How do you end a wedding reception?

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When it comes to planning the end of your wedding reception, you have to find that perfect balance of getting all your guests out of the venue on time without killing the party vibe. This will be your final memorable moment and also a definitive cue for your guests to leave, so you want to make it count! We've seen a lot of great ways to end your reception over the years, but these are our all-time favourite ideas. Some are traditional, some involve surprises, and some are unique — and all of them are sure to be unforgettable! Just remember that, as you're planning your wedding timeline, you should leave at least one hour from the time you leave to the time your contract is up to give your crew plenty of time to get the venue back in order.

It hardly seems imaginable if you're currently knee-deep in wedding plans, but there will indeed be the last moment of your wedding reception. The food and champagne will be gone, and the guests will be eager to say goodbye and good luck to you. So when this moment finally arrives, how do you envision it happening?

If the idea of the traditional flower or rice throwing makes you yawn or if you think a sparkler exit has been overdone, you'll need to think of a creative exit that is sure to wow your guests. To help spark your imagination, we've gathered seven of the most memorable ways to end your reception.

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Grand Exit

The grand exit is one of the most classic ways to end your reception, and for a good reason. After everyone has danced their hearts out, all your guests line up outside to create a pathway for you and your new spouse to walk (or run) through as you say your final goodbye. Most couples supply sparklers for guests to light up the pathway, but you could also use glow sticks if your grand exit is at night. We've even seen couples double up on glowsticks and bubbles, so they get a hint of light along with an adorable photo op. If you're having a day-time reception, you don't have to limit yourself to props that light up. You could also use confetti, glitter, paper aeroplanes, or flower petals. Whatever you choose, this will be one of the most joyful moments of the entire day and the perfect way for all your guests to shower you with love one final time before you start your new life together.

For logistics purposes, ask your wedding coordinator to line everyone up, distribute the props, and collect used sparklers or extra items after you've left. If you don't have a coordinator (but we highly recommend you do!), ask your bridesmaids or trusted family members to handle this part so you can truly make a grand exit. You can also add a sign at the reception at a high-traffic area, such as the guest book table, letting guests know what time your grand exit will take place.

Surprise Fireworks Display

If you want to take your reception end to the next level, a fireworks display is the way to go! And keeping it a surprise will make it feel even more romantic and special. This is a great way to get everyone outside and gives you the perfect opportunity to say goodbye and head immediately to your getaway car. Keep in mind, and there are extra safety precautions to consider for using fireworks. Before you do anything else, check with your venue to confirm they allow fireworks on their property. As it gets closer to the wedding day, keep an eye on the weather and check for any burn bans that might prohibit you. If you get the green light, make sure your photographer knows the plan and simply enjoy that magical final moment of your day!

Check out our post on 29 Best Wedding Venues in Geelong Victoria.

Last Dance 

If the idea of a formal exit doesn't appeal to you, end your night with all your guests on the dance floor instead! Pick a song that matches the tone you want your guests to remember. Some couples opt for a slow dance to end the night on a sweet and sentimental note while others choose to end on a party high with an upbeat crowd favourite. You can't go wrong either way! When the DJ invites everyone onto the dance floor for the last song, ask her/him also to announce that there will be no formal exit so that guests know to stay on or near the dance floor to say goodbye.

Performance By The Bride & Groom

If you're one of those couples with a unique talent — or who just love the spotlight — is there a better way to end your reception than with a special performance? We don't think so! Grab the mic and sing your heart out to your favourite song or perform a choreographed dance your guests will never forget. This is guaranteed to be the show-stopping moment of the night and the unique way to end the party on a high note. If possible, keep it a surprise and give a short toast before you begin so you can say a blanket thank you to all of your guests. And make sure your videographer is there to capture your moment and the pure excitement in your guests' reaction!

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Late Night Snack Delivery

With all that dancing and drinking, your guests are bound to be hungry by the end of the night — even after a full dinner! So curb those late-night munchies with a special snack delivery before the party ends. Think pizza delivery, cookies and milk and/or coffee, or a station with mini sliders. You could even hire your favourite food truck to park at the venue to provide guests with more diverse options! This is one of those extra special treats that will take your wedding above and beyond, and something your guests will truly appreciate — especially if they're planning to continue the party after the reception. To limit the amount of food leftover at the end of the night, provide small to-go boxes so guests can take either enjoy the snacks at the reception or on the ride home.

Have a Performance

We've all seen those viral videos of couples breaking it down during their first dance—so why not flip that idea on its head and have a breakout performance at the end of the evening? Wow, your guests with your rendition of Grease karaoke or surprise them with a choreographed dance to your favourite soundtrack. Whatever your secret talents are, this is your chance to make them shine and create an unforgettable wedding exit that your guests will be talking about for years to come.

Light Some Wish Lanterns

Is there anything more breathtaking than watching a bunch of white lanterns illuminate the night sky? Incorporate the use of "wish lanterns" into your reception exit so that your guests can send you good wishes out into the universe as you embark on this new journey of marriage. Not only will it be a memorable experience for you and all your guests, but it'll also look stunning in photographs and make a nice ending for your wedding video. But before you go out and purchase some lanterns on Amazon, double-check with your venue and with your local fire codes that they're allowed.

Have an Exciting "Celebrity" Appearance

Every town has its own version of a celebrity—why not invite them to join the party? Whether it's a team mascot or a famous local band, making arrangements to surprise your guests with a cameo at the end of the night is sure to keep them talking. Have a band play you out to your favourite song or have a mascot do some crowd work as you exit the building.

Make a Speech

You've spent your evening talking to as many guests as you can, but a great way to end the evening is to make a speech thanking everyone for celebrating with you. Spend some time drafting this speech and be as creative as you can. Introduce some humour or go with something sweet and sentimental. Either way, your guests will appreciate hearing your voices before you embark on your honeymoon.

After-Party At A Bar

Who says the party has to stop when the venue closes down? Many couples are choosing to extend the fun of the reception by hosting an after-party at their favourite bar or hotel lobby so that they can get extra time with their guests and pop some more champagne. After all, how often is it that you get all of your favourite people in the world in the same room? If you choose to go the after-party route, be sure that you make arrangements for it beforehand so that the bar staff is prepared for a large party. Reserve a room at a bar or have them put a few tables together before you arrive.

There's no reason the party has to end with your reception! A lot of modern couples think the reception just isn't enough time to talk to all their guests, which is why after-parties have become such a trend in wedding planning. Even couples that don't want to join in the after-party offer this as a suggestion to those party animal guests who won't be ready to call it quits. On your wedding website, let everyone know where the after-party will be — your favourite bar is always a good option, but you could also coordinate with a generous family member or friend to have it at their home. This will allow guests who are ready for bed to leave, give the party animals a place to go so the clean-up process can start, and allow you and your spouse some time to breathe and relax. Just remember, it's completely okay if you decide you'd rather start your honeymoon early or just get some well-deserved sleep!

Here are a few things you need to do after your wedding reception ends.

Deal with your flowers

Flowers typically eat up 8% of your total wedding budget, so you probably don't want to toss them away as soon as your reception wraps. There are plenty of ways to repurpose them: you can send them home with your guests, use them to decorate the venue of your post-wedding brunch or save them for yourself to spruce up your own home. Make sure your venue coordinator knows where to send them so that you don't lose track of your blooms.

Check out our exclusive list of Wedding Flower Shops here.

Take care of your gown

Yes, you're probably more than ready to shed the layers of tulle and taffeta and slip into something a little more comfortable, but remember to pack up your dress properly (you don't want it to get wrinkled, torn or stained). It should be neatly hung inside a garment bag and should have a handler to bring it back to the hotel or your house. You can hash out a preservation plan when you're done celebrating.

Handle your rentals

The time has come to kiss anything you borrowed for your big day goodbye. From chairs to linens to tents, everything you rented must be broken down and shipped off to the right retailers. Do a quick read-through of your rental vendor contracts before your big day, so you know if they're handling the breakdown or if you need to do it yourself.

Preserve the top tier of your cake

If you plan on following the tradition of digging into the top tier of your wedding cake on your first anniversary, you'll need to know how to save it. Check out these tips on how to freeze your wedding cake and make sure you (or one of your vendors, friends or relatives) can take care of properly packaging it up and getting it to a freezer ASAP.

Give your vendors a tip

Your vendor squad put a lot of hard work, time and dedication into making your big day amazing. They provided the flowers, the food and everything in between, so don't forget to give credit where credit is due. If you're not sure who to verbally thank and who to give a little something extra to - you know, a tip - we've made this handy dandy wedding tipping guide to help you out. Pro tip: don't want to spend the last few moments of your reception handing out cheques? Give the task to one of your trustworthy (AKA not totally inebriated) wedding party members.

Say thank-you to your host(s)

While you'll probably spend a good chunk of your reception making the rounds and thanking all your guests for coming, there are a few people you'll want to give some extra TLC. Who are they? Your hosts, of course. You wouldn't leave a party without thanking the host, and the same rule applies to your wedding. Usually, it's your parents and new in-laws, so you should have no trouble tracking them down. And, hey, if you hosted the whole event without any help, give yourself props - you deserve it.

Round up your belongings

You don't want to forget any important items at your venue, so do a once over before stepping into your getaway car. Make sure your cellphone, wallet and necessities are all in your bag (you definitely don't want those to go missing!). You should also have someone deal with your guest book, wedding gifts, leftover food and other bits and bobs that you want to keep. Your mom, dad or wedding party members are probably more than willing to help.

All eyes are on you as you walk down the aisle, have your first dance, and cut into your wedding cake. So why should the last few minutes of your big day be any different? Go out with a bang—or rather, some sparkles, bubbles, flashing lights, or one sweet ride. The end of the reception is a time to celebrate all the fun that's been had and that you're about to embark on the next chapter of your life as newlyweds. Signal that pivotal moment with an organized send-off outside your venue or a cool getaway car. Better yet? Consider both!

We love the unique ways modern couples are choosing to end their receptions. After all, pretty exits not only look like fun, but they often make for some pretty epic photos. If you're thinking about finishing your celebration with one, we've rounded up some of the best ideas to consider—everything from ribbon wands and massive sparklers to a bevy of balloons are all fair game. Want to ride off in style instead? You'll find vehicles for your motorized exit—but whether you by land or by sea is entirely up to you. The one thing all of these exits have in common? They'll ensure that the party ends on a high note.

Once you've signed the contract, a deal's a deal -- and nothing is going to kill your wedding reception vibe like a chagrined bride and groom whose wallets have just been made a good deal lighter. You've got a couple of options for dealing with the guest glut, depending on when you plan to make your exit.

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If you were planning on leaving before the evening comes to a close (which some brides and grooms still do, opting for a bit more wedding night privacy), make sure your attendants and key family members know the game plan well before the reception party starts. You'll be relying on them to get people going once the lights come up -- whether it's calling cabs, shepherding them to the shuttles, or simply helping guests grab their coats. If you're planning on leaving at the same time as your guests, you've got a similar game plan. Enlist your wedding party in making sure your guests have everything together for your grand exit, and have them queue outside to blow bubbles, wave sparklers, or simply bid you bon voyage. Lastly, if you're a partying pair who plans on keeping the good times going post-wedding reception, you can be there to end it with a bang -- and help make sure everyone clears the premises and moves on to the after-party. Afterwards, you'll still be around to help collect everyone and make sure your party is on the move when the lights go up.

With any of these plans, guest shuttle buses or vans may be your secret weapon -- no one is going to hang around too long if it means missing their ride. To get people ready to go beforehand, choose a rousing last dance song and let your band or DJ know the exact time when you need it played (opting for fifteen minutes earlier than you need it may be a better plan than waiting until the last minute).

Frequently Asked Questions About Wedding Reception

The wedding recessional is the order in which the newlywed couple and wedding party exit the ceremony. Just like the processional, there's a specific order to follow based on the couple's preference. 

Traditionally, after the last song of the reception is played, guests usher the bride & groom off on their honeymoon. Since it is typically at night, sparklers, glow sticks, lanterns, and even fireworks are popular options to make this exit more formal & grand!

The cocktail hour is an opportunity to further personalize the decor, drinks, food, and other elements of your wedding celebration. During the cocktail hour, you can showcase your family history, your personality as a couple, or your culture or ethnicity.

No, it won't. You have to get a new one but I would recommend it. If it's possible to stay for the entire thing, I would - but the bride should understand if you HAVE to leave early. Like pp said, I think it's fine, just say something to the bride. 

If you already offered your best wishes and had some alone time with the couple, it's fine to leave without saying goodbye. According to wedding etiquette rules, it's acceptable for a guest to exit a reception once the wedding cake is cut; saying hasta la vista before then is considered rude.

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