The days of stuffy sit-down rehearsal dinners the night before a wedding are over. Today couples are getting revved up for their wedding day in backyards, bowling alleys, and on beaches. Most of these standout rehearsal ideas can take place at home or in a restaurant, and each of them is sure to please everyone from Grandma to your grad school roomie.
Going somewhere tropical for your honeymoon? Give guests a little sneak peek and transform your dinner into your destination.
Especially if the wedding is superformal, relax at the rehearsal dinner. What better way to introduce two families than over burgers, dogs, and Aunt Jessica’s famous baked beans? Picnic tables allow everyone to interact casually as they pass food cooked up by the dads bonding over grill duty. Get potlucky by asking each member of the bridal party to bring a favorite dessert. Decorate tables wildflowers in galvanized tin pails and jars of homemade jam laid out on red-and-white checkered tablecloths. For rehearsal dinner favors
, give out BBQ sauce, “Kiss the Chef” aprons, or personalized ketchup bottles. Knot note:
Avoid unwelcome guests with anti-mosquito candles.
The Orient Express
Think fusion: Have a Chinese restaurant cater the rehearsal dinner. Hire a sushi chef to make rolls and serve mini-pad thais as an appetizer. From colorful paper lanterns and parasols to ornate origami, festive decor is just one trip to Chinatown (or a visit to an online supplier) away. For centerpieces, try exotic and fragrant orchids, colorful lotus blossoms or just fanciful origami creations. Fried bananas or mango ice cream bring a sweet finale to your gathering. Consider ornate fans or personalized fortune cookies as favors.
Go for a Dip
From buffets to multicourse sit-down meals, fondue adds fun to any dinner. For your rehearsal dinner, start with toast points and various cheese pots: blue cheese or Gruyere are good starters. Move on to meats, potatoes, and veggies, which can each be dipped in sauces (like teriyaki, red wine, and ginger) and cooked right on the table. For dessert, dip fresh fruit, squares of firm cake or brownies, bananas, and marshmallows in pots of melted chocolate, caramel, marshmallow, honey, and yogurt. Give guests a take-home version of one of the dishes or even a monogrammed fondue fork.
Let the Good Times Bowl
A themed bowling rehearsal dinner party is big fun -- and sends a clear “casual attire” message to your guests. Some alleys have private rooms where you can serve food -- the menu is easy: microwave pizza (or delivery), nachos, pretzels, and other foods from the snack bar. Stage competitions between the two families, or do boys vs. girls, and give awards at the end of the night (don’t forget to honor “Most Gutter Balls”!) Winners receive a bowling shirt embroidered with “Team Chris & Sara,” while everyone else takes home sugar cookies iced to look like bowling balls.
Send out wedding rehearsal dinner invitations
on customized playing cards for your casino night, and decorate surfaces with chocolate poker chips. Let your bridal party take turns dealing blackjack, poker, and other card games (or hire a real dealer), and consider, bingo matches and having raffle prizes. No casino is complete with out lots of chic sips, so keep the champagne flowing as gambling guests spend the evening toasting the bride and groom.
A Party You Can Really Dig
Serve up fresh seafood with all the New England fixin’s at a traditional clambake. For a rehearsal dinner feast with an authentic setting too, go to the beach and dig a two- or three-foot deep pit lined with rocks and build a wood fire top. For an easier, landlocked version, steam clams and provisions on a stovetop and haul them to a beachier locale. Fill buckets with shells and seafood-shaped candies at each table for fun favors.
Welcome to the Big League
Proclaim the wedding festivities officially underway with a rehearsal dinner excursion to a local football stadium or baseball field for some beers and dogs. Many ballparks offer group packages, complete with a congratulatory message on the scoreboard. Personalized baseball caps or plastic beer steins make perfect souvenirs after guests have eaten their fill of Cracker Jacks and peanuts. For your own memories, have all the guests sign a “game ball.”
Toast of the Town
Let your guests explore their inner oenophile by throwing a wine tasting rehearsal dinner party. Select six to eight different wines of all the same grape varietal (do all Shiraz, or all chardonnay, etc.) so guests can really taste the difference a winemaker and a vineyard makes. Start by presenting the different wines with the cheeses they complement, or invite a local vintner to do the honors. For decor think grapes, grapes, and more grapes. You can hang, stream, and strategically place bunches of fresh red and green grapes, vines, and berries on tables with beautiful results. And for favors? Mini wine bottles, of course.
Going somewhere tropical for your honeymoon
? Give guests a little sneak peek and transform your wedding rehearsal dinner into your destination. Hang hammocks from trees in your backyard, serve dinner buffet-style on long surfboards, blend pina coladas and daiquiris, and let Jimmy Buffet blast. For fun favor ideas, try personalized messages in glass bottles, flip-flops, or gift certificates for a spray tans.
If you and your fiancé share a love of the links, let your guests in on your spare-time passion. Have your rehearsal dinner at a country club or golf course, and let everyone spend cocktail hour perfecting their swing at the driving range. Get creative with your gift ideas and personalize golf tees or golf balls. For a pared-down version, set up a putting area in your own yard and build an obstacle-laden mini-golf course. Fore!
Experts: Karen Bussen of Karen Bussen Floral and Event Design; Jamie Breslin, Catering Director for the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago
See More: Rehearsals + Brunches