The great evening party myth

A while back now we posted Katie’s gorgeous wedding report. In the comments we got talking about evening dos and those of you who are not yet married wanted to know why some of us old-marrieds said that they were so stressful. So *obviously* we put a shout out for someone to write a post about it, and were *obviously* chuffed to bits when it was the lovely Penny who answered that call with the post below.

She perfectly sums up exactly why I found it all so stressful, and I think, why most of us did, and she does it in her perfect Penny style that we’ve all come to love. 

If you’re married already, you’ll recognise what she’s talking about, and if you aren’t yet, take the fabulous advice she gives and run with it…

I love a party, me. Fancy dress, cocktail dress, hen, birthday, Christmas or Not Going To Glastonbury (an annual shindig as my best friend is a teacher and terminally denied the pleasure), whatever the excuse I will be there, brandishing a bottle of tequila and dancing on the table. And Sam? Well, I could tell you some stories. Before we got together we were both known for being great lovers of the party, flitting from house gig to club to bar like boozy butterflies, occasionally crossing paths but never really exchanging anything more than a Bacchinalian salute in acknowledgement of our mutual excess.

So, when it came to our wedding it stood to reason that we were both VERY excited about our evening reception. I must admit, the pictures in my head were of drunken carnage, a packed dancefloor all night, guests nursing their hangovers for weeks to come…. ooh the pictures in my head I had, I could talk about them all day. You had them too didn’t you? The pictures of what The Day was going to be like. Not like that though, is it?

And for most of our day, the reality was different from what I had imagined. But still great and brilliant. Sometimes even better than I had dared to hope.

But the evening reception? The bit where ALL our awesome friends were there to get drunk with and dance and celebrate? The bit I was looking forward to most of all? It wasn’t the letting-my-hair down part at all. In fact, it was where the real work started. You get all those people you know in one room, including relatives and people from vastly different areas of your life, people you haven’t seen for a while…. you are going to need to talk to pretty much all of them. And that will take you all night, just on its own. And you will only be able to talk to each of them for two minutes max. It’s basically like speed dating, only worse, because you ARE going to see these people again, all of them, and you want to be nice without being too abrupt, or without seeming stressed (haha!) and (although you are smiling because you’re so happy) by now your cheeks are starting to ache, you’re dazzled on gin and it’s all starting to turn into a bit of a blur. 

Course, all of this only become a real chore if you’re silly like me, don’t hire a day of co-ordinator (the one thing I truly regret), and don’t delegate the responsibility of ensuring the evening events actually happen to anybody else. So it will be you who has to remember that you need to cut the cake, that there have to be speeches, that bands have to go on stage, that you need to have a first dance, and you who has to shout at everybody to remind them that this is happening AND ALL WITHOUT A WATCH. Did I just imagine a fairy godmother would come down and do this for me? Not to mention spending half an hour playing in my own band, which took out more precious minutes of Hello-How-Are-You-Thanks-So-Much-For-Coming (although, in hindsight, gave me valuable respite from the conveyor belt, and was truly fun to do).

Once I got over the disappointment of not getting to hang out and party with my regular friends as much as I would have liked, I realised it all went pretty well. Everybody had a nice time and, let’s be honest, it was never going to be another Hen but with boys and oldies (yes, I did think it might be, and yes, I know).

So, my advice would be to go easy on yourself – you are not going to spend quality time with everyone there, and nobody is going to blame you for it. Everybody knows the bride and groom are in demand. Wait for people to come to you if you can – don’t rush round after people like I did, it will stress you out (it doesn’t have to be speed dating if you don’t let it – I did). Don’t put pressure on yourself to have a balls to the wall riot of an evening do – it will be what it is. Ours was lovely, heartwarming and desperately soppy – not what I imagined, but unexpected and amazing.  And either hire a day of co-ordinator (they’re not always as expensive as you think) or get a trustworthy, organised friend or family member to be on top of the timings.

And for goodness sake, make sure they wear a watch.

Categories: Wedding Planning
20 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Posted November 28, 2011 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    Penlove, needless to say I LOVE this! Your do sounds amazing, and I can't wait to see your band (pendotwo?!) there really is nothing like advice from someone who has been there- thank you!
    We could start AOW club where we are all day ofs for the bridelets….

    We plan on having a v good, v outgoing and organised friend play master of ceremonies/chief timekeeper: hopefully he will be super helpful but relaxed enough to just let things happen! Betrothed is stoping off in Dubai tomorrow to start briefing him- bit nervous I won't be there to assist!

  2. mahj
    Posted November 28, 2011 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Yeap, this pretty much summed up my feelings post evening wedding reception. And the speed dating ref just made me snort some tea!
    But much like you oh wise Penski, I wouldn't change any of it. Not one little bit.


  3. Posted November 28, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    I have to disagree – our wedding reception was exactly what we had hoped (with one or two minor exceptions).

    We wanted the reception to be like a house party. We therefore provided all of the drinks, which we set out for guests to serve themselves (tasking a team earlier in the reception to serve champagne and fetch grannies tea etc). Our friend who is a DJ played a set, then some friends who had formed a band for the occasion played, then the DJ played for the rest of the night.

    We cut the cake after the speeches, before the partying started in earnest. The speeches followed the meal, which guests collected themselves from the food tent, and then cleared their own plates afterwards. My mum was 'in charge' of timings, but it didn't feel rushed.

    My friend who is a DJ is used to playing at clubs and so on, and I don't recall anyone telling him when to play, he just organised music as background during the meal, then stopped it for the speeches, then lined up the first dance music and then the partying started.

    I did go round and speak to people, as did my husband. I guess I didn't spend as much time talking to some people as I might have liked, but I caught up with everyone, it didn't feel rushed, I danced with my friends, my Dad, my sisters, my husband. I drank a lot. It was enormously fun.

    And not stressful in the slightest (although we did have a lof of people helping out, so perhaps that helped).

  4. Posted November 28, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Entertaining writing, Penny! I like.

    I think I took for granted having our wedding reception in a hotel- we had a lovely man who kept everything to time…and also quite a few of our friends/family seem to be ridiculously on it in terms of timings. I've never thought about it before but yes I suppose it's a good idea to give someone the job of making sure the DJ knows when to start, etc etc.

    We also didn't have a separate evening do so that probably helped in that by the time the disco started I'd spoken to most people so I got to dance the night away (and scream WHERE'S MY HUUUUSBAND?! when the entire wedding party was doing the Locomotion)

  5. Posted November 28, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Is it weird to be taking notes on AOW?! This is super helpful advice though, so I feel justified. Thanks Penny!

    K x

  6. Sarah M
    Posted November 28, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    We LOVED the evening part of our day!

    No additional guests, booze flowing and shapes being thrown. We made sure we spoke to our guests during the day and then could spend the evening dancing and having a good time.

    I even got a chance to recreate the lift we learnt during the cheerleading class on my hen party…

  7. Posted November 28, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Of COURSE you can take notes, Katielase! Just think of AOW as the York Notes of the wedding world. As long as you are making those notes into a peach and grey notebook. Them's the rules.

    I also am lucky in that the evening do was ruddy brilliant – loved every second – even when Great Aunty Barbara commented that our registrar was "ethnic". No additional guests either.

    But I'd still follow Pensky's advice to the letter.

  8. Kate
    Posted November 28, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    I confess I usually hate the evening do's of weddings I've been to, there's always a bit of an element of not quite knowing what to do in the bit after the meal and before you're drunk enough to be dancing (if you are malcoordinated like me anyway!). Also, as horrible as this sounds – I kind of hate the "old people" sitting around the edge of the room whilst everyone else dances.

    We're having a evening reception but marketing it as an "afterparty" so that (hopefully) the more boring end of our spectrum of guests, people that we love but aren't going to be up on the tables dancing no matter what music we play, will have a cue to leave and there are less people to worry how to please.

    I will be following this advice though, and as we have an (amazing!) on the day coordinator this will hopefully help things no end.

    I would massively recommend a wedding planner for "day of" services, ours is actually also great at sourcing suppliers for us even though we've not hired her for full planning services. Well worth the money already and we've still 6 months to go!

  9. Esme
    Posted November 28, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    I think what stands out from everyone's comments is that having someone to help the 'flow' is a must. Hence why some people felt really stressed when they didn't. Also, throw the weird mix of people from all parts of your life into one place and it's probably not going to go as you'd planned…

    I think lots of brides are disappointed not to be able to experience this amazing party they've been planning for months as much as they'd like. Either they're too tired to dance, too caught up in talking to join in the conga, too nervous to enjoy the delicious food or too worried about photos to try the amazing drinks (that'd be me then).

    My advice is to think about your wedding as the most important party you've ever hosted, rather than attended. You can enjoy all those others things at someone else's wedding!

    Anyone agree?


  10. Posted November 28, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    Oh Pen, how much do I love you?

    You got yourself in a right tixz, didn't you? Maybe not on the night itself but in hindsight.

    We didn't have an evening do *gasp!shockhorror!badwedding!* not because we were worried about the kind of thing you were talking about, but because we quite fancied having an afternoon wedding. Literally wedding, lunch, cake, drinking, dancing then tootling off into the sunset. With all of our guests waving us goodbye. And tons of confetti. Ahh bliss!

    Of course, the party did continue after we left, because we'd provided a free bar and it lasted til 3am apparently. Best ever evening reception? People certainly enjoyed it, we just weren't there to share it ha!

  11. Posted November 28, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    That was supposed to say tizz. Not tixz. Obviously.

  12. Posted November 28, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    Esme so true think of it as the most important party you've ever hosted. We also had no separate evening guests. Reflecting more on this post is it partly because a lot of thought goes into the party side but once you've experienced your marriage ceremony you realise that's the most important part of the day that nothing else will live up to?

  13. Posted November 28, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    I'm taking notes on Esme's comment too! And everyone's advice actually. My conclusions? Make someone else plan the timings!

    (my notebook is not peach and grey, but it is covered in smiling cupcakes!)

    K x

  14. Abi Lady HarHar
    Posted November 28, 2011 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    This sort of makes me sad :( I guess I really really want the evening to be my favourite part. As at others peoples weddings/parties/any occassion, it is me and mike busting some moves, being a bit drunk and silly and generally having an awesome time. I hope that we can have that at our wedding, but I do realise that hosting is very different from attending…

    Getting a bit concerned now :(

    I might be sending an ask AOW soon… I am just starting to realise there are so many things i hadnt even thought of

  15. Posted November 28, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Esme completely, it's best to see yourselves as hosts. Obviously having no additional evening guests (we went from 20 at the ceremony to 100 in the evening – a massive jump!) will help, and having somebody on top of timings is critical. We had an iTunes Dj rather than a human being, so I ended up trying to run that as well – Lucy is quite right I was in a complete tizz (albeit a very cheerful one!) as I was trying to be MC, co-ordinator and DJ (and be in the band). And greet an extra 80 people. Yeah, really should have planned that a bit better… My case is extreme, but I think there are still lessons to learn- don't just assume people will help you out being a good one. Obviously none of you lot will be quite as daft as me!

    Lucy also spot on about getting a lot more joy from friend's weddings… I went to a very good friend's wedding this weekend and had a BLAST with almost all the same friends, so that part is certainly true.

    JHD's comment about realising the ceremony is the most important bit is nail on the head for me too – it really took me by surprise. Ours was absolutely perfect and very emotional – body popping to Justin Timberlake (which I did attempt later) was never going to quite match up!

    Thanks for the comments guys!


  16. Posted November 28, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    Abi please please don't worry, it will be fine, just make sure you have somebody to do the worrying/timekeeping for you!


  17. Posted November 28, 2011 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    …and when I say getting more joy from friends' weddings, I mean the disco bit obviously! You can't beat your own wedding day overall, there's no question of that. I'm really not trying to be negative or make anybody anxious!


  18. Abi Lady HarHar
    Posted November 28, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Penny :) I think I might have been having an anxious day anyway ;) It's good to hear ideas about timekeeping and getting someone to help with keeping everything 'on track'.

    And you are all so right about how important the ceremony is, not just the dancing ;)

  19. Posted November 29, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, I'm late for this. The ceremony was the best 45 minutes of my life. The rest of the day, I didn't really relax. I have more fun as a guest at weddings, than my own. I don't think it was helped that it was at my parents home, possibly. Also the morning had been very rushed and stressful. I was finishing flowers, putting our name places, and just moving items in marquee. We had to redo bridesmaids hair (hairdresser had her looking like a poodle). I didn't start my day in a relaxed frame of mind, and think this contributed to stress. Would recommend that you are not doing anything but hair and make up on morning of your wedding, and you leave plenty of time for this, in case anything goes wrong.

    We had 140 guests for the day, and we struggled to get around all these, and then another 80 at night.

    I am a control freak, and was all over the timings. 7.30pm greet the evening guests with glasses of Kir Royale or Elderflower Cordial. This took us to 8.40pm. Then off to take veil off, touch up lipstick, flower in hair – and first dance for 8.50pm. We'd promised the first dance before 9pm, so that the photographers, could leave by 9pm.

    After first dance, the evening food goes out and some circulating.

    About 9.45pm the disco gets going, but I still couldn't relax. Had a few G & Ts. Stayed on the dance floor to get the dancing going, even though I didn't feel like it, and also had to have words with DJ, as he was playing too much Black Eyed Peas (did I say I was a control freak?). Keep looking around room checking everyones warm enough, and smiley, do I need to switch the heater on. Arrange for the heater to go on at midnight, and my brother to puts sparklers etc. on garden table.

    12.30pm, ask DJ to send everybody outside to wave us off with sparklers. 12.45pm take taxi to hotel, after checking that mum and dad have enough cash to pay for mini-bus to take guests staying at travelodge back. Even as got into the taxi, I couldn't relax.

    We couldn't have less evening guests than we already had. The first evening list was 130 people. Yes really, we had to cut cut cut. The list had to cover neighbours (parents had been to their evening parties), friends of parents from cricket club, non-immediate family members (we'd been to their evening parties), and young farmer friends (we'd been to their evening parties and 21st parties), a couple of clients from my business, and employees from my parents business. There were others who we'd loved to have had, but couldn't.

    I do think evening do may be easier without the entra guests that Penny and I had.


  20. Posted November 29, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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