Rehearsal Dinner | 6 Steps To Make It Perfect

rehearsal dinner

There are all sorts of ways to plan a wedding rehearsal dinner, and all sorts of appropriate people can plan one. We did it the traditional way (sort of) since I am the mother of the groom. Truth be told, I really allowed my son and his bride to do much of the planning and I just did the paying! It was fun seeing them make adult decisions and made me really proud.

1. The Guest List – We began planning the rehearsal dinner with choosing the guest list, which can be comprised of everyone who needs to be at the rehearsal, their spouses (significant others) and close family members. Although some couples choose to invite family arriving from out of town, my kids wanted this to be an intimate, casual affair, and once you start inviting people not immediately involved in the rehearsal, well, feelings can get hurt if you leave anyone out. So, we had about 20 guests on the list and started to scout out some nearby venues to host the dinner.

2. Logistics We based our choices on proximity to the couple’s home, the hotel at which many of us were staying and the rehearsal venue. Then we searched online to find restaurants in Newtown PA to host a rehearsal dinner offering private dining areas that would accommodate a small group of 20 and we looked at their menus online. Once we had it narrowed down to three places, we got everyone together (including the new in-laws!) and dined at each restaurant, comparing food quality, choice, service, location and decor. It was a hard choice because we liked bits and pieces of each place.

3. The Menu When we agreed that FOOD should be the number one consideration at the rehearsal dinner, we selected Palate, a new restaurant that just opened it’s doors this past summer and reminded me of a trendy bistro in the Village (Greenwich Village in NYC) . Their menu is inventive and interesting and it changes seasonally. Since we were having the wedding in Autumn, we were able to sample their autumn menu which consisted of a lot of unique vegetables and even a few really cool vegan dishes.  The food wowed us and we were satisfied (not stuffed). There is no liquor license, which was actually a plus for us because we were able to get our own wine, beer and spirits which saved some serious cash (especially since I asked my son to pick up that tab!). Hey, sometimes, if the kids are doing as well as, or even better than, their parents, they can help out or even host these dinners on their own.

wedding rehearsal dinner


Now that we selected the venue, it was time to choose the menu. And we thought this would be the easy part! But, really, it was fun getting together and trying all of the foods. Wedding planning is stressful, so enjoy what you can. We decided to offer our guests three entree choices along with some soup, salad and, of course, dessert. But when you’re making your rehearsal dinner menu, please consider the time of day and the location and choose foods that compliment the style and level of formality. These dinners don’t have to break the bank or be any grand affair, and really, they shouldn’t be. The rehearsal dinner should be a time for those who have been involved in the preparation to kick back and enjoy. Heck, sometimes just relaxing at the family home and putting on a barbecue is just the stress reducer the wedding doctor ordered.  If the wedding were to be held where I live, we’d have had the group over for a spattering of a few of the couple’s childhood food favs like baked spaghetti and cheeseburgers! No need to put on airs here.

rehearsal dinner ideas


4. To Invite, or not to invite…that is the question. Many wonder if they need to send formal invitations to the rehearsal dinner. Rehearsal dinner etiquette says the answer is usually no, not formal. Depending on the formality of your dinner, you can send email (beware of email not being delivered or grandma not having a computer!), make calls, buy invitations from your local Hallmark store or even order special invitations online. Since I’ve been in the wedding business for almost 11 years now, I’ve had the pleasure of acquiring many wedding friends who helped me by providing products, and so, Julie of Elegant Brides Invitations, was kind enough to get me some dazzling rehearsal dinner invitations by Checkerboard that perfectly matched our style of venue and Fall theme. I have to add that I was really impressed with the paper which was a heavy stock. I highly recommend this invitation company and Julie’s service. Her business has been advertising with since 2001.  She also helped us with the Fall Themed Wedding Invitations which we’ll review in another blog…sign up to receive future posts and stay tuned.

rehearsal dinner etiquette


5 . Preparing for the rehearsal diner. Since palate was closing the restaurant just for us (thanks, Jon!) there wasn’t too much to do with regard to decorations. But, if you want or need to, adding some candles or centerpieces to the tables is a nice, personal touch. A little favor at each plate can make things more festive too. Coordinate with the wedding theme but don’t try to duplicate it. This dinner shouldn’t be a mini-reception.

6. And finally, we dine! We did all of the typical wedding rehearsal dinner activities like delivering bridal party gifts, speeches and  toasts and had a little fun at the couple’s expense. Hey, it’s a rite of passage for a parent. After all, they’ve been embarrassing us for years, right?  🙂  I’ve heard of other families playing little get-to-know-us-better games, but we didn’t feel the need for games. I brought my son and his bride-to-be a  gift, a Glass Blessing Bowl, which personalized the event a bit and allowed the guests to write some of their thoughts of the couple and their marriage and place them in the bowl. You can read more about the blessing bowl on another blog.  We ate some awesome food, drank some well selected wine (and other cocktails of choice since you should always consider your guests’ preferred beverages) and enjoyed the company of good friends and family.  All in all, it was a good break from the stress of the planning and waiting for the wedding day to arrive. And that, dear reader, is my definition of perfection. What’s yours?

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