event planner: ROQUE Events | photographer: Finch Photo
The Best of | Weddings

5 Steps for Hosting the Perfect After-the-Wedding Party

There’s the wedding. Then the cocktail party. Then the party-party (also known as the reception). But, as you know, after the party is the after-party — the one that goes late, with guests (shoes off) watching the sun rise. After-the-wedding parties became one of the hottest trends in 2019, and we can certainly understand why. Whether your venue has a strict shut-off time, or you want to continue celebrating with your closest friends, or you just don’t want to deal with the chaos of “where to go next” — in all cases, planning is key. 

According to seasoned event planner Keith Willard of Keith Willard Events, “What better way to end an event than to allow the guests to be part of the show?” Think karaoke, silent disco, or a nightclub-inspired féte. Trust us, a wedding after-party is worth the extra planning; and we’ve made it easy with our 5-step guide. After all, it’s the most special night of your life. Why let it end?  

1. How to find the right space

Group of male friends dancing in a line
photographer: Light Sky Photography

You Can’t Rock Around the Clock if They’re Closed

Many venues have a designated reception cut-off time, but that doesn’t mean your celebration has to end then. The team at Keith Willard Events believes “There should be no scheduled end… just an open-ended timeline based on watching the natural ebb and flow of the crowd.” Ask your venue or hotel if they have separate, smaller spaces with late-night availability so you and your guests can party as long as you want. Willard says that you can even “End it all with a mimosa breakfast where guests naturally head off to bed to sleep off the day.”

Bride and guests dancing in front of DJ
photographer: Ben Lau Photography

Just-Right” Sizing

Pretend for a minute that you’re Goldilocks trying to select the perfect after-party space. You don’t want a venue that’s too small — there needs to be a comfortable amount of room for dancing. But too big of a space will make the party feel diluted. You get the picture. You’re looking for a space that’s “just right” for your wedding size. We like how this industrial hip space at Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn offered spaciousness with towering ceilings while still making the dance floor feel packed as DJ Martin D’Arcy spun tunes late into the night. Don’t forget, not everyone will make it this far into the night; so be realistic when estimating the numbers of who will stay. 

2. Three Ways to Dress it Up

Dance floor with blue uplighting and snowflake projection mapping
photographer: Kent Drake Photography

Shine Light on Your Love — and Your Dance Floor

Nothing can transform a room like dazzling lighting. Take this Four Seasons Hotel Chicago after-party, for example. A sea of disco balls hovering over the dance floor from HMR Designs made every late-night guest feel like a dancing queen. And paired with deep-blue uplighting, this design set the tone for an incredible night of dancing and revelry.

Pool area with flamingo floaty and violet uplighting
photographer: Bonphotage

Dream a Little Dream of a Fun Theme

Not all after-parties have to be dance-floor focused. The team at Christine Janda Design & Events helped their bride and groom transport guests out of the midwest and into the tropics with a chic, cabana-themed after-party. The poolside rooftop at Chicago’s Devereaux was the perfect spot for the soirée, featuring floating beach balls, swans, and custom neon signage. 

Dance floor with pink uplighting and lounge area
photographer: Dennis Lee Photography

A Lounge a Day Keeps Guests in Play 

It’s late, and your guests have been going all day — but needing a break doesn’t mean they want to leave. Give them somewhere to lounge in style while they restore their energy — before beelining right back to the dance floor when their favorite song comes on. Christina Currie Events, Inc. did just that with a glamorous lounge area at Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, which featured sparkling overhead décor, metallic throw pillows, and modern tufted seating. 

3. DJs & Dancers Get the Party (Re)Started 

Back of DJ and dancing guests
photographer: KingenSmith

Find a DJ That’ll Have You Falling in Love Again

While many couples prefer live music at their reception, the after-party is the perfect time to switch it up. Paulette Wolf Events ensured a smooth transition from grand celebration at Lyric Opera Of Chicago to intimate after-hours soirée with décor from Kehoe Designs, early-morning breakfast fare from J&L Catering, and an energizing set from DJ Matt Roan that kept the party going until 5am.

Guest dancing with glow-in-the-dark headphones
photographer: Tony Wodarck Photography

Quiet is the New Loud 

The person who said “you can’t please everyone” had clearly never heard of a silent disco. The concept is the perfect opportunity to allow your diverse crowd of guests — we’re talking parents, college friends, your crazy uncle, and every attendee in between — to listen to the music of their choosing with a selection of headphone stations. In other cases, like if you have an award-winning DJ like KRIEGER, you can offer just one headphone “station” that everyone can tune into en masse. Need a break? Just take the headphones off and enjoy the peace and quiet, like guests did at this Cielo Farms wedding planned by Amber Events. Bonus, you can disregard all of those pesky noise regulations often found in city spots and outdoor gatherings.

Dance hall with colorful laser light show
photographer: Finch Photo

The Show Goes on All Night

When Lupe Fiasco sang “The show goes on all night,” we’re pretty sure he was referring to epic after-party entertainment. We love the idea of making your after-party a production like this Regency Ballroom wedding planned by ROQUE Events. With dramatic staging, a laser light show, and a variety of musical performances — including one from the groom himself — this was truly an unforgettable evening. 

4. Light Bites Are Better at Night

tea station with rock candy and lemons
photographer: Jessica Loren 

But First, Coffee

When it comes to making sure guests are comfortable and happy (and awake!), Posh Parties knows a thing or two: Like late night guests don’t just want, they need, coffee. Elevating the simple cup of Joe, the team worked with the caterers at the luxurious locale of The Breakers Palm Beach to curate a coffee and tea bar complete with all of the extras. At after-parties, the entertainment might be the engine, but coffee is definitely the fuel.

cropped photo of server and tray of small bites
photographer: LuvRox Photography

Satisfy Those Late-Night Munchies

Sara Renee Events knows the way to a late night party-goer’s heart is with food — fried food to be exact. Sliders, McDonalds’ french fries, and chicken nuggets served with an assortment of sauces — because as we all know, it’s all about the sauce — were passed around this celebration at The Breakers Palm Beach. Even the Quarter Pounders looked elegant on the staff’s smoothly cut wood serving trays with touches of floral garnishes from Always Flowers & Events

popcorn food station
photographer: Alain Martinez Photo & Cinema

Offer Take-Home Treats for Tomorrow — or Tonight

One of our favorite after-party elements is a parting gift. Make a strong last impression with hangover kits and customized wedding merch, or keep it simple with edible favors. The Breakers Palm Beach wedding, planned by Sara Renee Events and designed by The Special Event Resource and Design Group, went for a universally loved treat in curated packages. If you look closely, you can spot a bonus element of personalization on the table. 

5. Plan for Photo Ops and Crazy Props

bride and groom wearing old prom gear
photographer: LuvRox Photography

Surprise Your Guests with a Blast from the Past

We love how LuvRox Photography captured a special moment between this couple and their guests at this Sara Renee Events-planned celebration. The bride made a secret outfit change (with a twist) before heading from her reception to the after-party. The after-party’s entrance at The Breakers Palm Beach showcased a blown-up photo of the newlyweds together at their high school prom — and, wait for it, the bride made her entrance in that very prom dress. The groom added silky blue suspenders to match his new wife, as if this wasn’t cute enough already.   

Guests posing in front of boxwood backdrop with "yes" signage
photographer: Craig Paulson Studio 

Everyone Loves a ‘Grammable Touch

Craig Paulson Studio beautifully captured guests posing at this fun floral backdrop that included a nod to England with a bright red phone booth. For those who want immediate gratification, photo booths are a must. We love how Bride and Blossom added gorgeous greenery and pink roses to the photo op, all while keeping it completely unique and personal at New York’s Oheka Castle

Green-and-white balloon drop over dancing guests
photographer: Finch Photo

Décor that ‘Pops’ — and Drops

A grand finalé, indeed. ROQUE Events ended this lavish wedding reception with a confetti explosion and balloon drop. We love how the green and white party elements perfectly matched the ongoing celebration palette — not to mention how they make for an incredible last picture at The Regency Ballroom in San Francisco.