By Frances Dean
The rehearsal dinner is the event that kicks off the whole wedding weekend, and, much like you and your bride, it’s kind of a big deal. And FYI, you’re probably not going to be dining at a place that alerts you that your table is ready via a violently flashing and buzzing beeper. Traditionally, the rehearsal dinner is thrown the day before the wedding, or on the day of the wedding rehearsal (if the rehearsal is not the day before). It’s a gathering of your closest friends and family that should be less formal than the reception. Plus there’s gonna be speeches! Below, we break it all down so that you can nail it.
Get The Guest List In Order
So, as for who’s coming, the rehearsal celebrations are generally reserved for the bridal parties and their family members (and oftentimes, anyone who has travelled a long way to be there). The one exception being destination weddings. If you’re having a destination wedding all the guests should be invited to the rehearsal dinner. If you’re following tradition and the bride’s family is covering the cost of the wedding, it’s your job as the groom (or the groom’s family) to spring for the rehearsal dinner.
The rehearsal dinner is meant to be a fun relaxing event; but be sure to do it right because, and please excuse the pun, a sub-par dinner will leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Keep in mind that as the two most important members of the wedding party you and your significant other need to be particularly cognizant of what you’re serving. Tacos and margs might sound appetizing but you’ll be cursing yourself tomorrow when you’re simultaneously nursing a hangover and trying to squeeze a bloated belly into a tux at 9 a.m. You’re probably still trying to cut weight before fitting into your formal attire, so as a friendly reminder, don’t gorge yourselves.
The best types of food for the rehearsal dinner are small noshes and bite sized favorites. You don’t want anyone choking on a big hunk of steak while trying to give a speech. Instead of a salad opt for sliders, something people can eat with their hands and that doesn’t necessarily require a plate. If you opt for a cocktail hour and seated dinner go for a buffet and offer a wide array of options. Since this should be more casual than the reception, have fun with the food. Instead of just a vegetarian and a chicken option, offer food that’s important to you and your wife or that reflects your heritage and throw in some fun custom cocktails while you’re at it!
If we’re talking a destination wedding, and the whole gang is there, the easiest way to do things is a cocktail hour with appetizers, followed by a buffet. A buffet will be slightly more cost effective than a served meal and it’s a little less formal. The cocktail hour allows your guests to mingle and talk to each other with ease. And as an added bonus you don’t have to worry about seating charts. Always, always, always splurge on the open bar. No one wants to go to a rehearsal dinner and listen to toasts from people they don’t know, and, on top of that, pay for their own drinks.
Walk The Walk, Talk The Talk
While the food is important, it’s not the focal point of the evening. The main event is the speeches. The food needs to be fun and engaging, but don’t go broke on gourmet options. Let the guests, not the appetizers, be the center of attention. That’s why a pre-dinner cocktail hour is a great option.
Now, as for those very important speeches, they should begin after the cocktail hour and about halfway through the seated dinner. You want to give your guests a chance to eat their food and get comfortable and, most importantly, give everyone who will be making a speech the chance to get some liquid courage going.
Have Your (Second) Man Of The Hour
Don’t forget to designate an MC. It could be your dad or best man, but someone needs to make sure everyone who needs to make a speech gets the chance and also be on guard to cut off Gran-Gran if her toasts start to get a little too lengthy. It’s often forgotten, but remember to hire a photographer for the rehearsal dinner. One day you’ll look back and be happy you got photos of Pop Pop’s speech.
Once the night is in full swing it might be tempting to let the party carry on into the wee hours of the morning or even to hit up some bars after the older guest have cleared out; but remember that you and your bridal party need to be up-and-at-em early the next day, and your bride-to-be is not going to thank you if she wakes up with bags under her eyes. That’s just one of a few things to avoid at your rehearsal dinner.