How to Plan a New Year's Eve Wedding

This coveted date comes with a few extra steps

Bride and groom kissing at New Year's Eve wedding

Photo by Peter Van Beever Photography

New Year’s Eve and weddings have a lot in common. Both involve dressing up, dancing, celebrating, and, of course, a toast of Champagne. It’s no surprise, then, that December 31 is a popular choice for a wedding date. It's the ideal opportunity to run with the glitz and glam!

The downside to a New Year's Eve wedding, though, is that it comes with some major misconceptions, including that your décor will be built-in and that everyone will be available for the holiday.

  • What time should a New Year's Eve wedding start?

    You'll want to make sure the reception is full steam at midnight, so you should adjust your timeline so you and your guests can party all night. Start your ceremony at 7 p.m. followed by cocktails at 8 p.m. As long as you feed your guests as early as possible, the rest of the night can be more relaxed.

  • Are New Year's Eve weddings expensive?

    New Year’s Eve is a holiday—so that means there will be extra expenses. Typically, labor is time-and-a-half on holidays. Plus, your wedding will likely go past midnight, which could mean additional charges. Make sure you budget for additional labor costs so they don’t sneak up on you.

To help you with your planning, we talked to wedding experts to get the scoop. Read on for their top tips and best advice for planning a New Year's Eve wedding.

Start Your Planning Early

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, not to mention all the other couples 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, former director of operations for Sapphire Events. "Commit to a date as far in advance as possible and secure your top choices for vendors early on." Kane 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.

Vendors go home for the holidays, too! Many vendors will take off or be extremely busy right before your wedding. To avoid pre-wedding panic, speak with each vendor beforehand to get comfortable with their holiday plan and adjust your timeline accordingly.

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. But chances are, they'll be thrilled to have something fun do to. "For the most part, couples should be wary of throwing a wedding over a holiday weekend," says Kane. "New Year’s Eve is the exception to this rule. Most guests will be excited to have fun plans for the holiday."

Consider Hiring a Planner

The popularity of the holiday for all things party can lead to hiccups along the way. Wedding planners generally help couples navigate the wedding journey, and they can be essential for holiday weddings, especially if it’s a destination affair. "Enlist the help of a planner and travel expert who can secure group travel rates and hotel rooms," advises Andrea Eppolito, owner of Andrea Eppolito Events. "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.

Provide Transportation for Guests

Transportation on New Year's Eve is always a challenge. Think of your most recent New Year’s Eve plans—was it hard to find a cab or avoid Uber surge pricing? The same will be true on your wedding night, so make sure you plan transportation for your guests ahead of time.

Plan for Unpredictable Weather

This might seem like an obvious point, but just like summer weddings contend with being hot or rainy, winter weddings are cold and could be snowy (unless you are getting married in a warm-weather destination). If you're lucky enough that your wedding day turns out to be a balmy 50 degrees, take advantage and snap a few photos outside, but make sure you have full indoor plans for every moment of your wedding day. You don’t want to freeze yourself or your guests!

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 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.

Budget for Extra Holiday Costs

Set a higher budget for most décor, venue, and catering line items. Labor, flowers, transportation, room costs, and more all increase on New Year's Eve. "Many vendors double and triple their pricing for the occasion," says Liz Castelli, co-founder 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 pricier, 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 allow extra time in your day-of timeline 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," adds Eppolito. "Keep things easy and convenient."

The same goes for the younger attendees. Many guests will likely want to bring their children 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.

Décor Is Not Built In

One common misconception about NYE weddings is that décor will come with the venue. That’s typically false, admits 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 décor you want. The upside to that is you can personalize the look of your New Year's Eve 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 fun hats, props, 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 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," says Kane, 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." If fireworks won't work at your venue, get creative with other options or consider a sparkler or confetti-filled exit.

Thank Your Vendors

A little thank you can go such a long way. "Remember that the professionals working your NYE wedding would rather be celebrating too," says Castelli. She suggests adding good karma points for your new year, thanking your vendors, and showing them how much you appreciate their effort on a holiday. Consider requesting they cheer at midnight with your guests as well. "Inviting the entire room, including staff and performers, to enjoy a toast and dance at midnight will mean a lot," she says.

Turn Your Anniversary Into a New Year's Eve Tradition

Celebrating your wedding and ringing in the New Year with all your loved ones is such a rush, despite some of the challenges. Although you'll probably want to celebrate your first anniversary just the two of you, in the future, you can make hosting New Year’s Eve a tradition to celebrate your marriage and the people you love.

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