Most married couples will tell you that your wedding will be over in a blink of an eye – time flies when you’re having fun, am I right? (Sorry for being corny!) However, the last dance at your wedding reception doesn’t have to signal the end of your fun! Consider planning an “after party” to keep the celebration going in an informal way! An after party is your chance to let your hair down a little bit and have even more fun with your friends and family who came all this way to celebrate your wedding. After parties can be everything from an continuation of your wedding reception, maybe in another room of your wedding location, or all your guests meeting up at a local bar. For wedding after party advice, we turned to some of the top Washington DC area wedding planners to ask what their best advice is for planning a post-reception blowout. Here’s what they had to say…

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Photo Credit: Paige Elizabeth Photography from Garden Inspired Wedding in Maryland

Why Host an After-Party

“Have one! Maximize your time with your guests and you can really relax by then. I suggest having a place in mind ahead of time so there is not too much going back and forth at the end of the night. This could be one of the tasks that you delegate to a friend.” – Vicky, owner of Event Accomplished

“The after party has become a popular option for two reasons: 1) it keeps the party going for a more intimate crowd, and 2) the couple has the opportunity to create an additional unique atmosphere and environment for their guests.” — Elizabeth at Elizabeth Duncan Events

“I do think that it important to note that your wedding day starts at 8 am and it’s a long, long day. Even our biggest partying clients are exhausted at 11 pm when its all done. I usually suggest to leave the after party to something more organic, so the couple doesn’t feel obliged to attend if they are pooped!” — Laura of Events in the City

How to Spread the Word   

“If the after party is informal, you can rely on your bridesmaids and groomsmen to spread the word and ask guests to meet up at a bar close to the venue or hotel where everyone is staying.  For a more formal after party, you can include a separate card in the wedding invitation.  You can also leave a cute note in the wedding welcome bag and/or include the after party details in the welcome bag itinerary.  It’s also often simplest to ask the emcee to make an announcement after the band’s last song that the after party is starting downstairs, or wherever it is. I really like this option if everyone is invited to an after party that’s at the same venue where the reception is taking place.” – Laura at LIG Events

“If you choose to have a separate after party, either invite all of the guests or make it clear on the invitation that the after party is a private affair for only certain people. You want to avoid putting your wedding guests in the awkward situation of being asked about an after party that they are unaware of during your reception. You can include the after party invitation in the wedding invitation, send a separate paper invitation, or simply feature the information on your wedding website.” — Stephanie at Pretty Entertaining

Who Pays for an After Party

“Wedding after parties are a fairly new phenomenon, so there really aren’t any traditions about who pays for what. Sometimes the couple chooses to pay for the after party; sometimes the parents host or at least chip in. Since the after party is optional for guests and is more casual, it’s even okay to let your guests to pay for their own drinks.” — Stephanie at Pretty Entertaining

“I would say I see the couple themselves pays or guarantees the minimum for this while allowing guests to pay for drinks themselves. You could always provide everyone with a welcome drink paid for ahead of time and then have it be a la carte from there.” — Laura of Events in the City

“After parties can be great, but often an expense that is hard to manage on top of the wedding budget. If the couple wants to have one last surprise, some late night food is very much appreciated.” — Aimee and Cindy at A. Dominick Events

Where to Host the After Party

“A wedding after party is a great way to continue celebrating with the ones that care about you the most! The easiest thing to do is go back to the hotel where the couples is staying and hang out at the hotel bar. – this way you can also slip upstairs for bed when the busy day catches up to you! Hotel bars will usually stay open later if they know ahead of time that wedding guests will be coming after the reception so be sure to give them a heads up.” – Jennifer of Elegantly Chic Events

“I love doing after parties in the same venue because you don’t lose the energy — a shuttle to another location can kill that. My preferred method is having the band end on an awesome song and then have the doors open to a separate room where a great DJ is spinning and waiters are waiting on either side of the door with a great cocktail or snack. It creates a great dramatic surprise to move guests into the last phase of the night!” – Laura at LIG Events

“Another after the wedding option that we’ve seen is to have a local transportation company, in this case trolleys, pick all of the wedding guests up and give them a tour of the city while they enjoyed their cupcake favors. The tour was given from the perspective of the couple, driving by places like where they had their first date, and where they got engaged and then dropping them all off at the hotel where they gathered at the bar for a final after-wedding celebration.” – Candy, of Candy + Co. Events

Other Party Planning Tips

“Arrange for transportation for make sure that taxis are available after the after party. You want to ensure your guests get home safely after a night of partying!” — Kay at Howerton + Wooten Events

“If you feel that it will be a very popular local hangout, contact management to ensure your party will be able to bypass the wait at the door and let them know how many people you are expecting. The management will appreciate the heads up, and will often reserve space for you or comp drinks for the newlyweds!” — Tabitha at Roberts and Co. Events

“Often couples will hold an after-wedding party at a local/nearby bar and ask all of their guests to join them after their exit. Surprisingly, not only have most all of the local bars responded positively, encouraging couples to invite all of their guests, but went above and beyond by offering customized, discounted drinks in honor of the couples’ wedding. The upside to this is that each person pays for their own drinks, and most times, makes sure the couple is well lubricated as well!” – Candy, of Candy + Co. Events

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No matter what you choose, give some thought to what you and your guests are going to do after your wedding reception is over.  Most likely, your guests will be looking at you to continue the party! Super thanks to the amazing DC area wedding planners who helped us out on this post with lots of advice. Be sure to check out their websites if you are looking for some help with your after party or a wedding planner in the DC area.

Looking for more wedding events planning advice? Be sure to read:

For even more locally helpful advice, you may look through our DC area wedding idea galleries and find wedding advice from local DC area pros. If that isn’t enough, check out our collection of local DMV weddings from the real world and the best DC area wedding vendors who make it all happen.

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