Are you considering including a wedding after-party as part of your nuptial festivities? The Reflective Couple hosted one, and here are some tips from our experience on whether it might be an event to add to your celebrations.
Is an after-party something for your wedding?
Here are some questions to ask yourself in deciding:
What time will/must your reception end? Check with your reception venue: do they have any rules about what time the party must close and your guests leave, or are there policies in the particular wedding package you have booked with them? If your booking is open-ended or closes at a fairly late hour, like 3am, it is unlikely you would need to plan an official after-party. It might also be an option to pay extra for another hour (or two or three), so that serving staff can stick around. At our wedding reception venue, local noise restrictions and liquor licensing laws required us to close the party at midnight – not negotiable. Although this is standard in my home-town, in my groom’s country midnight is obscenely early to end a wedding, so we definitely needed to look into an official after-party.
Where can an after-party be held? Proximity is probably the most important factor in planning your after-party location. People might be starting to get tired by the end of the wedding itself, so asking them to make a long journey to get to your after-party might be too much of a disincentive for them to join. Also, guests might be above the legal alcohol limit to drive by the end of the reception, so you have to consider somewhere in walking distance (though think of how sore women’s feet might be after an evening in heels) or within a short bus ride. As such, after-party spots should be close to your reception venue, or – if all your guests are staying at the same hotel – somewhere at or near the hotel (so that they don’t have far to get home afterwards). Alternatively, consider something on the way in between those two spots, so guests are at least moving in the right direction. At the Reflective Wedding, the reception and hotel accommodation were at one and the same place, and it would be a 15-minute walk through the woods to the nearest bar. As such, we asked the best man – who had rented a large villa at the hotel with a group of other guests – to host the after-party in their spacious villa’s living area.
Do you have budget for an after-party? Weddings can already rack up quite an expensive bill for the bride and groom, and you must ask yourselves whether you have budget for an additional event in your wedding calendar.
• This is especially the case if you do want to pay your reception venue to stay open for longer; this is the easiest option but possibly the most expensive.
• You could consider a no-cost venue, like the home or yard of a friend or family member, but keep in mind that you’ll likely need to provide food and drinks for your guests, as they won’t be able to buy anything at a private residence. (It would be difficult to ask guests to bring their own drinks as they’d have to carry them around all day at your ceremony and reception… but if the after-party is nearby to their accommodation, they could simply fetch it from their rooms.) In our case, we simply purchased several large cartons of gourmet beers and packets of chips, and delivered those to the villa the day before the wedding.
• Alternatively, you could send guests to a nearby bar, and then have the option of putting on a tab for your guests, or letting them pay for themselves. However, keep in mind that you might have to pre-book the space: a bar might turn away a large (possibly rowdy) group arriving late in the evening. However, if you do need to reserve space, the venue might require you to pay for this, or at least that you guarantee a minimum spend at their premises.
Will it clash with any other plans that you have for the next day? If you are heading off on your honeymoon the next morning at 8am, hosting a 9am farewell breakfast or your guests all need to check out of their hotel rooms by 10am, a big after-party might not be the best idea. If you’re keen to have both an after-party and a farewell event, consider making the latter a lunch, and including hangover-friendly foods. If hotel check-out is getting in the way of your after-party plans, ask the hotel if it’s possible to extend the deadline for your group.
At the Reflective Wedding, my groom stayed drinking until 4am and – as he was the only one of us with a driver’s licence at the time – we had to delay heading off on our mini-honeymoon by several hours until he was legally sober enough to get behind the wheel. With an afternoon departure and three-hour drive to our mini-moon destination, we didn’t arrive until after dark and got hopelessly lost (and frustrated) trying to find the way. Not the best start to the honeymoon! Make sure your after-party plans aren’t interfering with other, higher-priority plans for your wedding festivities.