The rehearsal dinner is typically the first occasion when you get a sneak peek at how your actual wedding day will be. Although it isn’t an essential in the list of wedding-related events, it is quite popular. If you are planning to have one before your wedding, our tips will help you organize it well. Before we get to the tips, let us first try to understand in detail, what the rehearsal dinner is all about.
What you need to know about the rehearsal dinner
The main thing couples should know about planning a rehearsal dinner is that it should be a simple event that shouldn’t further strain their pockets nor nerves. Most couples already have their bank balances stretched thin by the wedding expenses. If this is the case, you can altogether skip the event, or tone it down as you deem suitable.
The rehearsal dinner is usually held close to the wedding date, mostly during the week leading up to the wedding. Both the bride’s and bridegroom’s extended families would be in town to attend the wedding, by this time. So, the rehearsal dinner gives them an opportunity to meet each other in an informal setting, so they are better acquainted in time for the wedding.
This is also when the bride and groom usually meet the rest of their in-laws, and so it is a great opportunity for introductions prior to the wedding. Traditionally, the wedding was hosted by the bride’s family, and so the rehearsal dinner was conducted by the groom’s family. Nowadays, there are no such hard and fast rules. Usually, the bride and groom themselves pitch in for the rehearsal dinner.
Although it is called a wedding rehearsal dinner, the setting for the event doesn’t have to be similar to the wedding. It can be organized in an entirely different venue, and you have the flexibility of planning the menu and event details based on your personal preferences. This article on A Practical Wedding Blog tells us about the actual intentions behind rehearsal dinners. This is perhaps the only time when your folks and your partner’s families will all be together, and you might as well make the most of it by hanging out together. So, host a rehearsal dinner to make the most of this opportunity.
If the wedding attendants and family will not be arriving early, you can even replace the rehearsal dinner with a casual get-together on the wedding morning. Basically, you do not need a huge budget for the rehearsal dinner. The main aim is to just break the ice and help all the main people at the wedding relax and get to know each other, so they can have fun together at the wedding. You can also use this opportunity to discuss wedding day plans and share relevant information regarding arrangements, with the concerned people.
Now that we know the gist of what the rehearsal dinner is all about, let us move on to the interesting part of how to plan this event right.
Tips to nail the rehearsal dinner
1.Keep it relaxed
You will have enough formality at your wedding, so let your rehearsal dinner be casual. Since there are no steadfast rules to planning this event, try to set the ambiance for the venue and meal in a relaxed style, so everyone enjoys the company. Rather than having a traditional sit-down plated meal, opt for an open buffet or even consider a barbecue. The menu needn’t be too elaborate or expensive. Instead, focus on keeping the company entertained. You can have a semi-formal to casual dress code for the event.
2.Plan the guest list well
The rehearsal dinner is intended only for those who are really close to the bride, groom and their families. This includes the wedding attendants, extended families and close friends. If there are too many people, the atmosphere will cease to be relaxed and fun. So, try to limit the guest list. If you have any out-of-town guests arriving in time for the dinner, do consider inviting them to it. If your budget doesn’t permit too many guests, you can have an exclusive dinner for those who are very close to you, and host a brief tea party or dessert party for the rest of the people on the list.
3.Get the timing right
Rehearsal dinners are usually held on the wedding eve. This allows the wedding attendants to take time off work the evening before, and be free and relaxed in time for the wedding. It also gave an exciting start to the wedding festivities that they were to be involved in. However, this may not always be the best idea, if your wedding isn’t on a weekend. If so, it is better to plan the wedding rehearsal dinner two days prior to the wedding, so all have time to settle down after this event. It may also be better for the couple, if either of them are easily overwhelmed with organizing or attending an event so close to the actual wedding day. If there aren’t many out-of-town guests in the rehearsal dinner invite list, you can plan it for the weekend before the wedding. The main thing to remember is that it should be convenient for you and leave you enough time to recuperate for the wedding celebration.
4.Plan the venue right
We’ve seen rehearsal dinners held everywhere—from banquet halls, to country clubs, parks and even in backyards. Although there is no right or wrong location, the chosen venue should be one that appeals to the couple. We loved one idea, where the couple decided to bring back some special memories by planning their rehearsal dinner at a quaint restaurant where they had their first date. The wedding was a huge affair, so this was an entirely different and refreshing experience. Your choice of venue should also be based on how much you want to handle yourself. When you pick a restaurant or club, all the details will be handled by the staff. So, you can relax and not worry too much, especially if you have a lot to do on the wedding day. On the other hand, if you have outsourced most of your wedding planning to a wedding planner, you may like to plan the rehearsal dinner yourself, so you can be involved in this fully. A party held in your home or backyard will require more effort, and you must have the time and bandwidth to set it up and clean up afterwards. However, this will usually be a cheaper option, as you will not have to rent the place, and can plan the décor and theme based on what is economical.
5.Pick a theme
Although this is an informal event, having a theme makes it more interesting. The theme could be as simple as a color combination or pattern, or even a style from an era, depending on your personal taste. Although many brides worry that picking a theme will make it more work, the opposite is actually true. A theme gives you an outline to work with. This is better than looking at hundreds of options and ending up totally confused about whether all that you choose will come together. This rehearsal dinner guide on the Martha Stewart wedding blog suggests that you pick a choose a theme that is entirely different from your wedding. This should be a representation of your personalities, and it is also an opportunity to use those quirky ideas that you love, but were not wedding appropriate.
6.Make it interesting by planning activities and games
Although all the people at your party may have heard of each other, they may not know everyone there, and may not ease up till they do. Get them going, by planning some activities where they get to break the ice and help them mingle. You could pass the mike around and ask them to introduce themselves, or start off with a game or fun activity that they will like to join in. Also serve the drinks up right at the beginning of the party, as this quickly lets guests ease into the party spirit and start conversing. It is also a good idea to plan the seating arrangements so everyone gets to sit with someone they will find interesting. Mix up both sides of the party, so guests do not sit with people they already know. This will also allow you to avoid uncomfortable situations where people who do not get along may end up sitting together.
7.Chat with everyone
You may be too busy on your wedding day to get in touch with everyone. Although you should acknowledge all your guests on your wedding day as well, it is likely that it may not be practical especially if you have a large wedding. Nevertheless, the people at your rehearsal dinner deserve to be specially acknowledged just for the fact that they are important enough to be a part of this event. So, make sure you find time to greet and meet each and every guest there, both from your side as well as your groom’s. Since the gathering isn’t formal, and you do not have any elaborate time schedule for the event, this shouldn’t be a problem. Also use this opportunity to introduce members of the party to each other, so they can start a conversation. Give these new associations a good start, and you will have many more dear ones to add to your circle.
8.Toasts and roasts are fun
One of the fun parts of rehearsal weddings is that the informal atmosphere allows people who toast the couple, to open up and share more than they can at the wedding. There may be a lot of leg-pulling, but take it in the right spirit and it will also be fun as the crowd there knows either of you very well. You can have a bridesmaid or groomsman to emcee the toast(“or roast”) session, just in case you expect some people to hijack the mike for themselves. Nevertheless, plan this into the time-line, probably during the main course, so everyone enjoys it to the most, and you can also listen comfortably to all that they have to say.
9.Gifts are a great idea
You may have party favors for all the wedding attendees. However, the rehearsal dinner is the right chance for you to give a special token of your love to your extra-special guests. So, plan this in advance, and get the invitees a valuable gift to remember you by. It isn’t necessary to give everyone the same gift, as you would at your wedding. Choose different gifts for different groups, like one for men and another for women, or choose the gifts based on age. If you have a color or pattern theme going on at the wedding, consider getting gifts that are customized to match this theme for more excitement.
10.This is the right time for announcements
Before everyone leaves the party, make sure you share any relevant information or updates about the wedding day. Since many of the guests will be playing active roles on your wedding day, use this opportunity for last-minute instructions and updates. Double-check whether they are all aware of the timings, what they should bring and where they should be at what time. Remember that this is not the time for last-minute changes, you should only use this time to remind everyone of what they already know.
Finally, wind up the day and enjoy your journey home, for it will be soon time for wedding bells to ring.
Just like with the wedding, you should dress to impress at your rehearsal dinner. All eyes will be on you, the bride, and you need a fantastic dress to impress the guests from your groom’s side. Find a fabulous dress that will be perfect for the event, from our evening dress collection at Best for Bride. Check out our collection here.