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5 Reasons NOT to Have Your Wedding Reception Go All Night Long

It's always interesting to Google new "wedding trends" and see what people are saying is the "IT" thing for the coming wedding season. Sometimes it's just silly -- Pantone Orchid was not a grand surprise as we've been doing purple in all its various shades over and over and over again for about three years now. But sometimes, what these so-called "experts" are purporting to be the next big thing is really just a very expensive pain in the butt.

One of my new interns just found an article that says it's all the rage to extend your wedding reception extra hours for more partying. Really? Really? Clearly, the person who is calling that a good trend isn't actually a wedding planner or doesn't actually interact with brides and grooms who are paying the tab. I wonder if this trend-setter ever dealt with a group of wedding guests who've had unlimited open bar for more than five hours.

The intern brought this to my attention because she's already heard me rant about some of our clients who insist on making their wedding night drag on for seven, eight or even nine hours. These aren't Indian weddings with multiple days of rituals -- these are just people who want to party all night long. With an open bar.

Fortunately, for wedding planners and vendors like me, most of the time, the reception gets limited to four or five hours. That's what most venue and catering packages are based on. Oh sure, you can extend things, but here's a list of five reasons why you should not make your wedding reception last all night long:

1. Five hours of unrestricted open bar is enough alcohol for any wedding guest to ingest.

And the ones who will keep drinking beyond that point are the ones who probably shouldn't. When you provide unlimited booze for longer than that, you're accepting responsibility for safe transportation home for your guests -- at your own expense. There's liability for the venue and the wedding planner too. You'll have to expect that some of your guests will have to be cut off before the event ends. There are times guests get drunk and out of control in just four hours -- imagine how bad it could be after eight! And the drunker they are, the more they argue about having their car keys taken away. Sadly ironic.

2. When you extend your wedding reception to more hours than what is standard for your venue, you're extending the staffing time for everybody on your dime.

Nobody can leave until the entire event is over. The catering staff, the bartenders, the servers, the music, security, cleaning staff, the wedding planners and your photographers. It adds up very, very quickly. Nobody can break down and clean up while your reception continues -- everybody is stuck til the whole reception is over. Depending on how many guests you've got and where you're getting married, you're talking about something that may cost you thousands of extra dollars when you could have just planned an after-hours gathering at a nearby bar so you could keep dancing.

3. Wedding days and nights are exhausting.

The brides and grooms are usually up early that day and there's no real opportunity for a nap, even if they could sleep. The added emotional stress takes a toll too. And this is usually coming on the heels of a rehearsal dinner the night before, or even more activities if it's a destination wedding. The result is that brides, grooms and guests are wiped out after a wedding ceremony and reception dinner and several hours of dancing. Your older guests will give up and go home before the cake if you put that off for too long in order to stretch things out.

4. The potential for drama increases exponentially after five hours of drinking and partying.

It's not pretty, I can assure you. This is when at least one single bridesmaid will fall apart in tears over her own relationship, or lack thereof. And when couples will begin fighting because one half knows it's time for the other half to switch to water. And the group of guys you wish your new husband would spend less time with will begin trashing the venue just because it seemed like a good idea at the time.

5. The later the reception runs, the higher the probability of accidents happening to your guests.

I cannot tell you how many times, very late at night, guests have almost killed themselves trying to do flips and convoluted dives into three-foot-deep swimming pools at million-dollar wedding venues. Nobody can seem to hold onto a glass at the point so you're dealing with broken shards and liquid all over the dance floor, which is probably filled with a bunch of girls dancing barefoot. It's also a massive slip hazard for the staff and the guests. Sometimes we have to just cap off the tiki torches before anybody sets their own hair on fire while tripping over their own feet. It's sort of scary to watch.

Here's the thing -- I get it. It's the biggest day of your life so far. You don't want it to end early. But after five-plus hours of revelry following the ceremony itself, everybody has had a chance to party. They've had a good time (we hope) and it's time to move the group out of the official wedding reception venue. It's like the Semisonic song "Closing Time" -- "You don't have to go home but you can't stay here." That's how it works when the wedding reception ends.

If they're not ready to turn in for the night, and you think you're going to want to keep going too, select someplace fun (in advance) for afterwards -- but warn them you're coming. And unless you've got an unlimited budget, make it clear to the after-hours location that everybody is on their own tab.

Final tip, when you are ready to make your exit, don't feel like you have to say goodbye to everybody at your after-hours or you'll never get out of there. Just slide right out the door and head for your honeymoon bed.

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