Rethinking Rehearsal Dinners

Eat, Drink, and Practice Getting Married!

Fun Rehearsal Dinner Ideas | A couple toasts to their guests at the dinner table

Highland Brewing Company

1. Choose an Unforgettable Venue

Yes, you need to feed your guests at the rehearsal dinner. But that doesn't mean you're relegated to a traditional restaurant! Think outside the box with your venue to make the evening even more memorable. This could mean hosting at an activity-based location such as a bowling alley or karaoke joint, a stadium suite at your favorite sporting event, a casual local brewery, or even a sprawling outdoor space where you can bring in food trucks and have a classy picnic.

We also love the idea of hosting the rehearsal dinner at a location that has a special significance. Perhaps it's the site of your first date or the place you popped the question. Or if the two of you live together, invite everyone into your home by hosting the rehearsal dinner in your own backyard. Guests will love being brought into your love story in such a personal way!

2. Make it Personal

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. Present a slideshow with your favorite snapshots, video clips, and music playlist that represents your relationship. Or, you can highlight your own hobbies. Do you two share a passion for cooking or mixology? Show off your skills by providing the signature cocktails or handing out recipe cards of your favorite tried-and-true meals. You can even make the dinner a potluck!

Another option is to ask all your guests in advance (by invitation or email) to be the evening's entertainment. Choose a lively emcee to host the event (like your boisterous 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 poems that they've written, play music and sing, and deliver heartfelt or hilarious toasts.

3. Incorporate Fun and Games

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? Lawn games, trivia, and even cards and board games give guests a chance to interact with each other. You can even consider "team building" type activities to foster relationships among the guests. From a murder mystery party to paint-and-sip or even a scavenger hunt, there are tons of playful ways to make everyone feel bonded.

Newlyweds eating pizza in front of a neon sign | Memorable rehearsal dinner ideas

Heritage Prairie Farm | Ashley Susan Photography

4. Add Some Ethnic Flair

If you can't manage (or afford!) to honor both you and your fiancé's family customs on the big day, here's your chance to show how two worlds really can become one. Serve food from both backgrounds, or play traditional music from both cultures. Get everyone to join in by teaching a time-honored dance or song, invite a belly dancer to perform, or hire a Mehndi artist to adorn your guests. Even parts of the USA can feel like a whole other country! For example, if your partner's family hails from the South, an outdoor barbecue complete with checkered tablecloths and line dancing can produce a grand ol' time!

5. Host a Gourmet Gathering

In your fantasy wedding reception, your guests enjoy a five-star, seven-course culinary extravaganza paired with pricey wines. But, alas, given your budget reality you've opted for a three-star buffet for the main event instead. Hence the beauty of the rehearsal dinner: with its much smaller guest list, it offers the perfect opportunity to explore a more refined, more exciting menu. So go ahead and reserve the private dining room at that always-packed restaurant where you can never seem to get a table on a Friday night. Your rehearsal dinner is the one wedding event where you can sit back and really enjoy your guests—along with a superb sit-down meal!

Opportunities to release your inner foodie abound: If sushi's your passion, serve a gorgeous array of Japanese delicacies accompanied by hot sake and mochi for dessert. If you're honeymooning in Paris, serve a sophisticated French charcuterie board complete with saucisson, pâté, Camembert, and sliced baguette. Serve small plates like tapas or dim sum, or go full-on family style with big bowls of pasta. The sky's the limit with delicious possibilities!

6. Get Creative with Cocktails

The rehearsal dinner is a great time to serve up innovative "these aren't your grandma's gin fizz" kinda drinks that get your guests relaxed and mingling. Come up with themed signature cocktails, rent a cute mobile cocktail truck, or offer craft beer flights or a bubbly bar. And don't forget the garnishes! Adding edible flowers or kitschy stir sticks is a whimsical way to elevate any drink. Just make sure everyone has a designated driver at the end of the night.

Bartenders mixing creative signature cocktails with colorful bottles and garnishes

The Kitchen for Exploring Foods | Jon Cu Photography

7. Enjoy Local Fare

Show off your wedding location with the region's best known drinks and delicacies. If you're hosting in Maryland, treat your guests to mouthwatering crab cakes with Natty Boh beer and mini containers of Old Bay as favors. Or play up the spirit of Texas by introducing your guests to kolaches and micheladas! From San Francisco sourdough to Maine lobster, there's no doubt your wedding location has a flavor all its own.

8. Give Heartfelt Wedding Party Gifts

One of the best things about a rehearsal dinner is the opportunity to express your gratitude to your wedding party for all of their efforts. But keep in mind that this token of your appreciation doesn't have to be expensive. Print out and frame your favorite photos with each wedding party member, personalize coffee mugs or beer glasses, or gift artisan bottles of the best local olive oil or hot sauce. This is also a great time to give out parent / guardian gifts, and to make a quick toast to the people that mean the most to you!

9. Consider a Cake

Way back when, the groom picked out a "groom's cake" that reflected his personality or interests to be served at the rehearsal dinner. But this tradition is pretty outdated—not to mention wedding couples aren't always a "bride" and "groom". So while a groom's cake may be a thing of the past, it's still fun to serve a small themed cake at the conclusion of the rehearsal dinner. This is where you can really get creative. How about embracing the "Is That Cake?" trend of incredibly realistic-but-edible confections? Whether it's a video game controller, a stack of books, a scene from your favorite movie, or the helmet of your favorite football team, your guests will get a kick out of the cake!

The Golden Compass themed cake by Mimi's Mocha Treats

The Golden Compass themed cake by Mimi's Mocha Treats

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