Sky lanterns are a fun and majestic addition to many types of events. While most commonly seen at lantern festivals, they are also a popular choice for weddings, memorial services, birthdays, and more. However, knowing how to release a sky lantern properly is vital for a fun and safe experience. If you’ve never done it before, it can seem a little intimidating. However, we’ve put together this definitive guide to cover everything you need to know to have a successful celebration.

Preparing Your Sky Lanterns for Release

The first thing you need to do is prepare them for their release. This is pretty straight-forward, but it works best when done with two people. First, remove your items from their packaging. Though they are durable, take care not to damage the flame retardant paper. Next, unfold the lantern as much as possible. If won’t look perfect, but do the best you can. Lastly, move it through the air like a scoop to capture air inside. This will cause it to puff up and look closer to what you expect to see.

Release Scenarios

There are two main ways that people release sky lanterns. The first is releasing a single one; the second is coordinating a group release. Each has their appropriate place and time, as we will cover later in this guide. Here’s how to perform each method as well as a few tips to make it a spectacular experience for everyone involved.

How to Release a Single Sky Lantern

Find an open area with no overhead obstructions. Holding your prepared sky lantern, make sure there is some air inside the main chamber as described above. If you have a partner, they can hold the top of the main chamber to make lighting it easier. Though flame retardant, try to avoid hitting the paper with any open flames. Next, light the fuel pad with a lighter. As it burns, hot air will fill up the main chamber. Hold it at the bottom along the structural ring until it’s ready to be released. You’ll know it’s time when the sky lantern wants to float up into the air under its own power.

How to Release a Sky Lantern in Large Groups

To coordinate a group release, follow all the same steps as releasing a single one. However, each lantern will need to be prepped in a timely fashion so they can all be released simultaneously. It’s best to rehearse ahead of time as a group and wait to light them until everyone is ready. If you take it one step at a time, it makes life a lot easier. After all of the sky lanterns are lit, wait until they are all ready to float away under their own power. Then you simply do a quick countdown so everyone releases them at the exact same time. If done properly, it can be a wonderful visual delight. For the most dramatic effect, consider choosing our color sky lanterns to make the night sky a color extravaganza!

How to Release a Sky Lantern Using the Team Method

Whether you are releasing one or one hundred of them, using the “team method” is the easiest and safest choice. This is when you pair people up into teams to release one sky lantern together. Having an extra set of hands makes the whole process much easier. As an added bonus, you also only need one item for every two people. That can cut your expenses in half!

Event-Specific Releases

There are certain indicators of what type of release you’ll want to perform based on the event. Sometimes releasing many at once is a great idea; sometimes a single one is a more meaningful choice. Here are some popular event types where they are used as well as tips to help you make the right choice based on your needs.


Memorials are solemn events, but they are also a celebration of life. Honoring and remembering a loved one is a great way to use a sky lantern. Group releases are not the right choice for a memorial, though some people still prefer that method. Releasing only one can be a powerful way to commemorate their life and the affects they had on others.


Weddings are another popular occasion for using sky lanterns. Also, there’s a lot of flexibility at this type of event. Some couples prefer to make their release an intimate moment alone. A single release is the best fit for those desires. However, some couples prefer to make it a guest-wide activity. A group release is ideal in those situations. So, it just depends if you want something intimate or something that involves all of your guests. Either way, it can add a great “wow” factor to your wedding!

Birthdays and Anniversaries

Birthdays and anniversaries are best served with a single release. For birthdays, having the guest of honor release one can be a great addition to a birthday cake. For anniversaries, having the happy couple release one together is a symbol of their shared love.

Lantern Festivals

By far the most common place they are used is at a lantern festival. Though most popular in China, lantern festivals are growing more common in the United States. This is the very definition of a group release, so that is the method you should choose for your festival.

Choosing the Right Type of Sky Lantern

Knowing how to release a sky lantern isn’t the only factor to consider. There are many different brands, colors, and types on the market today and that can make choosing the right ones for your needs a difficult task. However, if you break it down into the two main twos that are available, the task becomes a lot easier.

Color Sky Lanterns imageRegular Sky Lanterns

This is by far the most common type available. Overall, white sky lanterns are what you see the most. However, there are also color versions available if you want something a little more exotic. They are designed and constructed the exact same way; one just uses colored paper instead of white. This type is suitable for all celebrations.

Shooting Star Sky Lanterns

This type adds another feature to the regular version; a trail of sparks as they float away. This added effect can really make a cool impact in the right circumstances. However, they should only be used if you are utilizing the team method for your release. The sparks can make it more difficult for a single person to release it on their own.

Choosing a Brand

While many people fixate on brands, the sad truth is that most sky lanterns come from the exact same factory. Though there are certainly sub-par quality versions out there, most big retailers will carry a high quality version that will perform correctly. It’s more important to order from a reliable and trusted source so you can ensure timely delivery and receive exactly what you’re expecting.

Other Considerations When Coordinating a Release

Though we’ve covered the most important steps on how to release a sky lantern, there are other considerations to take into account as well. For instance, they pair incredibly well with sparklers or other fun favors! From basic safety practices to adding custom decorations, here are a few other tips to help you get the most out of your celebration.


Safety is always the most important thing to consider. Though they are flame retardant and biodegradable, accidents still can happen. So, make sure you have all the proper first aid supplies you’ll need on hand. This includes things like burn creams, ice packs, and bandages in case something goes wrong. You’ll also want safety items like buckets of water and fire extinguishers on hand.

To mitigate any risks, make sure you inspect your sky lanterns before lighting and releasing them. Things like large holes in the paper or fuel pods that are not fully attached are key things to inspect. As long as your items are in their proper condition, you can expect a safe and incident-free experience.

Decorating Your Lanterns

Another popular thing you may consider is decorating your sky lanterns. This can be done with paint, stickers, markers, or even a box of crayons. Many people write their dreams, wishes, or words of wisdom on them before they’re released. This can add another layer to your event making it even more memorable. While not really crucial when learning how to release a sky lantern, it can add a lot to your special day.


Following the laws in your state is very important. Many states have outlawed the use of sky lanterns, and doing so is considered a crime. Generally, if aerial fireworks are allowed, then sky lanterns will be allowed as well. Your best bet is to check with your local state or city government to find out the exact laws and restrictions surrounding their use.

Once you’re familiar with them, knowing how to release a sky lantern is an easy task. The process is virtually identical whether you’re releasing one or one hundred of them. Furthermore, choosing the right type is pretty straight-forward as well. If you still have questions, please check out this video of them being used. By following the steps in this definitive guide, using good safety practices, and obeying the laws in your area, you can enjoy your event without any surprises.