Happily-ever-after parties are on the rise
Last summer, Kelly Rix was in the midst of planning her wedding. She and her fiancé, André Foisy, arranged a traditional Catholic ceremony and an elegant reception at Wellington House, a historic mansion in Fayetteville, N.Y. They then rented inflatable sumo wrestling suits and a giant inflatable Twister board.
“I think it’s the thing that he is looking forward to the most about this whole wedding now,” Rix wrote of Foisy on her blog in July. “He keeps telling all of his friends about it.”
The unconventional rentals were not for the wedding itself, but for the after-party.
When Rix and Foisy’s reception ended at 5 p.m., a school bus shuttled guests to the home of the best man’s mother, where a barbecue and a keg were waiting in the backyard. As it turned out, the rental company providing the sumo wrestling suits and Twister board never showed up, but about 120 of the 150 wedding guests did.
A bonfire was lit on the unseasonably cold evening, and guests ate and talked until 11 p.m. “A lot of people commented that they loved the way it worked,” said Rix, 28. “It gave everyone a full day of spending time with each other.”
A growing number of couples are choosing to extend their wedding celebrations well into the evening (or sometimes the early morning) with after-parties. While the degree of planning involved in the after-party varies, the goal is the same: to give newlyweds more time to spend with friends and family they may not get to see very often. It’s also a way to show off a couple’s personality and to invite a few additional guests who may not have been invited to the wedding itself. And as weddings grow larger and grander, many couples see after-parties as just another fun add-on.
“There has always been the group of guests that continues the celebration (sometimes with, sometimes without the couple) after the reception,” Anna Pezik, senior editor of Brides.com, wrote in an e-mail message. “What's new is the level of planning that is being put into the after-party. Couples are hiring DJs, caterers, creating themed decor...it's an encore celebration after the reception.”
According to the Bridal Association of America’s 2006 Wedding Report, the average age at marriage continues to climb, currently 26 for brides and 28 for grooms. That makes for more disposable income, and choices that may go beyond the traditional.
“If you wanted to have a full-fledged party in a separate space, with new music, slightly new décor, and a little bit of food, for let’s say a hundred people,” said Robyn Goldberg, a wedding planner in Los Angeles, “you’re talking a couple thousand dollars, up to about $5,000.”
In expensive locales like New York City, couples can spend as much as $40,000, said Richard Newton of Atelier Weddings in New York, for those who rent such prime venues as the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center or Métrazur restaurant in Grand Central Terminal.
“As far as the theme goes, it’s something that’s going to be different from the reception,” said Katie Olson, a wedding planner in Kansas City, Mo. “If you’re going to have a nightclub vibe at the reception, the after-party will be more relaxed. If you’re having a more relaxed reception, maybe you’ll have a nightclub vibe for the after-party.”
Options also vary depending on the location of the wedding. In Montana, guests might exit a winter wedding in sleighs built for 20, or have s’mores--toasted marshmallows sandwiched between chocolate and graham crackers--and hot toddies in a lodge, said Katalin Green, a wedding planner in Bozeman, Mont. “We even do rodeo after-parties as a wrap-up the next day,” she said.
In Napa Valley, where city ordinances demand that receptions end early, guests might gather on the wraparound porch of the inn where they’re staying and have pizza and beer, according to Carol Rothman of Glorious Weddings in San Francisco.
Some wedding planners say couples need to be careful in extending “Wedding Crashers”-style revelry if an after-party may involve another several hours of alcoholic beverages. At the reception, “I suggest closing the bar at least an hour before the music ends,” said Goldberg. Many couples try to avoid problems by providing their guests with transportation back to the hotels where they are staying.
Part of the draw of a sleigh ride or a rodeo is, of course, their uniqueness. Some see after-parties themselves as a way for couples to set their weddings apart. “They’re wanting to personalize it,” said Anja Winikka, associate editor of WeddingChannel.com. “This after-party is that extra edge. It’s not cookie-cutter.”
It may also be an opportunity for the bride and groom to inject a little more personal style into a day that is largely determined by tradition. “Historically, the wedding has been known as the parents’ party,” said Newton of Atelier Weddings. “That hasn’t changed quite as much as the bride and groom today would like.”
The after-party may also be a way to include people who were not invited to the reception due to space or cost, or simply because they are not that close to the couple. “We tried to discourage people from bringing their kids to the reception if they weren’t immediate family,” said Kelly Rix. She created an after-party invitation that noted--hint, hint--“Children are welcome at the after-party” and stuck it in with the wedding invitation.
Anita Lee, 27, who was married last August, invited her fellow bloggers at WeddingBee.com to the karaoke bar after-party only, knowing they would understand that she had to limit the invites to the wedding itself. “They just appreciate being invited to celebrate with you in any way,” she said.
What’s more, many couples don’t have an urge to run off and be alone after the wedding; they’d rather spend time with friends and family. “Most people are already living together,” said Newton of his clients at Atelier Weddings. “So the novelty of that bridal night doesn’t exist anymore.”
“We wanted everyone to know that it was a party, a celebration of us coming together,” Lee said. “Not just us, but our whole network, including family and friends.”