coverage an I am so excited about it. So why would this be a disadvantage? Well most photographers and videographers charge hourly. A common wedding day would be between 8-10 hours of coverage and adding on multiple coverage hours to continue through the send off can be very expensive. Also pro tip- please do not ask your photographer or videographer to take a 2-3 hour break before the send off. That is not a real break for us as we would be stranded at your venue and not getting back home to recover from the day. Just don’t ask friends.
Alternative- you can set up a staged send off to get the photo and not require extra time or to shorten your reception. This can involve your bridal party/family or you can involve all of your guests it just depends on how secret you’d like it to be. A staged send off with all of your guests will make the DJ’s job harder as the DJ will have to tell all of the guests to go line up and then ask them to come back in after and their job of getting guests back on to the dance floor is hard. But that’s the first option is point blank telling your guests that they are needed for the photo opp but the party is not over and they should come back. The other alternative is to take out a select group and secretly go photograph the staged exit then come back in to your party. Your guests will probably not notice you were gone for a few minutes and then the DJ still has the party going. A recommendation, if your exit is something like sparklers I’d choose your most sober bridal party or family members to help with this. No need to catch a fire!
Advantage #2- a grand exit at the end of your reception feels authentic and is a natural end to the party. Without the exit everyone basically just has to stop dancing and leave. I’ve talked with some couples who are staying their wedding night at their venue so they’ve worried about not having an exit, and to that I’d say you can still definitely have an exit. Maybe get in the car and go drive and grab ice cream or a fast food treat then bring yourselves back later. It’s more normal than you’d think.
So as I mentioned in the intro sparklers, which I think are one of the most common exit materials are banned in quite a few places, especially in the west where wild fires are a major problem with a dry, non humid climate.
So here is a list of my top 16 send off ideas, and I will insert my photographer opinion of each exit item so you can know what it could look like from a photo perspective.
#1. Sparklers- just because they aren’t allowed everywhere doesn’t mean that they aren’t freaking gorgeous and make for amazing images. Sparkler send offs at night are epic, vibrant and very fun. Tips for using sparklers- have two+ buckets of water ready for your guests to place their used sparklers in when they burn out. Also not all sparklers are created equal! To truly set your photographer up for the BEST possible exit photos with sparklers you should purchase sparklers than burn longer. 36” sparklers burn up to 3 minutes. Which it is going to take almost a minute for all of your guests to light them and then for you to start walking through. 20” is also a better amount of time too. And if you do end up with the short sparklers don’t worry I see these a lot. This just requires a LOT of coordination, multiple lighters to light sparklers down the line then they can help their neighbors light theirs, and it requires the couple to be ready and waiting to walk through, not much time to spare. Also I have a couple planning a sparkler first dance this Summer and that is going to be amazing! Another reason to go with long sparklers!
#2. Confetti- You guys my wedding dreams are made of confetti. This is yet another exit item that is commonly banned because it makes an incredible mess. So if your venue somehow allows this make sure you know if you need to have someone sweeping up or anything. I have found two biodegradable confetti shops online and this would make such a gorgeous send off! The first is ecofetti, and the other is the confetti bar. Also if you want to see something awesome you should look up confetti cannons, I would dream of photographing a wedding with these!
#3. Streamer tubes- Okay so picture confetti strings BUT the main thing that makes these okay and different than confetti is that these STAY ATTACHED TO THE BASE. The guests pop them the confetti streamers fly out and then land. After your guests just need to roll up the streamer strings and toss. I think metallic colors like silver or gold here would be perfect. I will include the amazon link in the show notes and blog post. I photographed a styled wedding this Spring and the wedding planner brought these and the way the strings arched and flew was stunning in the images. Honestly you could use these with just your bridal party to get some fun photos even during the day! 11/10 recommend!
Also for the record- I became an amazon influencer, whew big title friends just kidding. So any amazon links I share will result in me earning a small commission, which I would greatly appreciate. It isn’t extra for you and a little way to support the podcast if you purchase. Thanks!
#4. Flower petals- real or dried. I will include lavender seeds in this as well. This does require you to purchase more flowers but when tossed this gives a dreamy confetti feel/effect. I will give a warning on lavender seed tossing- lavender tends to get everywhere including in your hair/dress layers. So if you’re doing this earlier in the day ex. The ceremony it might make an appearance in your photos throughout the day especially if the guests get a little close and really dump it over you. I’ve seen some gorgeous dried flower petal tosses before and real flower petals are fun too. Big and dreamy. Also Fall leaves could be lumped into this category as well. This is another option that would be fun to have just the bridal party toss over you during the day too. You could also use whole flowers without stems or baby’s breath for this too
#5. Bubbles- this is a new classic and is obviously one of the easiest because it requires essentially zero clean up after.
#6. Paper airplanes- super super cute. Also requires a lot of prep work. Could be a daylight or night time exit option.
#7. Ribbon wands- Having your wedding colors or college colors ect could be cute. I’d say the more ribbons and the longer the better. Sort of like pompoms. Works with daytime or night exits
#8. Glow sticks/LED wands- These can be a fun use of color for your exit. As a photographer I’m not usually partial to neon, in fact that’s the color I tell all of my clients to avoid like the plague because it’s hard to photograph with skin tones! But that’s just outfit/attire. Neon glow sticks for exits works fine. Especially if your photographer can drag their shutter to capture some motion too.
#9. Floating lanterns- I haven’t actually seen a lantern send off in person and I feel like this is also a big fire risk so probably not happening in CO haha but this could be very romantic to get a picture of the couple with all the planters floating up behind them.
#10. A balloon release- I don’t know if this is commonly allowed or good for the environment, but I do have to say it sounds cute for a photo. Definitely do some research and don’t just assume this is okay! On the flip side you could do a balloon toss- having normal non helium balloons that your guests toss around as you exit. Could be cute behind you!
#11. A butterfly release- I’ve seen this before, sadly it was windy so they butterflies did not want to leave haha. Also important to make sure they are alive before you try to release them. This works well for ceremonies vs end of night!
#12. Ringing bells- talk about wedding bells this could be cute!
#13. Bird seed- similar to rice but pro birds!
#14. Personalized pennant flags- with your new initials or something could be cute!
#15. Feathers- either your guests waving feathers over you or tossing them. Obviously better indoors where you can sweet up. Feathers could stay in the air quite a while which could be fun photo wise!
#16. Classic tunnel and cheer- let your guests alone just cheer you on. For the photographer’s sake don’t close the tunnel or we’re going to have a hard time actually photographing it!
Last detail is the getaway car. If you are renting a classic old car for your get away you will probably want to get a few photos in front of it during your day as well as exiting into it.
That was quite the list! Honorable mention if it goes with your theme is I saw a cotton candy send off where guests and the couple had cotton candy spools with ribbon hanging off. Very colorful and unique, also could be a little out of left field if you didn’t have cotton candy in your wedding before haha!
Are you ready for my best send off tip. If you follow this advice you are guaranteed to have better or great send off photos.
Here it is- DONT RUN. Spin, dance, cheer, dip and kiss in the middle as you go through, Go through multiple times.
Friends it’s an exciting end to the party and your guests are cheering you through but if you run your photography might if they’re lucky capture one or two images. If you walk, laugh look at eachother as you slowly wander through it gives your guests more time to cheer and your photographer more time for photos.
Also- spin, dance, cheer, dip and kiss in the middle and through the end! This obviously creates great photo opps too.
Well there you have it my best send off advice and alternatives! I hope these help your grand exit planning and maybe share this with a friend if they are looking for send off options too! Thanks for listening to another episode!