Your rehearsal dinner is the time to kick-back, relax and get excited for the weekend’s festivities. The mood should be light, the drinks should be flowing, and the jokes should keep coming. This is the time where friend’s speeches are usually given, along with any extended family members, and so, naturally, the evening lends itself to a more casual atmosphere. With that said, a rehearsal dinner can be an intimate group of family and friends, or, if you’re having a destination wedding, it may include all guests who have flown in for your wedding weekend. The size of the party may influence the event, so we suggest having a general idea of the number of people you are inviting before you choose a location. We’ve compiled some of our favorite fun rehearsal dinner ideas that all have a sense of personality we think guests will really enjoy. Right this way to the party!
1. Backyard BBQ
If you’re having a weekend-long celebration and it’s taking place during the warmer months of the year, the idea of having a backyard BBQ rehearsal dinner makes us smile ear-to-ear. Not only is the vibe casual and cool, but the food can be affordable while still delicious. And a major bonus? Backyard BBQ’s lend themselves to beer bashes, so you can likely skate by serving beer and wine instead of a full bar. Checkered tablecloths? Check.
2. The Beachside Bonfire
If you live on the coast and have access to the beach at nighttime (where they allow bonfires), an evening reception near the sea is one of our favorite ideas. Casual clothes and shoes (or lack thereof) and a whole lot of s’mores. Plus, this type of reception can start after dinner hours, meaning you’ll only really need to supply light snacks and beverages, and of course great music. We think splurging on some acoustic guitar players would totally be worth it.
3. The Clam or Lobster bake
We’re adding a second beach-inspired option to this list, because what’s more perfect for a summer wedding than a pre-wedding clam or lobster bake? There’s a reason these events are the quintessential institution for New England festivities – and we’re definitely onboard! Fun rehearsal dinner idea? Personalized bibs as favors!
4. Culturally Inspired Restaurants
Some great ideas involve simple food that embodies you and your future spouse’s ethnicities. My husband and I opted to have our rather large, 130+ person rehearsal dinner at a local Jewish deli, serving up matzoh ball soup and warm corned beef sandwiches, served family style (perfect for the cold month of February). It was a super-casual evening with an abundance of laughter and food.
5. Post-dinner Cocktails and Dessert
For couples having large wedding receptions, many have opted for small rehearsal dinners with the bridal party and family members, later offering all out-of-town guests a welcome cocktail reception post-dinner. We think this is a good idea as long as you provide guests not invited to the rehearsal dinner with a list of local restaurants they can dine at. For the cocktail reception, we recommend serving beverages like prosecco, port and even seasonally-inspired beverages (like spiced cider and hot toddy’s) to get the party off on the right foot. And for the sweet treats? Everything from petit fours to bite-sized pies will work!
6. The Vineyard Evening
If your wedding reception is local to a nearby winery (and that’s not the location of your wedding), a pre-wedding vineyard reception and accompanying picnic makes for a charming evening for guests. Red, white, rose, it’s up to you! As favors, you can offer guests customized wine glasses that they can use all evening long. Plus, traditional picnic fare like sandwiches and charcuterie are the perfect accompaniment. Just make sure to have enough available so guests leave happy.
7. The Welcome Brunch
You typically think of wedding brunches as a morning-after-the-wedding event. But what about switching things up a bit (or a lot) and hosting a rehearsal/welcome brunch in lieu of a rehearsal dinner instead? We love this idea for couples who are planning Sunday weddings, as we think it’s a nice alternative to Monday morning brunches (where guests may have to jet back to work). Plus, mimosas and bloody mary’s? What could be better?