How to Pull Off an Amazing Wedding After-Party in Philly
Because the fun doesn't stop when your venue closes down.
True story: Sarah Zaun noticed such an uptick in after parties at Philly weddings that her Center City-based planning outfit All About Events now offers a special package dedicated to the concept. Here, she shares how to make yours as memorable as the wedding itself.
An after-party is most often needed when noise ordinances or other restrictions cut a reception off at 10 p.m. At that stage of the night, your guests will just be revving up, and they’ll want to continue the fun.
But even if your celebration runs to midnight, an after-party is still a good idea if a lot of attendees are coming from out of town. “A planned after-party gives guests who don’t know the area a safe, fun environment to be in,” says Zaun.
Keep things close to the places your guests are already familiar with. Another room in the same building as your reception is ideal—Zaun recently planned a Kimmel Center rooftop wedding with an after-party at Volvér, the Kimmel’s ground-floor restaurant—but a hotel bar or ballroom also works. If you’ve got room blocks throughout the city, go with the hotel where you and your wedding party are staying as the after-party spot. That way, the people most likely to attend will have an easy route to bed when everything wraps up.
Staying in your original reception space? If budget allows, Zaun recommends swapping out dining tables for lounge furniture and high-tops and changing up the lighting. “We replace traditional up-lights with moving or disco lighting to keep the atmosphere vibrant and busy,” she says.
It’s more than fine if you don’t have after-party details fleshed out before invitations are mailed. While you can add the info to your hotel-room welcome cards, the most effective way to get the word out is to ask your emcee to make an announcement before the last song of the night.
Keep the celebration limited to 90 minutes—“That way, the bar is controlled, the food is controlled, and if you run out within an hour, no one really notices,” says Zaun—and estimate your guest count in accordance with the after-party’s proximity to the reception space. If you’re staying put or moving within the same building, Zaun says, expect 75 percent of guests to show up. If you’re heading elsewhere, attendance will likely drop to 50 or 30 percent.
The Food & Drink
Guests have been boozing all night, so swap out liquor for beer and wine. If possible, opt for a by-consumption bar package to lower costs, and set up a water station to encourage attendees to hydrate.
For late-night snacks, Zaun goes one of two routes: dessert (FedNuts and Beiler’s Doughnuts are top requests) or classic guilty pleasures. For cheese-steaks, she recommends placing an advance order with Geno’s or using UberEats for Jim’s Steaks. (Just remember to order at least 90 minutes prior to desired drop-off time.) Zaun also regularly works with hotels like the Ritz-Carlton for in-house munchies such as mini-sliders and fries.
If continuing the dance party is your top priority, bring in a professional.
“A DJ can mix songs so they’re 45 seconds each,” says Zaun, who works with Center Stage Entertainment and EBE Talent to secure entertainment that will stay the extra hours. “That way, you play a lot more in the hour-and-a-half time frame.”
More low-key activities like board games, s’more roasting, or even a bubbly-and-chocolates display are other fun ways to end the night. No matter the agenda, Zaun likes to send guests off with favor bags containing a sleeping mask, Tylenol, a bottle of water, and a Philly soft pretzel.
If You’re Going Off-Site…
Some of Zaun’s favorite in-the-city wedding after-party spots are Time, Tavern on Broad, Elbow Lane at Harp & Crown, Yakitori Boy and City Tap House. Sending guests further than a few blocks from the reception? Extend transportation to the new venue to help get everyone there smoothly.
This article originally appeared as “Up All Night” in the Summer/Fall 2019 issue of Philadelphia Wedding magazine. To order your copy, click here.
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