15 Expert-Approved Ideas for Planning the Ultimate Wedding After-Party
With details like smoke machines, marquee lights, custom dance floors, and unexpected late-night snacks popping up at nearly every wedding's after-party, it's clear that these post-reception gatherings are no longer an after-thought. In fact, these celebrations are becoming so popular that couples are devoting just as much time and effort into making them memorable as they are for the rest of their big day. Since we know that entertainment, catering, and design are all essential elements of these parties, we decided to ask our favorite wedding experts for their best after-party tips. Here, they share insight about this year's most sought-after ideas.
First and foremost, think about theme. Do you want your after-party to feel like an extension of your ceremony and reception, or as though your guests have been transported to somewhere else entirely? One pro suggests carrying the theme straight through, another says you can mix things up with more modern elements, while another still says to go completely different. That expert's tip? Emphasizing fun by choosing Mardi Gras-inspired elements or introducing a brand-new color palette. Ultimately, you can do whatever you want, but it's fun to consider the many options.
One after-party detail that's a non-negotiable? Food. While you can serve whatever you want—anything from your favorite bites to a food truck is fair game—it's important to ensure that no one is drinking on an empty stomach. Our experts also emphasize the importance of providing seating. While some guests are ready to keep dancing, others will enjoy relaxing on lounge furniture and chatting with friends.
If you like these ideas, you'll be delighted to know that there's lots more where they came from. Here, expert-approved tips for planning the ultimate wedding after-party.
Revive Your Theme
"When couples opt to carry out their day-of theme throughout all elements of their day, from the altar to the after-party, it makes for a collection of memorable and cohesive photos. This shot of a calligraphed bar menu from an elegant affair perfectly captured the fluidity of décor throughout their wedding day, which really shined in their final photographs." —Rachel May Clarke, Owner, Rachel May Photography
Serve Fun Fare
"Regardless of your theme, a food truck is crucial to completing the after-party vibe. Let your theme guide your choice in cuisine. Mexican fiesta? Go for a street-style taco truck. Does your sweetheart have a sweet tooth? Popsicle or donut trucks are the perfect choices!" —Brianna Sumey, Director of Sales, Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
"Integrating modern elements into functional pieces of your décor is an innovative way to keep your design aesthetic both fresh and stylish. These geometric vases were sprinkled throughout clear tables, adding a feeling of newness to the entire evening." —Victoria Love, Owner, Victoria Love Events
Make Sure Food Is Filling and Flavorful
"In addition to the bride and groom's personal taste and vision for the after-party, it's important to consider foods that are easy to eat and satisfying. To keep the party going, we like to make sure that no one is drinking on an empty stomach. These cocktail-size lamb chops hit all the marks for presentation and flavor." —Denise Vu, Marketing Director, Occasions Caterers
"Fireworks are an impressive gesture to closing out an after-party. Creating a dramatic backdrop to photograph against helps to end your event on a high!" —Carla Ten Eyck, Photographer and Owner, Carla Ten Eyck Photography
"Making sure guests are comfortable and offered plenty of access to relaxed seating is a must-have for a day of non-stop celebrating. Creating a chic lounge space within your after-party site is a given for any stylish party." —Lindsay Sims, Founder, Toast Events
Upgrade Your Favors
"One of my favorite pieces to incorporate into an after-party design is our giant 'Create Your Own Party Mix' trough. Guests can grab a bag and create their own sweet and savory mix of munchies. It's 24' of tasty fun!" —Carla Ruben, Owner and Creative Director, Creative Edge Parties
Turn Out the Lights
"A black light is a foolproof way to completely transform your venue's ambiance. As soon as the black light hits, you know it's the after party. Top it off with a disco ball, and you can bet people will be dancing until dawn." —Sarah Banasiak, Chief Creative Officer, The Revel Group
Hire Live Entertainment
"Changing up the atmosphere is one of our favorite ways to make an after-party memorable. Consider creating a concert-like environment for your after-party, complete with a stage and bar tables—as well as a fun and unexpected live band performing your favorite songs from the decade of your choosing." —Allyson Joseph, Principal Planner and Creative Director, Bob Gail Special Events
Bring in Different Furniture
"Unique furniture can almost always find a place in the after-party. Since there will be fewer guests—and many will be drinking or standing—you can better incorporate distinctive pieces of furniture that fit with your desired aesthetic." —Tracie Domino, Founder and Creative Director, Tracie Domino Events
Make It Festive
"There's no better opportunity to go all out with a party theme then during an after-party celebration. Whether it's an ode to your location—like a Mardi Gras affair—or an event of an exclusive color scheme, capturing one-of-a-kind images of a couple's distinctive style always adds to the overall experience." —Greer Gattuso, Owner, Greer Gattuso Photography
Don't Forget About Lighting
"One of the most overlooked elements when planning a wedding is lighting. Couples often focus solely on floral décor and forget how lighting can pull your entire look together. Whether it's pin spotting on tables, hanging of chandeliers, or simply lining the tent with bistro lights, lighting can set the tone of your after-party and add a romantic feel. Some of the very best photos are those when the lighting is just right!" —Kerri-Lynn Mulhearn, Owner, Stella Day Events
Play with Metallics
"Nothing quite screams 'late-night festivities' like the perfect metallic color scheme. Don't be afraid to mix metals to really get in the late-night mood!" —Cassy Anderson, Founder, Cassy Rose Events
Don't Be Afraid of Candles
"Whether used as an element of décor or asna source of light, candles are an after-party favorite. Set the scene by creating a soft ambiance, or group together to decorate the display of a romantic tablescape." —Joseph Todd St. Cyr, Owner, Joseph Todd Events