After four hours of playing host to nearly 300 guests during their wedding reception, Sari and Joseph Ripepe of Long Beach could finally do their thing.
Joseph Ripepe headed for a plate of chicken and waffles — and to a pool match fit for the Rat Pack — while his new wife and some of her friends and family gathered in a garden downstairs gazing up at the stars. “I was looking for Mars and Saturn," recalls Sari Ripepe. “I was obsessing over that while he [Joseph] was upstairs playing pool.”
The place where the newlyweds finally got to unwind was at the same venue — The Carltun in East Meadow — as their earlier wedding events had taken place, only the after-party was in the more out-of-the-way garden courtyard.
Impromptu gatherings held at bars or elsewhere after weddings are nothing new, but planned — and pricey — after-parties are growing in popularity, according to those involved in the wedding business on Long Island. And some of these affairs are now being offered as part of a wedding package, with the sky as the limit when it comes to cost.
Celebrity event planner Michael Russo says after-parties have been popular in Hollywood for about 20 years but have since become the thing to do everywhere else. “They definitely have elevated themselves from when they first originated,” Russo says. “It’s, ‘I have to do better than the last person.’ ”
Russo did the after-party for the 2004 wedding of NSYNC’s Joey Fatone, who married Kelly Baldwin at Huntington’s Oheka Castle. That carnival-themed event included bumper cars, rides and food trucks. “It was really out of control,” Russo says.
The Ripepes' after-party was out of this world, say Joseph and Sari, both 27, and a must-have to unwind at the end of a long day. It cost $5,000.
“There are so many formalities and the speeches and saying hello to guests during the five or six hours of the wedding reception, so it’s a nice time for the couple to relax,” says Bill Lodato, general manager at the Heritage Club at Bethpage. He adds that 80 percent of the weddings involve formal after-parties.
John Ovanessian, who handles after-parties at the Peconic Bay Yacht Club in Southold, says they can be held in a speak-easy on the lower level, where there’s a wine cellar and a tasting room. They can also arrange gatherings around a bonfire with tiki torches. Prices for after-parties there generally range from $2,000 to $4,000 for an hour or two, Ovanessian says. He adds that usually the couple wants it held in a part of the venue where nothing else relating to the wedding has already been held, so it’s new.
While after-parties are popular with couples of all ages, experts say they’re particularly trendy among 20- and 30-somethings.
“They’re very popular right now,” Russo says. He adds that a planned after-party is better than an impromptu trip to a bar where there will be people not invited to the wedding and the newlyweds (along with their guests) will have to share the attention of the wait staff.
Ashley Douglass, owner of Ashley Douglass Events & Wedding Planners in Huntington, notes, however, that many wedding venues on Long Island don't offer after-parties because it takes a lot of time, space, effort and money to keep a party that has already gone on for hours.
"A lot of our weddings have prior planned after-parties, but I'd say more [venues] don't [provide them] than do," Douglass says. "They want to close down and a lot of venues don't have the space, so the party goes to another location."
Wedding venues on Long Island that do arrange after-parties typically offer a choice between a savory or sweet menu along with drinks and dessert liqueurs — with selections such as sliders, chicken fingers, grilled cheese and steak sandwiches or all desserts. Music can be provided by a DJ or a live band.
Phil Vollaro, owner of After Hours Entertainment, has arranged a food truck to be parked outside an after-party for guests craving a sweet treat or fast food from McDonald’s, Domino's, Wendy’s and Taco Bell. “It’s something different,” Vollaro says. Prices for his packages range from $1,200 to $3,500.
Philip and Elise Luongo, who like the Ripepes are both 27, say they won't forget their outdoor after-party following their Sept. 2 wedding at the Heritage Club. About 80 percent of the weddings there include after-parties, and the Luongos' cost about $4,000.
More than three-quarters of the couple's 175 wedding guests stayed for the late-night celebration.
Included was a 10-piece reggae band and tiki torches — and on the menu, mozzarella sticks and chicken Parmesan hero sandwiches. Guests danced in a conga line and there was a limbo contest. The Luongos' dog, Charlie, made his grand entrance in his tuxedo as the band played "Who Let the Dogs Out?"
"At one point I had a cordial-dipped cigar in one hand and a chicken parm sandwich in the other and I felt I was in heaven," Philip Luongo says. He adds, “Some of the best wedding memories are of the after-party. It was a really good time.”