Even though you’ve spent months and months preparing, your wedding day will fly by faster than the zeros did writing checks to pay for it. Decisions you agonized over won’t even be noticed or remembered years from now. Luckily, the last slow ballad from the band does not have to signify the speedy end of your wedding. You just spend all this time (read: money) on this day, why let it end now? Welcome to the After Party. More and more couples are including a post reception soiree in their wedding day plans to keep the party going in a more casual (re: without all the olds and the kids) atmosphere.
By Caroline Lupini
The Party Stops For No One
While you may have had your arm twisted by your parents to invite extra-extended family members you’ve only met once (or never), the after party is a guest list completely your own—no invitations required. And the best part about it is that you can change into comfortable clothes, let go of wedding etiquette and kick a couple of beers back! You can make this a word-of-mouth event or include it on your wedding website with a link to the bar or venue you will be headed to. A lot of couples extend an invite to everyone who was invited to the reception, knowing that most elderly guests will respectfully decline (way past their bedtime).
Money Matters (As in it does not really matter.)
Don’t be afraid of including an after-party if you are worried about finances—most after parties are at local bars close to the reception venue and guests who come pay for themselves. If you want to keep your group private, try calling a few different bars ahead of time to see if they can offer up a private room in the back. With this option, guests can still pay their own way while still maintaining an element of wedding vibes. You are guaranteed to have a great after party with the stress of the day already behind you. Wherever you plan on leading the pack, just make sure to call the bar ahead of time to ensure no private parties are booked.
Don’t Party On An Empty Stomach
Where hors d’oeuvres and cocktails are reserved for cocktail hour and main entrees and champagne for the reception, the after party can be a beer and cheeseburgers affair, or simply, a spread of chips and dips. Hell, order some Dominos if the mood strikes. Just check your pretentions at the door.
Keep in mind that it will be late, and guests have already been drinking at the reception, so if you don’t want the night to get too out of hand, it might be a good idea to keep drinks to wine and beer and make sure plenty of greasy food options are within reach. If your reception didn’t have an open bar, then, by all means, use this opportunity to enjoy some cocktails. Your after party should be about keeping the fun going, but not going too far. So choose a food and beverage style that will work well for your crowd.
Don’t Offend The Non After Party Guests
While there is no set time for the after party to begin, ensure that all speeches have been made and that your reception is sufficiently winding down before making a run for it. Usually there’s a last song too. Make your rounds with family members you know are not coming to the after party and check in with the rest of your crew so that no one feels left out when it is time to move venues. Sometimes, it is easy to get swept away in the fun of the night, so if you’re hosting a brunch or leaving early for your honeymoon the following morning, set an alarm ahead of time so you don’t accidentally miss your own plans.
The after party is the most casual part of the wedding, but it still requires thoughtful planning. Do not assume you can wing it and head to the nearest bar (but it would be great if that bar had wings). Call to make sure no private parties are booked, and estimate the size of your group so whichever place you head to will be prepared.
Transportation is another big piece to think of. Will you be cabbing to your after party or walking? Consider renting a trolley bus or van to transport guests from the reception venue if the after party destination is more than a half-mile away. If you treat the after party like another piece in your already picture-perfect puzzle, it will go off without a hitch.
At the reception, the timing is based around the meals: appetizers, entrees and dessert. For your after party, you won’t have a main event to orchestrate everything around, so decide beforehand if you want appetizers on tables at all times, or to let people order bar food themselves. The after party is more focused on drinking than food, but don’t overlook the importance of keeping some greasy snacks handy! More food will make the night last longer and keep people even-keeled.
Be Open To Changes
Unlike the cocktail hour where guests gracefully try to balance shrimp in one hand while not tipping their glasses in the other, the after party is a chance to grab a fistful of fries. Basically, there is no etiquette required at the after party. Just be sure to choose friendly food options everyone can eat, such as pizza, sliders, grilled cheese, or anything that isn’t too messy but is sure to soak up the alcohol. Everyone will be standing and mingling, maybe playing games or dancing, so prepare for a bit of chaos. After a day of formalities, you’ll have a wonderful time cutting loose with your friends and family at the after party!