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How to Plan a Small Balloon Release

Three Parts:Organizing the EventPreparing the BalloonsExecuting the Balloon Release

Launching balloons into the air is a powerful symbol used at many events, including memorial services, weddings, and parties. If you choose to do a small-scale balloon release for your own event, you need to ensure that you do it in the safest way possible, with the least harm to the environment, as balloons can pose a serious risk to wildlife.

Part 1
Organizing the Event

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    Check with your city. Talk to someone at your city hall or county courthouse who is in charge of public land or events to make sure that they don’t have restrictions or limits on balloon releases. Get a permit or written permission for holding such an event if you are told you need one.
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    Find a suitable location. Pick a location for your event that will have plenty of space for the guests and the quantity of balloons. Choose an area as free of obstructions like tree branches, buildings, or power lines, as possible; a large open field would be ideal. You can even do the release indoors in a high-ceilinged venue to avoid harmful environmental impact and lessen cleanup.
    • Make sure that you have the proper permission to rent or reserve the space for an event if you need it.
    • Avoid holding the event by a lake or other body of water. While this might seem ideal for its open space, it will be too difficult or impossible to retrieve the fallen balloons after the release, and leaving them in the water is both littering and a threat to the wildlife in that body of water.[1]
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    Invite your guests. Send out invitations or whatever form you want to notify guests of the event, its location, and what you will be doing. Warn guests that anyone with latex allergies should not participate.
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    Determine your number of balloons. Decide if you want each guest at the event to hold and release one balloon or several, depending on how many are attending, what you want the effect to be, any local restrictions, and the fact that you will later need to clean up whatever number of balloons you release.

Part 2
Preparing the Balloons

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    Visit a party supply store. Go to a party supply store or a general retailer that sells balloons. Purchase the number of balloons you decided on for your guests. Keep in mind any restrictions that your city and county has on the number allowed, and remember that you will need to pick up all of the balloons after the release.
    • Ask party supply staff if you have any questions about balloons or blowing them up to the proper inflation.
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    Choose latex balloons. Purchase only latex balloons, as latex is made from the sap of a tree and will biodegrade after 6 to 12 months, in the event that any remain loose in the environment.[2]
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    Blow up your balloons. Ask staff at the party store how to fill your balloons with helium, either doing it yourself or having them do it for you. Blow up balloons as close to the time of your event as possible to avoid any deflation.
    • Note that there are risks associated with using helium. It causes balloons to fly far away where they can’t easily be cleaned up, and it depletes helium, which is a finite resource used for many other essential applications in medicine, engineering, and countless other areas.[3] Try blowing up balloons with just your breath or an air pump, and tossing them into the air instead.
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    Tie them off by hand. Close your balloons by making a knot in the end of the balloon itself, without using clips, string, ribbon, valves, or other material to tie it off.[4]
    • If you use string or ribbon to hold the balloons for the balloon release, you must have a way of retrieving every balloon after the release. Strings and ribbons can choke or entangle wildlife if not collected and disposed of.
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    Store and transport the balloons. Find an easy way to store the balloons, like placing them in large plastic bags or nets, and recruit people to help transport them carefully. Fill vehicles with the bags of balloons, weighing down the bags to keep them from escaping truck or trailer beds if needed.

Part 3
Executing the Balloon Release

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    Test a few balloons. Before the big release, do a test by releasing a few balloons to see which way they will be carried by the wind, so you can prevent them from getting stuck during the main event and know where they will end up for cleanup.
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    Pass out balloons. If you can, try to pass out the balloons to guests while indoors or a contained environment so you don’t lose them to the wind. Don’t release balloons tied in bunches.[5]
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    Do the release. Count down out loud with your group of guests so that everyone releases their balloons at the same moment. You can send up a cheer, a prayer, or observe a moment of silence, depending on what the situation calls for.
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    Clean up thoroughly. Wait for the balloons to rise up high, burst, and fall back down to the ground. Then have your planners or all of the guests fan out to retrieve the fallen balloons to the best of their ability. You can use the same trash bags or whatever you used to transport the balloons to collect the waste. Dispose of the trash properly when you’re done.


  • If you want to avoid depleting helium and reduce harm to the environment, fill balloons with breath or a small air pump. Then have your guests toss them into the air at the same time, or let them drop from a high balcony or hill. Retrieve the balloons more easily later.
  • Write wishes, notes, or blessings on paper to slip into the balloons before blowing them up or onto the surface of the balloons themselves. Just be sure not to put anything into balloons that you can’t retrieve later, or that won’t biodegrade in the event that it isn’t retrieved.
  • If the event is a memorial, you can choose a symbolic number or color for your balloons. For example, if you are remembering the death of an 80-year-old whose favorite color was red, plan for 80 red balloons.
  • If you choose to forgo the waste and threat to the environment, note that there are many alternatives to a balloon release to use to honor a loved one or commemorate an occasion. Try planting trees or flowers, lighting and carrying candles, or blowing bubbles and twirling ribbons or streamers.[6]


  • Note that the environmental hazards of this activity and cleanup necessary to avoid those hazards may very likely outweigh the desire to use balloons for your event. Choose another activity using balloons indoors, or using other items altogether, to bypass environmental hazards.
  • Helium-filled balloons travel far and return to earth in distant locations where non-profits and clean-up crews bear the burden and costs of collecting the litter, and others must treat or bury sick and dead wildlife that ingest balloons not disposed of. Try to avoid filling balloons with helium and always pick up and dispose of the balloon litter created to the best of your ability.
  • Make sure that nobody at the event is allergic to latex.
  • Do not purchase mylar (or foil) balloons, as they will not biodegrade in the event that they are left in the natural environment and not disposed of properly.

Article Info

Categories: Event and Party Planning