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How To Plan A Wedding After-Party

By Rebecca Padgett-Frett

With the vaccine helping the world revert back to pre-pandemic standards, we are venturing out more, and that will re-invigorate the idea of wedding after-parties.

While an after-party isn’t necessary, many couples opt to because they want to keep enjoying time with their guests outside of ceremony and reception hours. Below are tips on deciding whether you want to have one and what you should know in order to make the most of a day you never want to end.

Photo by Woodland Fields Photography

1. If You Want One, Plan One

I know, another thing you need to plan, but hear me out — gathering a large group and making a cohesive decision when it’s late and you’ve been drinking will not turn out well. If the thought of planning an after-party is simply too much on your plate, consider asking a member of the bridal party to plan it or ask for a wedding planner’s guidance.


2. Location

After-party locations typically include a hotel bar, a local bar, a club, a rented-out space, or a more intimate location at your venue. Some venues may allow you to host it at the venue. A “photo exit,” change of music and lighting can indicate the reception has ended and after-party has begun. For an off-site after-party, do your research, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the area. This will help you to stay true to the vibe you envision for the night. Once you’ve decided on a location, call ahead to give the owners a heads up or to reserve a space, that way you know you will be accommodated when you arrive.

Photo by Elizabeth Lehman with Wonderstruck Media

3. Invite Your Guests

The rule of thumb is that if they are invited to the reception, they are invited to the after-party. This is not to say you couldn’t just invite the bridal party and family, but if you do, prepare yourself for uninvited guests and some hurt feelings. On average, you will lose 60-to-80% of your guests with only 20-to-40% attending the after-party. To make your guests aware of the plan, you can add the information to your wedding website, include it in your program, slip a separate extra invitation into the wedding invitation, send an e-vite, have signs posted throughout the wedding or have your emcee make an announcement.


4. Transportation

Since this is a continuation of the party you are hosting, it is in your best interest to have a transportation plan in place. This could include rented transportation, trolley services, bus services, taxi cabs, Uber or Lyft. Many couples provide guests with a prepaid code or have a few responsible party members who coordinate the arranging of rides. If you go with the code option, a good idea is to post signs at the bars, entrances and exits. When planning, you’ll also want to consider how far away the after-party location is from your reception. If it’s too far, you will lose many guests, your credit card bill might scare you and guests might lose momentum. You should also consider how guests will get back to their hotel. Above all, discourage drinking and driving.


5. Guest Experience

While it is your party and you can do what you want to, the guest experience is essential. After hours of partying, guests will appreciate a space that has seating. Many will continue dancing, but it’s also fun to switch it up by accommodating with a space that offers other activities such as lawn games, karaoke, darts, or outdoor spaces where they can gather and chat away from the music.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Matteo Event Planning / Photo by Cat Pennenga

6. Food

Speaking of amplifying the guest experience, food is pretty much a must. Dinner was hours ago, and the calories were burned on the dance floor. You can provide food, have it delivered or go to a location with a food menu. Couples may decide to have their caterers add on a to-go snack or have a food truck at the exit. Fries, mini sandwiches or burgers, pizza slices and tacos are popular options. If you’re at a location that serves food, either allow guests to order individually, or order food for the tables. If the location is lacking food options, see about having something easy, like pizza, ordered in.


7. Payment

Be clear on who is paying at the after-party. You are not required to, especially if it’s at a more casual, public place such as a bar or club. You may offer to pay for the first hour, and after that, guests are on their own. If you are renting out a space, you, family or the bridal party may choose to foot the bill.

Photo by Sasithon Photography of The Wedding Artists Co. / Featured in Vogue Weddings

8. After-Party Outfit

If you want to wear your gown and tux, you do you, but you’ll likely be more comfortable and confident if you change. Make this just another occasion to select a special outfit. This could include a white jumpsuit, romper, mini dress or two-piece set. For men, maybe a snazzy sport jacket or colored chino pants. If you’ve worn heels all night, this is the perfect opportunity to slide into something cozy. Let your hair down both literally and figuratively.


9. Have Fun

An after-party is not something that should cause you stress. The wedding is over, and this is just an added benefit. It’s important to note that you can leave when you want to leave. Don’t feel like you need to be the last people there, unless you and your partner want to be. View the after-party as extra time to have fun, celebrate and thank your loved ones.

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