(Not so) fun fact: weddings outside of the United States usually extend deep into the evenings. Especially in certain parts of Europe or the Middle East, its tradition to party all night long, with many couples watching the sun rise on their first “full” day as spouses. In the States, this isn’t always an option, especially since many venues charge by the hour and noise-ordinances don’t allow the boozing-and-grooving to inch past midnight. The good news though is newlyweds are coming up with creative wedding after-party ideas to extend their big day. This creates a whole new part of the celebration to plan — and one that isn’t dated with tradition or expectations from parents or elders.
Here, the wedding after-party ideas and trends experts are seeing for after-hours shindig.
Provide fun food stations.
You know the drill: lots and lots of drinks makes you ravenous for something… carb-loaded. Cheesy. Delicious. Definitely fried. Couples are delivering on their guest’s wish with unique and varied after-party food stations, according to wedding planner Heather Rouffe of Atlas Party Rental in Boynton Beach, Florida. “Pizza deliveries, donuts or burgers from their favorite local burger joints and restaurants,” she explains. “The serving style is fun as well with creative use of food stations, unique plates and serving styles. Things like rolling carts or they are being passed to make sure everyone gets a little nibble utilizing fry boats and baskets as if you were in the restaurant.”
Though folks who keep their wedding local are investing in after parties, John Tobey of John Tobey Event Design in Denver, Colorado says they are an even bigger hit with destination gatherings. This is somewhat due to looser laws in laid-back, Caribbean hubs, but also because they want to maximize the vacation feel. Back home, Tobey says couples are choosing a whole new venue for the after-party, especially if their reception hall has strict constraints. One popular wedding after-party idea both abroad and here? Karaoke! Liquid courage gives everyone permission to belt out their favorite ballads, and most joints don’t close until much later. Consider renting out the whole place, so everyone can hop on stage when they work up the gumption.
Give your after-party a theme.
Are you heading to Hawaii for your honeymoon? Then plan a luau with all the bells and whistles — er, rum drinks and leis. Are you and your number one known for being major Game of Throne fans? Time to recreate King’s Landing. Or would you both prefer to be cuddled on the couch, sans-pants, than anywhere else on the planet? Your after-party dress code could be pajamas. Tobey says many couples take the opportunity to do something specifically tied to their personalities for the after-party. Because many people — lookin’ at you, Grandma — in the actual wedding itself, the after-hours is a time for taking everything down a notch. Or, even up one if you want it to be boozy and full of dancing. The point is to have the after-party be on your terms, whatever they may be.
Go for a nightclub vibe.
There are some couples who enjoy a great night out. And then there are the duos who take the party with them wherever they go. If you’re the latter, your pals likely have vivid memories of clubbing with you throughout the year, so why not make another one? Meryl Snow of Feastivities Events in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania says it does take a little more organizing and a bit of a higher budget, but reserving a VIP area with bottle service and lite bites is a great idea. “At the end of the reception, hand out "VIP Club Passes" personalized with the couples info. To keep the wedding theme going, have your event planner bring some flowers from the reception,” she suggests.
Make it a spa day (or night).
Though it isn’t exactly budget-friendly, for couples who truly want to spoil those closest to them, Tobey suggests this wedding after-party idea: a next-day spa treat to recover. Or, if you’re not huge drinkers, you could even have "spa-inspired" experiences following the reception. “Chair massages, late-night hydration masks, and a spa-like atmosphere allow guests to enjoy some moments of calm since the wedding day is usually packed full of activities, food and dancing,” he explains. However, if you do want to keep dancing away, offering a treatment or even access to a day spa the following morning would be appreciated by everyone. Just don’t forget to book a couple’s room for yourselves!
Switch up the decor.
If you’re lucky and have a venue that doesn’t make you pack up shop at midnight, Rouffe says it’s important to change the look-and-feel to signal the reception is over, and the after-party is getting going. She recommends bringing in lounge furniture can be an easy way to make the shift. “Glow tables and high top couches are fun wedding after-party ideas,” she continues. “Bringing in a different colored dance floor, different colored uplighting can transform the venue from reception to after-party with a quick change.” If you had a string quartet or a live band for your formal reception, Rouffe says to consider moving to a DJ for a party vibe.