How to Plan an Unforgettable After-Party

Wedding experts share their top tips on how to plan an after-party your guests won't stop talking about.

When the reception is winding down and guests begin to retire, many couples see it as the end of their wedding festivities. But the party doesn’t necessarily have to end there. These days, more and more couples opt for an after-party that carries the celebration into the wee hours of the night.

wedding after party
Photo: Kelly Hornberger

"Many venues have strict noise curfews that require the music to end at a certain time to comply with local noise ordinances or respect the privacy of nearby residents. An after-party can be a great way to keep the party going for guests who are still up for more fun and festivities. Hosting an after-party at a different location allows the couple to continue the party without worrying about noise restrictions. They can choose a venue that allows for louder music or one not subject to the same noise restrictions as the wedding venue." —Mary Angelini, Key Moment Films

“One thing that couples may do if they are hosting an after-party is to include that information as part of their invitation suite. This works well if everyone at the wedding is invited to the after-party, of course. The information can go on an insert card and will help guests know that a celebration is planned for after the wedding, and they can plan accordingly." —Lilia Shatnaya, Plume and Stone Invitation Studio

"Plan to make the location for your after-party adjacent to or on the departure path of your reception venue. If the after-party location is on the way to their rooms, more guests are able to stay and enjoy the rest of the evening. If they have to go too far to get to the after-party, you are liable to lose people." —Cathy O’Connell, COJ Events

"Keep in mind that not all of your guests will want to go to the after-party, so make sure you have options for transportation to get them home if needed. While some will want to celebrate into the wee hours, others likely have a bed calling their names!" —Nora Sheils, Rock Paper Coin, Bridal Bliss

"The most expectation you should have is truly just having fun. Late-night snacks, water, and a safe space for anyone that drinks too much are feasible. When you have set yourself up for fun, everyone can enjoy the party into the next morning safely and surely. Go through every safety measure you can think of so everyone gets home safely, gets to their hotel or Airbnb, and has a space to crash if it runs too late." —Jen Sulak, Weirdo Weddings

“Keep in mind that anytime you switch venues (i.e. moving from the reception back to the hotel), you will lose some of your people. While your die-hard party people will stay, I would take that into account when guaranteeing numbers. Conversely, if you have your after-party at the same venue (i.e., another room across the hall from the reception), you will likely have a number of people that will come in for just one drink or perhaps not even have a drink but just want to ‘check it out’ before departing for bed. You'll want to ensure that these people are not counted in your guarantee number." — Laura Maddox, Magnolia Celebrates

"From a photography perspective, this can create some fantastic opportunities to capture the couple's personalities and showcase their unique style in a more relaxed setting. The timing for an after-party can vary, but it often starts after the main reception has ended, usually around 10 or 11 pm, and can go on until the early hours of the morning. It's important for the couple to communicate the timing of the after-party to their guests so everyone knows what to expect and the photographer can plan accordingly." —Megan Breukelman, Megan & Kenneth

"Change clothes. Logistically, you would have to figure out where to change your clothes. I have not had a couple yet who regrets getting pictures back with a different outfit on." —Alicia Igess Jones, Alicia Igess Jones

"If held in the same room as the reception, you can easily transition to party mode with a change in lighting and music. When planning an after-party, keep it simple with a great set of dance music and tasty bar food." —Peter Mitsaelides, Brooklake Country Club & Events

"When determining if you should host an after-party, there are many things a couple should consider. What is the overall makeup of your guests? Is your crowd one who will stay out late, or is it a crowd who will more likely want to call it a night? Another thing that could affect this decision is if it is a destination wedding and guests have early flights the next morning, how late will they want to stay out?

What type of environment do you want for the after-party? Do you want a location where you can host a private after-party with a DJ, maybe some fun games, a bar, and late-night snacks? Or do you want a casual location such as a friend’s home or a hotel suite where a few of your friends can gather and enjoy the rest of the night/early morning? Or do you want to head to a local bar where you and your friends/family have spent many hours over the years?" —Tonya Hoopes, Hoopes Events

There are many considerations for couples who want to host an after-party. It's essential that the couple communicates their expectations and the timing of the event with guests in advance so everyone knows what to expect. Ultimately, it is important for couples to create a safe environment where everyone can have fun and enjoy themselves in the early morning hours. With careful planning and thoughtfulness, you can ensure your wedding celebration will be one they won't soon forget.