New Year’s Eve and weddings have a lot in common. Both involve dressing up, dancing, celebrating, and, of course, champagne. It’s no surprise, then, that December 31 is a popular choice for a wedding date. Run with the glitz and glam! The downside, though, is that it comes with some major misconceptions, including that your decor will be built-in (hint: it’s not!) and that everyone will be available for the holiday. To help you avoid mistakes, our wedding pros share some top tips for NYE nuptials.
Most weddings involve getting a head start on planning, but for New Year’s Eve this is especially critical. Many hotels and venues host their own NYE parties, and you’ll be competing for space against non-wedding gatherings in many destinations, plus all the other brides and grooms looking for a holiday marriage. “Any city where you host a New Year’s Eve wedding will be more hectic than other times of the year,” explains Jack Kane of Sapphire Events in New Orleans. “Commit to a date as far in advance as possible and secure your top choices for vendors early on.” He also suggests that couples send save-the-dates well in advance so that guests can make appropriate travel plans. Flights and hotels can book up quickly.
Speak to VIPs First
You may think that a holiday weekend means everyone is available to celebrate with you, but not all your guests may want to brave the busy travel time to be there. Talk to family and close friends about their availability for your December 31st date. If it seems that everyone is a go, then continue planning. You wouldn’t want to assume, and then end up with fewer people in attendance or the ones you love the most not on the dance floor with you. One comforting thought: “For the most part, couples should be wary of throwing a wedding over a holiday weekend,” Kane says. “New Year’s Eve is the exception to this rule. Most guests will be excited to have fun plans for the holiday.”
Hire a Planner
Planners generally help couples navigate the wedding journey and they can be essential for holiday weddings, especially if it’s a destination affair. The popularity of the holiday for all things party can lead to more hiccups along the way. “Enlist the help of a planner and travel expert who can secure group travel rates and hotel rooms,” advises Andrea Eppolito, a planner and event designer in Las Vegas. “You need a person who is well-versed at troubleshooting and coming up with alternative solutions.” Since many NYE nuptials also tend to be destination weddings, a planner can help you more efficiently (and quickly) wade through the available vendors and advise you on best practices for getting all your guests to the location without overspending.
Host a Countdown to Midnight
A New Year’s Eve wedding would not be complete without midnight cheer! Plan to pass out bubbles and shout out “Happy New Year!” when the clock strikes 12 a.m. You can put a unique spin on this by pouring a champagne tower or toast with your favorite non-sparkling wine beverage to personalize the moment. Consider also having confetti rain down from the ceiling, setting off sparklers, or booking a surprise performer to take the stage.
Be sure your venue knows you want the space until after the new year rings in. Many venues cut off at 10 or 11 p.m.
Be Ready to Pay More
Set a higher budget for most decor, venue, and catering line items. Labor, flowers, transportation, room costs, and more all increase on NYE. “Many vendors double and triple their pricing for the occasion,” says Liz Castelli of Tinsel Experiential Design in Brooklyn. “It's not to be greedy or take advantage of couples, but realistically to compensate the teams working on what is also a big night for them.” This increase also trickles down to your guests; the cost per night at hotels will be more pricey, as will tickets for flights. The sooner you can book your pros and let guests in on the plan, the more likely you and they will save.
Carefully Organize Logistics
“Traffic and delays are almost a guarantee,” Eppolito says of getting around on NYE. She advises that you allot extra time for vendors to set up and for guests to arrive at the venue. If you can, keep the festivities to a single venue, and bonus points if the same venue, such as a hotel, includes your accommodations and those of your guests. “Booking a ceremony in one location followed by a reception in another will create delays, confusion, and stress for your guests,” she adds. “Keep things easy and convenient.”
The same goes for the younger attendees. Many guests will likely want to bring their kiddos along, especially given the holiday, so be prepared to keep the smaller guests comfortable. “Little people love weddings, but inevitably cannot make it to midnight,” Eppolito says. She adds that you can satisfy the needs of the children and keep their parents on the dance floor by creating a kids' club in an adjacent space. Stock it with art supplies, snacks, games, pajamas, and sleeping bags. The little ones will love their own secret sleepover, and you can even host a mock-countdown at 9 p.m. so they feel included in the action before they knock out.
Decor is Not Built In
One common misconception about NYE weddings is that decor will come with the venue. That’s false, says Eppolito. While entryways to hotels or venues may still be festively outfitted, the event spaces themselves are often blank canvases. You’re still on the hook for bringing in the decor you want. The positive to that is you can personalize the look of your NYE wedding. Stick to traditional NYE elements, such as sequin linens and jewel-toned colors, or opt to avoid them in exchange for something that feels more like you. Either way, you can always add a pop of NYE at the photo booth with funny hats and sunglasses.
Honor the Holiday
One benefit of matching your wedding to such a glitzy holiday is that everyone will be in the mood to get glam! Consider hosting a black tie affair or designate your dress code as something sparkly. Eppolito says that she likes when brides change into something with sequins or a flapper-style cocktail dress during the reception to keep the vibe festive. Kane also loves when couples play off the more chic aspects of the holiday rather than the cheesy ones. Get creative with twists on NYE traditions. “Fireworks are such a fun part of New Year’s Eve, but they can be challenging to coordinate,” Kane says, noting a NYE wedding where the couple wanted fireworks but had an indoor venue. “We projected a countdown on a large wall of the ballroom once midnight was approaching. As it hit zero, an amazing projection of an over-the-top firework show played from the floor to the ceiling. The guests were blown away.”
Say Thank You to Your Vendors
“Remember that the professionals working your NYE wedding would rather be celebrating too,” Castelli says. She suggests adding good karma points for your new year and showing your vendors how much you appreciate their effort on a holiday: Request they cheer at midnight with your guests. “Inviting the entire room, including staff and performers, to enjoy a toast and dance at midnight will mean a lot,” she adds.