While much of the anticipation and planning is focused on the wedding reception, you may find that some of your favorite memories will actually occur at your rehearsal dinner. The rehearsal dinner traditionally follows your wedding rehearsal, the night before your wedding. However, if schedules are hectic, you may choose to have a brunch the morning of your wedding in lieu of a dinner.
Before you choose your perfect rehearsal dinner venue, it’s important to remember the purpose of a rehearsal dinner and what traditions surround this important meal. The dinner is a more intimate celebration with your closest friends and family. It is usually a more relaxed event compared to the wedding, especially if your wedding will be a formal occasion. This is a time for the families and bridal party members get to know each other. It makes the rehearsal dinner the perfect place to honor them as well, usually with a gift of some sort. This is usually when friends and family like to stroll down memory lane. Toasts (or roasts), prayers and slideshows, are popular rehearsal dinner activities.
The options are endless when choosing your rehearsal dinner venue because you are catering to a smaller crowd and the event tends to be more relaxed. Restaurants, smaller wedding venues and banquet halls, bowling alleys, and even a backyard can be a rehearsal dinner venue. First, you need to decide what kind of venue you would like to celebrate at with your loved ones.
Restaurants with a private party room are a easy go-to for most couples. A nice steakhouse, barbecue hot spot, or local favorite are good choices. If you have a lot of out of town guests, it is always a treat to choose a local, chef-owned restaurant they could experience. You could also go with the bride and groom’s favorite restaurant or the location of their first date if the location lends itself to a rehearsal dinner.
Less traditional couples are taking their rehearsal dinner to a whole new level. They are choosing to have their rehearsal dinner at places where they can also do unique activity. A wine tasting at a local vineyard, bowling at an upscale alley, or a dinner cruise on a nearby lake are all examples of fun, unique rehearsal dinner options.
Almost any location can work if you hire the right caterer. Consider smaller wedding venues, museums, banquet halls, and local parks. With a little creativity and a quick search, you may find that there are many locations that you can use for your rehearsal dinner.
The primary consideration for choosing the venue for your rehearsal dinner is the proximity of it from the wedding rehearsal. Your out of town guests will appreciate it if the location is also close to where they are staying. Traffic and lost guests can quickly cut into your rehearsal dinner time
and add stress to what should be a relaxing time. A rehearsal dinner location that is close to the venue will make the night go seamlessly. Of course, the closest location is your wedding ceremony venue. Be sure to read their rehearsal policy. Some wedding venues will allow you to use the venue for your rehearsal dinner for an additional fee. Most churches have a fellowship hall that you could use and cater the dinner.
If the wedding venue is not available, the coordinator at your venue should have a list of rehearsal dinner locations they recommend that are nearby. Research how long it will take your bridal party to go from the wedding location to the rehearsal dinner location at the time of day they will be traveling. You may make it there in 10 minutes on Tuesday morning, but the traffic patterns could be completely different on a Friday night.
The second consideration is what kind of atmosphere the venue would have for your event. If you choose a restaurant, will you be in a private party room or in a load restaurant? Will there be live music at the restaurant? Is the venue located near an entertainment center where guests can easily step out for a night on the town afterwards? These are all things you may want to consider if you want to set a certain mood for your event.
Technology has become a new concern with the popularity of showing videos or slideshows of the bride and groom at the rehearsal dinner. Many venues now have Wireless Internet and the private room is equipped with flat screen TVs or screens and projectors for showing these things. Also, if you plan to have a large crowd and want to do toasts, see if they have some sort of PA system in their party room. If these things are important to you, it is important to ask.
Price is also an important concern, especially for the groom’s family who is traditionally the host of the rehearsal dinner. Some restaurants will have a minimum amount of food and/or drinks you will have to purchase to have the party room. If price is a concern, there are many options for cutting costs. For example, having the food served in a buffet style is usually less expensive than a plated dinner. You could also serve a limited menu. As opposed to having the entire restaurant menu available, some restaurant representatives will help you choose 3 to 4 options that your guests can choose from within a comfortable price point.
The rehearsal dinner is a special way to kick off your wedding day. It is a kind of calm before the storm. Enjoy it. Take a break from all the stress of planning and allow yourself to reflect on your blessings. Spend the time reflecting on your love story and connecting with the friends and family who are present. Breathe. Smile. Allow yourself to really be present and enjoy this time.
Who to Invite
Turn the dinner into a fabulous welcome party – if your wedding is mostly local friends and family but a few key people traveled far to come to your wedding, extend the invitation to them as a thank you for their extra effort. If you’re throwing a destination wedding or a party where at least half of the guests are from out of town, show your appreciation by inviting everyone to some kind of night-before festivity.
How to Invite Your Guests
If your rehearsal dinner will be a fancy affair with lots of out-of-town guests in a hotel banquet room, a country club, or someplace similarly dressed up, you should send formal invitations. You’ll also want people to RSVP so you have a head count for the caterer. If, on the other hand, your rehearsal dinner will be fairly low-key or small—a party at a restaurant or an intimate gathering at your future in-laws’ home, then you don’t need to be as formal with your invitations. You can send e-vites, use DIY invites, or call to personally ask people to join you. Just make sure it’s clear to your guests where they need to be and when.
If you’re sending out invitations, get them out with, or shortly after, your wedding invitations to help everyone keep their schedules straight, book their travel plans, and ensure timely RSVPs. Give far-flung attendants the basic plans far in advance so they can book flights with the proper arrival time.