A Guide For Planning Your Wedding and Reception Exit! | Seattle Fine Art Film Wedding Photographer | Christina Servin Photographs

There are endless photographs out there featuring the bride and groom laughing, dancing and dipping their way through a tunnel of cheering wedding guests throwing eco-fetti, or holding glowing sparklers. These photographs are spectacular and every couple should have them in their album.

Did you know that there are multiple kinds of exits? From formal exits, to send-off lines, farewell lines, grand exits, and even the “fake exit” (aka controlled exit). All these mean pretty much that you’re leaving in one way or another, at one time or another but let’s break it down so you can begin planning your dream exit!


The Difference Between a “Formal Exit” and a “Send Off”

There is indeed a difference! Who knew?!

A traditional send off takes place immediately following the ceremony. Guests would typically pass through a receiving line and then out onto the steps of a courthouse, church, or just outside the ceremony site if the wedding was outside. They would wait for the bride and groom to appear, and then shower them with birdseed, rose petals, bubbles, etc. They may form a send-off line, or a farewell line, but basically they are lining up and sending off the bride and groom — right then and there.

Send off’s are popular for couples having a morning or brunch wedding. But also included in this are couples planning summertime weddings in the Pacific Northwest where the sun doesn’t set until almost 10 p.m.! If it’s still light out, sparklers are always a great idea, but don’t discount using these other amazing options such as: eco-fetti, lavender-filled paper cones, custom paper airplanes, pom-poms, or ribbon and bell wands. They will add a lot of color, glamour and uniqueness to your exit! If you are intrigued by any of these options, check out this great feature by TheKnot.

I also love the idea of incorporating some of them into your wedding ceremony. Imagine placing colorful ribbon wands on each of your guests seats before the ceremony. Right after you say “I Do” and have your first kiss, they begin waving them to congratulate you on your marriage. As you walk back down the aisle, the photographs and energy would be amazing.

A formal exit takes place immediately following the reception. This is typically done after the last song is played and it marks the end of the reception. Guests gather around in a central area, sparklers are lit, and the bride and groom pass through the guests while everyone cheers them on. Cue the classic movie music here…. doves are being released ';) — the bride and groom hop into their getaway car adorned with a sign that says “Just Married” and cans are tied to the bumper, and they zoom away as husband and wife for their honeymoon. There are lots of other ways to set this up, and I’ll cover them next.

The Nitty Gritty of Formal Exits

The formal exit has has a bevy of options. From Controlled/Fake Exits to Traditional/Formal Exits, here are the differences.

A “controlled exit”/”fake exit” takes place before the reception has officially ended. The advantage is all your guests are still at the party, and everyone is included. You might choose this for several reasons.

  1. Your reception will be ending late in the evening —around 11 p.m. or midnight. The reality of a late evening is that you will lose some guests. This can be because they are tired from traveling and festivities, have to work the next morning, or need to get home to a sitter, etc. If you want everyone to be included and to be seen in your photographs, then this is one reason you might opt for the controlled/fake exit.

  2. Your anticipate your guests will be drinking a lot. If you’re planning on doing a sparkler exit, please don’t wait until your guests are tipsy and hand them a fire on a stick. Sparklers are hot and in seconds can inflict third degree burns, or light something on fire — including your gorgeous wedding dress or hair.

    The solution for sparklers and very happy tipsy guests is staging your exit earlier in the evening. Have all the excitement of a fun “controlled exit” (get why they call it controlled?), and then head back inside to continue your party. Nobody gets hurt and the fire department doesn’t have to shut down your reception!

A traditional/formal exit takes place at night and officially marks the end of your reception. This is really straightforward. The DJ or Band announce the last song. Then everyone dances and then heads out right afterward to line up and send off the bride and groom. With a formal exit, the couple really leaves and the reception is over. Some fabulous options for this kind of send off would be fireworks, eco-fettii, sparklers (of course!), lanterns, or silver and gold confetti.

Whatever You Decide, Let Your Guests Know What to Expect

If you want your invite your guests to stay for the fireworks show, or your sparkler exit, you probably want to let them know about what time it will happen. The best way to do this is to have programs printed, or a big board with the timeline posted.

Sparkler Exits are EXTRAORDINARY. Learn more!

Tomorrow please check out my next journal entry, The Ultimate Guide to Wedding Sparklers to learn the in’s and out’s of selecting and buying the right sparklers for your grand exit. They are so much fun and make for beautiful photographs, but they are tricky too. If you don’t plan for them, chaos can ensue. Learn where to buy them, how many to purchase, sizes, how to stage them, and how to get amazing photographs!