Much like a second dress for the reception, after-parties are a wedding trend that have gone from extravagant to nearly commonplace. While certainly not a requirement for your nuptials, deciding to throw a shindig following the reception is also unlikely to be an unheard of concept for your guests. If your venue is rented out until 2AM it won’t seem necessary, but noise ordinances can cause some receptions to end at 10PM or earlier. In that case, we certainly understand the newlyweds wanting to extend the night with their loved ones.
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Not all after-parties are created equal; if you choose to have one, you have to decide whether or not to formally host one, or merely have everyone gather at the hotel bar or another nearby location. A casual gathering at a bar is low-key enough that you can simply post the location on the wedding website and make an announcement at the end of the reception. The newlyweds may choose to pick up the bar tab, but it is usually understood that everyone will cover their own bill at the bar. A more official party is essentially like a second reception – sometimes even in a different room of the same venue. This can heighten the party atmosphere, but it is also another event you'll need to decorate and plan.
When deciding whether your wedding needs an after-party, you should not only consider the end time of your actual reception, but also your guest list. A fairly intimate gathering that features many older relatives or parents with young children is likely to naturally wind down at an earlier hour. On the other hand, if you’re a younger bride and inviting a large amount of similarly aged friends, it’s more likely that people will want to keep the party going for longer. The fewer revelers going to the after-party, the more appropriate laid-back barhopping will be. When it’s the bulk of your guest list, a more planned, official after-party will feel like a natural extension of your reception.