No one ever wants the wedding day to end. In the midst of pictures, toasts and cake-cutting, every bride and groom wishes for time to slow down. So couples are now coordinating elaborate wedding after-parties so they can have their cake and really enjoy it, too — sometimes into the wee hours of the morning.
“Everyone wants to keep the party going,” said George Nickels, director of special events at the Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach. “The nerves are there pretty much the entire wedding,” he continued, “but the after-party is when [the bride and groom] can calm down and have fun with their friends.”
Mindy Weiss, the Beverly Hills-based party planner responsible for Hilary Duff’s fabulous summer nuptials (complete with a late-night after-party), said that when it comes to weddings, “in the last three years I’ve found it more unusual if we don’t do an after-party.” About 95% of her couples now extend their celebration into the wee hours with a deejay.
Weiss said she believed the after-party started because live bands at receptions usually play for four hours and when the music stops, everyone goes home. Couples started to hire club deejays to change the mood and to re-inspire the guests to dance and relax. “The room goes crazy when the deejay starts,” Weiss said.
Why isn’t the reception enough?
“Couples, especially the younger ones, love that mingle time during cocktail hour and they like to have it again after dinner,” said Jamie Friedman, the director of private events at the Peninsula Beverly Hills. In the last year she’s noticed the after-party trend gaining steam.
Planning the event
These late-night additions are often planned months in advance with as much detail and importance as the reception. It’s never an afterthought, but it’s often a surprise.
When guests don’t know there’s an after-party in a Pelican Hill ballroom, “my team opens the wall and a deejay starts playing,” Nickels said. “Everyone turns their head really fast and there’s the surprise factor that everyone loves.”
The newlyweds usually change clothes — about 80% of the brides into short dresses, Weiss said, and guys lose the jacket and tie. Some couples opt to have butlers pass out gratis flip-flops, which Nickels said they began doing so guests could kick off their heels and dance.
Not all couples keep the after-party a surprise. Many state their plans on invitations or make an announcement. Either way, couples can make up their own rules for the after-party. Many like to move the party to a different space — in the same venue or occasionally off-property — and the décor is often different, creating a lounge or nightclub feel. Instead of stiff tables and chairs, low-slung sofas, plush ottomans, rugs and mirrors are often used to create a comfortable, luxurious ambiance.
“We’ve turned smaller ballrooms, restaurants or suites into really opulent bars, cabanas and lounges, and done a bonfire on a private beach,” said Nikki Khan, owner of L.A.’s Exquisite Events. “We’ve had some magical after-parties with salsa bands, cigar rollers and deejays flown in from London or India.” After a classic formal wedding, “this is the place that the fun part of the [couple’s] personality can be introduced through style, color and musical choices,” Weiss said.
When the after-party starts, usually between 10:30 p.m. and midnight, guests have been drinking and eating for hours.
“They want to stay loose where they are with their shoes off,” said DJ Kelly Cole, a Hollywood deejay who spun at Kate Beckinsale’s wedding. The music is crucial to the whole party and it’s neither the time nor place for something unsophisticated like the “YMCA” song, so event planners recommend professionals with experience outside of weddings to ensure the desired club feel.
When the wedding is very formal, like Nicole Furman and Steve Seigel’s Dec. 4 black-tie Beverly Wilshire Hotel nuptials, the after-party can be the time for the couple and their guests to really let loose.
The elaborately decorated grand ballroom, where the reception took place, had a winter wonderland atmosphere, and Weiss, the wedding’s planner, transformed the mood for the post-reception bash with darker-colored lighting and a deejay. After changing from her strapless mermaid gown into a short beaded dress, Furman, her new hubby and their friends, munched on sliders, grilled-cheese sandwiches and truffle fries, sipped tequila and vodka cocktails and danced until 2 a.m.
“The after-party provided a smooth transition to a fun celebration where our guests could let loose and party the night away,” said the bride. “We had our dream wedding — it was truly a magical night!”After-parties don’t have to be super elaborate. After their Santa Barbara wedding this summer, Scott and Krystin Messer moved 75 guests by shuttle to EOS Lounge, where they’d reserved tables in a private area and arranged for bottle service.
“People don’t want to go to a bar and stand around — they already did that at your wedding — they want to dance and party,” said Scott Messer, who added that, since they were free of any formal responsibilities at the lounge, he and his bride could let their hair down. “It was a nice way for out-of-town guests and new acquaintances to mingle beyond the social confines of the actual wedding party.”
Added Weiss, “As long as it’s done with class, the after-party is the time to ... jump, sing and celebrate your new partner.” And have the best — and longest — wedding of the year.