When the cake has been eaten, and only a handful of guests remain, the wedding isn’t over. Now it’s time to transition to the wedding after-party! Instead of packing up when the reception ends, many couples are simply changing locations and continuing the celebration. This wedding after-party trend is growing—and for good reason.
While most event venues have a cutoff between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m., some couples don’t want that to end their special day. Not only have they been planning for months or even years, but they also have out-of-town guests visiting. An after party lets you and your spouse decide how long you want your wedding to last, and gives you extra time with close friends and family.
Wedding after-parties can be as formal or casual as you want, and they can take place anywhere. But before you add another item to your checklist, consider if an after-party is right for you. If it isn’t—now you know! But if it is, we’ve got some tips to help you plan it perfectly.
Should I Have a Wedding After-Party?
Before you make a decision, consider your budget and day-of schedule. Right now, a wedding after-party might seem like a great idea. But after a morning of getting ready and an evening of getting married—you might be too tired to go out after. For afternoon weddings, it might not be late when your reception ends, but consider how early you will wake up that morning. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with an extended reception or a late night! Just make sure your OK with that before telling guests.
Similarly, make sure there’s room in your budget. While some after parties include reserved rooms, decorations, and catered meals, that might not be in your budget. But if you still want to celebrate, take the party to a nearby bar, or even the hotel bar! Your after party doesn’t have to be extravagant or fancy; just make sure you have the budget for a few extra rounds of drinks and appetizers.
We do recommend skipping the after party if you’re leaving for a honeymoon or have an early morning the next day. If you really want to squeeze in extra time with specific guests, end the reception an hour early and go on the town for the final hour. And, as promised, if you are planning your wedding after-party—here are some tips!
The Guest List
Ask yourself: Who do I want to invite?
Like your wedding, you get to choose who attends the after party! And, like your wedding shower, not everyone has to be there. Do you want anyone who’s still dancing at 10:50 p.m. to go with you? Or would you rather invite a small group of close friends and family?
Bonus Tip: If it’s a private event, tell invitees that so they don’t accidentally spread the word!
You don’t need a specific guest list planned; some couples wait and see who’s still around before mentioning an after party. But to ensure attendance—especially if there’s a venue change—let your guests know ahead of time. Set a specific time to meet in the hotel or venue lobby, so everyone can change, check their hair, and put their wedding favors away.
Ask yourself: Where do I want to host it?
After parties are usually planned because a venue is closing early, or at least earlier than you want it to. So, a change of location is often required. Some couples book a conference room in their hotel, while others make reservations at a nearby restaurant. However, you can skip the planning and reservations altogether if you want!
Bonus Tip: Choose a spot that’s in reasonable ride sharing distance.
You can also casually ask friends and family to join you at the hotel bar or venture out to a nearby dance club. A member of your wedding party may even offer their suite for the night. (We don’t recommend using your own room, in case you want to duck out early.) If you have a long wedding after-party guest list, consider making a reservation somewhere. That way, you won’t have to worry about being cramped. But for smaller groups, a first come, first served setting will work just fine.
The Food & Drink
Ask yourself: What will we eat and drink?
Eating is important throughout the reception and during the after party—especially if drinking is involved. If you’re reserving a spot somewhere, like a restaurant or hotel room, order appetizers or delivery for the group. But if there isn’t a convenient way to order food before you visit a local bar, stop at a food truck or takeout spot for a quick bite. The food will help everyone feel better the next morning. And you may have forgotten to eat at your own wedding!
As far as drinking goes, the same general rules apply. If you’re going out to a bar, guests can expect to pay for their own drinks. But if you’ve reserved a room for the wedding after-party, guests will expect you to provide at least some of the alcohol. We recommend buying the first round or a bottle of champagne at your bar or club of choice, and providing a few mixers and cases of beer if you chose to reserve a conference or hotel room. It’s not required, but it is a nice thank you to your guests—especially if they’re in your wedding party.
Ask yourself: Will you change or stay in your reception dress?
Before deciding to change, remember your venue. Is it wedding dress friendly? Will you be comfortable in formal attire? If you’re leaving the venue for your after-party, you probably don’t want to party in your wedding dress—or even your reception dress. You risk staining or tearing it, and it might not be comfortable for the whole night.
Bonus Tip: 15-20 minutes is plenty of time to change if you’re staying in the same venue. But allow up to 45 if you’re driving or leaving the venue.
But if you’re staying in the hotel or going to a restaurant, you can “get away” with being more formal. Ultimately, it’s up to you whether you want a formal or casual wedding after-party. Whether you decide to change or not, give guests the time to change if they want to. Even if they’re staying formal, they may need to adjust their hair or change shoes.
A wedding-after party is a great way to get extra time with your close friends and family. Some of them traveled to see you, and some you haven’t seen in a while. But your after party doesn’t have to be a big, grandiose affair. You can ask friends to show up in jeans to a bar of your choosing, and share a few drinks with you. Whatever type of after party you plan, make sure it reflects your style.
Have you ever been to a wedding after-party? Do you want one for your own wedding?