Party On

The fun doesn’t have to stop when the noise ordinance kicks in.

The vows have been exchanged, the cake has been cut, the band is almost finished singing “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)”, and guests are starting to trickle out to the parking lot for a sparkler send-off. This could be the end of a celebration of one couple’s love, or, for many, this could mean the party is just getting started. As the clock strikes 10 p.m. – the cutoff for amplified music at most Island venues and the traditional end to weddings – couples are increasingly turning to phase two of their reception: the after party.

“This is the best day of their life,” Kate Foster, co-owner of Plan It Martha’s Vineyard, an event planning company based on the Island, said of couples on their wedding day. “They want to keep that party going.” According to Foster, over the past year her company has coordinated more weddings with after parties than without.

After parties, an organized gathering held after the wedding reception, can take many forms on Martha’s Vineyard. “There’s a huge range to what people can do,” said Foster, from smaller, less expensive affairs, such as renting a back room of a restaurant and providing sweet and salty snacks with a cash bar, to reserving a private club or entire business, to staying at the reception location and adding on late-night snacks and a quieter music scene.

Of these, arguably the most popular option is transporting your guests to a down-Island bar or restaurant and continuing the party there, said Foster. “Most hotels are down-Island, and so people like to bring their guests back downtown, even if their wedding was in a different town on the Island.”

Several Edgartown restaurants offer private rooms or spaces that can be rented out for such purposes, including The Wharf on Main Street, where a DJ can be hired ahead of time so guests can mingle and move on the dance floor while eating chicken wings and chowder fries. The Atlantic, also on Main Street, has a back patio on Edgartown Harbor and an extensive menu to suit any fancy, such as the option of adding a pizza and prosecco bar or end tables set with appetizers and beer. And Rockfish, on North Water Street, regularly rents its upstairs or downstairs dining areas for private events.

For a casual scene, another trendy spot is Sharky’s Cantina on Upper Main Street in Edgartown, where an outdoor patio is available to rent for up to 100 people. “We’ve done a lot of post-wedding parties,” said owner JB Blau. “A margarita bar and light appetizers is a casual and fun option for guests.”

Blau also operates The Loft in Oak Bluffs, a lounge-style bar and event space with games and enough room for a band or DJ – or, as he calls it, “The ultimate location for a wedding after party.” The Loft’s main room can hold up to 400 guests or 150 to 200 seated, but also has smaller sections that can be closed off, plus a private front room that can accommodate forty seated guests for a variety of food options.

Blau’s top piece of advice: plan ahead and reserve the space early. The Loft is open to the public and can fill up if it isn’t sectioned off in advance for a party, especially during the busy summer months and fall wedding season. Blau suggests booking the after party space as early as securing the wedding and reception location, which can be anywhere from two months to two years in advance.

Steve Ansara, manager of Nancy’s Restaurant and Snack Bar on the Oak Bluffs Harbor, also recommends calling ahead. “We certainly welcome after parties at Nancy’s,” Ansara said. But “you can’t just roll up with a large group [think: larger than ten people] and expect to be accommodated right away.” For smaller parties, Ansara suggests emailing or calling the restaurant at least one month prior.

With smaller after parties of less than a dozen people, guests can typically order their own food and beverages. But for larger parties, the restaurant or bar often insists on some sort of predetermined setup, be it a designated space, a buffet, or a bar tab with designated servers. Although specifics depend on the location and the size of the party, restaurants often charge a fee to reserve space for a private event such as an after party (a good ballpark figure would be between $200 to $500), or have a minimum food spend required (something like $1,000 in pre-ordered food and drinks, but no flat rate for the space itself). While restaurants encourage hosts to include food and beverages for guests, a cash bar is also sometimes an option.

But whether it’s a cash bar or open bar, and no matter where the after party is held, arranging transportation is another key piece to making everything run uncomplicatedly, said Meghan Gosselin, meeting and events manager at KG Events & Design in Edgartown. “Transportation is so important because the majority of events include alcohol. It’s great to have transportation already lined up so that guests don’t have to call a cab or an Uber; they’ve already been taken care of and can enjoy the night more.” 

Even if guests aren’t drinking alcohol, after parties tend to run late and guests could be too tired to drive back to their hotel or rental home in the dark. Setting up and prepaying for transportation is something couples should incorporate early on into their wedding budget if an after party is part of their vision. “It depends on the guest count and locations, but some groups spend $500 on transportation, and others spend $5,000 and up if it’s a complex wedding with many events and guests,” said Gosselin.

Of course, if the downtown bar scene just isn’t your thing or you want to keep your guests up-Island, another post-reception idea is to continue the party where the reception is already held. “One of the biggest reasons couples marrying on Martha’s Vineyard host after parties is because of town noise ordinances and curfews,” Foster said. But there are ways around that.

Enter the silent disco, a new trend in after parties for which couples rent headphones from a company off-Island and have them shipped to the Vineyard. Once the band or DJ is playing the last song, headphones are handed out to guests and the dance party continues, but with a different vibe.

Philadelphia native Barrie Nussbaum, who married her husband Danny Levine at the Tower House in Chilmark last September, said hosting an after party for their guests was a no-brainer. (For more from their wedding, see page 22.) “We had friends and family come from all over the country, and we wanted to keep everyone together as long as possible. We had been planning this party for a year and we wanted to make every second count,” she said. With a noise ordinance of 10 p.m. in Chilmark, Nussbaum said her husband suggested the silent disco at the same private residence they rented for their reception. “We already had the location, the dance floor, the tent, the people. Why not just host the after party where we already were?”

To give off a different “late night” energy, the couple added face glitter, glow sticks, and late-night food provided by their caterer. They asked the bartenders to stay later and arranged for transportation to run to and from the party site to hotels until midnight. “The after party was by far the best part of our wedding,” she said. “Just ask anyone who was there.”