These days, newlyweds no longer ride off into the sunset, headed for an evening of unbridled post-nuptial passion and other wedding-night cliches. Even if a bout of candlelit lovin' is in the cards, most couples find that it's also important to prolong the festivities at a post-reception blowout with friends and family, especially with those who have trekked great distances to attend the wedding. At any celebration, there are always revelers who refuse to let the good times come to a close, so it's a good idea to have an after-hours game plan.
The "after-party party" is still a pretty informal gathering, generally thrown for the couple's closest friends and any crazy relatives who want to attend. A stringent guest list is rarely adhered to, but some couples aim to restrict the post-reception bash to the bridal party, while others choose to invite anyone and everyone who's begging for more. You might want to start by determining who will definitely be in tow (your sorority sisters, your little brother, and other bon vivants) and then just know to expect other guests who spontaneously decide they, too, want in on the action.
Spreading the Word
If you want to get the crowd psyched up for the festivities, send out invitations. Try not to make it sound exclusive and secretive -- you don't want to hurt feelings. You needn't make the merriment undercover, because you basically already know who's coming. Your grandparents, for one, will probably have other plans. Ditto for your 13-year-old cousin. Or, just let word of mouth take over. Mention the party at the bachelor and bachelorette bashes, and maybe follow up with invitations in the hotel room hospitality baskets. Everyone should feel welcome to join.
Where's the Party?
Before you figure out where it's all going to go down, think about how you'd like to celebrate. You might want to plan the party to contrast with the type of wedding you're having. For example, if you'll be having a noon wedding followed by a low-key luncheon affair, a buttoned-up reception due to religious/military requirements, or an evening reception in a country club that doesn't allow loud music, why not throw an all-out extravaganza for your friends later that night? Springing for a simple gathering in the hotel bar or bridal suite is standard. Or you can rent out a room at a favorite local watering hole or restaurant (be sure to make reservations in advance). Have the bridesmaids and groomsmen tote some of the leftovers to party central for when you get the munchies, and a table centerpiece or two will do wonders for ambience.
Even if the after-party party will be happening in makeshift surroundings, you can generally expect everyone to still be in their party clothes. At a hotel, many guests will want to change into more casual gear, but if you want to sport your wedding day duds 'til dawn, don't feel obligated to remove them. True, a poufy white tulle gown will seem out of place at a local dive and will likely call much attention to you and your satin-clad entourage, but don't let that stop you from playing the princess card for as long as you wish. Besides, you might even score some free congratulatory drinks. On the other hand, if most of the party seem at home in their fancy wedding-day getups and you'd prefer to ditch the pearls and pantyhose, slip into comfy clothes. If appropriate, you can even stomp around in your peignoir and pajamas.
Footing the Bill
So, the big question is: Who's paying? Chances are there will be many a guest offering to pick up some six-packs at the local convenience store or slap down their credit cards at the bar. Yes, you've forked out quite a chunk of change for the wedding, but so have your friends. Between the showers, bachelorette and bachelor parties, gifts, attire, hotels, and travel, they've spent quite a lot to be a part of your celebration. Covering the cost of the after-party party is the perfect way for you to thank your crew for their exertions. No need to go overboard -- if you're worried about overspending, just put a cap on the craziness after an hour or two.
If you want to get the crowd psyched up for the festivities, send out invitations.
Rehearsals + Brunches