Advice: End of Night Breakdown

In the six years I've been planning and coordinating weddings, I've learned so much. I'm still a long ways from knowing everything, but I've definitely come across some situations that have taught me a lot and I love sharing that knowledge with my couples to help make their wedding days even better than they imagined they could be.

Elizabeth Friske Photography

Elizabeth Friske Photography

One of the things I've learned is that while couples tend to think of a lot of the details leading up to the wedding day, they generally don't think of many of the details regarding AFTER the wedding. Understandably, most of my couples don't have much experience with executing a wedding day. So it's up to me to help them realize that the planning can't stop with the ceremony and the order of the reception. There are a million other details throughout the wedding day and following the end of the reception that have to be carefully mapped out. Taking these extra steps will save everyone, including the couple, a ton of stress and anxiety after the big day is over with.

First and foremost, you should establish ahead of time, meaning before the wedding day, who will be taking certain things home at the end of the night. Trying to establish this on the day of the wedding usually amounts to a lot of unnecessary stress and sometimes no resolution at all. If you need your parents to take home all the décor, you should give them a heads up to make sure that they have cleaned out the back of their car in order to fit everything. And if you would like for your maid of honor to hold the top tier of your cake for you, she needs to know ahead of time so that she doesn't plan to attend the after party and can get it right into the freezer after the reception.

DIY Décor Elements: Most couples have a long list of décor elements that they are providing themselves for their wedding. That could mean 30-something gorgeous lanterns to be used for centerpieces, a custom backdrop for a photobooth, or framed photos of family members' wedding days. All of these items made it safely to your reception and will be set up by your planner and her team. However, they also need to make it back home after the wedding. For the smaller elements, like picture frames, centerpiece items, etc. I strongly suggest packing them in plastic totes. Having everything stored securely in the totes will make sure that they fit nice & neat into a car to make the trip back home without breaking. If at all possible, include some bubble wrap in each tote for the extra fragile items!

Rebecca Keeling Studios

Rebecca Keeling Studios

For the larger décor elements that may not be easily stowed in someone's car, talk with your venue ahead of time and see if they'll allow you to store anything overnight. I've worked with quite a few venues that will secure larger pieces like backdrops and signage until you're able to come pick them up, usually the next morning.

Flowers: You spent a lot of time, and likely a large chunk of your budget, to create the most beautiful tablescapes with the help of your florist. Now, it's the end of the night and you have 15 floral centerpieces that your planner has to figure out what to do with. You have so many options here! Do you want to gift the arrangements to your family members and bridal party? Keep a few for your own home? Donate the flowers to a local church, hospital, or nursing home? Whatever you decide, you should let your planner know ahead of time so that the two of you can get a game plan together. You'll need to figure out if the florist needs the vessels back or if they are yours to keep/gift. If you decide to donate the arrangements, you'll need to establish where you want them sent and who will be taking them there for you.

Cramer Photo

Cramer Photo

Wedding Cake/Cupcakes/Donuts: Chances are, you are going to have quite a bit of leftover sweets at the end of the night. You'll need to speak with someone {maybe your Maid of Honor or mother} to see if they're able to take the top tier of your cake to hold it for you until you're able to get it home and into your freezer. It's also a great idea to speak with your baker ahead of time to see if they're able to provide you with extra containers for leftovers. Let your planner know if the leftover cupcakes are fair game and they should dole them out to guests on their way out.

Leftover Alcohol: If you are stocking bar yourself as opposed to letting the venue provide the alcohol, there is a chance you will have some bottles of wine, beer, and liquor leftover at the end of the night. And I can't begin to tell you how many groomsmen that had a really great time at the reception, come up to me at the end of the night trying to take a box of liquor home. Nope! You should let your planner know ahead of time what the game plan is for the leftovers. Also, keep in mind that you can usually return unopened bottles for a small restocking fee. Yay for recouping costs!

Angie McPherson Photography

Angie McPherson Photography

Bridal Attire: Make sure to put someone in charge of things like your veil, heels, and even your bouquet. There's a good chance that all of those things are super sentimental and maybe even heirlooms. So assign someone you can trust to get them home safely for you at the end of the night. Also, are you changing into a different dress for your reception or your grand exit? You'll definitely want to establish who is going to be in charge of taking your wedding gown home after the party.

Cars: One of the details that I find people have the hardest time with is what to do with the cars. Figuring out transportation can be such a hassle, but if you plan ahead, it can be a breeze! Talk to your venue ahead of time and find out what their policy is on cars being left overnight. Do they tow unattended cars? Is there a certain time that cars need to be picked up the next day? And if you are able to leave your car, establish who will be picking it up the next day, and make sure they have your keys! The last thing you want the morning after your wedding is your best man knocking on your hotel room door to get your car keys bright and early.

I really hope these tips help you plan for a smoother flow at the end of your wedding reception!