Do you stay at the same venue or move someplace else?

By Blythe Copeland
January 21, 2020
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Ending your unforgettable wedding with an equally unforgettable after-party means choosing the right location, and whether it's your reception venue, a nearby bar or restaurant, or a private home, you should consider one key factor first. "The most important thing when it comes to an after-party is proximity and ease," says Jove Meyer of Jove Meyer Events in New York City. "I find once guests get on a bus and travel more than 10 minutes they begin to fade—if they travel more than 20, they will be gone!"

Picking the perfect spot also depends on the size of your group, the cost, and the vibe you're hoping for: Late-night dance party? Low-key storytelling by a bonfire? Unforgettable karaoke? "Know what you want and find the best place that is offering that so you can join in," says Meyer. "If you cannot find a place near the reception that has what you are looking for, then you can create it—possibly—at the wedding venue or nearby at a space." But wherever you choose to party, remember one critical element: More food. "After guests have enjoyed an open bar for many hours at the wedding, food is a must at the after party," says Meyer, who recommends sticking with the classics: "Snack foods that are filled with carbs and cheese do the trick to soak up the booze!"

If you want to stay at your reception spot...

Continuing the celebration on-site at your reception venue is the obvious choice if you're hoping for a big group, since it erases the opportunity for guests to change their minds and bail while traveling between locations. "After a wedding, the high-energy momentum can fade quickly, so, if possible, continue the party at your wedding venue or very near by, ideally within walking distance," says Meyer. "The pro is that more guests will stay and party, and you do not have to fully end the momentum you've created to that point." But what you gain in convenience you may make up for in cost, as rental fees and staffing charges continue to add up while the vendors aren't able to breakdown the space; the end cost may be less than booking a private venue at another location, but likely higher than directing guests to a more casual spot. One compromise: Ask your venue if they have another area you can use for your after party so you can avoid paying overtime for breakdown.

If you move to a nearby bar or restaurant...

Most bars and restaurants offer plenty of flexibility for an after-party, whether you want to book the entire space, reserve a smaller room, or just create an informal gathering spot where guests pay their own tab. But that also means you have no say in the details—from the band that's scheduled to what's on the menu. "A bar is a great place for an after-party, as the guests there have been drinking for a while so they may be on a similar level, energy-wise," says Meyer. "That being said, they may be in an upbeat dance mood, so be sure you know the vibe of the bar before you book it. You cannot really change the vibe of a bar unless you buy it out—then you can do what you like."

If you're ready to head home...

Inviting guests back to a family or friends' home can lead to a cozy, low-key party that's tempting after a full day of wedding festivities, but it can also leave you with headaches from more than just your specialty cocktail: damaged furniture, an overwhelming day-after cleanup, and irritated neighbors. "If someone spills or makes a mess, it is in your home," says Meyer. "Setup and breakdown can be done with your catering team, but if you elect to do it yourself the cleanup the next morning could be rough and dirty!" Using private outdoor space for a bonfire or al fresco snacks and drinks can ease the cleanup, but also has its downsides, including neighborhood sound restrictions and the weather forecast. "The pro of a bonfire is that you can have a chill outdoor hang with your friends and family," says Meyer. "The con is that if it rains, your after-party is over before it even began."

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