bride on the dance floor

Photo: Riverland Studios

You’ve put a lot of thought into making your wedding reception the best party ever, and the last thing you want is for guests to call it a night before the celebration comes to a close.

While it’s not realistic to expect everyone to stay until the end (you know Great Aunt Mildred is heading for that exit at 9 p.m., no matter how big of a party animal she claims to have been back in the day) these simple tricks are sure to get most guests to stick around:

Late night snacks
A couple hours on the dance floor is enough to work up an appetite! And a guest with a growling stomach isn’t likely to keep the party going. Offer up an energy boost in the form of mini grilled cheese sandwiches, sliders, french fries, or any of these inventive late-night snacks. Refueled and refreshed, guests will head back to the dance floor...instead of home to raid the fridge. Tip: Include a line on your menu announcing that snacks will be served toward the end of the evening. Guests will look forward to the treat!

Dance floor favors
What is it about a glow-in-the-dark necklace and a pair of branded sunglasses that makes everyone from your fratty cousin Mike to your timid Aunt Sue beeline to the dance floor? All we know is these plastic novelty props hold some serious “pump up the party” power. Anything from boas, leis, and beaded necklaces to maracas, tambourines, and inflatable guitars are sure to be a hit. Bring them out toward the latter half of the evening to give guests a second wind. Trust us: they’ll stick around. And don’t forget flip-flops to keep those dancin’ feet comfortable!

A special performance
Keep guests around with the promise of a surprise performance toward the end of the night. This doesn’t mean you have to hire outside entertainment! It could be the bridesmaids suddenly breaking out into a choreographed dance or a musically-inclined friend or family member getting on stage and singing your favorite song with the band. One of our editors even attended a wedding in which the groom and the father-of-the-bride wowed the crowd with a (both impressive and hilarious) dueling harmonica performance! Just make sure to tease the surprise throughout the evening so guests know it’s not to be missed.

A next-level send-off
Cap off the evening with an epic, unexpected send-off. Our real wedding couples can show you how it’s done! Float wish lanterns off into the night with your guests as Alexa and Addison did, or gather the crowd to “oooh” and “ahhh” over a fireworks display like Laura and Johnathan. You can even take a page out of Alanna and Tim’s book with a second line parade send-off (a brass band can help you replicate this awesome New Orleans tradition even if you’re not tying the knot in The Big Easy).

An after party
Whether it’s casually gathering a group at a bar or renting out a private space for a more formal late night bash, planning an after party is a great way to draw out the celebration as long as possible. Guests will be far less likely to duck out early, knowing the party's just getting started! After all, who would want to miss out on awesome tunes, midnight snacks, and good company? Just make sure transportation is provided or plenty of taxis are readily available.