Choosing Fireworks: Funeral Fireworks & Ashes Scattering
Several options are available if you want to celebrate the life of a loved one with some fireworks or to scatter their ashes.
If you’ve recently suffered a bereavement then firstly my condolences. It’s not an easy time and I appreciate that it can feel overwhelming with the number of things you need to sort out and arrange. When it comes to the fireworks, you have a number of options which I will run through below.
Scattering ashes in a firework
There are two types of firework displays in the UK: Those that you fire yourself, using consumer fireworks, and those where a professional crew fires for you, known as a professional display.
When it comes to ashes in fireworks, consumer fireworks are usually more appropriate if you’re intending to fire in your own back garden or other private venue. It is also the cheaper option. The obvious downside is that you will need to buy and store the fireworks then let them off safely.
A small number of firework companies in the UK offer a service where some of the ashes of your loved one can be placed into a firework. Then, when you light the firework, the ashes will be scattered along with the effects of the firework.
Usually the fireworks used for this are either barrages or rockets. The key difference is that a barrage (especially the ones used for ashes scattering) last for a minute or two, whereas rockets are over in a second or two. However, rockets are much more powerful and give a bigger bang. So you might feel that is more appropriate for you. You could of course use both, starting with the barrage and then finishing with the big bangs of the rocket.
In any case, nearly every firework retailer now offers video clips so you can see the items in action first to help you make a decision.
The process usually involves you dropping off the ashes to the firework retailer and deciding on a customised message for the firework’s label. Turnaround time varies and you will receive back the firework ready to fire and the remaining ashes. From there the firework should be treated as any other consumer firework; a warning label on the side will give instructions on use and of course you can read the setting up and firing guides here on UKFR for more help.
It is fully legal to buy and let off fireworks in the UK on any day of the year, but you have to do so by 11pm and on your own land or with permission of the landowner (and not in the street). Read a summary of UK firework laws.
If your wake is at a public venue such as a pub you will need their permission to fire. Unfortunately few pubs now allow this for liability reasons so you may need to fire it at home in your garden. In any case check well ahead of the event and before you purchase the firework. If firing at home you will need a safety distance of 25m between where the firework is set up and any spectators.
You should budget for around £200-£300 for a barrage or a set of large rockets with the ashes incorporated into them. If you do not have a fireworks specialist locally then you will most likely have to pay additional carriage charges as fireworks need to be sent on a specialist courier (don’t blame the retailer for this charge, most actually subsidise the actual costs).
We strongly advise against buying consumer fireworks and attempting to add the ashes yourself. Rockets in particular can become unstable in flight if extra weight is added. It’s not worth the risk; find and pay for a specialist.
Professional displays and ashes scattering
With a professional service, a fireworks crew will design, set up and fire for you. However due to the more powerful nature of pro fireworks, this is usually only suitable for bigger venues where there is sufficient space to fire. It is also only suitable for bigger budgets, with starting prices usually from £500+ for pro displays. That’s excluding any incorporation of ashes into specific fireworks which would be charged as an extra. A more realistic budget taking all of this into account is from around £1000 for a good quality display.
As with consumer ashes fireworks above, we recommend seeking a specialist in this area who offers ashes-specific tribute displays. A professional crew will also need to undertake a site survey to ensure the venue is suitable and will have the same restrictions as a consumer display in terms of firing by 11pm and only on land they have permission to do so.
To see an example of how a professional team can scatter ashes and incorporate a fireworks display too, have a look at my Scattering Ashes in Fireworks article where we take a look at such an event.
Fireworks without ashes
It is of course perfectly fine to buy and fire a tribute to a loved one without incorporating their ashes into the fireworks. My recommendation here is to stick to one large barrage as this keeps things simple in terms of setting up and firing. Running times for larger barrages are typically a minute or so. You can also buy even larger barrages known as compound cakes if you want something bigger, or buy multiple barrages and fire them one after the other if you want more time. Budget for at least £50 for a good quality barrage and £100+ for a good quality compound cake.
If you just want to send up a big rocket then any large Category F3 rocket will fit the bill. Budget for £25+ for the biggest ones available to consumers.
One advantage of using just “normal” fireworks is that you can cater for any special requests. An example would be if you need to do a low noise display or if you want to theme it on a specific colour such as a football team. If this applies to you then my extensive guides here will help you out.
As I said above it is legal to buy and let off fireworks at any time of the year in the UK but you must do it by 11pm. If you’re inexperienced with fireworks then it’s usually worth popping into a specialist all-year fireworks shop and chatting in person for help and advice.
Sky lantern / Chinese lantern tributes
Sky lanterns – also known as Chinese lanterns – create a very poignant tribute and are silent in operation. You can also write tributes to your loved one on the lanterns in marker pen before launching them.
Although sky lanterns have fallen out of favour in the UK due to concerns over the fire risk and litter, they are still fully legal. Please only buy and use lanterns which are marked as wire free and biodegradable. Have a read of my full guide to Chinese Lanterns for more advice.
Ashes scattering for pets
Although not a common request, if you have the ashes of a pet you would like to scatter in a fireworks tribute, then all the same advice and services apply as described above.
The other Choosing Fireworks sections might also be of help in case your display also falls within the scope of those too.
If you’re a complete beginner and some of the terms used in this page are unclear then head over to the Beginners Start Here! page for a run-through of both fireworks and the extensive guides on my website.
The next step after narrowing down your choice of fireworks is buying them, arguably the most fun part! The Buying Fireworks sections will help you.
Finally, if you have any questions or want to chat about fireworks with like-minded people, head over to my Fireworks Forum, the UK’s best online community for fireworks chat. I’d love to hear from you and answer any queries you might have.