Ideas for Hosting the Perfect Wedding Rehearsal Dinner

If you've ever planned a wedding you know how time consuming and hectic preparations for the big day can be. For most, it's very stressful.  The rehearsal / family dinner is a wonderful opportunity for the bride and groom's families, close friends and wedding party to gather together to become better acquainted and, where applicable, rehearse the program for the big day.

The "perfect" rehearsal dinner means something different to everyone. What makes it perfect really depends on your expectations. Here are a few suggestions to help you accomplish your goals and help the event to go over without a flaw. 

Deciding Who's Hosting

Traditionally, the groom's parents plan and pay for the rehearsal dinner.  Given this, these days about anything goes.  A casual dinner with the future bride and groom and their parents is a nice setting to discuss the upcoming wedding celebrations and finances so there are no surprises. Regardless of who is hosting the evening, the desires and preferences of the bride and groom are the most important considerations. For our dinner, it was very important to the bride to have a relaxing evening to meet and mingle with the guests.

Consider A Theme

 It's becoming more common for couples to opt for a more casual theme for the evening.  After all, the ultimate goal is to make everyone feel comfortable and relieve some of the prewedding tensions. It's time to relax and enjoy family and close friends before the busy wedding day.  Without upstaging the main event, you might consider one of the ideas below:

Low-key, relaxing dinner.  Even a dinner held at a country club, like ours, can be casual and not overly formal. Consider open-style seating, rather than assigned tables. We opted for a choice between two plated options; however, buffet or family-style food service is more informal and encourages conversation among your guests.

Outdoor Barbecue. A grilled fiesta with a fun activity such as volleyball may be exactly what the future bride and groom need to unwind and provide some much needed calm.

Pool Party. While this idea may not be for every wedding group, it doesn't get anymore relaxing and fun than a pool party to loosen up the wedding party.

Cultural Party. Plan a dinner party around your cultural background with food and activities reflecting your heritage, such as a fiesta, or Greek dancing along with a nice Greek dinner and pastries. Or, perhaps an evening in Italy could be your theme.

Country-Themed Bash.  Line dancing or a hoedown may not be relaxing, but it will certainly make for a fun evening and keep the guests entertained. Serve Dutch oven food and let the dancing take center-stage.

Activity-Night Party. A fun activity like bowling or ice skating with pizza would be easy to plan and not real expensive.

Sports Night.  Stadium boxes, such as a baseball-stadium box, are a fun favorite for guests of all ages. Serve ballpark favorites such as hotdogs and nachos to compliment the activity.

Picnic. Find a beautiful location for a picnic, complete with blankets and baskets filled with gourmet sandwiches, potato salad and other picnic-worthy foods and drinks. If you live close to a resort, a tram ride to the top of the mountain would be a gorgeous location and a fun way to transport guests.  A park would be an ideal location for someplace more simple.

Dessert and Drinks. This time together can be anything you want it to be. Think outside the box if that's your desire. A dessert table with an assortment of desserts, or a Sundae bar, crepes, or another favorite may be all you need at this busy time.


Decorations can be as simple or elaborate as appropriate for the venue and theme - as long as they don't upstage the wedding or reception. I threw a shower for my future daughter-in-law and used the hurricanes, spots, and a few other decorations for both occasions, which saved on the budget. You can see the shower here:
Ideas for Hosting the Perfect Bridal Shower

I had two different, but similar centerpieces, anchored with the same black and white striped spots atop white-ruffled organza spots. Links to sources can be found at the post for the shower HERE.

Fresh flowers and greenery were inserted into silver dollar eucalyptus wreaths for one of the centerpieces. 

These petite votives are the perfect size for small candles and holding smaller candies, like the M&M's.  In addition, I love the unique shape.  
The other thing I love about them is the cost. You can set a set of 72 for about $70.00. You can find out more about these votives at the link HERE.

For the other style, three varied smaller arrangements were placed around the hurricane vase made with the same types of flowers and greenery. 

Using two different centerpieces added variety yet they were still compatible. If you use multiple centerpieces, be sure to use similar elements to keep the arrangements compatible and for continuity.

Small hurricane votives with candles add another layer of romantic flickering light.


You're celebrating the future Mr. & Mrs. so add personal touches to honor them and bring their story to life. Here are a few ideas to consider:

We used personalized M&M's with the couple's pictures and loving phrases in their wedding colors. You can order personalized M&M's through mymms.com.

Monogram napkins or placemats.

Share fun facts about the couple's lives, how they met, their story, or other interesting facts. We shared fun facts about the couple on the back of the menu.

Find unique ways to share the couple's story with photos, a video or other personal memorabilia.

Personalize the photos by writing on the picture mats. You can turn the mats over after the event for future use. Or, write on the glass with an erasable pen directly over the picture.

We filled small tins with clear tops with the personalized M&M's as a favor for our guests. The tins were purchased online at Hobby Lobby. It's customary and thoughtful to have a small gift for your guests as a token of your appreciation for sharing this special evening with you. 

There are many ways to personalize the evening in honor of the bride and groom. Just remember the evening or afternoon is about them and for them.

Tips for an Enjoyable and Smooth Evening

For a more casual feeling we preferred an open seating arrangement. However, if you provide a choice of two options for dinner, consider using color-coded placecards for quicker service. Using color-coded placecards with each guest's dinner choice allows the servers to quickly determine the count of each plate at the table and they can serve the dinner without interrupting the program or conversations. Service is much more organized and smooth.

Guests can pick up their placecard as they enter and are greeted by the wedding couple.  Put the cards in alphabetical order, but have someone there assisting your guests find their card.

Also, if you opt for a plated dinner be sure to ask for a less expensive option for children under 12. 

As part of the program, plan for toasts to honor the couple. 

It's customary for the host to welcome guests at the beginning of the dinner, but since this is an opportunity to meet each other's families, pass around a mic to each table for introductions. Because many of the guests will not be familiar with each other, ask them to share their connection with the bride or groom. Some may choose to share a quick story or even roast the couple.

Have a sign, balloons or some other unique way to help direct guests to the location and to welcome them to the gathering.

Background music always adds a nice touch to the dinner. It can be as simple as a playlist on your iPhone/iPad, a pianist or instrumental group, or perhaps a live band or D.J., depending on the atmosphere that you want to create.

Before the evening is over, be sure to share any information the wedding party will need to know for the wedding - things like when and where to meet, parking, clothing, etc. The bride and groom should also be prepared to share a short speech and be sure to thank all of their gracious guests.

All the wedding plans are in place. This evening is about letting your hair down and reaping the rewards. Never let contention get in the way of making this a really special night for the couple and their guests.

Anything you do will be perfect. Enjoy! Enjoy! Enjoy!

Have a great day!


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