As much as I love to be the “You do you!” cheerleader encouraging brides & grooms to plan & create the wedding celebration of their dreams – no matter what people say – today I have a “real talk” plea for some wedding planning restraint.

Please, please oh please, be conscious of any burn bans in effect near your wedding venue this summer.

This plea goes out to all the amazing couples that are getting married in dry areas vulnerable to wildfires. That means, essentially, the entire West Coast of the United States. Additionally, while our friends in South Africa & Australia are headed into winter, this goes to you next wedding season, too.

As a Pacific Northwesterner, every year I watch and worry as my home state & beloved West Coast goes up in flames. I want my couples to be particularly mindful of the potential hazard of things like sparkler send-offs, releasing lanterns, unattended candles & late-night bonfires during burn bans. Sadly, every year many of the West’s (and elsewhere) wildfires are actually caused by human incidents. That means a cigarette butt flicked into dry summer grass. Fire pits that have gone unattended. Roman candles shot into thick trees. (Yes, someone did this once literally in front of my childhood home!)

Last year my husband and I fled our home in Portland, unable to breathe the air outside for ten days due to devasting wildfire smoke. It was a horrifying experience, much of which could have been prevented with respect of fire safety during burn bans.

There are a number of fun and festive wedding traditions that are simply “no-gos” when it comes to dry, arid wedding destinations. When we got married in the Baja of Mexico, releasing lanterns was listed as a forbidden event due to dry foliage around the beach. While you may be disappointed that the sparkler send-off you dreamed of ill-advised, just think how much more disappointing it would be to have a colossal accident that leads to a devastating wildfire.

We’re sharing how to find out if there’s a burn ban near your wedding, what activities to avoid and alternative ideas to things like sparkler send-offs and candle decor.

How Do You Find Out About Local Burn Bans?

Pretty simple: if you Google “Is there a burn ban in…” you should be able to quickly find your answer.

But what if you’re planning your wedding now – when there is no burn ban – but you don’t know if there will be later this summer?

You’ll want to do your research (again, Google) to see if your wedding destination often has burn bans, particularly during the months of July, August & September. If your wedding takes place in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Arizona or British Columbia, the chances are: yes. In the USA, normally you can find all the information you need on your state’s Forestry or Fire website (linked on the states above).

What To Avoid If There Is A Burn Ban

To some, this list may be obvious, but in our efforts to help Smokey Bear, we’re listing out all the wedding activities that should be avoided if you are getting married in an area with extreme fire risk or a burn ban.

It should also be noted that even if there isn’t a flat-out burn ban, you should avoid these activities under extreme & high fire risk levels as well.

  • Campfires or Bonfires
  • Releasing Sky Lanterns
  • Decorating with candles
  • Sparkler Send-offs
  • Fireworks
  • Smoking, Cigar Bars & Spliff Bars
  • BBQ over open-flame

Alternative Ideas That Aren’t Fire Hazards

Instead of a late-night bonfire, set up a stargazing area with Moroccan poufs and cushions, Turkish blankets (which make great favors!) & late-night snacks.

Rather than releasing sky lanterns why not buy some butterfly kits, raise the caterpillars and release the butterflies together? Similarly, you could capture some lightning bugs (fireflies) in jars and release them for a sparkly effect.

Decorate your tables & area with locally foraged greenery & extra flowers (you won’t miss the candles!) If you’d like to add lights to your tables try these cute & realistic LED candles.

Throwing fresh rose petals or dried flower petal confetti, releasing butterflies or lightning bugs, riding out on horse or camel, running through a tunnel made by your guests’ hands, blowing bubbles and exiting via motorcycle are all great alternatives to the sparkler send-off.

Instead of fireworks as entertainment, why not book professional dancers or a live band!

Forgo the cigar bar and hire a bartender to pour local spirits like whiskeys, mezcals or wine. We love dessert carts like gelato carts, churro carts or paleta carts, too!

Photo by Joyful Creations Art via Tulle & Chantilly

If you’re dying for a fire-roasted pig, find a local caterer that can do this safely in their own kitchen, then serve family-style, carving the pig live in front of guests.

We love our planet. Find out how you can make a positive impact with your wedding with these tips to throwing an eco-friendly wedding. Find more environmentally-conscience wedding tips here.