Why you might want to throw one
Image by Larissa Cleveland Photography
You’re definitely not obligated to arrange an after party, but there are some situations where it might seem like a natural choice. If your wedding is a rare opportunity to have lots of friends together in one place, for example (and especially if there are lots who have travelled from out of town), you might want to extend the convivial atmosphere as long as you can. Or maybe you feel restricted by expectations for the wedding reception itself and want the chance to create something different with the after party, whether that’s more of an energetic nightclub vibe or a laid-back and informal gathering.
The after party is also something you can delegate to a willing bridesmaid or groomsmen, though be sure to guide them on any key preferences for who/where/how etc.
After party etiquette
Image by Brklyn View Photography
If you want to plan the event in advance, a rough idea of the number of guests is essential (obviously this won’t be necessary for an impromptu get together crafted as you near the last dance!).
Since an after party is by nature informal, etiquette advice varies. Some advocate for keeping the numbers small, and therefore only inviting around 10-20 people. Others suggest that it’s only polite that no one is left out, which means that every wedding guest should be given the chance to attend if they want.
Images by Glass Jar Photography and Brklyn View Photography
Physical invites aren’t necessary, though you can include the details on a separate insert along with your invitations or mention them on your wedding website. It’s perfectly fine to spread the word and gauge interest via word of mouth, too.
Mix it up
After parties come in all shapes, sizes and styles, but the most important thing is that it feels distinct from the reception. Usually this means a different venue, atmosphere, dress code, entertainment and food/drink. Some couples like to use a theme to tailor the atmosphere of the party (think costumes, props, music and food to match!), perhaps something that was seen as too adventurous for the main reception, like a fiesta, movie theme, or a particular decade.
Exactly what the details will look like is up to your tastes, the size of the party, time of day/night and the guests you’re inviting, but we’ve included some rough ideas below:
Book a space
if you have some firm attendance numbers, booking a room (whether in your reception venue, a hotel or nearby restaurant/bar) can be a good option to lend the party privacy and intimacy. If you use a separate space in your reception venue or a hotel where many guests are staying, it can also be really convenient and avoid the hassle of extra transport.
Booking a room can mean a more lavish mini-party with its own décor, catering, bar and entertainment. But it can also be done on a budget, reusing décor from the reception and getting cheaper platter-style food to share.
Image by Kevin Curtis
Hit the town
a great choice for an impromptu or planned party alike, take the party out to somewhere with the kind of entertainment and/or atmosphere you want, whether that’s a nightclub, a jazz bar or karaoke bar. For this kind of party, it’s good to organise transport to ensure everyone (especially anyone who’s been drinking) gets from A to B safely. While you shouldn’t need to book anything for a small group, it’s a good idea to call the venue in advance to give them a heads up and make sure they’re able to accommodate the number of guests.
Image by Ann-Kathrin Koch
Low key gathering at home/hotel suite
Whether at your home/hotel suite or that of a willing volunteer, this kind of venue is best for a more chilled gathering. The focus tends to be on relaxing in comfy seats, mingling and snacking rather than dancing or anything too energetic. Be mindful that hosting a party after a long day of celebrating can be exhausting, so it’s better to keep it super simple. Think flowers and leftover food/cake from the reception, take away pizza if needed and use an iPod and a speaker for entertainment (depending on the time of day/night, you may want to be particularly mindful about noise).