Rehearsal dinner planning tips for feeding, toasting, and mingling fun

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Rehearsal dinner planning tips on @offbeatbride
Thanks to Megen Andersen for uploading this to our Flickr pool!

The tradition of the groom's parents hosting the rehearsal dinner is going the way of a lot of traditions: out the door.

Some grooms have no parents, sometimes the bride's parents handle it, sometimes the couples themselves handle it, and sometimes there isn't a groom in the equation at all! When it comes to offbeat weddings, sometimes folks forgo the rehearsal dinner entirely.

In this post, we're going to talk through logistics if you're planning the rehearsal dinner yourself or want to help those who are planning it. Ready? Let's get to the rehearsal dinner planning tips!

Rehearsal dinner planning tips on @offbeatbride
Photo by Sarah Babcock Studio

Figure out your intent

A rehearsal dinner is usually a time to feed the masses who are involved in the wedding after the actual ceremony rehearsal. So that's a given. Let's put some grub in their gobs.

It's also a time to thank anyone you want to thank, introduce guests who don't know each other, and do some pre-wedding mingling since the day-of can be a gauntlet of mingling. Get your intentions in order to make sure you reserve time for any special speeches or greetings.

Rehearsal dinner planning tips on @offbeatbride
Ice cream sandwiches from Weckerly's Ice Cream

Who's paying for this shindig?

If you're going the traditional route, feel free to check in with the groom's parents (…if there is a groom! Otherwise, check in with the parents who are contributing less to the wedding budget.) They may be counting on having something to plan or contribute, and may be very willing to take it on.

Otherwise, include the rehearsal dinner into your own budget, and see if anyone volunteers. This is definitely one of those situations where you'll take your cue from the rest of your wedding budget.

Rehearsal dinner planning tips on @offbeatbride
"Poptails" from King of Pops

Who are you inviting?

Traditionally, rehearsal dinners were meant for the wedding party and close family members, but in many cases, there are minimum guest counts to meet depending on the venue.

This means you can invite more guests than you anticipated, and you can expand the list to out-of-town guests who may need some entertaining. If you're hosting the dinner yourself or at your home, feel free to keep it as small as you like but check in with any close friends/family who may be expecting an invite despite not being in your wedding party.

Rehearsal dinner planning tips on @offbeatbride
Photo by From the Hip

Choosing a venue

If you're having a local wedding, consider choosing a favorite spot of yours to host the dinner. The requirements for a rehearsal dinner are usually far less than a reception venue, so you can go a little more offbeat in your choice, especially when it comes to food. If you're going for a restaurant or catering, consider a cuisine that's a little less traditional since there are fewer expectations upfront: tapas bar, small plates, dim sum, a food truck, picnic at your favorite park, barbecue or pizza at your own house… don't feel too constrained.

Rehearsal dinner planning tips on @offbeatbride
Think outside the chicken with PRETZELS like like Rob and Rachel did!
Photo by Wild About You Photography

Toasts or mingling or both?

If you give guests the opportunity to toast, they'll usually take it. Decide if you want toasts and who will make them ahead of time if you want to leave lots of time for mingling. Otherwise, you can absolutely embrace the toast culture and let lots of folks take you down the nostalgic rabbit hole. It can be a fun way to go.

Rehearsal dinner planning tips on @offbeatbride
Photo by Krisandra Evans Photography

Gifts optional

The rehearsal dinner is a great time to give any gifts out to your wedding crew and family members. Don't feel pressured to provide favors at the rehearsal dinner. It's definitely not a must-have custom and can feel like overkill.

Timing

Keep the timeline as short as you like, probably no more than three hours, so that everyone can get lots of sleep and nobody's too tempted to make a long night of it.

Who's hosting your rehearsal dinner? Share this post with them!

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  1. We're in the middle of pre-planning our "Rehearsal Dinner" as we speak! We may not be able to have the rehearsal/walk-through at our venue due to scheduling conflicts, so our backup plan is to have it at a friends parents place – they have a very much open concept house, so there's enough space to simulate the ceremony. Then, we're inviting the fam and our out of town guests for a casual stand-up dinner and champagne. We're using it as an excuse to hang out with our out of town family since the wedding day will be so busy!

  2. Our rehearsal dinner is this upcoming Friday!! My groom + I are paying for the wedding (with help from my mother), so we wanted to keep the rehearsal casual and cost-efficient. We often host backyard cookouts for our friends and call it Beer Club, so we're doing a fancier version of our usual set-up with family and wedding party (22 total, including significant others and us). We live in DC where everything is expensive, so we found a BBQ catering company that will deliver and set up at our house AND include all the dishes, etc. We chose to purchase chips and dip to add to the mix and s'more supplies for dessert, but the caterer is taking care of the big stuff. We did an alcohol calculation and over-bought, figuring it is better to have too much than too little, and we can keep anything left over for ourselves since its our home. Including alcohol, things are coming in right around $700. Definitely could have gone a bit cheaper on the booze and even handmade the food, but for that price and the ease of working with the catering company we're super satisfied. Restaurants in DC had $1500 minimums, so we're paying half what we would have to host in a restaurant. Plus, our first date was to a famous BBQ joint in Texas, so it feels appropriate 🙂

    1 agrees
  3. Thanks! What we need most are ideas for mingling between the families. This will be the first time they've met each other, and I'm pretty sure that their natural status will be to stick to their own sides, like boys and girls at opposite ends of a middle school dance hall. Our rehearsal dinner is going to be large, and include every family member coming to the wedding, so…..any ideas on approachable, relaxed games or something that would encourage strangers to meet and eat together?

    1 agrees
  4. Just wanted to add another to the "who hosts this?" list at the top. In my case, my father and step-mother are paying for and planning the rehearsal dinner, while my mother is helping me and my fiance plan and pay for the wedding itself and reception. This is because my parents have been divorced since I was 1 and my fiance's parents are probably not even invited to the wedding, so my dad is stepping up to fill the traditional "male side" role left open by the groom's parents not being involved. I don't know if this qualifies as back-door traditional or extremely non-traditional, but it works, so we're going with it- a way if looking at this whole thing that's saved me lots of headaches!

  5. We just had ours a the local baseball game. We rented a pavilion and it was $25 a person for all you can eat food and drink. Everyone had a blast and we were even called out on the field to play a game together which was a huge stress reliever.

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