After the rings are exchanged, the speeches are said, and the band plays its last song, the reception will finally come to a close, but that doesn't mean the wedding is over just yet. Some couples and guests will want to keep the festivities going and celebrate into the night. That's when the after party comes in. But, crafting this late-night soirée will take a bit of forethought.
Ahead, we asked three wedding planners to share the mistakes they commonly see couples make when planning an after party and their beset advice for hosting an excellent crescendo to the night instead.
Meet the Expert
- Wedding planner Chanda Daniels is the founder of Chanda Daniels Planning + Design.
- Bruce Russell is an international event planner and founder of Bruce Russell Events.
- Laura Ritchie is a co-founder of wedding planning company Grit & Grace.
Being Too Spontaneous
At the end of the reception, it's natural that people will want to keep the party going. However, don't make all your plans last minute once you've already hit the dance floor. "Avoid hosting an 'impromptu' after party," advises planner Bruce Russell of Bruce Russell Events. "Sensible decision making after a long day of celebration is practically non-existent!"
Not Transitioning from the Reception
"Make it clear to guests that the after party has started," advises Chanda Daniels of Chanda Daniels Planning + Design. "Make a smooth transition to the after party by switching up your band to a DJ, bringing out late night snacks, or announcing shuttle schedule. Let your aunts and uncles know it's okay for them to leave, too."
"Changing up the music style is a great way the set the tone for a new vibe. Intense lighting and a killer outfit change goes really far," shares planner Laura Ritchie of Grit & Grace. Bring in a DJ, consider a silent disco (especially if there are late-night noise ordinances in the area), or find a new space within your venue to decorate for your festivities.
If the party is continuing on at your venue or moving to another location, make sure your late-night guests will be able to get there and get back home. "If you are providing transportation for your guests to the wedding, don't forget to extend the time for your transportation," recommends Daniels. "Some guests will certainly want to leave early, so make sure to map it all out and communicate that to your guests via signage!" Russell adds, "If the after party is at a different location, you may want to plan for taxis or transportation to get guests home safely."
Overestimating Guest Count
It's likely that not all of your guests will make it to your after-hours event. So, make sure you account for that in your planning. "Look at your guest list and really do some accurate estimating to see what level of after party you should do," recommends Daniels. "If half of your guests will leave, you have the opportunity to scale the scope of the after party down. Perhaps if it's a more intimate count, you have it at your favorite bar, hotel bar, or club!"
Not Extending Staff Hours
If you are planning on an after party, you should definitely make sure to have a few members of the catering, bartender, and venue staff on hand later in the night to make sure everything goes smoothly. "No matter how casual your after party is, it’s a good idea to have staff on hand to serve drinks and clean up," says Russell. "Not only can they monitor beverages, but you’ll be thankful they cleared up throughout the night."
Not Providing Food
Sure, you served up plenty of amazing food during the reception. But you likely will need to supply some more bites to keep the party going. "When hosting a wedding after party, plan in your budget to serve food," advises Russell. "Guests will be ravenous if they’ve been drinking all evening at your reception." However, there's no need to make it fancy. Richie says, "For those that want to keep the party popping, don’t forget late night bites that are easy to grab while getting down. Think mozzarella sticks, truffle fries, or jumbo slice pizza."
Spending Too Much on the Bar
While many guests will want to keep drinking, feel free to skimp on those specialty signature cocktails for your after party selection. "The bar isn't as important, especially after already drinking with your pals for hours on end. Go simple with beer, wine, and a couple rail-liquor, easy go-to bar faves," recommends Ritchie. "Most people aren't finishing their drinks at this time anyway, so don't worry about impressing or offending anyone with their tie tied around their forehead at this point!"
Not Budgeting for Additional Costs
The after party is an extension of the wedding, so it should be something you consider in your overall planning budget. "Factor in the following items when considering having an after party: additional time at the venue, overtime for catering and bar staff, entertainment, and additional food and spirits. Those should be factored in when you want to do an after party the right way," shares Daniels.
Staying Out Too Late
"After parties are so fun for the right crowd, but knowing when to end on a high note, and leave guests wanting more, shows restraint and class," says Ritchie. "You know the saying that nothing good happens at the second bar? Well, sometimes pushing the limit of the party just gets messy."
"We suggest an after party for no more than two hours. It’s a long day already for the happy couple who have been 'on' all day long, but for the guests too, who have likely traveled, traversed, and already been on their feet for six hours."