Choosing Fireworks: Wedding Displays

Advice on picking the right fireworks for your big day.

If you are planning on having fireworks for your wedding there are a number of important things to consider, such as whether to employ a professional team to take care of everything, or to buy your own fireworks and let them off yourself. I’ll run through both options, starting with professional services that leave you free to enjoy your day and the fireworks in the hands of the experts.

Calling in the professionals

As much as I love consumer fireworks and getting my hands dirty with lighting my own, a wedding is one event where I would suggest you seriously consider using a professional display company instead. Yes, it could cost you more money, from £500 upwards (but budget for £750 to £1k for something decent). But it has so many advantages, especially if your reception is at a third party wedding venue.

And the venue is the place to start in all this because usually they will dictate not only whether fireworks are allowed at all (many don’t) but also whether they will permit you to provide and fire your own. In an increasingly risk-averse world, most of the venues that still allow fireworks these days will only do so if a professional – and fully insured – team is employed. So don’t be surprised if your enquiry about using your own fireworks goes down like a lead balloon.

But it’s not just about mitigating risks to the venue owner. If it’s your own wedding here, do you want to be bothered on the day with setting up and lighting fireworks? It’s not a five minute job if you want to do it safely.

With a professional display, you’ll be enjoying your reception and at an agreed time, you all wander outside to the viewing area, watch 5-10 minutes of amazing fireworks and then return to the dance floor and bar. Leaving the crew outside to clear up. What could be simpler?

If I’ve sold you the idea of taking it easy and letting someone else do all the hard work, head over to my Buying Wedding and Professional Displays guide for more advice on picking a pro display and what’s involved. 

Wedding guests watch fireworks
Guests at a specialist wedding reception venue watch fireworks from the balcony, fired by a professional team (firers are in the foreground) before returning to the disco and bar afterwards. What could be easier?

Doing it yourself

If you’re having your reception on your own land (or on private land with permission for fireworks), or your venue is happy about you firing your own, then my main advice is to keep things as simple as possible in terms of the fireworks you buy.

A wedding is an occasion that needs a suitably dramatic display and the easiest way to achieve this – though not always the cheapest – is to concentrate your budget on big barrages or even larger compound cakes. These all have just the one fuse to light and can run for a couple of minutes each. Setting up is easy and you keep the number of items to light to a minimum.

I also suggest a short running time, five minutes or so being ideal. That might not sound a lot but wedding guests don’t usually want to stand around for too long outside in the dark, particularly if there’s a bar to get back to. Keeping it shorter also means you can have a concentrated display rather than drawing it out. I’ve been going to wedding displays of various types for several decades either to photograph or film and can categorically say that a high intensity 5 (or even 3!) minute display is so much more fitting to that occasion than 10-15 minutes of drawn out effects.

This isn’t to say that if you have the budget for a 10 minute spectacular and some willing volunteers to fire it that you shouldn’t do it – but most weddings using consumer fireworks do so in order to save money versus a pro display and the lower budget means less fireworks and therefore ideally, less running time to keep it busy.

With the above advice in mind, an ideal display when doing it yourself would be a couple of large (£100+) barrages or compound cakes (see the Cakes and Barrages section if you’re new to these terms). Use retailer video clips to get an idea of the running time and effects of individual items.

If you need to pad out the duration a little and want to include something quieter, a couple of large conic fountains either side of the display area will create a large column of sparks for a minute or so and these make a good starting sequence to get everyone settled down prior to the aerial effects. Also worth considering is lancework with the bride and groom’s initials on.

You don’t need rockets when using the larger barrages but if you do include some, stick to the very largest (£20+ each) and fire them at the end as part of your finale.

If you decide to have sparklers, stick to gold sparklers (better sparks, low smoke) and read my Using Sparklers Safely guide which has a section covering weddings.

If you are restricted to using low noise fireworks then have a look at the Quiet & Low Noise Displays section for further guidance.

Other important considerations

Providing you are firing on private land and with permission, and the event itself is private (that is, not open to the public) you would not normally need insurance. If you’re firing at a third party venue then it’s important to double check whether their insurance will cover you in case your fireworks damage their property or injure a staff member. It’s unlikely their policy would cover you (on the basis you are not a professional firer), so in that case you might need to think about a one-off firework display insurance policy.

To give a couple of examples, firing your own fireworks in your own garden is not usually something that needs insurance, but if you’re hiring the village hall and they’ve said fireworks are OK on their land, you need to ask about insurance and what would happen in the event of a problem.

It should go without saying, but fireworks and alcohol are not a safe combination, so whoever is firing should either be your teetotal friend, or someone willing to wait until after the display before drinking.

Make sure you finish your display by 11pm. Ideally fire it earlier to minimise disturbance though I appreciate in mid-summer it’s unlikely to be dark enough much before 10pm. Consider warning any neighbours too, well in advance. One advantage of keeping your display to just 3-5 minutes and at a specific time is that it’s not a random event nor a long one, the usual things people object to.

Note: It is legal to buy and use fireworks all year. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! Read more about UK firework laws.

Further information

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.

Then, it’s time to set up your pyro before firing it. The Setting Up Fireworks and Firing Your Display sections will guide you further.

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.