Wedding rehearsal dinners are that hidden gem that not enough people are talking about. Your rehearsal dinner shouldn't compete with the actual wedding. However, that doesn't mean it should be devoid of things like delicious food and fun touches! Instead, it should complement or supplement your nuptials. Treat the celebration as a pre-party, where guests leave craving more—and lucky for them, you're going to deliver the next day.
PHOTO CREDIT AMA BY AISHA
What Is a Rehearsal Dinner?
A rehearsal dinner is a celebratory event that occurs after the wedding ceremony rehearsal the day before the wedding. Typically, everyone in both families, in the wedding party, and from out of town are invited to the event but it is up to the discretion of the couple.
Use the rehearsal dinner as an opportunity to create an experience for your guests that doesn't quite suit the scale, theme, or traditional nature of the wedding night. Whether you bring in your favorite chef, throw an all-night dance party, or opt for a theme that's undeniably you, this is a night to explore another facet of your styles as hosts.
Planning a wedding rehearsal dinner requires a few critical components:
- A budget
- A location
- A dress code
- Entertainment of some sort, usually an activity
It also requires that you plan how much Rehearsal is going to be involved in the dinner. Some couples choose to run through the ceremony from start to finish while other couples opt to just include the general framework. It’s a personal choice that depends on how complex your ceremony is and how much of a perfectionist you are.
As mentioned in our intro, planning a wedding rehearsal is much like a mini wedding. Although we’ve already given you the basics there are also plenty of smaller details to attend to.
PHOTO BY NORMAN & BLAKE
Make It True to You
First and foremost, the perfect rehearsal dinner (and wedding ceremony and reception, for that matter), is all about the couple themselves. When you're thinking of your theme, consider the hobbies, activities and interests you two have together. What makes up your love story? Reflect on some of your favorite dates together and think about how you can translate those memories into something your guests can experience as a kick-off to the wedding weekend. Don't worry about going overboard with a theme. Because your rehearsal dinner will likely have a more intimate guest list than you'll have the next day, it can be easier to successfully pull off a well-executed theme.
Who Throws the Rehearsal Dinner?
Times are changing. In years past, it was expected that the groom's family hosted and threw the rehearsal dinner, but today, it can be the couple themselves or either of the couple’s family. Sometimes it will even be a mix of all parties.
Does It Have to Be a Dinner?
Not at all. Rehearsal brunch, lunch, etc. All those options are valid and common.
The heart of the tradition is about being together, sharing your hospitality, and a special moment before the wedding.
How to Plan a Rehearsal Dinner?
Pick A Host
Traditionally, the bride’s parents foot the bill for the wedding and the groom’s parents take care of the rehearsal dinner. Even if you’re a non-traditional couple, this is still the recommended format. When you’re getting married both sets of parents will be hassling you for some involvement and responsibility. The rehearsal dinner is the perfect project to have them tackle and come out feeling great.
Choose A Theme
It’s important to stress that you can have a lot of fun here. The budget is going to dictate how crazy you can get, but you have a full license to go completely off-script. You wanted a Disney Princess wedding, and he wanted a Star Wars theme? Obviously, you won that fight, but consider throwing him a bone with the rehearsal dinner. Wanted a Boho theme and both sets of parents pressured you into traditional? Grasp the opportunity with an outdoor rehearsal dinner and all the bohemian trimmings.
Choose Your Guest List
This is fairly simple. Anyone involved in the wedding ceremony must be invited to the rehearsal dinner. It should also include any family members considered to be very close, and you should also consider inviting guests from out of town since they went through the trouble of traveling all that way. All of these people should be allowed a + 1. The number of close family members and out-of-town guests is probably going to depend on the venue you choose and the budget you’re working with.
Choose a Venue
Choose a venue that suits your theme, your budget, and the number of guests you're hosting. The closer it is to where they're staying, the better—a long ride home is tough the night before the wedding day. Feel free to party somewhere unexpected, too.
Let Them Know
You should be sending out formal invitations once you’ve decided on the date and location. You should choose the day prior to your wedding for the rehearsal so that things stay fresh in mind for your key players.
If that isn’t practical, then choose a date as close to the wedding as possible. Make sure to send the invitations out shortly after the formal wedding invitations so that your guests are well prepared.
PHOTO BY SOTIRIS TSAKANIKAS
Make a Playlist
You scoured the lists of greatest hits (and your memory) to choose the tunes for your first dance and more, so here's your chance to debut those tracks that you love but won't have a chance to spotlight on the big day. Basically, you're setting the tune—and tone—for the festivities to come, regardless of whether or not dancing ensues. Bonus points if you hire live performers.
Create a Menu
The food can complement your wedding's, or it can be totally different. For example, if you couldn't splurge on an elaborate charcuterie spread for your reception, try one at your smaller rehearsal dinner.
Decorate Your Space
Before everybody arrives, spruce up your venue. We love when couples incorporate personalized details for the intimate event.
Encourage a Game of Dress Up
Sure, you can go with semi-formal or another classic dress code, but you can also work with a more personal theme.
But You Should Wear White
At the beginning of your festivities, very few people have had a chance to greet you and give you a word of congrats. Make sure you're easy to spot by wearing your signature color.
PHOTO BY ERICH MCVEY
Promote Your Wedding Hashtag
If booking a photographer will max out your budget, encourage attendees to document the rehearsal dinner by displaying your wedding hashtag predominantly (for example, at each table) to remind them to snap and upload images that you can access later.
Record the Toasts
Unlike the wedding reception where toasts are far more choreographed (and PG), the ones at the rehearsal dinner are lively and super personal. Have a friend record the slue of stand-ups so that you have them for life.
Wedding Rehearsal Dinner Ideas
Wine Tasting or Cooking Class Rehearsal Dinner
One of the advantages of just having a small group of loved ones and family members is celebrating in a way that might not be possible with a large group. You'll create a delightfully unexpected rehearsal dinner by treating guests to an interactive dining and drinking experience where they're learning just as much as they're consuming.
Hometown Rehearsal Dinner
If the couple is from different places, a hometown-themed rehearsal dinner can be a wonderful way for a couple to show off everything that makes their cities special. Serve cuisine that's unique to the regions represented and create centerpieces that show off the cities' landmarks. Incorporate the locales into edible favors for guests to take home at the end of the night.
BBQ Rehearsal Dinner
Keep it laid-back by serving family-style barbecue to your rehearsal dinner guests. You can't go wrong with plenty of barbecue sauce, mac and cheese, cornbread and all of the fixings you'd expect at a backyard BBQ bash.
Food Truck Rehearsal Dinner
Food trucks are having a moment, so your groomsmen and bridesmaids will be thrilled when they leave the ceremony rehearsal to find food trucks waiting for them. Go with just one or book two to three options and give the party a fun, food festival feel. Bring in easy picnic benches or hightop tables so guests can mix, mingle and compare the dishes they chose.
Fiesta Rehearsal Dinner
Always craving Mexican food? String up lights and vibrant banners at an outdoor rehearsal dinner venue and plan a colorful, lively, fiesta-themed rehearsal dinner. Serve your guests tacos, chips and salsa, and margaritas for an easy menu that's sure to please everyone on your list.
Breakfast Rehearsal Dinner
One of many wedding rehearsal dinner on a budget ideas is breakfast for dinner. With pre-made pancake mix, dozens of eggs, gallons of milk, bacon, and toast- it’s easy to buy these ingredients at a local grocery store and make a lot on a budget! This is one of the less common rehearsal dinner food options, and it will definitely be memorable for your guests.
PHOTO BY ANNA DELORES
RHL TIPS TO HAVE THE BEST REHEARSAL DINNER
Now that we’ve answered the initial questions, let’s talk about the pro-tips you need to know to have the best rehearsal dinner — ever.
- Don’t forget to hire a photographer for the rehearsal dinner. Even if this is just a friend, this is a special and intimate moment in your wedding celebration that is very worth documenting.
- Be sure to give yourself (and your guests) plenty of time to get from the rehearsal location to the dinner — but also be mindful that it isn’t too long in between.
- Remember the purpose of this event and soak in these moments with the important people in your life. Be sure to let them know how grateful you are for them and how happy you are that they are part of this celebration.