For many couples, hosting a wedding after-party is an afterthought. But what better way to celebrate your new titles as Mr. and Mrs. than with your closest friends at a late-night, intimate gathering? Here, I answer some of the questions you may have if you're considering hosting an after-party of your own.
Why host an after-party?
You've orchestrated a tearjerking ceremony, planned the most beautiful reception your friends and family have ever seen, and even arranged a farewell brunch complete with Belgian waffles and seafood frittatas—do you and your fiancé really need to add an after-party on your list of to-do's?
The answer is yes. According to wedding planner Elizabeth Bailey of Elizabeth Bailey Weddings, an after-party isn't just an opportunity to keep the celebration going. "During the reception itself, the couple is so busy with all the things that they're required to do that the after-party gives them a chance for some great one-on-one conversations with friends they may or may not have seen on the dance floor or during dinner," she says. Think of your after-party as a chance to eat, drink, and be merry with the friends who have been by your side from your first date to your first dance.
Does our after-party have to be a formal affair?
Absolutely not! An after-party is defined as some kind of gathering that occurs after the wedding reception is over—and your after-party should feel authentic to you and your new spouse. Just like the rest of your wedding weekend, your after-party is meant to reflect who you are as a couple. If that means inviting your four best friends to share leftover food and a couple beers on your front porch, then do that! Casual after-party options are less expensive in terms of food, drink, and décor.
Some other laid-back after-party ideas:
• a bonfire on your wedding venue's property
• pints and pizza at your favorite local pub
• wine and leftover wedding cake at your parent's Airbnb
• drinks and snacks at the hotel lounge or bar
Do we have to provide food and alcohol?
Although offering drinks and snacks to your intoxicated friends is no doubt an appreciated gesture, it isn't required, by any means. That being said, the average after-party is at least 90 minutes long, so you should certainly consider providing food, at the very least. Some bars even require hosts to pay a food-and-beverage minimum, which Becky Navarro of Pearl Events highly recommends couples do. "It's well worth [the price], because they usually already have music going and an ambience," she says. "In reality, you're going to spend that minimum anyway, and everything is already in place."
Realistically, your guests are going to be hungry—and what better way to herd all of your drunk friends to your after-party than with the promise of food? If you're trying to keep cost down, something as simple as ordering a few pizzas or catering Chick-fil-A is a guaranteed huge hit.
How do I ensure that only our younger friends are invited without hurting everyone's feelings?
Inviting your entire guest list is, of course, the polite thing to do. However, your after-party guest list should consist of people you want to be there, and if that means your childhood best friends and college roommates only, don't feel like you have to spread the word! Consider sending private after-party invitations electronically or in the mail, and be sure to specify that this gathering is not to be talked about during the reception. And don't stress too much—at the end of the day, you'll be so elated with post-wedding joy that chances are it won't really matter if a family friend's daughter and her boyfriend somehow heard about the after-party and showed up.
How do we make our after-party memorable?
Your after-party should be authentic to you as newlyweds—think of it as your first chance to throw a party for you and your friends without all the formalities of a reception. If you and your partner can be found at a bowling tournament on an average Sunday afternoon, reserve a couple bowling lanes downtown. If you love jazz and well-crafted cocktails, rent out a room at this month's trendiest speakeasy. Your after-party is an opportunity to enjoy your closest friends and family members' company, so do it in a way that you (and your guests!) won't ever forget and you can't go wrong.
Style Me Pretty Contributor - Morgan Chamberlain is a freelance writer and social media consultant for wedding vendors in New England. She believes weddings are all about sentimental details, cohesive décor, and a well-chosen playlist to keep the party going!