Rethinking Rehearsal Dinners
Eat, Drink, and Practice Getting Married
by Lisa Edd
Make it Personal | It’s all Fun and Games | Make Room for the Groom | Mother-In-Law 101 | Add Some Ethnic Flair | A Gourmet Gathering | Getting There In Style | Rehearsal Dinner Etiquette
Featured Southern California rehearsal dinner locations
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Your reception is shaping up to be the glittering, exceedingly chic event that you’ve always wanted, and there’s little doubt your guests will be talking about it for years to come. But all the cool kids know the rehearsal dinner is where the real party starts. Though the pre-wedding bash is a long-established tradition, remember that it really only has one prerequisite: it follows the wedding rehearsal. Instead of making it an extension of the wedding, consider the rehearsal dinner a chance to host an event that’s fresh and unexpected.
Think about it: rehearsal dinners include a high concentration of people you love who have gathered in your honor; there’s no posing for photographers every few moments; and your hair won’t be piled in some extremely shellacked-but-breathtaking up-do you’ve never worn before (and will likely never wear again). So why not relax and, er, let your hair down? With very little effort, you can assemble a pre-wedding event that provides some much-needed calm before the busy storm of your wedding weekend.
Weddings have a way of ballooning into family reunions, so put the focus back on you and your fiancé at the rehearsal dinner by adding a few creative, personal touches. You can start by sharing your own love story with the group. Choose a location or incident that was meaningful to your courtship—like that romantic bistro he took you on your first date—then share the memory with your guests as they dine. Or present a slideshow with your favorite snapshots and music. Another option is to ask all your guests in advance (by invitation or email) to be the evening’s entertainment. Choose an emcee to host the event (like your brother or almost-father-in-law), and have those who are comfortable performing (or who just love you enough to ignore their stage fright) “sign up” with the emcee prior to the dinner. You may be amazed at the talent in the room as friends and family read touching or outrageous poems that they’ve written about the bride and groom, play music and sing, and deliver heartfelt toasts.
Incorporating interactive entertainment into your evening breaks the ice for guests who’ve never met before. How about kicking off the wedding weekend with a more sophisticated version of “game night?” Event coordinator Tosca Clark of Tosca Productions says, “Karaoke or murder mysteries give guests a chance to interact with each other.” Wedding designer Joyce Scardina Becker of Events of Distinction and author of Countdown To Your Perfect Wedding suggests a scavenger hunt where the last stop is the pre-wedding dinner site.
As the star of the wedding weekend, you can re-direct the spotlight for one evening by dedicating the rehearsal dinner to the man in your life. Choose a more casual venue like The Pyramid Alehouse and organize a beer tasting. Or honor your sweetie’s love of outdoor eating by having a no-frills cookout at a place like Catalina Island’s Descanso Beach Club. Pay homage to him by setting the dinner at a locale that reflects his interests—San Francisco’s Farallon for aquatic enthusiasts or the Cartoon Art Museum—you get the idea.
Another way to make the groom the center of attention is by serving a groom’s cake that reflects his personality. Susan Morgan of Elegant Cheese Cakes can create incredibly realistic-but-edible cigar boxes, tackle boxes, and even a recliner complete with video game system—all out of imported Belgian chocolate! “I had a client who was a diehard Giants fan marrying a diehard Raiders fan,” she remembers, “so we made a helmet cake with both team colors to serve at the pre-wedding dinner.”