The Grand Finale: Exiting Gracefully

Beach wedding

When putting together a wedding reception timeline — i.e., a simple schedule that lets the major players in the wedding and the emcee know when the first dance will go down and the cake will be cut — many brides- and grooms-to-be neglect one important detail. Namely, for all the time spent thinking about when they’ll get to the reception, they never consider when they’ll leave the reception. Whoops! Look at enough wedding photos, and you’ll see that the big exit makes for some great snapshots of the newlyweds. That is, of course, if the newlyweds take steps to plan that big exit ahead of time. Here are six tips that will ensure your grand exit lives up to its name:

Don’t tarry
You can always have an after-party if you’re not going directly from the wedding reception to your honeymoon destination. Unless you actually have to stick around to clean up — and some brides and grooms do — don’t feel obligated to wait around until your last wedding guest has said goodnight. People will actually expect you to cut out before the last dance, so you won’t be offending anyone.

Do be sure your wheels have arrived
Standing on the curb in your wedding day finery waiting for your limo (or whatever) to pull ’round or for the valet to bring your car only gets weirder as the clock ticks. You don’t need to suffer in the cold or get stuck talking to your new spouse’s creepy uncle… the one who’s always popping out for stinky cigars. Before you wave your final farewell, have someone check on the status of your transportation.

Don’t sneak out
I’ll admit that the whole couple-sneaking-away thing is kind of romantic — in fact, it’s how my maternal grandparents first got together! He threw her a birthday bash, and an hour into it, asked her if she wanted to ditch the party. Long story short, they left and fell in love. Cute, right? But if you have wedding guests who have traveled far to see you and your new spouse or guests whose only chance to speak to you is at the reception, be kind and say goodbye at the end of the evening instead of leaving your loved ones hanging.

Do keep it low key
If you want to, that is. Some brides love the idea of being sent off in a photo-worthy shower of cheers, camera flashes, and grains of rice. Other brides cringe at the very idea. Those who fall into the latter camp should know that there’s nothing wrong with saying goodbye to wedding guests quietly and individually before slipping away without fanfare.

Don’t forget anything
But don’t try to handle everything! You’ve had a long day… probably even a long week. A long month? Be sure you grab your clutch, your cash, and your wrap before heading out the door, but when it comes to wedding gifts, the top tier of your cake, your bridal bouquet, and anything else you want to keep, designate a helper (e.g., a bridesmaid, your maid-of-honor, or your mom) to grab that stuff for you. This is especially important if you’re leaving directly for your honeymoon.

Do keep the photog around
Again, this is one of those “if you want to” kind of things. Those brides who want to make their exits truly grand should remember to coordinate a fixed timeline with their wedding photographers. For example, if you know you’ll be leaving at 10 p.m., be sure that your photog knows you want to book her through then so she doesn’t hit the road at nine.

Everything else will depend on your preferences. You want to change into special bridal suit for traveling prior to leaving the reception? Fab! You’d like to fly away with your new spouse in a hot air balloon rented specifically to impress his relatives? Okay, then. You want your wedding guests to pelt you with ribbons as you head out the door. No prob. Just make sure you’re having fun!

5 Responses to “The Grand Finale: Exiting Gracefully”

  1. Mary says:

    I seem to recall that tradition requires guests to stay until after the bride and groom have left, and in some parts of the country this may still be expected. If you live in an area where guests are afraid to be rude and leave before you do, you don’t want to stay until they’re all wondering if you’ll ever leave.

  2. Diana says:

    We had planned an hour of dancing at the end of our reception, but by the time we did our first dance, parent dance, and a fun bridal party dance, I was ready to be alone with my husband. There’d been so much work to go into it, and everything was great, but I was finally married and just wanted to spend time with him. We told our guests we had the place rented another couple hours and they were welcome to keep dancing, but we were heading out.

    We had yellow rose petals thrown as we walked down an amazing stone staircase. It was stunning! The pictures turned out so incredible and in the video it’s hilarious that my guy cousins are throwing the petals as hard as they can trying to pelt us, but they just gently rain down. Exactly my plan!

  3. Toni says:

    My wedding doubled as a family reunion, so we had a six-hour reception. We staged the “exit” after three hours (at 9pm) exited in a shower of bubbles, drove the car 20 feet down the driveway, and then got out and snuck back in. I changed into a more comfortable dress, the photog and video guy went home, and we partied for another three hours.

    (Though, in retrospect, I wish I had just kept the dang dress on. I have all these super fun snapshots that just look like they’re from just a regular party, and not my wedding.)

  4. Kate says:

    We had a send-off with guests tossing rose petals.

    I liked the drama of a big send-off. Your entrace in a wedding in dramatic, so why not your exit?

  5. Mary: Oh, I can just imagine a bride and groom who are having too good a time to watch the clock partying down while older relatives whose bedtimes have long passed sigh in frustration.

    Diana: Smart! And sweet. I’ve heard many a former bride complain that rice and birdseed hurt more than expected. It’s definitely true that you can’t really chuck a rose petal, no matter how hard you try.

    Toni: Bummer about the late night pics, but how fun to stage a grand exit! My wedding definitely had a reunion feel to it — though it wasn’t official — and The Beard and I were probably the last ones to leave other than my dad and siblings.

    Kate: Lovely! And what a gorgeous gown!