Being the bride at the end of a wedding means somehow balancing a desire to keep the party pumping with wanting to collapse from an extreme level of exhaustion. Fret not: You don’t have to be the last person standing. Our experts guide you into finding an appropriate time to say goodnight.

All of a sudden toward the end of your wedding night, the exhaustion from months of planning and weeks of not sleeping is going to hit you like a runaway steam train. You probably think you’re going to want to party into the wee hours, but there will come a point in time when two Motrin and a huge glass of water never sounded so good. Hopefully, you’ll be having such a fantastic time that you won’t notice that pounding headache until you make it back to the bridal suite and sit down for the first time in hours, but with the day (heck, the week!) you’ve had, we wouldn’t be shocked if a few straggling guests were ready to keep the party going long after your desired bedtime. Lucky for you, the bride has a permanent pass card for the night, and excusing yourself at an appropriate time is more than acceptable.

The party won’t last long after the bride and groom leave. After all, you two are kind of the glue holding the whole operation together. So keep in mind that your departure in a way signals the end of the party to the rest of the guests. You’ve put plenty of time and money into planning this celebration, and you want them to enjoy every second. If you choose not to stay on the dance floor until the last song, which typically resembles a group rendition of “Piano Man” or anything by Frank Sinatra, then consider a formal send-off near the end of the evening, leaving guests to cap off the evening with 20 to 30 more minutes with the DJ and bar. Plus, this gives you an exit strategy to avoid any awkward questions from great aunts about wedding night ‘jitters’ or tipsy bridesmaids attempting to lure you to a local pub after the reception

by Katie Schroeder