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How to Transition Wedding Music from Reception to After-Party

The evening's finale deserves an epic playlist.

After the vows are exchanged, the speeches are made, and the cake is cut, a wedding generally comes to a close, but for couples looking to take the night a little further, an after-party could be the answer. It's the perfect option if you want to continue the celebration long past the band's final song. As you're dreaming up your vision for this final hurrah, you should consider how you want to transition into the latter part of the evening. Will it be in the same space as your reception? Do you need to transport guests to a new venue? How should you change up the music for the second soirée?

"We believe that the energy should keep building throughout the night and love to thoughtfully transition from the reception to an after-party," shares wedding planner Jolene Peterson of Laurel and Rose. "It is all about elevating the energy, keeping guests engaged, and ending the evening with an unexpected twist on a very high note!" Ahead, wedding planners share their expert advice on how to move the music from the reception to the after party with ease.

Meet the Expert

  • Jolene Peterson is the owner and principle planner of the full-service event company Laurel and Rose.
  • Wendy Kay is the founder of Birds of a Feather Events, a Dallas-based wedding planning firm.
  • Jove Meyer is the owner and creative director of Jove Meyer Events, a Brooklyn-based wedding and event planning company.
  • Laura Remmert is the founder of Laura Remmert Events, a full-service wedding planning and event styling company.
  • Bianca Hall and Erica Vanco are the co-owners and lead planners of the Chicago-based wedding planning company Estera Events.
brides standing on pink couch with neon sign behind them

Photo by Ana Hinojosa / Design by Tiana Crispino

Decide What You Want the Vibe to Be

Before you do anything else, you need to determine what kind of after-party you want to have. "When thinking of your after-party you should decide if it’s an extension of your wedding vibe or an entirely new one," says wedding planner Jove Meyer. "If it’s a new one, is it an 'up' vibe or a 'chill' vibe? If you want to change the vibe to 'up,' then make the music a little louder, select music that has a stronger dance beat and make the space a little darker," he advises. "If you want to have a 'chill' after-party, then the music should set tone. The music should not be super loud as guests will want to talk. A playlist is great for that. You can create it in advance and have it playing when everyone walks in."

"If it’s an extension, then keep the music style similar to what you had at the wedding, so guests keep dancing and the energy continues," Meyer adds. "Whatever you decide to do for your after-party, remember to include the food, decor, and music to set the tone and create the full experience for you and your guests."

Hire a DJ

The general consensus among wedding planners is that a DJ is the best choice for your after-party. "There is just something about hearing a song performed by the original artist that can bond people on a dance floor—especially if we are focusing on music from 20 to 30 years ago," shares planner Wendy Kay of Birds of a Feather Events. "It also opens up the opportunity to play some songs that were not appropriate for the wedding. We don't want to send grandma into a coma via Ice Cube."

You can use the same DJ as your reception or hire a new one for the next phase of the night. However, you should prepare them to get the party started as soon as it begins. "Ensure you have the after-party sound system up and running so there is no delay and there is a smooth transition without silence or down time," notes Meyer. Planner Laura Remmert also advises to keep your DJ looped in with the playlist from the rest of the evening. "I always like to connect the DJ with the band in advance, so they can get a sense of what the band is planning to play to reduce the chances of hearing the same song twice. This works great for couples that want to hear certain music like EDM or certain hip hop songs that don’t work as well with a band."

If your venue location can't have loud music after a certain hour, that doesn't mean the party has to stop. "We've loved incorporating silent discos to keep the party going in spaces that have noise restrictions and find that this interactive experience helps guests feel bonded and excited about the next phase of the event they've just entered into," advises Peterson.

bride in black dances at late night wedding party

Photo by Pablo Laguia / Design by Tiana Crispino

Consider the Location

The biggest decision when planning your after-party is where it will take place. Some reception venues allow you to stay late into the night on the same dance floor, so you don't have to worry about going to a new spot. If you aren't moving, planners recommend altering the atmosphere slightly to mark this is the next phase of the evening. "If it is in the same location, we like to touch on all of the senses and incorporate many different elements during the transition," says Peterson. "This can be as simple as a lighting change (shifting the scene to feel darker, moodier, and sexier) and bringing in an unexpected 'guest' DJ or adding a new live music component like horns or an electric violin."

"If the space and budget allow, we also love to have the couple lead this transition into a new space, ideally with a new outfit," notes Peterson. "A secondary space can offer a completely new, immersive experience for guests. Thoughtful lounges, unique installations like disco ball chandeliers, a clear distinction in a music transition, and a change in scenery can really help keep guests engaged well into the night."

Occasionally, a new location may require transportation for guests. If your shuttles allow it, create a playlist for the cars to play to keep the energy up between venues. One fun musical way to bring guests to a second location (if it is within walking distance) is to have a second line parade-inspired exit. Bianca Hall and Erica Vanco of Estera Events are major fans of this idea. “Have the band bring a few of their performers (including horns, of course!) and parade guests over to the after-party always works so well," they share.

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