I got married in city hall seven years ago but I am celebrating my fourth wedding anniversary at the end of this month. And, yes, you calculated this right—my husband and I waited for three years to throw a proper wedding reception for about 80 of our closest friends and family. I can go into a lot of detail as to why we decided to do it this way, but long story short—we wanted to get married and we did—no fancy party, no expensive dress, just us two, two witnesses, and the city hall officiant. I have no regrets about it.
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My point is, there is no right way to get married and celebrate it. Sure, most people prefer having a ceremony and then immediately after that, a reception. But for others, like me, things happened otherwise. Just take a look at Penn Padgley and Domino Kirke who tied the knot in a courthouse in Brooklyn back in February and threw a star-studded reception in June where they invited a much larger crowd.
So whether you got married at the courthouse or said your vows surrounded only by immediate family in a far-off place, you still deserve a proper celebration later on.
Here, wedding industry pros share their top tips on throwing a perfect wedding-related bash.
1. Capture the Moment
“Just because it isn’t a traditional wedding, doesn’t mean you should miss out on the photos. Make sure you hire someone to capture the party so that you have the memories to look back on.” — Ashley Kelemen, owner, Ashley Kelemen
2. Tell Your Story
“Seek out the details that will share hidden or unique elements of your lives together so that the party has more meaning. It’s great for guests to walk away from the party learning something new about you and your relationship and feeling as though the party was truly fitting for who you are as a couple.” — Virginia Edelson, owner, Bluebird Productions
3. Make it a Surprise
“Throwing an ‘Engagement Party’ to announce that you're married is such a fun way to surprise your loved ones! Make the big announcement by showing a slideshow of images of the actual elopement or ceremony!” — Brooke Keegan, owner, Brooke Keegan Special Events
4. Have the Party do Double Duty
“Make it swanky and tie it into a holiday like NYE!” — Stephanie Cole and Sarah Drake, founders, Cole Drake Events
5. Don't try to Replicate the Ceremony
“Give a thoughtful toast to your guests where you can reflect on the vows you both said, that way you are keeping your first ceremony special, while giving your family and friends a glimpse into your intimate moment!” — Adam Donovan-Groves, creative director and wedding planner, Donovan-Groves Events
6. Remember the Décor
“Whether it is small or large celebration, open house style or a sit down dinner, don’t forget to dress up your tables with flowers. Beautiful floral centerpieces will fill up your tables and will add cheer and class to your celebration. You can never go wrong with flowers!” — Tiffany Siladke, owner, Foraged Floral
7. Keep it Casual
“Throw a casual, family-style, music-filled bash where the evening’s agenda leaves you lots of room to mingle and mix.”
— Calder Clark, owner and creative director, Calder Clark
8. Let Them Eat Cake
“Have everyone get together for a fun, and delicious, dessert-only party. Keep the atmosphere light and celebrate your new journey!”—Amy Nichols, owner, Amy Nichols Special Events
9. Entertain Your Guests
“Create opportunities for your guests to have fun and really get to know each other, the same way you would at a wedding weekend. Photo booths and games are a great way to bring people together.” — Emily Clarke, creative director, Emily Clarke Events
10. Ditch the Formal Wedding Dress
“Find a fun white dress that you can dance in and that has a more casual feel than a wedding gown. It is all about the celebration after all!” — Jamie Gansler, senior event producer, A Savvy Event
11. Celebrate with a Theme
“Stray away from tradition and have fun with your theme. Think about theme-ing out your celebration into something unique and different that will provide your guests with a nice surprise.” — Kaitlyn Hostetler, director of marketing, EVOKE