6 Wedding Exits That Are Absolutely worth It

Let's bring back traveling clothes!


Q: How do I coordinate the wedding exit? It seems these are going out of style. In the dozen or so weddings I’ve been to over the past few years, no couple has done the big exit. But that’s the one thing that I was always fascinated by as a child (hello, movies!), and I would love to do one. My partner is fine with it, though not really sure what it is, and neither of us wants to be the last ones at the party (though that is part of normal hosting duties). I have no idea how to do it. Do you announce, “Hey, we’re leaving now! Come line up!”? That seems odd. I could use some advice for how to do it without being pushy since I’ve never seen it done before in person.

A:When I read your question, I was pretty sure that you must have misunderstood the trends. Obviously wedding exits aren’t going out of style! They are one of the best moments weddings have to offer! You’re fascinated by them for good reason! So I trotted off to Maddie, erstwhile wedding photographer, to tell me about the best wedding exits she’d seen, and what the logistics behind them were. She then informed me that in all of the weddings she’s been to (well over a hundred), she’d never seen a single wedding exit, where the couple was cheered on as they ran to their car/ bicycle/ horse-drawn carriage into married life. Instead, she’d just seen a lot of lingering and hugging, and packing up.


Maybe it’s my progressive-traditionalism, or maybe it’s just that I used to be a theatre producer, but there is nothing that I love more than a good wedding exit. I loved my own, and I’ve sobbed over other peoples. In fact, if you want romance, here is how I described our wedding exit on our third anniversary:

I recently came across a polaroid from our wedding. It was taken on expired film, so it has the hazy glow of the memory of a warm summer’s day. It was one of the last shots taken of the party, and David and I are walking through the crowd of onlookers, being sent off into married life. My dress swirling around my ankles, my bouquet is tightly clutched in my hand, and I’m smiling. David is holding my hand, and doing a little half wave. What struck me about that polaroid when I picked it up last week is the fact that, at that second, we were walking into our marriage.

So there are the obvious reasons to do a grand exit: it’s theatrical, it’s fun, it leads to good pictures. But the more salient reasons are the emotional ones. A good exit means you’re leaving the party on a high note, that you’re cheered into married life, and then you have a moment of quiet, for the two of you to process what just happened. It also gives the guests a focus for the emotions of the day (and permission to leave). Plus, if you do a grand exit, your risk of having to pack up the party on your wedding night is zero.

None of this is to say I’m not a fan of the hug it out and linger. In fact, the best wedding exit I ever experienced was followed up by an after party at a bar, with lots of hugging. We cheered them out of the party, the newlyweds took a little time for themselves (which I hope they used well, achem), and then the bride changed into a short flirty white number, and they met us to drink into the wee hours of the morning.

So without further ado, how to do a wedding exit, and six wedding exits that should really be done all the time.

How To Organize Your Wedding Exit:

First, a word about being the last one at a party. As a host, you traditionally are the last one at a party. However, this is one of the many reasons that the wedding couple is not traditionally the hosts of the wedding. In the (not so) old days, parents were the host of the wedding. (Fun fact: traditionally anyone listed above the couple on the wedding invitation is the host.) These days your parents might not be officially hosting, but the party is FOR you, not hosted BY you. It’s one of the few times in your life where a huge party is held in your honor, so please, enjoy all the etiquette perks.

To enjoy these perks, you need to get the logistics ironed out. Firstly, please make sure you’ve arranged for helpers (hired or otherwise) to clean up your wedding. (More on that here.) As you suspect, a wedding exit does need to be announced. As you also have figured out, it would be extremely awkward if it was announced by you. So here is the deal:

  • Plan on a last song, or another final moment in the party for everyone to enjoy together. Before that happens, have your wedding stage manager (or another helper) come tap you both on the shoulder and warn you that you’re two songs, or five minutes away. Use that time to hug it out. Say goodbye to the people you want to say goodbye to, and thank you to the people you want to thank.
  • While you’re hugging, have a helper pull the car you’re going to use around to the exit and leave the keys in it. (Or: call a cab, round up the bicycle, call in the horses.)
  • Have your wedding stage manager, or DJ, or other helper announce your last song (or last wedding moment). Have them say something along the lines of, “Please join us on the floor for the last dance of Meg and David’s wedding. After the music is over, please head to the front steps, grab a sparkler (or whatever) and line up on either side, so we can cheer them into their married life.”
  • At this point, chances are good everyone will circle around you for one last, massive, hug it out dance. We’ve come up with this songs to honor your friends playlist, to help you take it out on a high note.
  • After the dance, feel free to have your helper make one more “now let’s head out” announcement, and have a few helpers ready to usher people out the doors. This will leave the two of you alone in an empty venue for a moment, until your helper comes to tell you everyone is ready, and it’s time to make a run for it. Enjoy that moment of quiet, look around, soak it in.
  • Then, on your cue, RUN.
  • Please ignore the temptation to stand by your car hugging everyone one last time for five minutes. Once you’ve made the dash, the guests want to cheer you leaving, not wonder if you’re ever going to leave.
  • Enjoy being married. Possibly even get laid. Consider meeting people at a bar afterwards. Or not.

Clockwise from top left: Sarah and Dawn, via APW, photo by Leah & Mark; Kara and John’s Simple Sassy Wedding, via APW, photo by A Bryan Photo; All That Mattered Was Love, via APW, photo by Rich Copley; Intimate Portland Warehouse Wedding: Julie and Nate, via Green Wedding Shoes, photo by Phil Chester; Santa Barbara Wedding: Megan and Carver, via 100 Layer Cake, photo by One Love Photography; Historic Pharmacy Museum Wedding: Crystal and Will, via Green Wedding Shoes, photo by Ariel Renae Photography

Bring back the rice exit

Thanks to our smart commenters, we now know throwing rice is not harmful for our feathered friends! So let’s make with the time honored traditions, and bring this one back around.

However, Girl Scout fun fact : A grain of rice thrown at the wedding of Juliette Gordon Low became lodged in her ear. When it was removed, her ear drum was punctured and became infected, causing her to become mostly deaf in that ear. Thankfully medicine has… advanced. So you’re probably about as likely to be strangled by a streamer as go deaf from wedding rice though, so DO IT. (Possibly with a note in the program for your guests explaining you don’t have it out for birds.)

The New Orleans Style Exit

Have you ever had a chance to second line in NOLA, waving that white handkerchief round? The first time I got to do this was at a wedding. This is one of the best exits ever, with very minimal logistics. A few minutes before the end, family members picked up their white napkins and started twirling them over their heads to the music. The groom came over to us, and some other non-locals and said, “Grab your napkins. You’ll see why.” Then the band switched to “The Saints,” the family formed a second line, the guests fell in, and we all were lead out to the front steps, stomping and cheering. A moment later the couple rushed out through our singing and white napkins and ducked into a car. I realized afterwards that I was crying. Here is what I said at the time:

Every wedding should end with a New Orleans jazz band playing “As The Saints Go Marching In.” Because standing on that sidewalk outside an old southern mansion, the whole crowd waving white napkins over our heads like flags, stomping our feet, singing that familiar spiritual at the top of our lungs, our voices rubbed raw from joy, throwing handfuls of lavender at the newlyweds as they rushed to the car? That was it. 

Modify as necessary to fit your cultural heritage.

Changing Into Traveling Clothes

When I was little, I was singularly obsessed with the final page in my parents wedding album. It showed them standing in front of an elevator in the hotel where they had their reception, grinning. My dad was wearing a light blue suit, and mom was wearing a brown floral velvet jacket and skirt. I remember asking why they were not wearing their wedding clothes, and being told that at the end of the wedding you changed into your traveling clothes, for people to see you off for your honeymoon (or in my parents case, to dinner first). I’m sad this tradition has gone out of fashion, because it’s clearly awesome, and an excuse for an extra costume change. For this exit, you slip away, change into your traveling clothes, have your bags already packed, and then everyone comes off to wish you well as you travel into your marriage.

The Confetti Toss

Perhaps you want to throw something more fun (ahem, or more sparkly) than rice. There are still plenty of things you can toss: birdseed, confetti, glitter, streamers, you name it. Make sure you have a plan for clean up after you’re gone. And no matter what Pinterest says, colored sprinkles are a bad idea. Because yes, once wet they stain everything (including you).


Look. Some exits are so good, they can’t be improved on. Exiting at night through sparklers is one of those. If you can do it, do it. (Unless you are afraid of fire. Then please don’t do it.)

By Canoe or Carriage

If you have access to some sort of awesome transportation, this is the time to use it. Please don’t waste time wondering, “Is it cheesy to leave our reception in a horse drawn carriage?” Because a better question is, “Who cares?” When else in your life are you going to have a reason to leave by canoe, carriage, or bicycle built for two, with everyone cheering as you go? This is the minute of your life where you are fully justified to embrace every romantic comedy montage you’ve ever seen, and make it yours. (Also, a surprising number of APW readers have left their wedding by canoe over the years.)

The Colored Smoke Bomb Exit

Best if you have a more affordable reception dress, or traveling clothes that you’re changing into, because you’re pretty sure to have a dry cleaning bill. But holy moly, the pictures. You can get colored smoke bombs on Amazon, done.

The decorated car, but no fuss

Perfect if you and your partner are driving off to your honeymoon (or your hotel) in your own vehicle. So consider “letting” your friends or family decorate your car before hand, then see you off in all your tinseled/ painted/ ballooned glory. Tip: if one of your friends is a mechanic… don’t let them near the car. They may wire your horn to your brake pedal (true story).

And Remember…

If you have no plans to leave your wedding in grand style (Because, damn it Meg, we’re going to hug it out), you can do variations of many of these exits as you head back up the aisle, or on the church steps (should you have them). I’m pretty sure that’s what church steps are for.

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  • Amy

    We had ribbon wands with little bells (just like the ones above) bought on Etsy, completely last minute. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be stupid, but it was amazing! We did ipod dj, so my uncle served as our reception announcer for toasts, first dance, and exit. At the last couple of songs, my wedding party starting handing out the streamers, my new brother in law got our overnight bags to the car outside, and my uncle ushered everyone outside. The pictures are amazing and running through all your friends, cheering for you and your new husband, was an exhilarating moment. Go exits! I’m glad we did ours.

  • Ali

    Wow – I can’t believe so few people have exits! We did basically what you described above. The DJ started playing Small Town Girl by Journey and we rocked it out (it was perfect and it was all our DJ!). The wedding coordinator (from the hotel) arranged everyone outside with sparklers. I have no idea how she did this – I just know it happened! and then we ran outside through the sparklers and got in our golf cart with a Just Married sign one of my bridesmaid´s had made. I changed into a much more comfortable white dress and we went back to the after party at the pub next to the reception sight. This was the compromise for my Latino husband who could not imagine ending a wedding party at 9:00!

  • Molly P. Kopuru

    Our wedding ended up being very laid back flow-wise, and our exit was equally laid back. The folks who were still there came outside and bid us farewell without any sparklers or confetti or wands, and you know what? It was still perfect. They had completely decked out the car, though :)

    • Meg Keene

      That’s still kinda an exit in my book. In fact, “decked out car” should be added to this list.

      • Molly P. Kopuru

        Oh, it definitely was. Everyone clapped, and it was fun. :D

  • Michigan Sara

    My sister married a guy from Louisiana and they did a second line during the reception. Everyone got their own printed “napkin” as a favor and the Louisiana contingent of family brought their parasols and led everyone around the room (multiple times) to some great jazz music. It was awesome! Their exit ended up being ribbon wands with bells, which was really neat too. The pictures of them scooting through a tunnel of waving wands are great.

  • Alyssa M

    Awwww, I love this so much… I’ve always loved that big exit moment too, and all of the weddings of my childhood had it. Mostly with bubbles. But I can’t quite figure out how to incorporate one into our wedding because we’re going to camp out at the reception site! Post next morning breakfast and packing up seems a little too low key… Is it weird to do an exit from the ceremony before the reception?

    • Katherine

      I’ve been to at least one wedding where this happened, and it didn’t feel weird at all. We all cheered when the couple left the church, and then we saw them again at the reception ( at another site).

    • Jacky Speck

      Not weird at all! A big exit between the ceremony and reception is what I remember from all the weddings I went to as a kid: throwing confetti, birdseed, etc. as the couple exited down the church steps (I grew up Catholic so they were all church weddings).

      • Jess

        Seconding this – I see this ALL THE TIME if the ceremony and reception are not at the same site.

    • Anon

      Totally NOT weird. I just recommended this for “Kate” up above before I saw your question! Do it!

    • AR

      Not weird at all! We got married a few weeks ago, and had the ceremony and reception in the same place (outdoor ceremony, indoor reception). Our celebrant incorporated a big exit into the ceremony. After our kiss, we walked back down the aisle, taking one step together at a time. With each step, a guest read a blessing, and everyone cheered and showered us with “wedding rice” and lavender. We did this for seven steps, with a big kiss at the end and lots more rice, lavender, and cheering. It was really fun! It turned a bit funny, too, when we realized about a half hour later that lots of the wedding rice (which is just cornstarch and sugar, I think) had gone down my dress and was dissolving with my sweat, coating me in a sugary paste!

    • Lawyerette510

      It’s not weird, it’s great!

    • Meg Keene


    • ItsyBit

      That’s what we’re doing! Our reception site is walking distance from the ceremony site so we’re all walking down together. When I mentioned this to a friend, she exclaimed, “WEDDING PARADE!” … And that’s how the grand ceremony exit / reception entrance was born. I’ll report back and let everyone knows how it goes… NEXT WEEK! ::Kermit arm flail::

  • YetAnotherMegan

    We didn’t do a real exit because we were staying at the same hotel as the reception. Bad plan. We could have exited one door and gone back in the other, but instead we ended up packing the cars and being the last ones out of the room at the end of the night. If I could go back, we’d totally exit and then go hide.

  • Kate

    I’d love to do an exit, but I’m also torn. Our cabin for the night is about a two minute walk away, so I’m picturing us running through a bunch of people and excitement only to slow down and walk a few seconds later, still in plain site. Is that awkward or okay?

    I’m also torn because amplified music must be turned off by ten, but we’ll still have a fire pit and the ability to stay at the venue. I have this great picture of my mind of a few of the people who want to stay up, clustered around the fire pit with a few acoustic guitars, singing and talking and laughing (quietly) to wind down. I’m not sure which I want more, or if there’s a way to make both work. Thoughts?

    • Anon

      Are your ceremony and reception sites at the same location? If not, perhaps you could do a grand “departure” from the ceremony site and then have the slow winding down at the reception.

      • Kate

        They are at the same site, and since they’re outside, you can see one from the other. I’m toying with the idea of doing some sort of entrance when we come back from taking pictures?

        • Lawyerette510

          The idea of an entrance when you come back from pictures could be fun, but I’d make sure your DJ and/ or wedding stage manager and/ or MC is going to be checked-in and get everyone to line up for the entrance. What about something as you walk out of the ceremony area? Especially if you’re slipping away for pics between ceremony and reception, you could exit from the ceremony and just keep walking around a corner/ to your cabin/ anywhere out of a sight line (perhaps if a friend or family member is staying in a cabin even closer to theirs?) then everyone goes on to reception area, you take pictures and then you celebrate!

          We had what sounds like a similar set up to yours. Our ceremony was down a small hill from the reception area, we were staying in one of the rooms on site (as were over half the wedding guests), and we were allowed to hang out by the fire pit after the projected music was turned off. Some of my favorite memories are hanging around that fire at the very end of the night with a handful of close friends and cousins. That said, we probably could have had an exit, gone and had a quiet moment in our room or on the back porch of our room, and then circled back once the people who were looking for a chance to go to bed had gone to bed.

    • Meg Keene

      You can run off into the night, and then totally sneak back later for the firepit.

    • Alyssa

      We stayed at the same place we had our reception, and we totally did an exit. we ran through the crowd of people and kept on running to our room. :) It worked!

  • anonpsu

    So I’m torn on the exit because we both want to drink at the reception, so we’re probably taking the shuttle back to the hotel instead of driving ourselves. We’re not going to get drunk but we’re in the camp of “buzzed driving is drunk driving”. And the shuttle would have other guests on it. So it seems like the exit will be sort of anti-climactic? So….yeh.

    • Libby

      We had a similar dilemma and ended up asking my now husband’s brother in law to drive us to the after party – he doesn’t really drink much so it wasn’t a big ask and I have to say it was SO NICE to have our car ride to ourself and not be on the shuttle with everyone. It was a moment to breathe and take it all in after. Then we headed to meet up with everyone else! Not sure if there is anyone that could do this for you, but just an idea!

    • Anon

      I vote for hiring or recruiting a volunteer driver. Even better because then you and spouse can be snuggled in the backseat together!

      • Meg Keene

        I vote for a driver you don’t know. If you can, you don’t want the third wheel thing. (OR you want someone who will not try to talk to you :)

    • anonpsu

      Yeh I don’t forsee that many people forgoing drinking (especially people in our wedding party), so I might ask my dad to do it hahahah. It’s a good solution though. I’ll just have to make sure sparklers are OK with our venue….

    • Meg Keene

      Call a taxi! Or have the shuttle do one run with just you! (It’s actually REALLY nice to have some quiet time alone after the wedding, even if you join the afterparty. It’s sort of less about the exit and more about not having to… take a shuttle back with your guests, you know?)

    • accidental_diva

      My friend & her hubby did the big exit and then told the guests who went to college with them that we were all going on the bus together (they did school buses between the reception and the hotel)with the photographer. So they got some awesome pictures of the group together and a great one of all of us pressed against towards the back of the bus with him lifting her out of the back emergency exit.

  • Libby

    In our ceremony, we provided everyone with noisemakers and at a certain point our officiant asked everyone to express their support for us using the noisemakers provided (idea found deep in an APW convo one day!). It was awesome.

    So, going off that – for the exit, my brilliant and creative father developed the most awesome night exit gadgets! He attached finger LED lights to noisemakers that swing around. I can’t find the actual ones, but they were similar in design to these: http://www.funcarnival.com/store/ny58.html

    As our guests swung around the noisemakers, the LED lights attached swung around as well – so noise, + lights, aka LOTS OF FUN! I wish I had a good picture, but only video really captured it.

  • Amelia

    I had a wonderful (church) ribbon wand exit. My friends, cousins, aunt and mom got together to make them, and we had a great time. We added bells on the end for an extra special touch. After the ceremony my groom and I went to a private room were we had a few moments alone while the guests gathered on the church stairs (it’s a good thing too, because I sobbed with happiness after our ceremony). The ribbon wand exit photos were beautiful and it felt like we were in a movie. Plus the children at our wedding loved playing with the wands! Highly recommended.

    PRO TIP – like Meg said, having your transportation waiting for you is KEY. We had our trolley waiting for us after our exit, it drove us around the block and we entered through church side door for pictures. I’ve been at weddings that did church exits with out their transportation waiting, and they did a very awkward reverse-receiving line through their guest crowd back into the church for pictures.

    Also, I was just at a wedding that had an AMAZING night time exit – glow sticks! They had tons of long glow sticks that people fashioned into head bands, necklaces, waving wands, etc. The pictures looked really cool and everyone loved them. The happy couple were whisked away via pedi-cab.

    • JDrives

      OHMIGOD. Glow sticks. Genius.

      • MC

        YES. Our venue is in a state park so they are very particular about what we cannnot throw but glow sticks sound like the perfect idea! And they’d be fun for the dance party, too.

  • Michelle M.

    That’s really interesting because most of the weddings I’ve been to in the past few years had an exit! Just one couple left in (the most amazing) traveling clothes though. Several sparkler exits (which we did), plus bubbles, ribbons, paper airplanes, and my best friend left on a boat (lake house reception). I was so happy leaving in a line of sparkling smiles and cheers from my favorite people. :)

  • macrain

    Hell yes. I’m really attached to the exit idea! We plan to exit to sparklers and get straight into a pedicab (his family owns one, so we were like- yes we have to use that.) Pretty sure we will both head to the after party, so not sure yet where that pedicab is going to take us (or, um, who will be driving it?).
    But, yay exits! From an event planning standpoint, it seems like a nice way to mark the end of the reception (even if you plan to keep the party going somewhere else, as we do).

    • Lawyerette510

      Task rabbit or the like for a pedicab driver?

  • Almost every wedding I’ve been to (in Australia) has had a goodbye circle. Everyone forms a circle, and the bride and groom start at the bit nearest the exit. Then, the bride goes one way, the groom goes the other, they say a quick goodbye to everyone in the circle, and eventually they end up back near the exit again – and everyone cheers as they leave.

    • Meg Keene

      <3 <3 <3

    • Bets

      That is lovely!

  • Erin

    When I was a bridesmaid, this was something the bridal party organized. If you do a sparkler exit, MAKE SURE SOMEONE HAS LIGHTERS!

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      ETA: Wind friendly lighters! I’ve tried to light sparklers with my regular old Bic lighter before and we all had to hunch in a circle to keep the damn thing from blowing out. :)

  • Lindsey d.

    I’ve never seen a Louisiana wedding END on a Second Line (I’ve lived in Louisiana for all of my 33 years). In New Orleans, they actually traditionally get the party from the church TO the reception. When done this way, they are incredibly cool. People frequently hire a brass band and get a parade permit. Random people join in for the fun and tourists stop to take pictures. Outside of New Orleans, they are simply done during the reception. I think we did ours about 1/3 of the way through the reception, before we even cut the cake.

    I felt like we bucked tradition by doing a simple exit — We had our guests just stand and wave at us. It was actually inspired by a movie. In Steel Magnolias, Julia Roberts and Dylan McDermot leave under a hail of confetti, but Olympia Dukasis and Shirley MacLaine simply waving the couple goodbye always stuck in my head. I loved the image and that’s exactly what we did. It was also one less thing to plan/worry about.

    Also, we were fairly limited by our venue with what we could do. There was special bio-degradable confetti we could buy and I think flower petals would have been okay, but sparklers, birdseed, rice and other traditional exits were off limits.

    • Lindsey d.

      Oh, we exited fairly quickly after that. A couple of hugs as we got in the car. But we did meet the family/out of town guests about three hours later for a post-wedding crawfish boil, which was great fun!

    • Lawyerette510

      I went to a great surprise wedding that was all in one venue that was a concert-type venue. When we got there for what we thought was an engagement party, there was a brass band playing on stage. Then, they played a video that announced that the wedding was happening, then while we were all in shock it was happening, some of the bride’s friends passed out the printed napkins and parted the crowd down the middle. The groom and officiant walked in and up onto the stage, then the bride and her mom and the bride went up on stage. Then as soon as the quick but moving ceremony was over, the officiant explained that in tribute to the couple’s affinity for New Orleans, we’d have a Second Line, the band struck up, someone handed the bride and groom their umbrellas, and we all fell in and went around the venue. The original plan had been that they were going to get married on the courthouse lawn across from venue and then we’d Second Line around the square and back into the venue, but it was pouring rain, so everything happened inside and it was totally AMAZING!

      • JDrives

        Attending a surprise wedding is high on my list of Awesome Things I Hope Someday Will Happen To Me. Also, sitting next to a celebrity on a plane.

        • jane

          I’ve been to a surprise wedding! My church held a Christmas concert and at the end of it two of our members got married at the concert! They hadn’t told anyone they were going to do it, just got the license that morning and asked our pastor to marry them that evening. It was AWESOME.

    • Meg Keene

      I know! But ENDING with a second line is SOOOOOO GOOOOOD.

      • Lindsey d.

        I agree! I hope I didn’t sound negative; it could be really cool… My only regret would be not getting to lead the Second Line if you are just running through. Also, down here, people know to line up behind the couple and follow them around the dance floor or through the streets, so it would require extra instruction.

        Some second line action from our wedding…

        • Meg Keene

          It didn’t require extra instruction actually, and it was a VERY NOLA crowd (like, old New Orleans family kind of thing). So they did exactly this, started the second line on the dance floor, and then I think a mom or something ended up leading everyone out the door leaving the bride and groom behind and then they just ran through. I’d bet they did it because the chapel and the reception hall were pretty far apart, we all needed to drive, so they didn’t have another chance. Regardless, HIGHLY recommended. The best wedding exit I’ve ever seen (though all second line’s are equally good, and I can’t wait till my kid gets to do one. He has a very NOLA spirit, to say the least.)

          PS These photos are great! They just went directly from this to the exit, so as you can imagine it was SPIRITED.

  • Lawyerette510

    We didn’t do an exit because out wedding was small and people drifted off at various points and our room was really close to the reception site (all at a great hotel/ inn) plus we knew there was zero clean up that night so there was no worry about being sucked into that. But my sister had a great exit at her wedding. They went to the same college, so they bought streamer pom pom kinda things like would be handed out at a pep rally and ran through all of us (about 200?) shaking those and yelling. It was great!

    Also if you do need to be back on site after the exit, a friend of mine just circled round and came back after a few minutes post exiting through all of us waving glow sticks, despite our strog insistence that we had clean up covered.

  • Kara

    Back in 2009, we exited our reception with our guests showering us with rose petals. The DJ asked all the remaining guests (after the dance party) to kindly gather up handfuls of rose petals from the tables and head out the main door to shower us on our way out. Woot woot for recycling wedding decor :).

    It just so happened that it was pouring, when we left, but we didn’t care and our guests didn’t either.

    Just make sure that your venue will allow you to use sparklers, rice, lavender, bubbles, etc.!

    PS. My mom still has her traveling dress from her 1972 wedding–she made it herself. It was a kickass hot pink and orange paisley mini dress. I thought about using it for my traveling dress, but it was a little snug, and I hate pink :).

  • Emily

    Sarah and Dawn! Their wedding was so good, cake toppers and canoe exit and all. I’m still swooning and that post was like three years ago.

  • Emily

    My mom did a bubble exit in the late nineties. I feel like bubbles are due for a comeback.

    Also, after seeing one of my dear friends try to hug it out, I know it will never work for me. She was DONE at least an hour before she and her new husband managed to make it to the car. As an introvert, that’s kind of my nightmare.

  • Kari

    Wedding exits are excellent. Except when John Sacrimoni gets led off by the Feds and cries.

  • Wedding exits are pretty awesome but I’ll add one last tip – be sure to tell your photographer in advance so they can prep whatever they need to for fantastic exit photos! Also, I’ve seen quite a few wedding exits at the end of the ceremony, rather than reception, where the guest throw streamers, wave colorful flags, or blow bubbles as the couple exits down the aisle. It seems to work well especially when the couple is planning to do photos immediately after the ceremony instead of joining everyone for cocktails/reception first thing. Could be a good alternative for someone who wants the fun exit but doesn’t want to leave the party before the guests!

    • Sarah

      yeah we have an exit photo from our ceremony. It was unplanned but it looks great. And we couldn’t have gotten good pics of any grand exit since our photographer left about an hour before the reception ended – no need for endless pictures of drunk dancing and goodbye hugs, you know? I wouldn’t have wanted to pay her just for that.

  • SarahG

    Aw, all the talk of friends sending you off with love made me tear up (having a bit of an emo morning for some reason). Our restaurant has a Venetian gondola service attached to it (oh, and a lake — Lake Merritt in Oakland. V. important to have the body of water). So, we’re leaving in a gondola! Not gonna lie, that was literally like half the reason we picked it. I was worried it was super corny, but now I’m not. Thanks, Meg!

    • Meg Keene

      Maddie and I were TALKING about your wedding last time we were there. (Are we there often? It’s basically the APW summer office.) Anywayyyyyyy WE WANT PICTURES. Do we know the photographer? There was much discussion.

      • SarahG

        Oh em gee, this makes my morning :) I may look for you like a stalker the next time I’m at happy hour. Anyway, I was thinking of trying for a wordless wedding submission if it comes out good! My photographer is my cousin who, bless her, is a travel photographer and is doing my photos for free (she’s done a couple of weddings too). She’s not Bay Area. (BTW, I am the one who wrote the piece for y’all on meeting my partner in a dungeon. I wrote it before we were engaged. So, dungeons lead to weddings!).

        • SarahG

          Oh and I should say, here’s my cousin’s website: http://beersandbeans.com/. If you like travel blogging… she is awesome.

    • Michele

      I was just there last night! We thought about having our wedding there, and the gondola was definitely a selling point. Ended up that we’ll be at Preservation Park instead, but we’re having our rehearsal dinner at the Lake Chalet.

      Have fun!

  • Kayjayoh

    “I’m always a little sad that we now know that tossing rice outside is bad for birds. Alas.”

    Be of good cheer! You can totally throw rice:


    “‘This silly myth pops up periodically, and it is absolutely unfounded,’ responded rice expert Mary Jo Cheesman at the USA Rice Federation. Many migrating ducks and geese depend on winter-flooded rice fields each year to fatten up and build strength for their return trek to northern nesting grounds.

    Uncooked, milled rice is no more harmful to birds than rice in the field, Cheesman said. The Curator of Ornithology at the University of California at Berkeley agrees.

    ‘It’s a myth. There is no reason why birds, including small songbirds, can’t eat rice,’ said Ned Johnson, a professor of biology at Berkeley who lectures frequently on the food and feeding of birds.”

    • Meg Keene

      UPVOTE UPVOTE UPVOTE. (And when I get a second, I’ll edit!)

    • emilyg25

      “Rice expert”

      Sometimes I wish I had a better job title.

    • laddibugg

      At first I admit I was a little skeptical about this ‘debunking’ since the first source was ‘The Rice Federation’ ;-)

      • Natalie

        In general I agree with your skepticism. But the article is correct – many wild birds eat rice regularly, and there’s no reason why rice would react differently in birds’ guts than any other uncooked grain. Birds that can’t handle grains or seeds (e.g., hawks) won’t be eating rice no matter how much of it gets thrown at weddings.

        Side note: the quoted Ned Johnson was one of the world’s best ornithologists before his death a few years ago.

    • Alyssa M

      Maybe silly myth is propagated by venues who hate cleaning up rice?

    • Alison O

      The main concern I’ve seen around rice throwing–from venues–is that it can actually be dangerous on some surfaces depending on how much rice is thrown. You definitely do not want to slip and fall during your wedding exit or have one of your guests injure themselves! So you might test it out beforehand if rice will be thrown onto a hard surface.

      • Alison O

        Ha but I just got a great image in my head of people instead throwing sticky cooked rice at the couple to avoid this danger.

        • Kayjayoh

          Ha! Now I do, too.

      • Kayjayoh

        Which is a legit concern, but definitely not bird-related (and not going to be solved by people subbing birdseed). :)

  • JDrives

    I never even considered exits! Now I’m considering it so hard!!

  • Caroline

    Okay, now I’m totally considering this. Because I’m not good at not helping (so it will be hard not to help clean up) and also, we come from a culture of extreme slow-goodbyers. Both our families are such, and our friends even more. It is not unusual for goodbyes at a dinner party with 8 people who you will all see tomorrow (such as Shabbat dinner) to take 45 minutes. I can’t imagine how we’d ever leave if we try to say goodbye to everyone without a deadline. So te grand exit, where everyone gets to say goodbye to us on a high note (rater than the super sad, I won’t see you for a while note that I think prolonged goodbyes with his family may have on my sweetie) sounds awesome. Plus then we’re out and not cleaning up.

  • Emilie

    My wedding is tomorrow (yay!!) and we’re doing a bubble exit. I’d bought miniature bubble bottles and wands, but my parents surprised me yesterday with 2 BUBBLE MACHINES and an assortment of different bubble juices, which we had a blast testing to figure out which formula produces the biggest and most bubbles.

    • Lindsey d.

      I always thought a bubble machine would be key to getting an amazing bubble reception… My friends did a bubble reception, but their photographers had already left, so all they have are some drunk people’s grainy iPhone photos of the exit.

  • Class of 1980

    They were still doing the exits when I was growing up and we went to a fair amount of weddings. They didn’t actually hug it out extensively at the end. The couple would quietly disappear from the reception and reappear later with traveling clothes on. It was always rather stealthy.

    Once they returned, people usually immediately went outside to form an aisle and throw rice. The couple ran to the car (pausing for a photo inside the car) and then drove off.

    There was more urgency back then to get to the honeymoon. ;)

  • Laura C

    At her wedding, my MOH was going to do a big exit and then when the time came, they looked around and got worried that the party wouldn’t recover from the interruption of everyone lining up to throw rose petals. So they snuck out, and rode off in the carriage they had hired for the big exit, and the groomsmen ended up doing a big line dance using the rose petal buckets as hats and drums and in other ways, which was a high point of the wedding.

    Then later a few of us caught the bride and groom sneaking back into the hotel where the reception was (no one was supposed to know where they were staying) and were like “HURRY! Get on the elevator before anyone else sees you!”

  • Jane

    I am a die-hard Miss Manners fan, so I knew that nobody is supposed to leave the wedding until the cake has been eaten and the newlyweds make their exit. HOWEVER, (as is often the case with Miss Manners doctrine) nobody knew this except me. We had a Sunday wedding that ended at 8:00 pm, and people were starting to head out, and I panicked! NOOOOOO! I know it’s Sunday evening, but you have to stay and let us make our exit! I promise we aren’t going to dance all night!

    Our wedding coordinator rounded everybody up with the giant cooler of plumeria blossoms that we had ordered for table decorations and for throwing during the exit, and we had our exit. Best picture of the night.

    • Lauren from NH

      Ooo can I pick your brain? We were thinking of a Sunday wedding, maybe 3-8ish. Does everyone really get antsy about leaving? Does no one want to drink/party because it’s Sunday?

      • Jane

        We are in our thirties and weren’t looking to have a super party wedding (his family are teetotalling Baptists and don’t really even dance), so Sunday evening was fine for us. We had contra dancing with a band and a caller instead of dance music with a DJ, and when the band ended their first set at around 7:50, everybody started coming up to us to say goodbye. I had thought we would stay for one more set from the band, but I could tell that if we did that, very few of our guests would still be around by the end of the set. Time to go!

        If you want to have a real party reception that goes past 8:00 pm with boozy dancing, I wouldn’t recommend a Sunday evening on a regular workweek. And yes, I second the above comment about front-loading the timeline and doing better stage-managing. Sunday evening guests turn into pumpkins much quicker than Saturday evening guests. I should have planned for this more carefully…maybe even started the wedding earlier (our ceremony was at 3:30, reception started at 5:30–wish we would have pushed everything ahead about an hour).

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Amy Vanderbilt says you have to stay for the cake-cutting, but only a few hardy guests will stay to see the couple off, FWIW.

      Our wedding was the Monday of a 3-day weekend, so functionally a Sunday. We left at 8:30, and some people started leaving at 6pm. But we had very few guests in the 20-35 range. Lots were over 65. We had expected to go until 9pm, which is when weekday parties with our crowd usually completely break up.

      If I had to do it over again, to avoid so much “You’re leaving already?!” I’d:
      *Do better stage-managing, mostly in the form of triple-checking the timeline with our catering captain
      *Front-loaded the timeline even more. I wanted long stretches for chatting, but if I’d known things would start clearing out right after dinner, I might have let only the stragglers chat. ;-)

  • Rachel

    When my best friend got married, they held the reception at a rented beach house in an old-and-fusty community. It was in the plan from the beginning that the cops would show up at some point to shut down the party, and that was the planned moment for the big exit of the bride n’ groom. After the cops made everyone stop yelling, the gave a couple of sweet speeches and flounced out!

  • Bets

    I want a way to pack up (after all I would feel terrible leaving the mess to my friends and family to clean up) and do an exit, preferably one that involves sparklers AND hugs. I will let you guys know if I come up with anything.

  • laurasmash

    We really wanted to have our wedding in Yosemite and have this as our wedding exit: We grab our packed backpacks, which each have a bandanna embroidered with “just married” on the back, and hike away on the John Muir Trail for our honeymoon. Sadly the wedding won’t be in Yosemite because some family members can’t travel that far. But I thought I would throw the idea out there in case anyone else wants it :)

    • Sarah

      best idea ever! If only I had months of vacation to make that happen…

      • laurasmash

        You can hike the JMT in about 3 weeks, and if you don’t have that much time there are some gorgeous smaller sections that you can do in less time! I did a 3 day section with my fiancé last summer as part of a longer thru-hike he did by himself. It was wonderful!
        Haha, I really want someone to do this for a honeymoon since I can’t :)

  • kcaudad

    In WI (and maybe other parts of the midwest), they have a ‘grand march’ where the B&G and bridal party enter the reception in a clever way. The DJ announces everyone and they come in and the bridal party members form a ‘tunnel’ for the B&G to walk through, since they come in last. I have seen ones done where people dress up in theme outfits or have crazy dance moves as they come it. That could be a fun option if a ‘final exit’ doesn’t work for you. Check with your photographer to make sure they know it’s coming. Also, our photographer had an hours limit, and didn’t stay through the whole reception, thus wouldn’t have been around for a ‘final exit’.

  • ElisabethJoanne

    I was going to call out the editorial simplification of calling the Marines Memorial Club a hotel, but I guess it’s ok ’cause they have guest rooms. Where’d your parents go for dinner? Is it still in business?

  • Bsquillo

    For our exit, we gave all of our guests kazoos and had them form a kazoo-playing tunnel. It was hilarious.

    Also, my bridesmaids decorated my car and taped a bunch a balloons to it. Every single balloon fell off as we sped away, leaving a happily married balloon trail.

    • Joy

      We had kazoos, too! And little clappers and tambourines. Basically a tunnel of adults with toy noisemakers. It was awesome!

  • Stacey H.

    OMG smoke bombs?! Hell yes. Ninja bride.

  • Eh

    Exits are not common where I live, or at least in my circle. I have never been to a wedding that had one. I remember looking at my parents wedding album and seeing my parents in their travelling cloths (my mom wore an amazing red leather dress). My dad is a firm believer that the bride and groom should leave the party. However, I think many people have the same issue we had. The venue contract was in our names and it was our insurance covering everything so we had to stay (both had clauses saying that at least one of the named people have to be on the premises for the whole event). The other option would be for someone else to be the person responsible (book the venue in their name and buy insurance in their name – which in my circle is common for Buck & Does that are hosted by the wedding party). We were getting married in my husband’s home town so his parents would have been the obvious choice however they are not late night people (they left two hours before the party ended). We also didn’t really have a wedding party but that would have been another option. If we had asked my dad he would have done it (though that would have been more of a hassle due to him living far away – though not impossible). I think the biggest problem we would have had is pulling my husband away from playing Cards Against Humanity with our friends.

  • Sarah

    We were the hug and linger couple! We were the last people out of our reception space. It felt a little anti-climactic cleaning up decorations, loading cars, and saying bye to our family as the venue set up for their normal dinner service, but then we ended up having one of my favorite moments (ok there were a LOT of favorite moments, but I swear this was also one of them) of the day: the venue owner congratulated us, ushered us out onto the patio, brought us two big glasses of wine, and let us stay out there as long as we wanted, even though the wedding was over and regular restaurant guests were being served dinner. We needed that down time to regroup before heading back to the hotel. It was really nice to kick back, look around, and be like “we just got married! wow!” Plus we got the time to thank all the vendors and helper-guests who stayed afterwards to clean up.

  • Meredith

    I wanted a sparkler send off so badly, but obviously did not plan ahead. Finding sparklers on the coldest weekend in Austin 2 days before my wedding was challenging, but I tracked some guy down and we made a deal in an Olive Garden parking lot. The sparkler send off would be mine!! My husband was very excited to choose our getaway song and picked LCD Soundsystem’s “Dance Yourself Clean” for the quiet intro (while people lined up and lit the sparklers) then the song gets rockin’ which is when we dashed to our pedi cab. It made for fantastic photos! We both look extremely genuinely happy and natural and in the moment, which is something that is hard to capture in the posed portrait photos. The DJ just announced it was time to line up for the send off. Some bridesmaids passed around the sparklers and the best man made sure our bags and a plate of leftovers was in the pedi cab ahead of time. Totally worth doing! Not out of style, never will be! You might be thinking of the dance down the aisle thing from The Office and that gum commercial.

  • Aj

    I wish we had planned an exit! At the end of the night we were DONE and I tried to help with clean up but wound up in tears from fatigue. Our last dance was so perfect (Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing) that it would have been a great time to do something fun and avoid the end of wedding meltdown. My favorite scene in Father of the Bride is when they come down the stairs in their traveling clothes. We weren’t leaving for our honeymoon or a hotel, just our dogs and bed, but changing into something and heading out would have been nice. Ah well.

  • Lizzy

    Having been to a wedding with a sparkler send off, please please please have more than one lighter! It took forever to light all of them, even with people branching off in both directions, so that by the time they were all lit, the first ones were fizzling out. If you have two lines, maybe one at each end, or two in the middle depending on the length of the line.

  • Alyssa

    We wanted to do sparklers for our NYE wedding, but we never got around to purchasing them, and it totally slipped our minds. But our amazing friends set up an impromptu “tunnel of love” that G and I ran through into the night. It was so unexpected and so magical! Also: free. Like Meg, I definitely got the feeling that we were running right into the start of our marriage. It is one of my favorite memories!

  • I was just at a friend’s wedding, and they tossed actual rice when they left the church for the reception. It was so lovely!!!

  • Megan

    Love this post! We had a super simple sendoff – although we coveted ribbon wands (didn’t want to buy them and didn’t have time to DIY) and sparklers (I kept picturing horrifying dresses-catching-on-fire scenarios), we ended up just letting our collective “bridesmaids of honor” know that the car was coming to take us off to our honeymoon at 10. They totally took care of the rest.

    They packed our things in the car for us and secretly gathered most of the folks outside on the church steps after our reception while we were talking and hugging inside. Suddenly we started hearing rhythmic clapping outside – it started slowly, but as we moved toward the sound it got faster and faster. Once we got outside and saw the lines of friends clapping and cheering, we got the idea and headed out through them down the steps and off into the rest of our lives. It was one of the most energizing, love-filled moments of the night! True, we didn’t end up with fabulous Pinterest-worthy photos of our exit, but we still wouldn’t trade it for anything.

    Highly recommend clapping if you don’t want to worry about coordinating anything else!

  • Sometimes I struggle with the reality and the fantasy. The reality is that my wife and I are in our early forties, we hosted our own wedding, had no bridal party, no family living anywhere near us which meant that yes we were the last people to leave the church. We had a Wedding Team who were incredibly instrumental with the logistics, food, etc but there’s no way I would have felt comfortable leaving the work to them. They did most of it but I just would not have felt right leaving the church knowing they were still putting stuff away. My fantasy life is like all of you with your family hosting and a separate reception space but that’s not how my life is. And while yes, I’m happy with my life, every once in a while the fantasy would nice, too. Oh well. I’m glad for so many of you to have the wedding exits you dream(ed) of.

  • MisterEHolmes

    A warning about the sparklers: That tunnel ends up super-super hot. You’ll want to run just so you can get a breath of cool air at the end!

  • Caitlin_DD

    Yes, yes, yes going away clothes. My parents’ going away clothes were almost exactly the same as yours, and I love the picture of the two of them. Even if you’re just going home, do it. Or hell, get some for the next morning when you depart.

  • AnnieL

    I love the part about the mechanic. Growing up on a farm we all know how to tinke with a car so for my brothers wedding (along with some help from a few cousins, uncles and Dad) we wired the horn to the indicator. I’m sure they had a fun trip all the way back to their hotel!

  • I’ve been to a lot of weddings with wedding exits. I always figured I would have one. But in reality, I don’t like to leave parties early, as long as I am having fun. So it was the same with the wedding. However, I ended up cleaning up (and pouring coffee from a huge coffee dispenser/warmer thing down a water fountain), packing up used dishes, boxes, etc., in my wedding dress. DO NOT DO THIS. Next time around, I won’t make that mistake. :)

  • We had poppers/streamers for when we exited the church. (you press a button and streamers shoot out). Looked similar to the header picture in this post. HOWEVER, it was unintentionally hilarious, because we got completely tangled up in the streamers! Made for some very funny pictures.

  • waweddingvenues

    I have to say, my all time favorite exit would have to be the sparklers. Seriously, who would pass that up?

  • Megan

    My coworker’s sister did a wedding exit with sparklers and they burned tons of tiny little holes into her dress…just to throw that out there!

  • Stacy {Woodsy Weddings}

    These are fantastic ideas and I absolutely adore the pictures of the colored smoke bombs. Really stunning!

  • Caroline

    Thank you so so much for this post. We weren’t planning to do a grand exit until I saw it, and decided we needed to. We got married a week and a half ago, and our grand exit was the best.

    The last dance (which we also weren’t planning to do until we decided to do a grand exit, per this post) was my favorite moment of the whole wedding. The world narrowed to just my new husband and I, and we were alone in the world as we danced and sang to each other. Turning our heads to the sky and belting “Darling, Darling, stand by me”* is absolutely my best wedding memory.

    The grand exit was pretty magic too. Many of our loved ones cheering as we ran through a flurry of yellow, gold, orange and red rose petals and escaped to go rest our exhausted married selves was pretty wonderful.
    *Our last dance was to Ben E. King’s “Stand by me”. I barely remember our first dance, but this was the dance that mattered. So thank you so so much for the idea!

  • LOVE these ideas! We have helped numerous brides with using sparklers during their wedding exits, and these are all fantastic concepts. I particularly like your tips for organizing a wedding exit, very comprehensive. We have a few guides to doing wedding sparkler exits on https://weddingdaysparklers.com/ if anyone is interested. Thanks for the great post!

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