Wedding Firework Displays Guide
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 as a starting point 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 properly.
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?
Professional displays are also the only way to go if you want your fireworks set to music. It’s incredibly difficult – and expensive – to try and do this with consumer fireworks.
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.
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.
Other important considerations when firing yourself
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. This could easily cost a few hundred pounds and you may even have to get some training first – all adding to the time and costs of doing this yourself.
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.
Wedding fireworks FAQ
You need the permission of the land owner and if your reception is at a third party venue they will usually say no, as you're not a professional and not insured. Check well in advance as you may need to book a professional display team. You can let off whatever you like on your own land or garden however.
Unless you are on a tight budget I strongly recommend you employ a professional display team to design, fire and clear up, particularly at a third party venue. You get better fireworks, trained personnel and insurance cover all included.
Most reception venues will say no, as you're not a professional nor insured. Many allow professional teams to fire, however. Always check well in advance. Note: Receptions on your own land or garden are not restricted and you can let off whatever you like.
For outdoor use, always go with GOLD sparklers as these have significantly less smoke than coloured ones. For on top of cakes (indoors) use ice fountains instead of sparklers.
For a good quality, fully-insured professional show which includes design, fireworks, crew, clearing up and insurance, budget for £800+ (£1000 to £2000 is a sweet-spot for a good display).
Professional firework shows include significant costs and overheads including crew (two or more people working unsociable hours), vans, the fireworks (which have increased massively in price post-pandemic), insurance and so on. Bear in mind you will usually also get bigger and better professional fireworks (like aerial shells) which are not available to the general public.
Yes - many professional firework companies specialise in setting fireworks off to music and you can choose the music. Speak to your local firework company for more advice on this.
Yes. These aerial effects are known as aerial shells which happen to burst into a heart shape (though at a random angle and not always the right way up). Many professional wedding firework display companies will be able to include these if you ask.
If you're using a professional fireworks team, 100% yes, as they will waterproof them all during set-up. Rain won't have any impact on the fireworks.
Yes. In fact increasing numbers of venues insist that the professional firework team you employ only use quiet fireworks. This is no problem; there are an extensive number of quiet and no-bangs fireworks available which look very pretty.
For professionally-fired shows, around 5 minutes is the usual duration for most wedding displays especially at the lower budget end. You can increase this by spending more money, but be advised: don't make it too long. Guests can get bored (and cold) standing outside for more than 5-10 minutes and keeping it shorter adds to the impact.
Yes, speak to the professional team who are firing it. Most are happy to accommodate requests for specific colours (within reason, you wouldn't want the whole display one colour).
The cut-off time is 11pm and the fireworks must be finished by then, even if it's a professionally-fired show. Firing after this is illegal and you should never pressure the fireworks company to delay firing beyond this as they will most likely refuse.
If it's at a third party place like a wedding reception venue then yes, insurance is strongly recommended (and they may refuse to allow fireworks otherwise). All bona-fide professional display companies are insured usually to millions of pounds. If self-firing you would need a one-off policy (budget for £100-£200 minimum).
I recommend you start locally, as this helps to keep costs down (which translates to more pyro in your show). Some venues might also have a preferred company. Check companies' websites for video of past shows and look for reviews and testimonials.
Yes. It is legal in the UK to let fireworks off on any day of the week and at any time of the year.
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.