How Do Sky Lanterns Work?

Many people don’t know how a sky lantern works. They simply light the fuel cell wait a few minutes and then…

Where Do Chinese Paper Lanterns Originate?

Sky Lanterns began in China hence are sometimes known as Chinese lanterns.  They were traditionally made from thin paper with and candle on the inside.  The paper shell is kept away from the candle flame and the hot air generated by the flame causes the lantern to rise in the air.  These were in fact the very first hot air balloons and they have the same concept.  However, a hot air balloon will keep the flame going while a sky lantern flame will fade and the lantern will fall gently to the ground.

These lanterns are related the Asian cultures and are often released into the sky in the evening.  In Asia, they are constructed from rice paper on a bamboo frame meaning that they can range from a few centimetres in size up to 2 meters in width.  These can also come in a range of vibrant colours suitable for any occasion.

Even though paper lanterns are used for visual effect often at a celebration of some sort.  They were also used for military purposes.  In ancient China, lanterns were released as signalling devices to warn others.

Sky lanterns are sometimes also called Kongming lanterns, after the military strategist Zhuge Liang.  Legend has it that that Zhuge Liang put the lanterns to use when surrounded by the enemy to carry a message.  He is assumed to be their original inventor in around 250 AD. Even though they were used in war, they have hardly changed over the years

chinese paper lantern.


The paper lanterns are a integral part of traditional Asian culture and portray a strong symbolic meanings.  People feel that the lanterns can provide good luck and also prosperity.  It's a nice idea that all of a persons worries and negative thoughts can be placed in a lantern and then they can be sent away into the sky.  Many people make wishes as they send away their lanterns and this is partly why they are used so much during Chinese new year.

China hosts a festival of lanterns which is on the 15th of the 8th month in the Chinese calendar.  The festival obviously attracts a large number of visitors due to it's great history and it's reputation as being a great sight to behold.  Attending one of these festival as a westerner is often seen as a once in a lifetime experience.

Getting The Right Flying Lantern

If you’ve fallen in love with the beauty and majesty of floating sky lanterns and you’ve decided they would be perfect for your special event, you’ll find that shopping online makes the process simple and convenient. Choose a reputable website, like Best Sky Lanterns, with a large selection of attractive, safe and eco-friendly flying lanterns, and then browse around the website to get an idea of the shapes, styles, and colors available. A recommended vendor like Best Sky Lanterns will also often offer fast and free shipping.

Obviously, the type of lantern or floating lanterns you choose will depend on the type of event you’re planning. For a traditional Asian wedding, you might choose a traditionally shaped lantern in black, white or red. For a birthday party, you might want an economical package including many different sizes and colors. Nowadays, you can even find specialty lanterns shaped like footballs or soccer balls for sporting events, lanterns painted with smiley faces for parties, and even jack-o’-lantern-faced balloons for Halloween. Browsing online stores will spark your imagination, and you should have no problem finding a sky lantern perfect for your event.

Lantern Safety In The UK

While you’re shopping for a sky lantern, keep in mind these two key points:

  • Your lantern will ultimately land—and often miles away where it was launched. Consider a biodegradable eco lantern that will degrade naturally and without harming the earth, especially if you’re launching more than a single or small group of lanterns.
  • Sky lanterns contain open flames. You want a lantern that will be safe, which means you want a lantern made of fire-retardant materials, and one with a non-drip fuel cell.

While price is always a consideration when weighing a purchase, price should not be the most important factor in choosing a flying lantern. Beware of cheap, overseas vendors selling sub-standard products. For instance, paper lanterns coated after production are less effective at reducing flammability than lanterns made of specially designed flame-retardant materials. Coatings can wear off over time, especially when lanterns have been sitting for long periods of time on a factory floor, or have been stored improperly during shipping.

Cheaper lanterns not only compromise on safety, they also compromise on quality. Thinner paper is more likely to tear, rendering a sky lantern unable to fly. Cheaply designed fuel cells can be difficult to light, and may burn out more quickly than better quality materials, meaning that your lantern won’t soar as high or as far into the sky.

Investing in a good quality lantern from a trustworthy and established company may cost a little more, but may also mean the difference between a special night that you and your guests will never forget, or disappointment and embarrassment if your lantern won’t light or fly. The consequences can be even worse if you compromise on safety.


Wedding Sky Lanterns

There is a deep symbolism involved when sky lanterns are released at a wedding. As the couple leave behind their past and separate ways and begin their life together. Releasing a single lantern or many at a wedding will create a thought provoking beauty which will last forever in the memories and hearts of the wedding guests in attendance. These are sometimes called wish lanterns as they include the wishes of the ceremony guests.

wedding sky lanterns


It is often good to have wedding guests write down their message and wishes for the newly weds. These are attached to the lanterns and then they are released as the couple emerge from the wedding chapel or in the evening into the night sky. But it is a good idea to get guests to release the lanterns early in the evening when they are sober to prevent any potential disasters. Also having somebody prepare the lanterns beforehand will save the wedding guests' time.

Below are a few other ideas for including sky lanterns at a wedding:

  • The newly wed bride and groom release a single lantern at the beginning or end of the wedding reception to symbolise the start of their journey together.
  • Having a single jumbo sized lantern at each table at the wedding reception which the guests can release.
  • Giving all of a guests a lantern each with the means to light them. Then, arranging them the released simultaneously for a beautiful effect.

Get specialised wedding lanterns which include 2 cards for guests to write their messages on. They write their message twice. Once on the card attached to the lantern and the same on the wish card. The wish card is given to the bride and groom whilst the lantern is released into the heavens along with the other card and it's message.


Floating Lanterns

Sky lanterns are often called floating lanterns. This is generally because they float into the sky. However, the word "floating" can also cause some confusion as people sometimes also refer to the type of Chinese lantern which floats on water also as a floating lantern. These can also create a beautiful sight in a similar way to sky lanterns do, but on a a body of water rather then in the night sky.

floating lanterns


They are commonly seen in many Asian countries and traditionally they were made from banana leaves and included a candle or incense. They are quite popular in religious settings where in Japan they are released on the water in memory of those who have died and in China they are used to lead away ghosts.

These water decorations can come in all shapes and sizes from a traditional illuminated Chinese style paper cube shape to floral designs, particularly in a lotus flower shape. Most of these lanterns that float are illuminated by tealight candles so are very safe to use. They look great at lakeside weddings or parties as they bring a sense of magic to the event but can be used in a pool, a pond or even a spa. A single floating bowl is common decorative piece used indoors.