Your Quick and Painless Guide to Planning the Rehearsal Dinner

The rehearsal dinner sets the tone for the wedding weekend, but it doesn't have to be the same kind of event as your wedding.
The rehearsal dinner sets the tone for the wedding weekend, but it doesn't have to be the same kind of event as your wedding.

Traditionally, the groom's family is responsible for planning and funding the rehearsal dinner, and the mother of the groom is usually the one leading the way. While some brides might not see the rehearsal dinner as a necessary part of the wedding festivities, it's a wonderful opportunity to spend time with family and close friends before the ceremony.

However special this intimate dinner may be, planning it takes a lot of work and can sometimes be overwhelming. If you've been eagerly waiting to contribute to the wedding, this is your chance. While you don't want to see this special time as a daunting task, you'll be juggling budgets, relationships, and food and décor preferences to make it a perfect night for the bride and groom. Keep reading for our quick and painless guide to planning the rehearsal dinner!

Determine Your Budget

Nailing down your budget should be the first thing you check off of your to-do list! Decide how much money you're willing to spend before you choose a theme or pick a venue. Your budget will ultimately determine the rest of your plans.

Generally, the more people who attend the rehearsal dinner, the larger your budget will need to be, so keep the size of your guest list in mind. The guest list can be as big or as small as you wish, but it should at least include your immediate family, the bride's immediate family, members of the wedding party and anyone else who's part of the wedding rehearsal, including the officiant. You can invite extended family members and out-of-town guests if you wish for a larger group, but keep the guest list even between members of your family and the bride's. You're the hostess, but the bride and groom are the guests of honor!

Select a Theme

A bite on the beach? A seaside dinner can be as casual or formal as you like.
A bite on the beach? A seaside dinner can be as casual or formal as you like.

The rehearsal dinner should complement the wedding, not overshadow it, so take the style of the wedding into consideration when choosing your theme. This doesn't mean that the theme has to match the formality of the wedding -- some couples even prefer one that's in complete contrast to their wedding day.

The best way to go about planning the dinner is to really think about the look and feel you want for the evening. Then, choose something that will help you accomplish that atmosphere. The theme will also help you select a venue and menu; for example, if you're going for a laid-back, help-yourself kind of dinner, consider having a classic picnic theme at your local park and serve barbecue! Of course, just as you seek the bride's stamp of approval on the guest list, you'll also want her OK on the theme.

Choose a Venue

The first thing to look for in a rehearsal dinner venue is a place that will comfortably accommodate the number of guests you're expecting. Many rehearsal dinners are held at restaurants, but you can also host them at a private residence or location that's sentimental to the couple of the hour.

The venue should also fit with the style of the dinner -- it wouldn't make sense to have a casual buffet at an upscale country club. Keep in mind that if you host the dinner at a location that doesn't provide tables, chairs or other furnishings, you'll need to rent them. Also, if you host the dinner somewhere other than a restaurant, consider the fact that you'll likely need to have the food catered in. It's nice to have the freedom to do what you wish in this regard, but it does make things a bit pricier, particularly if you have to rent dishes, silverware, glasses, linens and serving pieces, too.

If you're having a hard time finding the perfect place, don't be shy about asking friends and family for help -- they may be able to recommend a great restaurant or picture-perfect location that will complete the evening and make it memorable for everyone!

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