The one wedding tip you’ll hear again and again during planning that will turn out to be 100% true? “The entire day will fly by in an instant!” Your wedding will be so cram-jammed full of activities, appointments, photo sessions, speeches, hugs and kisses, tears and dancing, it’ll be the last dance before you even realize it—even if you’ve got the venue till midnight. If this fact of life makes you feel a little bummed (and why wouldn’t it—you’ve only planned your wedding for the past 12-18 months!), consider the after-party, which these days has become as de rigeur as photobooths and donut bars (read: kind of over-the-top but indispensably fun).
Your wedding after-party can be as done-up or low-key as you want, but whether you choose to host it at the hotel pool or a backyard fire pit, there are a few hot tips you should know to ensure it goes swimmingly… or, bonfire-ing-ly. Let’s get this party started!
Make it Planned—At Least the Tiniest Bit
Even if the thought of planning another full-blown party after you just finished planning a wedding makes your head want to explode, you do have to get a few logistics locked down to ensure your after party is the fun, stress-free affair you want it to be. After all, even if all you want to do is show up at a local bar with 15 guests—it’s possible the bar will be packed and unable to accommodate you all at 11 p.m., and then what will you all do? A what-do-we-do-now cluster-you-know-what is not the ideal way to end the best day of your life. So, do some legwork ahead of time to make sure you can slide into your after party drama-free, either by planning it with the coordinators of your wedding venue (see if they have a less-formal venue, like pool, patio or backyard), calling up your desired bar or club to see if you can book a back room, or simply informing your wedding hotel that you and your guests will be invading the hotel bar and would like to reserve a few tables. You definitely don’t have to make your after party a huge production, but even the littlest bit of prep will get it started on the right foot.
Be Invite Agnostic
In a perfect world, you and your spouse could teleport only your besties from your reception to your after party, and leave out your clingy college-age cousins. But it’s not incredible etiquette to throw a party after a party and only invite a select few from Party A to Party B. So, make sure your after party, whatever it ends up being, is a setting that can accommodate (both size-wise and thematically) a cross-section of your wedding guest demographic. You can probably account for a good 60-80% of your wedding guests to tap out and head to bed by the end of your reception, so there’s a good chance only your faves will stick around for the after party anyway, but in the name of graciousness, you should extend the invite to everyone—unless you and your squad are CIA-level secret-keepers.
Provide Safe Transportation To and From
If you’re hosting the after party anywhere but your wedding venue, you must have a transportation plan for your (likely inebriated) guests to get there, and get home safely when the party finally ends. They’re still your guests after all, which means they’re still your responsibility—and adding more cocktails into the mix means absolutely no one should be behind the wheel. Either extend your wedding transportation rental, or check to see if the city where you’ll be partying has cabs, Uber, Lyft, or any other on-demand car service. If any of these options are available, spread the word liberally to all your after party guests—you can even call a lineup of cars yourself and herd your guests into them one-by-one, like an extremely well-dressed bellhop. Safety first! (Seriously.)
Along with making sure your guests arrive and depart safely, you should also make sure they have some food in their bellies, considering they probably 1) have been drinking for six hours or more and 2) haven’t eaten in four hours or more. (Wedding math!) Don’t worry about offering a budget-busting farm-to-table menu here, though—simple, affordable, diner-inspired goodies are the perfect antidote to too much champagne, and exactly what late-night partiers crave. Consider mini grilled cheeses, paper cones full of french fries, sliders, or even a bunch of delivery pizzas served by the slice. Anything salty, yummy and fuss-free! Depending on your after party venue, you may even be able to hire a food truck for a couple of hours and have them park on premises. Whatever you choose, your slightly-less-hungover self (and friends) will thank you in the morning.
Change up Your Look
When the wedding finally wraps and the promise of a laid-back, stress-free party with your pals beckons, the last thing on your mind is probably going to be wriggling out of your wedding dress and into another outfit. But trust me on this: You’ll be glad you did when you’re not at the dry cleaners a week later reviewing pizza sauce stains on your $3,000 beaded gown. So, before you hit the after party, scoot into the bridal suite one last time with a ‘maid and a trusted Adult (that’s a trustworthy Adult-with-a-capital-A, like your mom, auntie, mother-in-law—you get the picture), de-gown yourself, hang and bag it, and have the Adult whisk it away to safety. Even better, is a perfect opportunity for you to don one last fun ‘n’ flirty bridal-white look—so go crazy! Maybe a crop top-and-skirt combo, or a comfy-cute romper. The only rules for after-party dressing? No Spanx, no boob tape, no stress!
Be You and Have Fun
Yes, you’re expected to follow a few formalities at your wedding (namely, don’t drink too much, and be sure to chat with every guest), but at your after party, you should feel free to relax and decompress. Enjoy your first night “out” with your new spouse, and don’t get caught up in making sure everything is perfect, or everyone is having the best time—just let the pressure melt away and focus on soaking in those last few hours of your wedding day. If you feel like hosting an after party is something that might cause undue stress that you simply won’t be able to disconnect from, consider asking your bridesmaids and groomsmen to plan it for you, or, if you’d rather simply celebrate your evening alone with your spouse in your honeymoon suite, you shouldn’t even feel pressured to throw an after party at all—the guests who wish to continue partying will find a way with or without you, trust me. However you choose to close out your night, make sure it’s something that makes you happy and won’t cause anxiety, because that’s sooo not the point! One more thing? Feel free to leave your after party whenever you like—there’s no need to be the last people there!