The Calm Before the Storm

Our Tips on How to Ace Your Rehearsal Dinner.

Here’s the thing: Planning a wedding often means more than, well, planning the actual wedding. For most couples, it involves a weekend’s worth of events– including the rehearsal dinner. In many cases, the rehearsal dinner kicks off the celebrations with friends and family, before the frenzied (but fun!) day of the nuptials begins.

Of course, coordinating your actual wedding day takes priority; and if you’re not too picky, you should have plenty of options available to book even if you wait until a couple months out to plan your rehearsal dinner. But if you have a specific vision in mind for the wedding-eve events, it’s worth it to think ahead. The last thing you want is to wait until the last minute and find that the venues you prefer are already booked up for private events or parties. Save yourself the stress of a scramble and start looking into your options at least a few months in advance, so you can book and begin to plan things like the menu without having to do so hurriedly.

Regardless of when you start planning, there are many ways to ensure the event is special and successful.

Did you know?

Rev. William Tavernor conducted a marriage at the age of 98, making him the oldest person to ever join a couple in matrimony. The groom just happened to be his very own grandson.

Managing the Guest List

In theory, the rehearsal dinner is a postwedding rehearsal meal for your bridal party and family. But in actuality, many guest lists expand far beyond that. In fact, for some weddings, the rehearsal dinner guest list ends up being almost as big as the wedding guest list–particularly if most of the guests are coming in from out of town. But, while you may feel the need to invite all of your out-of-towners to the dinner, it’s by no means a requirement. Those people are traveling to town for your wedding day; if they get an invite to the rehearsal dinner, they’d certainly enjoy it; but if not, that doesn’t take away from the actual wedding day festivities. Feel free to keep the dinner small and intimate, spend quality time with those in attendance, and perhaps give your out-of-towners a list of dinner and activity suggestions in the area (via your website, a note in the hotel room,  or even casual emails and text messages). If you prefer to include a bigger guest list but have a limited budget for the event, consider the recent trend of hosting a small dinner followed by a larger cocktail reception or welcome party.

You can also ditch the sit-down dinner idea completely. Keep the event more fluid by turning it into a cocktail party with passed hor d’oeuvres and the like, and let everyone (yourselves included!) mix and mingle freely.

Delegating the Work

You shouldn’t spend your entire rehearsal dinner (or the hours and days leading up to it) making sure everything runs smoothly. Rather, you should be enjoying the company of your family and friends and relaxing (as much as you can!) before the big day. So, don’t be afraid to delegate and ask for help. If you already have a wedding planner or day-of planner, consider asking him or her to work on your rehearsal dinner as well. If not, it might be worth it to hire a professional to help with this event alone.

Or, perhaps the simplest option: Opt to have your rehearsal dinner at a restaurant that includes event-planning services, like coordinating linens, music, and the like. The “one-stop shop” approach may save you precious time and energy.

“Why not hold your reception dinner outside? Enjoy the stars, beautiful panoramic views, magical lighting, and outdoor bars.” – Spiro, Ki’s Garden

Bucking Tradition

Even if you’re having a traditional wedding, the pre-nuptial festivities are your opportunity to think outside the box. There are no rules that state it needs to be a formal, seated dinner at any certain type of venue, with any certain type of food, music, or time constraints.

In fact, consider taking the event in the complete opposite direction of the wedding. For example, if you are having that traditional wedding, opt for a rehearsal dinner at a cool and casual billiards or ping-pong bar. Really, the possibilities are endless – and there are fun rehearsal dinner options that suit all budget ranges. Incorporate some sort of activity, like dance lessons, golfing, karaoke, or even bowling, to keep your guests easily entertained and in a festive mood. Keep things simple (and pretty affordable) by reserving the party room in your apartment building and ordering pizza (bonus points if it’s Chicago style!). Or, rent out a simple, frill-free event space and book a taco truck (or, really, any type of food truck) to hang out outside for the meal.

You don’t even have to feel constrained by the “dinner” part of a rehearsal dinner. Why not make it a rehearsal brunch, lunch, or even an afternoon tea? Pick a time of day that works best for your schedule and your tastes. If you think you’re going to want a good chunk of time to relax at home in the evening and get to bed super early before your big day, an earlier gathering will help you make that happen.

And the daytime option can be super casual: Head to the beach or one of Chicago’s many gorgeous parks for a picnic or BBQ. You can even bring fun outdoor games like croquet and get a little casual tournament going between bites.

Making it Personal

Your guests are there to celebrate you, so take the chance to make your rehearsal dinner personal and share pieces of your life that exist outside your wedding day. If you and your soon-to-be spouse go to the restaurant on the corner of your block so often that the entire staff knows you by name, why not bring your family and friends there to experience not only one of your favorite spots, but also the Chicago neighborhood you call home? Or, incorporate decor and menu items that correspond to your honeymoon destination, your culture, or your favorite places to go, and things to do.

Ultimately, those personal touches will not only make the rehearsal dinner a fun and unique experience for your guests, but it’ll also make it more special for you and your partner. That means the event may be vastly different from various trends you read about, or even your friends’ own rehearsal dinners, but that’s more than okay. No two rehearsal events will be alike – nor should they be. It’s about you, your fiancé, and the loved ones who will be in attendance. As long as you keep that in mind when you’re planning, it’s bound to be a success.


Written by Emma Sarran Webster
By |2018-04-20T21:04:41+00:00April 13th, 2018|Articles|
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