Not so long ago, the idea of a post-wedding celebration was pretty simple. A few lingering guests maybe hit up the hotel bar for a few drinks, or groups of late-night partiers wandered to nearby bars. If a celebration was pre-planned, it was very loosely arranged, and certainly nothing fancy.
Now, weddings often stretch late into the night with full-blown post-reception parties. The concept seems like fun (after all, no one wants a great day to end!), but the idea of orchestrating yet another event can seem daunting, especially when you’re in the thick of wedding planning. If you’re already stressing, remember this: Wedding after-parties are typically extremely informal. They can range from semi-spontaneous gatherings at a local bar or restaurant (just call ahead to make sure there will be enough space to accommodate your party) to a pre-arranged part-two party with all the bells and whistles (open bar, food, entertainment).
Whichever party path you choose, do your best to make sure that the transition from reception to after-party is smooth. This means giving your guests plenty of notice about the post-reception plan. Include after-party information on your wedding website or in your wedding invitation suite; place a card with after-party information at each guest’s seat; or task wedding party members with spreading the word.
If you are planning a separate celebration at a lounge, bar or other event space, make sure you have food and drink to offer your late-night guests. Again, since this is an informal celebration, you can toss typical wedding etiquette aside. An open bar isn’t necessary (if you’d like to make the gesture, consider having an open bar for the first hour only); there aren’t any rules on who covers the cost of the event; and guests are usually invited to change into more comfortable clothes. Comfort food like pizza, mini-burgers, fries, soft pretzels, ice cream and cookies are always a late-night hit.
A few other things to keep in mind: If you’ve booked a private event space for your after-party, like a hotel suite or lounge area, but can’t afford to afford to keep your DJ or musicians playing on through the night, create your own set list and play it over speakers. And your photographers will most likely have packed up by the time your wedding after-party rolls around, so make sure you have some Polaroid cameras around to document the late-night revelry. Party on.