Couples are surrounded by the many facets of planning their special day, and right before saying “I Do” to each other they want to unite all those that are near and dear to them to celebrate right before their wedding day. The American tradition to merge families right before the wedding day is the rehearsal dinner. The rehearsal dinner is a pre-wedding ceremony activity usually held right after the wedding rehearsal and the eve of the wedding. Although it is a tradition that is not required, I feel that this event is a time when couples can have a private celebration with their dearest family and friends to unite, reflect, and celebrate right before emerging into an ocean of individuals they may or may not have the opportunity to engage conversation with on the big day.
In my years of working with my couples, I have found that the rehearsal dinner can either be a simple process or it can be as complicated as planning the wedding day. To ensure that your rehearsal dinner is not as complicated as your wedding day, I would like to provide you with some helpful tips to make this a joyous occasion for you.
The Guest List.
As highlighted in earlier conversation, the rehearsal dinner is a time to celebrate in an intimate setting with your dearest family and friends – so who would that be? The primary guest list includes – the wedding party, parents, grand-parents, the spouses of your wedding party, siblings and their spouses. The secondary kindred persons would include, special aunts and uncles, a dear friend that is not in the wedding party, your officiant (if there is a close relationship), or other close relatives or friends. The rehearsal dinner guest list is contingent upon a couple’s budget in order to conclude who will be invited; however, the primary attendees are those that deserve an invitation to attend.
The budget is contingent upon the number of individuals invited. On average, rehearsal dinners I have organized for my client’s range from 25 to 80 persons in attendance. Once you have decided on the guest list, consider the location of your rehearsal dinner. Restaurants can vary in price – $50 to $100 per person; this usually includes a 3 course meal with non-alcoholic beverages. If you desire to include libations with your meal service, look towards a higher starting price point of $75 – $150 plus per person. When hosting at home, the price varies on a large-scale. If the family is providing all of the elements including preparing the meal themselves, the cost can be as low as $15 per person for food alone; or if you decide to hire an outside caterer, the cost ranges from $60 to $80 per person. Additional costs to factor when hosting at home would be tent rentals, accessory rentals – chairs, tables, flatware, tableware, etc. Home based rehearsal dinners all depend on the elements you want to involve – ranging from inexpensive to more than the cost of hosting at a restaurant.
My favorite locations for rehearsal dinners are restaurants. Restaurants provide all-inclusive amenities and services to host rehearsal dinners, and they require the least amount of labor for the couple. When engaging the services of a restaurant your tasks are as simple as selecting a scrumptious menu, providing an accurate headcount, and arriving to celebrate. There is no setup or breakdown required on behalf of couples. Bring your personal character in by hosting at your favorite restaurant and craft the menu around your favorite meal(s) the two of you have share together. If you each have a favorite meal from the restaurant, provide your guests with an option to choose and name the entrées after each of you. It can become a secret wager between the Couple to see whose meal will be ordered the most during the evening.
To ensure a smooth process, pre-select the menu before arriving(within 3-4 weeks) and avoid a menu that is similar to your wedding day. When pre-selecting your menu, choose a family style option or a duet style entrée to keep the night simple for everyone involved. Confirm the restaurant has a private room for you and your guests. The intimacy and celebratory of the night should always be hosted in a room that provides privacy. Some restaurants may have a minimum food and beverage cost to secure a private room, but it will be worth it so that you are not in an open environment with other guests of the restaurant.
Another location for rehearsal dinners…if you are big sports fans, depending on the season host your rehearsal dinner at a sports arena during an actual game if the venue has a private room for viewing. Guests will come to not only celebrate with you but have an evening of interactive entertainment. Create sporting souvenirs for guests to take home along with your wedding date as a keepsake.
My clients usually ask the question, “What do we do at the rehearsal dinner?” Don’t over think the event; remember to keep it casual, relaxed, and fun for all involved. Communicate to those invited either through a casual or formal invitation in the mail, to a uniquely designed electronic invitation. During the rehearsal dinner, this is a great time for couples to give thanks to their parents, provide special gifts to the wedding party, opportunity for the parents to provide a special welcome to the guests and show support to their kids, show montage video of the couple’s life together, and to just have fun! And before the night is over, provide the wedding party with a timeline overview of the wedding day activities to ensure that they will be on time the next day.
In summary, when organizing the rehearsal dinner keep it simple. This is a time of blending families and close friends before the big day! Provide an intimate and relaxed environment, and remember to have fun. “Family is where life begins and love never ends” (author – unknown).