The concept for Sparkle was conceived after my own wedding in July of 1999. We used 36-inch sparklers for our send-off and they were an absolute smash! The photographs were exceptional and showed the festive feeling I had worked so hard to create. Honestly, they were a last-minute addition. I was trying to find a way to honor my dad who grew up in the fireworks business. I am not sure how the idea entered my head, but I was excited about it. Funny thing, it almost did not happen. At my wedding, which was at my parents’ home, the transformer blew – literally caught on fire and was in flames.
We lost power for an hour and a half – which was a miracle as some others “in the know” said it might take a few days to be repaired. The band started late, someone fell, the booze ran out (seriously – someone had to run to the liquor store for more). It was LATE at the end of the night. Really late! And I remember someone saying – forget the sendoff, just load the buses and send everyone home. I said NO WAY and forced everyone to light a sparkler and my husband and I literally walked through the line carrying our luggage for our honeymoon. It is such an old memory but such a vivid and happy one now. My father has been in the retail fireworks business for 60 years. He began as a teenager with a single roadside tent on the 4th of July and steadily worked his way up to brick and mortar retail stores that are open year-round. He devoted one entire summer to selling fireworks in a tent in Missouri in order to earn enough money to buy my mother an engagement ring, the same ring which my mother passed on many years later to my boyfriend (who became, subsequently my fiancé and husband) and which sits now on my own ring finger.
With the growing popularity of using sparklers in weddings, with my personal connection to fireworks, and the overwhelmingly positive response from the sparklers at my wedding, I was bombarded with friends asking how they can do the same thing. Finally, it hit me that perhaps I should link my love for fireworks with my love for weddings. Hence, Sparkle, my labor of love! I hope you enjoy Sparkle’s products and will share your wedding sparkler send-off stories with me!
UPDATE: One thing I have had the opportunity to do over the years is to try a new brand of sparklers to sell and make more money. These would be cheaper and my profits would be higher. after ordering at least 5 different brands as samples I was horrified. These sparklers were hard to light, the sparkler composite fell off in chunks, they would quit burning midway through. Horrifying. I know how every detail of a wedding is thought about and thought about to the point of exhaustion. I simply refuse to have my wedding sparklers ever be the subject of conversation after a wedding that they were a disappointment.
Good question. My father has been in the fireworks business virtually for his entire life. If you ever meet him, he will regale you with tales about spending his summers in high school and college running fireworks tents. His love and passion for fireworks inspired him to open year-round retail fireworks stores in his home state of Tennessee, where you can find them today for all your big-time, explosive fireworks needs.
My summer job during high school and college (and on occasion after graduation) was to work the 4th of July Season (i.e., the Black Friday season for the fireworks season) at one or several of my dad’s stores. I started by working at a register but evolved into what I described as the “den mother” at a particular store for the week. I took care of the really important things—like making sure the staff working the store had lunch and dinner, and plenty of coffee, or later on, Red Bull. His managers and staff worked their tails off, so I was there to make sure they were taken care of; I made sure everyone had plenty of break time, filling in wherever someone was getting worn out. The highlight of my fireworks store experience took place when, one 4th of July season, terrible weather moved through our location. The power at the store went out, the electronic registers were dead, and a store full of panicked and frightened customers wondered what exactly we were going to do. Everyone froze…so, I jumped on a check-out counter and announced to the packed store that we would be giving everyone a 20% discount if they would stay calm and wait until we got the registers back online. According to my dad, I saved the day. No one fled hysterically out of the store; most everyone stuck around, completed their purchase, and calm was restored. My proudest moment as a fireworks store helper!
So fast forward a few years. I watched the movie “My Best Friends Wedding” which came out in 1997. In the famous wedding scene, the new bride and groom, Dermot Mulroney and Cameron Diaz depart from the venue in a classic car down a gorgeous driveway lined with sparkling fountains. My jaw hit the floor. It was spectacular! I was sold. We were going to do replicate that for my wedding. Minor missing detail—I needed to be engaged and planning an actual wedding for that to happen. Thankfully my boyfriend popped the question in the fall of 1998, left with the Navy for his 6-month deployment, and left me behind to plan the wedding of my dreams.
It was a wedding for the ages.
My family was famous (or notorious?) for throwing the best and craziest parties at the middle Tennessee area farm where I was born and raised. In my childhood, following one of their wild and crazy nights, my job would be to comb the property for cigarette butts and clean them up…for a fee of 5 cents a butt! Weren’t the 70s and 80s great? Needless to say, expectations were high. My husband and I were married when we were 25 so we had scores of friends from high school, college, and other various people we had met over the years. And no one wanted to miss this party, so we ended up inviting basically everyone we knew, who all of course came (very few regrets that night). It produced some truly fantastic stories: someone came to me as I was getting dressed to tell me that the band had a problem because there was a snake in one of their speakers. For real. But, everything was wonderful….until the power went out.
Yes, the power went out at my wedding reception. Right in the middle of it. Why? Because we decided to have the best and most wonderful porta-potties available for my wedding. These porta-potties, which were air-conditioned, were, in fact, wonderful and provided a terrific bathroom experience. But, they also drew a lot of power. So much power, in fact, that they, along with everything else online that night, blew the transformer providing power to our farm. I mean, really blew it. We heard it! It sounded like a bomb was dropped!
At this point, I became the recipient of lots of great words of advice and encouragement. Someone told me that we should move the entire party to his house down the road and that I was an idiot if I didn’t do it. Seriously, me in the white dress! Others told me it would take days to get the transformer fixed and that we should just call off the rest of the night. Plenty of my 20-something friends were unfazed and said we’ll just throw a party in the dark. There are candles, right? My family was panicked; I was in tears. The band wouldn’t be able to play; the rest of the night would be a disaster.
Once again, fireworks to the rescue. My dad had arranged a professional fireworks show that was supposed to begin at the end of the night, as the party was winding down. With the power out and all of us freaking out, as soon as it became dark, my dad decided to kick off the fireworks show, much earlier than we had planned. It was spectacular. Everyone ooo’d and awed as they burst in the air. They were so wonderful, in fact, that a number of people driving past our farm stopped to watch. A few even broke out their folding chairs to take it all in. One of the people watching happened to be with the power company. He was relayed word that the power was out and my wedding was teetering on the brink of catastrophe. He, kindly, not knowing me at all, called his people at the power company….and somehow, someway, the problem we had been told would take days to fix, was fixed! The lights came out, and everyone cheered. The boring people were long gone, so it was just those closest to me to enjoy the best part of the night. The band wasn’t sure exactly what to do; their timeline had been thrown off. So they went straight to the fun songs. Bummer, I never really got the first dance I wanted and planned. But no worries…we all danced the night away.
So….long story long: the exit. I had envisioned an exit like what I had cataloged in my head from “My Best Friend’s Wedding.” I considered using the fountains as they had in the movie, but then my friends and family wouldn’t be a part of it. So I decided on sparklers. It was part a copy of an idea I loved in a movie, part an homage to my dad and all my years working in fireworks stores. Either way, it was unique and something that had never been done before. My guests (well into the sauce by this point) were a little confused when I started passing out sparklers. What were these for? What are we doing with them? We lined everyone up down the walkway, with the house I grew up in in the background. Sparklers were lit and waved; my husband and I strolled through. It was a great moment….
But, nothing would prepare me for the reaction I had when I saw the proofs from that night. The pictures from that were beyond gorgeous. The best of the night. It was a hit beyond my wildest dreams. The gold sparkling light, lighting up me in my white dress and husband and his suit. It was magical. My friends saw them, and not long afterward, asked if I could get them sparklers from my dad’s store for their weddings. I was glad to do so but eventually started to wonder if this may be a business opportunity.
My husband and I did some research on whether it was even possible or not. We learned that it was, wrote a business plan, and built our first website, and placed our first ad in bridal magazines. I bought a Nokia cellphone as my dedicated line to take orders with. My husband and I boxed up sparklers and became BFF’s with our UPS driver, who came each day to pick the two or three orders we had each day. It was a slow grind in the beginning. We probably did enough to break even. But brides everywhere started to feel like I did…that the pictures were gorgeous and the sparklers made the send-off extra special. I started to sell more sparklers to more brides, and the rest is history.
So, that’s the origin of the Original Wedding Sparkler Company. It was an idea that still is a big part of my life almost 20 years later. We are much imitated, but still the original.
Why Sparklers? Because those pictures of that moment will last a lifetime unlike any comparable choice will make. The gold light, lighting up your friends and family and you… there is just nothing like it. Rice or rose petals won’t do the trick. Sparklers make for a beautiful setting, they are safe, and they are an affordable touch that enhances any wedding of any budget. I’m so happy to have provided such moments to thousands of brides over the past 15 years, and I hope I can do the same for you.