Too often, couples leave their rehearsal planning until the last minute. This limits your options and can cost you, or simply stress you out! Here’s my guide to planning your rehearsal dinner.
Step 1) Set a budget. The traditional old school rules were the groom’s family paid for the rehearsal dinner. You may still do this, but as is the case with the rest of the budget most couples have a general overall budget which may or may not include funds from either or both families. Expect to spend about 10% of your overall budget here.
Step 2) Create a guest list. This will be different for every wedding. If you are having a destination wedding, for example, expect to invite most or all of the people who traveled all that way to be there with you. If you are having a large wedding where you live and many people have traveled far to be there with you, you may want to include everyone, dozens of people even. If you have social anxiety, are overwhelmed with large groups, having a very large wedding and just want the bridal party and your closest family by your side for a low key night before DON’T invite a lot of people. The only people you absolutely should feel you must invite include immediate family, bridal party and their spouse, flower girls and ring bearers plus their parents, and your officiant (if it is your family’s clergy you worship with regularly or a friend is serving as your officiant you may need to invite their spouse).
Step 3) Decide on a style and venue. If you’re back in your hometown with a large crowd, a family home, family church meeting space, or your favorite restaurant growing up, may be the best option for you. If you are having a destination wedding and want to make sure traveling guests don’t have to stress, something in walking distance or at the hotel you’re all staying at, or nearby with detailed transportation options available and shared with your guests. If you are having 50-150 people (yes this truly happens a lot) consider a park picnic area or a restaurant that will give you a food and beverage minimum buyout option.
Step 4) Catered or homecooking? A lot of people choose to invite more people and have a less formal venue. Backyard BBQ, family pot luck arranged by mom, or large home cooked feast made by the family as a group project are commonplace when your crowd is large. Think family reunion style. You can do this and have catered food that is picked up from virtually any family restaurant, Chipotle, Po’ Shines, you name it. The other option is a restaurant with private dining space from pizza and beer at a local pub to a custom limited menu at The Ned Ludd Elder Hall, to a full service catered affair in your own home. It’s truly wide open here. One of my couples had everyone meet up at the food carts on Hawthorne to order whatever they want. It’s truly up to you.
Step 5) What will you do at your dinner? You will want to do toasts, of course. Thank everyone for being there. Prepare a video to show, or have a slideshow on a loop in one room if your venue is a house. You may want to give family and bridal party members special gifts, toast your future spouse, dance, do karaoke, perform a song, do a special dance with your bridal party, or just relax and enjoy one on one conversations with your loved ones.
Step 6) Plan your decor. If you’ll be at a restaurant or having a picnic this may mean you need nothing. At home, in a church hall, or at a hotel you may want to make some simple centerpieces with your family the day before. Flowers from your garden are perfect for an at home dinner, Trader Joe’s always has a great selection of flowers pre-arranged in bouquets you can trim and place in a Dollar Tree vase. The key is to not spend too much time or money if you don’t have the budget. If you do have the budget consider potted plants to give as gifts at the end. Or include this portion in your quote request to your wedding florist.
*Bonus tip, do not get everyone drunk the night before your wedding. An open bar is unnecessary, instead select an option of a few types of wine or just one type you really love. If you’re at your favorite restaurant with a select family style or plated dinner select the perfect drink options yourself. A few types of beer and cider plus non-alcoholic drinks are sufficient. People can order cocktails on their own at the bar if you’re at a restaurant, or hit the hotel bar after if they must. If you really want it to be a party or you’re at home, consider a family favorite cocktail, or a few bottles of your favorites for mixed drinks of choice.