The first look. The processional. The grand entrance. Much thought goes into how a wedding begins, even with elaborate welcome parties and rehearsal dinners building anticipation for the big day. But after the vows and champagne toasts are said and done, the final moments of your wedding offer an opportunity to close the experience on a meaningful note.
Mary Angelini of Key Moment Films notes that planned exits “serve as the perfect ending to the story. When we capture a planned exit, it’s like putting a bow on the present. It wraps up the story of the couple’s celebration with energy, love, and celebration.”
The wedding industry is no stranger to a grand exit. Sparkler lines, confetti cannons, and luxury getaway cars have seen countless newlyweds ride off into the sunset. But if you’re looking for something different, here are five creative and memorable grand exit ideas to get your inspiration flowing.
A nature-inspired alternative
Confetti exits have been around for years, sending newlyweds off in a cloud of colors. But as sustainable weddings rise in popularity, couples are looking for other options. And with some venues charging additional cleanup fees or banning confetti altogether, Jen Sulak of Weirdo Weddings offers a solution that is kind to your budget and the planet.
“One of my personal favorite exits is dried leaves and flowers!” Sulak shares. “They are a natural element that gives a sense of beauty and is very eco-friendly in cleanups. If you have the time to get super artsy, you can punch shapes out of the leaves you have found and have them as decor until you have everyone say goodbye from the reception!”
Coastal DJ & Video’s George Wainwright agrees, noting that fall is an especially lovely time of year for a leaf toss. “Fall means spectacular foliage, so why not take advantage of the season? This departure fits the fall theme, the materials are free, and there’s no big cleanup. Just be sure to confirm with your venue manager your plan.”
So if you love the whimsy of confetti but want a low-cost and easy alternative, opt for dried leaves and petals. Your venue will appreciate it!
A shower of bubbles
Who doesn’t love blowing bubbles? A bubble send-off ends the night in a light and playful way, providing your photographer with the perfect shot as you bid adieu.
Want to amp up the bubble factor? Peter Mitsaelides of Brooklake Country Club & Events encourages couples to “rent a bubble machine from a party store. You’ll want to check with your venue manager regarding their policy on these machines. And it’s best to use them outdoors.”
And if you want to add some flair to the mix, “ribbon wands are a colorful way to make a departure,” Mitsaelides notes. “They’re relatively inexpensive, and all you’ll need is your day-of coordinator to hand them out to your guests.”
A tribute to teamwork
On your wedding day, you’ll join in matrimony and become a team of two for life. And if you or your partner are sports fans, the grand exit is a wonderful time to shout out your now-second favorite team (after the two of you, of course!).
“For sports-obsessed couples, consider giving every guest a foam finger with the couple’s favorite team on it,” recommends Kimberly Sisti of SISTI & CO. “A sea full of number-one foam fingers is definitely unique and a great way to end the night!”
Or, if you’re divided by team lines, offer both options and let your guests pick! Either way, you’ll end up with end-of-the-night photos that perfectly capture your game-day energy.
A reminder to let love fly
If you want to add some symbolism to your wedding day farewell, Jacqueline Vizcaino of Tinted Events Design and Planning recommends “having your guests create a paper plane as you exit.”
“As the planes take off, a beautiful cloud of metallic, shimmer, or glitter stock paper will reflect the light and float in the background,” she explains.
Paper planes are an easy, cost-effective, and special way to involve your guests and signify your next chapter together (especially if you’re jetting off on your honeymoon!).
A celebratory song
The dance floor might be closed for the night, but that doesn’t mean you can’t head out to your go-to anthem! Whether it’s a prelude to the after-party or a romantic wind-down ballad, pick a song that captures the energy and share it with your musicians.
“My favorite exit is a ‘second line style’ exit with the band,” says Caroline Robert of Caroline’s Collective. “What an amazing way to lead people to the after-party or simply end the night on a high note.”
Laura Maddox of Magnolia Celebrates elaborates, adding that “this is so helpful for the vendors as most venues have a requirement to be out of the space within an hour of the end of the night while also allowing the guests to feel like the celebration continues onto the bus or into the parking lot on the way to any after party.”
Don’t have a band or prefer a more low-key exit? Have your guests chime in for help!
“Bells are a festive alternative for a departure,” offers Michael Vernon of Conch Concierge Weddings. “Give your guests tiny bells to ring or use bells that fit your theme, like sleigh bells for a winter wedding. Tiny bells can be placed at guest tables as part of the decor. Other musical options include tambourines, maracas — even kazoos.”
Either way, adding music or sound effects to your grand exit can make it a full sensory experience — one your guests won’t soon forget!
Planning your grand exit
No matter the style of exit you and your partner envision, you’ll need help from your wedding team to pull it off (and maybe even your wedding party!).
“Couples can let their event planner or day of coordinator know what their wishes are for the end of the night,” explains Lilia Shatnaya of Plume and Stone Invitation Studio.
And while it might seem easy enough to get your guests in order, it shouldn’t fall on you to wrangle everyone for the grand exit.
“At that stage in the evening, the bar has likely been flowing, and not all your guests are thinking straight,” assures Nora Sheils of Rock Paper Coin and Bridal Bliss. “Having a professional onsite to manage an exit (especially if it includes fire or other dangerous materials) is necessary. The entire plan can be discussed prior, the proper materials will be ready to go, photography and video will be staged, and you and your guests can enjoy the spectacle.”
Don’t worry if you don’t have a planner. You can still have the wedding exit of your dreams! Maddox explains that, instead, “you will depend on your photographer and DJ or band to coordinate the exit. Often the photographer will line up any guests for a traditional exit and then come get you, while the band will direct guests to where to go.”
So whether you picture a big-and-bold exit or a sweet-and-subtle farewell, get creative and think about how you want to end the night. After all, you aren’t just leaving your wedding — you’re also stepping into your happily ever after!
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.