The second most important event of your wedding weekend will undoubtedly be your rehearsal dinner.
Typically, this is a less formal event during which close friends and family come together (generally following some form of wedding rehearsal) to celebrate the big event.
It’s especially beneficial if many of your guests come from out of town, as it’s an excellent excuse to spend more time together.
The rehearsal dinner is one of the most anticipated and cherished traditions of a wedding celebration.
This will be the first opportunity that their friends and family members will have to meet each other for many couples.
A wedding rehearsal dinner is an exciting event filled with anticipation of your big day.
This is a unique and memorable time to enjoy the company of your loved ones and get ready to walk down the aisle.
Choosing a venue for this event is a fun process, too, as there are so many options, and it’s a night you can get creative with to make it your own. Check out Cosmopolitan events Wedding Venue for your ultimate wedding reception.
Below is a guide on choosing your perfect venue and planning the rehearsal dinner of your dreams!
How to Choose the Perfect Rehearsal Dinner Venue
Determine Your Budget.
First and foremost, figure out how much money you have to spend on the rehearsal dinner.
This will help you figure out what kind of event you can have and how many guests you can invite.
Setting your budget also means figuring out who will be shouldering the cost. Traditionally, the groom’s parents are the hosts of the rehearsal dinner.
Today, however, as more couples are paying for the expenses of the wedding themselves, the cost of the rehearsal dinner is often included in the overall budget.
Be sure to allow enough time to scout out the perfect venue, considering the overall cost of enough food and drinks for guests.
Settle on a Theme.
This is the fun part! Just as you likely choose a theme for your wedding, be it nautical, vintage-traditional, or rustic, you can have fun with the vision you choose for your rehearsal dinner.
The food you choose can play a role in this effect as well. Are you big on Italian food? A lover of guac and chips? Don’t feel the need to go fancy just because your wedding day is upscale.
A rehearsal dinner can also be as casual as a pizza party or barbecue in the backyard of the couple’s home or a local park.
Generally, whoever hosts the dinner has creative control, taking into account their budget and the couple’s tastes, aesthetically and gastronomically.
Find the Right Venue.
The rehearsal dinner is often held at a local restaurant or country club, but Lehman points out that any location will do.
A rooftop with a great view of the city, a nostalgic bowling alley, a private home, a clambake, or a bonfire on the beach are all great ideas.
Though she does warn that it’s wise to choose a venue close enough to the wedding ceremony, it provides guests with the convenience of not having to travel too far.
Visit several venues to see if there are enough areas for seating and standing, clean restroom facilities, and friendly, well-trained wait staff.
Will the venue allow the wedding party to bring in decorations, entertainment, and catering as needed? Will the medium be able to accommodate the special dietary needs of guests? Will there be a dress code?
These are all things she suggests considering when finding the right venue.
Work Out the Logistics
There are a few housekeeping items that need to be determined before choosing your rehearsal dinner venue.
The first is who is hosting the event. Traditionally, the parents of the groom host and pay for this event, but that certainly isn’t always the case.
For whoever is hosting it, discuss a general budget for the event and what is essential to all parties involved.
Settle on a Vision
Next, work with whoever is hosting the event to figure out what the vision is for it. Does anyone have a theme in mind? A particular setting? A specific type of food?
Figure out the general parameters of what you’re looking to do with this dinner.
While it can be something formal and a more traditional plated dinner, it could also be an event that is far more casual, like a bowling night or a Mexican fiesta with a taco bar.
This event can be creative, and there’s tons of flexibility in it, so be sure to make it your own!
Decipher the Guest List
Most rehearsal dinners include:
- The bride and groom.
- Parents and siblings of the bride and groom.
- The wedding party.
- Their plus-ones.
However, that’s not set in stone. First, figure out who you want to invite. It can be as small and intimate or as inclusive as you want.
This depends on personal preference and budget, but it’s essential to figure out before embarking on the hunt for the perfect venue.
Make a Short List of Venues
Now that you have all the essential information about the event nailed down, it’s time to start researching venues in the area of your wedding.
Start a shortlist of places you like and reach out to them for date availability, pricing, packages, and more information on the space.
Start a running list of information and cross off places that don’t cut after you learn more.
Discuss each place with relevant parties once you have all the relevant information.
During the research process, read reviews on sites. If you’re having trouble finding spots you might like, ask your wedding venue for suggestions in the area.
You’ll want to choose a spot that is not too far from where all of your guests are staying for your wedding, so be sure to keep this in mind throughout the search process.
If your location and schedule allow for it, tour the venues you’re most interested in.
This allows you to feel for space and understand how it would work for your rehearsal dinner.
It’s also lovely to meet the staff in person and get to know who you’d be working with for your event.
Finalise your invite list.
Just as your guest list for the big day is important (and likely involves some cutting), you can expect the same when it comes to your rehearsal dinner.
If you’re having a traditional rehearsal dinner, your guests are your VIPs: your immediate family, bridal party, and their dates.
A party this size should be able to fit in a private room in a restaurant.
However, if you extend the invite to all guests, she says this is more of a “welcome party,” which means you will need a larger space.
Knowing your approximate guest count will help you determine the price per guest. Not sure how you want your wedding stationery to look? Check out our list of 28 Wedding Invitation Ideas to help you choose.
Remember that even if you invite all your wedding guests, the acceptance for a welcome dinner will be lower than your wedding, as people arrive from out of town at different times.
Pick Your Ideal Menu.
The menu is probably the single most influential factor when debating where to have a rehearsal dinner.
Many couples choose to host their rehearsal dinner in their met location or where they had their first date.
This is cute and all, but remember that your rehearsal dinner can hold as much or as little meaning as you want.
After all, you have a whole wedding dedicated to your love for each other the following day. So have fun and be adventurous!
Sharing the experience with those closest to the couple is what it’s all about.
Plan Your Décor.
Once you’ve locked down your rehearsal dinner venue and selected from the menu options, your next to-do is décor.
The brand suggests going with a completely different colour scheme for your flowers and switching up the décor from what you’ll have at your wedding.
While the idea of having one cohesive wedding weekend may sound ideal, it is much more fun to switch it up and will show you put thought into each event.
Plus, this leaves an element of surprise for your guests to see on your wedding day.
Floral additions are great, too, as they will easily last a few days and can be repurposed for a farewell brunch at the end of the weekend.
After this, you should be able to make a final decision of where to host your rehearsal dinner.
Go through all the pros and cons of the venues you toured and make your choice, officially book the platform, and continue the planning process from there!
Your rehearsal dinner venue is somewhere you’ll never forget as a part of your marriage story.
Choose it with care and make this event everything you dream of by following this guide in the selection process.
What to Look for in a Rehearsal Dinner Venue
Before the walk down the aisle is the pre-game show. Rehearsal dinners are typical, but it’s not something planners always give the attention they should.
Where will you host the meal? Does it need to be elaborate?
From the venue to the food choices to the time of day, learn what questions you should answer before the final run-through.
Location, Location, Location
Because the definition of a rehearsal dinner is the meal that takes place directly after the wedding rehearsal, it only makes sense to have it within proximity of the actual wedding venue.
You can choose to have it in the same venue (many wedding locales offer separate dining facilities just for this purpose,) or you can choose to go offsite with a more intimate restaurant or another eatery that is easy for everyone to get to.
Remember, the bridal party is often nervous about the big day and exhausted from travelling, planning, and rehearsal.
Make getting to dinner a simple, effortless task that won’t take any additional energy out of them.
Make it Cozy
Even if you pick a ballroom out of the way of the grand foyer where the wedding will be held, work with the venue to create a more intimate space from larger rooms.
This is often the first chance that the families of the happy couple will be meeting and chatting.
The dinner is a chance to grow this hopefully warm relationship; too much distance can thwart that goal.
That’s often why people choose to pick private dining rooms of public restaurants or reserve the rooftop patio space from lofts and penthouses.
They take the wedding party away from the noise and bustle of the rest of the world but are far from sterile or stuffy.
You want people to feel relaxed and the dinner more like something you would host at home.
While you’re at it, why not pass the peas?
The new fad of family-style dining isn’t a fad at all. On the contrary, many cultures embrace the theme of more giant bowls and dishes of food shared between all dinner party members.
Whether you’re sharing notes in the evening or pouring from the same bottle of wine, shared food experiences are a natural way to bring about organic conversations and memories the families will cherish for years to come.
Some cuisines are more family-friendly than others. Small plates (such as tapas) or pasta make good choices.
If you want to use a restaurant that’s not big on the shared food themes, order lots of appetisers and make a meal out of them.
Many catering services are keen on the family-style dining trend and will be happy to help you choose the menu to suit your tastes.
If your wedding is a formal tuxedo affair, the rehearsal dinner should offer a different experience.
While it can be tempting to share a theme across the events of the week, it’s nicer for guests to feel like each event is its own.
You don’t want guests feeling like the rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, wedding, and reception are just small pieces of one, long continuous event.
Break up the boredom and make every part particular by clearly defining a specific theme or style for each.
Casual rehearsal dinners can be a welcome addition for people dressed to the nines for the wedding later on.
Even if you hire a photographer for the wedding, consider securing services for a few hours on rehearsal night, as well.
This can be the perfect time to snap photos of the less time-sensitive details, such as the exterior of the buildings, select guests, invitations, or the décor.
The immediate family will usually be eager to get some photos of the rehearsal since the wedding day can feel rushed and won’t always be the best time to capture everyone on film.
If you can’t get the venue or photographer to provide photo services during the rehearsal (or you don’t want to splurge), ask a talented family friend to do their best to document the evening.
These photos will be more casual while offering a warm look at the very beginnings of the couple’s life together.
Time it Right
With many rehearsal dinners happening right before the wedding (and often the night before), it’s essential to allow some breathing room.
Making sure out-of-town party members arrive is vital, but you should also let your guests have a little time to unwind and rest before the wedding date. If you do host the day before, consider keeping it early in the day.
Let guests have a whole night’s sleep without forcing them to cut the get-to-know-you party short.
Balancing the guests’ needs is just as important as making sure the lucky couple gets what they want. Without those precious party members, it’s not a wedding.
Let the Experts Do Their Job
Location, menu, timing, style, etc. It may seem like there’s too much to consider when picking a rehearsal venue, but this will be cake compared to the wedding details!
If you feel that the task is too much to take on, don’t hesitate to outsource it to your family, your maid of honour, or the event planner.
Many locations that specialise in rehearsal dinners are happy to take much of the hard work off your plate!
From décor to menu design, this is what they live for; allow those who excel in bringing their A-game so that you can put your energy in making sure you show up fresh for the long walk down the wedding aisle.
Rehearsal Dinner Activities
From gift-giving to speeches, the rehearsal dinner is a time for family traditions to be carried out and memorable moments to be shared.
Groomsmen, bridesmaids, the maid of honour, the best man, the ring bearer, and the flower girl should receive gifts.
You can also give your parents gifts, but you may wish to do this in a more personal setting or on your wedding day.
The fathers of the bride and groom typically give speeches during the dinner.
Rehearsal dinners are also an excellent time for sharing special memories in speeches given by any bridal party member.
You can also invite other guests to participate in the story-telling.
The wedding is reserved for the maid of honour and best man, but any of the attendees can toast the couple this evening.
The bride and groom can bless the food or close the event with a final cheer thanking everyone for their love, support, assistance and attendance. Check out our ultimate list of Wedding Planners in Melbourne to help you organise a stress free wedding.
Try to wrap the evening up no later than 10 p.m. to ensure that everyone gets enough beauty sleep before the big day, but more importantly, relax and enjoy yourself; it’s the kick-off to “your” wedding!