Buying Wedding & Professional Firework Displays
Advice on finding a suitable team to fire your wedding or other professional show.
In this article I’ll give advice on finding a professional fireworks team who can fire your event’s display. This is not the same as buying consumer fireworks to let off yourself, so if you are still unsure of what type of fireworks you need, have a read of my DIY or Professional Fireworks? guide.
Wedding vs. professional displays
Quite a few professional firework companies these days market many of their displays specifically for weddings. It’s worth pointing out that this is mostly to make it easier for their customers to pick a suitable package as understanding all the terms associated with professional fireworks can be hard for laypeople at the best of times. However, this is just a branding exercise. In terms of the services offered, a “wedding” display is in fact simply a professional fireworks display that happens to be fired at a wedding venue.
Of course, some will offer extras geared towards a wedding, such as heart shells, but you can request extras like this easily enough even if your chosen supplier isn’t heavy on the wedding branding.
Things to do before looking for a professional team
You will need a suitable venue for your display and bear in mind that bigger professional-grade pyrotechnics need a bigger safety distance to spectators than consumer fireworks that you might buy yourself. So for those wanting a home professional display you’ll need a garden quite a bit bigger than the average!
Those wanting fireworks at a third party venue – such as your wedding reception – must always check with the venue first. Some flatly refuse fireworks, some only work with one “approved” supplier and some allow only quiet displays which is important to know first.
The cost of wedding fireworks and professional shows
For a traditional fireworks display and in a venue that isn’t restricted to specialist fireworks or complicated rigging, you should budget for £500-£750 as a starting point. However over Bonfire Night itself, the weekends before and after, plus New Year’s Eve, you might find availability extremely limited due to demand and starting costs of £2k-£3k might be more realistic.
The distance a display team has to travel plus the number of crew needed are major cost factors in a display. So whilst shows for £500 are possible for a very local team, in my experience the majority would need a starting budget of £750+ to ensure you get a nice helping of fireworks and a reasonable duration. The sweet-spot for a good display these days though is £1k upwards because here you can either extend the duration, make it more saturated, or add specialist services such as firing to music.
Whilst these prices might sound a lot, firework display teams face huge costs in terms of insurance, storage and crew wages before they can even light a sparkler (and that’s before Covid-19 severely dented public events and weddings).
There should be no additional or surprise expenses for a typical wedding display at an established venue and as with any supplier of services, ensure the price is inclusive of VAT assuming you are an end-consumer. Costs quoted for professional shows generally include the following:
- A pre-display site survey to ensure the venue is suitable for fireworks.
- Show design.
- The fireworks themselves.
- Set up (called “rigging”) and firing.
- Clearing up. For sensitive venues such as cricket pitches, golf courses and the likes, check with the display company as to what extent they will clean up afterwards.
- Crew costs and wages.
- Insurance cover.
- Notifying the fire service, coastguard, CAA or any relevant bodies before your display.
- Basic roping off around the display area. Additional crowd control, marshalling or extensive roping off may cost extra or become the responsibility of you or the venue if it applies.
To get an idea of the manpower, equipment and planning required by a professional show, take a look at my behind the scenes at a wedding display article, where you can see a company called Firework Crazy in action. You’ll see from this how far removed professional shows are from ones we might do in the back garden.
Advice on fireworks show durations
We’d all love a 30 minute extravaganza like Sydney Harbour Bridge for £500 of course, but the reality is around 5 minutes for up to £1k. It’s possible to extend this time, however without adding in extra fireworks (i.e. spending more), the firework team will have to thin the effects out so a 5 minute display at any given budget is always going to look significantly better than a 10 minute one at the same cost.
If you’re worried that 5 minutes is too short, try standing out in the garden and timing 5 minutes (I’m not joking), it will feel a lot longer.
The good news is that once the minimum display cost is met – which covers all the major expenses – then any extra money you can put into a display budget usually goes entirely into more fireworks. So spending another £500 could have a major impact on the show or add in some extra minutes. This is why I consider £1k+ to be a more realistic budget. It’s hard to quantify budget against duration but usually £100 per minute is a good place to start.
If you’re wanting really long displays such as 20 minutes plus, and it to be full-on the whole time, costs running into tens of thousands of pounds are likely.
Having your event or wedding fireworks set to music is becoming increasingly popular. Experienced display teams can integrate your fireworks to your own choice of music tracks with great precision and it can really enhance the atmosphere. It works particularly well for weddings, since the music choice will have special meaning to the bride and groom. You can see behind the scenes at a musical wedding display in my Wedding Fireworks With Music article which explores an example wedding display from the operator’s viewpoint, with a company called Skydazzle Pyrotechnics.
Specialist displays and difficult venues
With traditional displays and weddings covered, I’ll quickly run over some other scenarios.
One of the more common venues that can cause problems is rooftops in built-up areas, usually used for Christmas lights switch-ons and similar. These might need specialist rigging, have difficult access, require some road closures and in some cases the use of specialist pyro. It is likely this type of display will attract a higher premium as a result.
Stadiums and similar venues are also a challenge because of the close proximity of people. Again, specialist pyro may need to be used which can increase the rigging times and costs accordingly.
Finally, indoor pyrotechnics and effects such as walls of sparks or flames are becoming very popular. Here we are straying more into specialist pyrotechnics and stage effects requiring dedicated equipment so again I would expect costs to be higher than for traditional fireworks.
Finding a wedding or professional display team
As with my consumer fireworks guide, I would first draw your attention to UKFR Sponsors. These are companies who pay to advertise on UKFR and I have known many of them for over two decades! Their advertising is critical in generating revenue to cover my large hosting and operational costs so that I can offer access to UKFR to you for free.
Please note that I do not work on commission. If you choose a UKFR Sponsor to fire your wedding or professional show, I receive £0 so all of your money goes into your show! This is how I have always operated, but would of course appreciate you mentioning if you saw them here, as this encourages them to continue advertising!
You can find banners and links to UKFR Sponsors in the following places:
- In the banners above. If you can’t see any, you are likely using an ad-blocker.
- On the other Buying Fireworks page (many retail firework sellers also offer professional shows).
- The separate Fireworks Forum carries small banner adverts.
- A list of UKFR Sponsors who also take part in the Forum can be found on the UKFR Sponsors listing (ranked according to post count, so you can see who takes part the most).
- In the UKFR Sponsors Announcements sub-forum, where special deals are posted. Most deals here are specific to consumer fireworks but as per above, many of these Sponsors also offer professional services.
- On the full list of UKFR Sponsors, though you’ll need to visit their sites to determine who does professional displays (the list isn’t filterable).
Consumer vs. Professional companies
Some firework companies only offer retail fireworks to consumers, some only provide professional and wedding displays, and some offer both. In my experience there really isn’t any difference between the quality and types of professional services offered by a pro-only company as opposed to a company that offers both retail and professional fireworks.
When you visit a firework company’s website you will usually therefore see one or both of the following:
Retail fireworks such as cakes or rockets and references to adding things to your basket or delivery/collection. All of this relates to consumer fireworks, not professional services.
Professional firework sections, wedding fireworks, packages from say £500/£750+, these relate to professional services. Another clue is references to your display being fired for you, being covered by insurance and needing a site survey.
Things to look for with your professional display supplier
I appreciate it can be hard to pick between various suppliers sometimes and it is a competitive market. However based on my experience I’d offer the following tips:
- Don’t choose based solely on low starting costs or long durations. As stated above a 5 minute £1k display will look better than a 10 minute one that has the same weight of pyro but thinned out. Beware of very long durations such as 15-20 minutes for very low costs. The old adage “You get what you pay for” is especially true with fireworks.
- Look for video clips of previous displays particularly if the supplier is offering set packages for specific prices. Watch the video clips to see what you get. Established display teams often have quite extensive examples of their work available on YouTube, Vimeo or Facebook.
- Distance matters! The more local a display team the lower the travel costs and potentially these savings can make it into the pyro. That said, larger display companies offer nationwide coverage and often have crews in several locations.
- Ask for recommendations. My Fireworks Forum is a good place to do this, also speak to the venue if you are using one as they might have suggestions. Look for a social media presence and customer reviews, video and testimonials.
- Check they are insured – all bonafide professional crews have multimillion pound public liability insurance. Don’t be afraid to ask to see proof of this.