Everything to know about planning a wedding after-party

By Shelby Wax

Photo: Vanessa Tryde

Want to keep entertaining your guests into the early hours? Here are some key considerations to keep in mind

When riding the high of your wedding day, it’s hard to call it quits once the final song of the reception ends. Yet while you might need to vacate the dance floor, the party doesn’t have to stop right away. Enter: the after-party. Unlike the reception or other pre-wedding events that feature traditional elements like speeches or cake cutting, the after-party is one of the only celebrations that can be crafted entirely to the whims of the couple. While late-night food, drinks, and music are usually part of the equation, planning this event should come down to how you and your partner want to finish the special day.


“Be true to yourself!” advises wedding planner and designer Jove Meyer. “How do you spend your Saturday nights? Are you dancing people, karaoke people, board game people, bull-riding people, bar people, dive bar people, or club people? Do what makes you happy and it will be the best time! Guests will do what you do, so if you plan an after-party you're not into, that will show and it will not go well. So, plan ahead and have the best time!”

Putting thought into planning this after-hours affair is truly key. While spur-of-the-moment post-wedding get-togethers can occasionally work out, placing intention into your plans ahead of time will ensure that the party is not only a great time, but that it goes off without a hitch. “If you’re looking to have a great after-party, make sure it’s a key part of your budget planning and not just an after-thought,” recommends Dani Blasena, founder and creative director of HauteFêtes.

She also advises you to consider who will actually be attending this post-reception celebration as you start ideating what it will look like. While you might have kept things more traditional at your reception around older relatives, don’t be afraid to let loose and blast your favorite bangers later in the night. “The guest count of an after-party typically consists of your core crew, close family, and best friends,” notes Blasena. “Older folks and grandparents typically will have left prior to the after-party so keep in mind the tempo, theme, and vibe can be quite different than your wedding.”

Photo: Daisy Johnson

Want to orchestrate a wedding after-party that might even be more fun than the main event? Read on for planner tips to have the party going till the sun comes up.

Choose the right location

One of the most important factors to consider when choosing your after-party venue is distance. If it’s too far away from your reception, the energy of your guests will dwindle on the journey and the vibes of your late-night soirée will be off. “Honestly, if you can have your after-party at your wedding venue that is most ideal, as it is the best way to keep the momentum of the party going,” says Meyer. “If guests have to get in a car or on a bus and drive somewhere for 10, 15, or 20 or more minutes, the momentum slows and the energy dissipates—which can be hard to build back up after a full day of celebrating (and drinking).”

First, check with your venue if they have any other spaces on site that can be rented into the night. It not only makes it easy for your guests to arrive, but allows your planning team to easily set up the décor in advance. You often can even negotiate with the venue when signing contracts to keep a certain number of staff for the event and use the same catering service for late-night bites. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t need to budget for this after-hours event.

Marco van Rijt and Sune Palner's wedding after-party.

“While most venues charge significantly less for an after-party site fee than they do the main event, there are a number of additional expenses you do need to factor in,” shares Blasena. “In addition to the venue expense, you’ll have to keep paying for staff including bartenders, security, DJ, photographer, and possibly your wedding planner, too. Some venues will charge late-night fees. For spaces that you’ve contracted rental furnishings, be mindful of rental company ‘after hours’ fees as well as ‘hour window’ strike fees that they will likely charge, too.”

Before booking, it is essential to check if there are sound ordinances in the area. “Is there a decibel level they have to honour and is there a time that music has to end? [Plus], does it change for live or recorded music? Both of these things will help you decide if it is the best place for your wedding and after-party,” says Meyer. “If you love a venue but its sound restrictions will cut into your partying, then you could have a silent disco where all of the guests are in headphones rocking out to the DJ's tunes in their ears. This is a way to work around sound restrictions and not stop the party!”

If you can’t have your after-party at your venue, consider what you and your partner love to do on your own nights out, as well as what’s fitting with your wedding locale. “If your wedding is in Hawaii or the Caribbean, for example, consider a late-night beach party complete with a bonfire, late-night s’mores, and disco balls strung in coconut trees. Or, if it’s a vineyard wedding, rent out a local wine cave for a hip late-night soiree, complete with club music,” recommends Blasena. “If an activity is more your thing, consider renting out a roller disco, bowling alley, or karaoke bar—if nothing else, these will make for some great photos and fun memories!”

Do what makes you happy and it will be the best time! Guests will do what you do, so if you plan an after-party you're not into, that will show and it will not go well.

Jove Meyer, wedding planner and designer

If you want to go to a popular bar in town that is open to the public, planners warn you should definitely not arrive with a crowd without contacting the location well in advance. “There is nothing worse than not being allowed in and having nowhere to go,” says Meyer. “Making a reservation at a bar that is open to the public can be a great way to have an after-party without a massive buyout bill. Book an area in advance that you and your friends can come to. It may require a minimum spend, but that amount will surely be lower than the buyout price.”

The last factor you should absolutely consider is how your guests can safely arrive at the next venue. Not every town has great availability of rideshares or taxis, so it’s best to arrange shuttles for your guests in advance. “You can even get creative with the types of transportation such as double-decker London buses, old town trolleys, pedi-cabs, or even boats to get you there and back,” says Blasena. But, don’t forget to keep up that momentum over the ride. “If you have a bus, be sure there is good upbeat music and water bottles for guests so they can keep their energy high as they travel. You can make a playlist and send it to the transport company in advance,” advises Meyer. “Another tip for transport is to ensure the bus is not too hot, as it will make people sleepy. A nice 68 degrees is best as it will keep people awake!” If it’s impossible to get a car from your after-party location, arrange to have transport available to take guests back to your hotel block as well.

Create the perfect vibe

Once you have a venue set, it’s time to create that perfect late-night atmosphere. Decide with your partner what kind of energy you want to curate – then you can move forward with your planning. “Is the after-party space cool on its own or does it need some TLC? Sometimes candles, soft seating, and dim lights can do the trick, while other times bringing in furniture and disco balls is what is needed,” says Meyer. “It really depends on the space you're working with and the vibe you want to create!” If you are repurposing your reception venue for the party, he advises changing the direction of the space to create a new ambience.

Blasena emphasises that lighting and draping that eliminates unsightly walls can make a space feel intimate, while a focal bar, signature cocktails, a photo booth, and late-night tchotchkes, such as glow sticks, flashing glasses, and flip flops, can amp up the atmosphere. She’s also a fan of creating a theme for the after-party: This could involve creating a tiki vibe, a retro disco aesthetic, or simply leaning into a color scheme.

Photo: Pierre Björk

Photo: Pierre Björk

Music is essential to set the tone of the event as well. If you want guests to continue dancing into the night, hiring a band or DJ to keep the vibes going is a must. Blasena adds, “However, make sure the music vibe is different from your wedding by chatting through playlists with your musicians or DJ beforehand.” While you can hire new artists to bring music to your after-party, chat with your reception musicians to see if they are available to work the second event, too.

One thing that is absolutely necessary at your after-party is food to keep your guests fuelled into the wee hours of the morning. “Did someone say late-night carbs? Let’s face it, the after-party is when everyone will thank you for those sliders and fries,” shares Blasena. “If you’re not the slider type, go themed with a sushi bar, mini Mexican tacos, or slices of pizza.” Think about fun ways to serve your bites like food trucks or packaging items in Chinese food containers. While cocktails are a must, be sure to have water readily available as well. Meyer says, “Not that everyone will drink it…but having it out and available encourages people to hydrate while they celebrate, which also helps them party longer and feel better the next day!”