While planning your wedding theme and celebration, it’s common enough to have to make compromises for one reason or another. Maybe you had a few ideas that were a little too non-traditional for your actual wedding, or maybe you didn’t get exactly what you wanted because others insisted their ideas made more sense.
This is your chance to make up for those choices you wanted to make. But, a rehearsal dinner requires proper planning in order for everyone to have a great time and walk away with the info they need for a flawless wedding.
We’ll show you how.
How To Plan A Rehearsal Dinner
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.
- 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:
We have plenty of specific ideas for you in the next section but 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 of 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.
- Let Them Know:
You should be sending out formal invitations once you’ve decided on the date and location. We’ll help you with the location in the next section but 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.
Wedding Rehearsal Dinner Ideas
Choosing a location completely depends on the theme and rehearsal dinner menu you have in mind. Most couples don’t want to break the bank on this prep party so here are a few budget-friendly ideas for you to consider.
Cheap rehearsal dinner in the park
Our list of wedding rehearsal dinner ideas starts outside. From coast to coast this country is filled with beautiful forests and picturesque parks. Beyond the photo ops, parks are ideal for a few reasons. Space is free, there’s no time limit, there’s plenty of room for decor and games, and you decide what you’re willing to pay.
There is only one potential downside. You can’t predict or control the weather. Wind can easily make any rehearsal dinner speech difficult to hear and rain can ruin the food. Make sure that there is a mic and speaker so that everyone can hear the beautiful speeches, and make sure that there are rented tents set up overactivity and eating areas.
Everyone will love the appearance of a food truck. If it’s in the budget it’s highly recommended. If you’re looking for cheap rehearsal dinner ideas, nothing beats standard catering (tacos anyone?) or a good old-fashioned potluck.
Rehearsal dinner in the restaurant
When it comes to rehearsal dinner decorations at a restaurant, try to keep it to a minimum unless your budget is a little more generous than the average American. This event doesn’t last nearly as long and very few people will see them. There’s not much sense in spending money you don’t really have to.
As far as menu ideas go, your best bet is to contact your favorite restaurant in advance to arrange a set menu. Costs add up way too quickly when you let your guests go wild with their orders. Allowing them to choose from a handful of appetizers and 2 or 3 main options keeps costs in check.
Backyard rehearsal dinner
A backyard rehearsal dinner is just the same as a park party with the added benefits of:
- no permits required
- no travel required
- more decor options
- more time and opportunity to plan and execute
Perhaps the biggest advantage your home has over a park is on-site bathrooms, which is a pretty big deal.
The only downside would be related to your space. Most homes don’t come with the square footage that a park does which may impact the size of your guest list. Aside from that, you have all of the same menu, rehearsal dinner activities, and decor options that you would with a park setting.
Informal BBQ party
If you’re not into dishing out hundreds (or even thousands) of extra dollars on a full-blown wedding rehearsal dinner, you may want to do the exact opposite. The ceremony and reception will be sewn with tons of nerves. There are speeches, routines, and responsibilities for many people involved.
An informal BBQ party may just be what everyone needs to soak in all of the joys of your wedding events without any of the stress involved. No dress code, no expectations, and great conversation makes for great friends and family get together.
Oh, and don’t forget the great food! Serve corn, kebabs, salads, and a variety of chicken, pork (if religion permits), beef, and lamb to make sure that everyone has more than enough options. If there are vegans or vegetarians in your group, we’re getting great feedback about that new Beyond Meat product. Just make sure to use dedicated grill space and tools to avoid cross-contamination.
Brides, skip this section and call in the groom. OK, so this is a great opportunity to provide a little pre-wedding surprise. It’s going to take a few hours and you may need to enlist the help of your groomsmen to get it done without her finding out – but you’re going to build her an outdoor brick oven.
You’ll need a few thousand dollars in materials and at least a moderate amount of handyman skills (this is a great example YouTube Pizza Oven) and you won’t be able to use it for much else than pizza and bread but;
- she’ll be super impressed that you went out of your way
- she’ll be super impressed with your git er done skills
- it’ll make an excellent addition to your backyard BBQ area
- when you do use it, the pizza will taste AMAZING
It’s probably been a while since you’ve been involved in a full-blown pizza party. Employ some modest decorations like balloons and tiki lamps, and set out a massive spread of toppings. This is a special occasion, so get creative with the options like palm hearts, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, prosciutto (and other fancy meats), and as many deli cheeses as you can.
Formal Rehearsal Dinner
A list of fun rehearsal dinner ideas wouldn’t be complete without a formal option. We’ll cover attire later on and focus on decor and food for now.
For the menu, since you’re not feeding hundreds of people, you can afford to go all out with your full 8 courses.
Course One – Hors D’oeuvres:
Bruschetta is a fan favorite that every guest will appreciate. However, since there are 8 courses you may want to keep things on the lighter side. Consider choosing grilled scallops wrapped in prosciutto for your guests to pick at while the party gets ramped up.
Course Two – Soup:
It’s still time to keep it light so that there’s room for the following courses. But, you don’t want to skimp on the taste. Choose something slightly unexpected but still has enough familiar flavor to be inviting. Examples of this are Roasted Broccoli and Cheddar or Spinach and Lemon soups.
Course Three – Appetizer:
These foods should be something that your guests can eat in a single bite. A baked brie dip isn’t totally original, but it’s not often you get to eat this delicious treat, and when paired with homemade crackers and a sprinkle of fruit and nuts it becomes fairly eloquent.
Course Four – Salad:
Course Five – Main Course:
The main course is, well, the main event. Generally, you’ll have to choose from chicken, beef, fish or seafood, or veggies. Rather than tell you our favorites, we suggest you check in with your personal favorites. Think of your favorite restaurant or the last GREAT entree you’ve eaten and try to recreate this with your own personal flare.
Course Six – Palate Cleaner:
In the French tradition, simple pieces of bread are served in between the savory main course and the decadent dessert course. This cleanses the palate and lets you fully appreciate both flavor ranges. Crackers are also acceptable.
Course Seven – Dessert:
There’s going to be plenty of cake at the wedding, so it’s best to avoid competing with this. Since your guests just filled up on 6 courses of deliciousness, serve up some simple vanilla and chocolate ice cream. This always tastes great, it’s refreshing, and guests can choose as little or as much as they can handle.
Course Eight – Mignardise:
Even if you can’t pronounce this, it’s a wonderful thing. These are bite-sized baked goods served after dessert. The best way to offer this to your guests is while you pop the Champagne and wrap up your final speeches and toasts to the ceremony and reception to come.
Decor should be defined by the theme and dress code. If it’s a fancy outdoor gathering, classy rope lighting and simple floral centerpieces are in order. For a less-than-formal gathering, balloons, tiki torches, and mason jar flower centerpieces will fit the bill.
Rehearsal Dinner Attire Ideas
The last thing your guests want is to show up over or underdressed. It’s best to indicate what the expectations are along with the invitations. Many people have different definitions of “casual” so you may want to include photos or links to examples so that it’s clear what your definition is.
The rehearsal dinner dress code entirely depends on your theme, the time of day, and if it’s indoors or outdoors.
Formal rehearsal dinner attire is fairly simple. Just think of what you’d wear to a company function where you are receiving an award and wear that. Dark suits, cocktail dresses, and evening gowns will do just fine.
For BBQs, jeans are acceptable but for most casual affairs stick to a summer dress, dress pants and button-down, collared shirt under a thin sweater, and other such ensembles.
Of course, if there’s a firm theme at play you need to follow suit.
Rehearsal Dinner Activities
You can’t use your best ideas for the rehearsal dinner, those games are best reserved for the reception. But, you do have to provide some sort of entertainment. Since this is a smaller group comprised of people that you know very well you have the luxury of being a little more intimate.
Games are always welcome at a wedding rehearsal dinner but many couples are choosing the time to show off a slideshow (complete with music and anecdotes about meeting and falling in love) to set the tone for what’s to come.
Rehearsal Dinner Favors
Some of our other posts give great advice about what rehearsal dinner favors to give. While you’re here, we just want to remind you that this is the perfect time to dish them out. Your wedding party and parents will all be present which sure beats handing them out one by one. This is especially recommended if the favors you are gifting are meant to be worn or shown off during the wedding ceremony.
Whether you want to host the theme that you may have missed out on or just take advantage of your friends and family getting together, the wedding rehearsal event has become the unofficial kickoff party to the entire weekend of events and celebrations. So, make sure you do it right with proper planning and enthusiasm.