7 Wedding Rehearsal Dinner Ideas

Deb Ng
wedding rehearsal dinner ideas

If you're looking for ideas for your wedding rehearsal dinner, there are a lot of great options and very few rules. Many are under the impression that wedding rehearsal dinners are formal affairs to be held in restaurants and catering halls, but this doesn't have to be the case.

1. Restaurant Dinner

Of course not everyone wants to cook and clean. Having the rehearsal dinner inside a restaurant allows you to relax and enjoy the company while someone else serves and cleans up after you. Consider choosing a restaurant that is meaningful to you as a couple or a family favorite for that personal touch.

You can choose an upscale restaurant for your dinner, and many restaurants will work with you to create a pre-fixed menu for your guests to choose from, saving you money. However, it is perfectly appropriate to stage your rehearsal dinner somewhere less expensive, as well. Many casual restaurants are happy to work with you to plan your event just the way you envision it, for very reasonable prices.

You don't have to fill a restaurant or your home with friends and family members. The only people required to be in attendance at a wedding rehearsal dinner are those who participated in the wedding rehearsal: the bride and groom, their parents and the wedding party. If you can't afford to feed everyone, you're under no obligation. Many people chose to invite the officiant as well as family members and dates of single members in attendance. In some families it is traditional to also invite any guests who are traveling from out of town, as well. If money is an object, however, you may invite only the key players.

2. Invite the Party Into Your Home

Sometimes the simplest wedding rehearsal dinner ideas are the best. Inviting everyone into a home keeps the dinner intimate and relaxed, giving everyone a chance to focus on the happy couple. Just because you are having your event at home doesn't mean you have to cook. You can have it catered or even do a potluck. Many casual restaurants offer in-home catering -- consider food from your favorite Italian restaurant, barbecue joint or have your local Mexican restaurant set up a make-your-own taco bar.

If you'd like to host the rehearsal dinner in your home but don't really have the seating space, you might try providing a buffet. Whether the affair is catered or potluck, a buffet enables you to accommodate everyone. Dishes can be placed on a table or counter so your guests can serve themselves and sit wherever they'd like. This is a great way to make guests feel at ease as they can mingle as they eat and don't have to feel obligated to make small talk with the people sitting next to them.

It doesn't make sense to host a fancy sit down dinner if it's not something you an afford. If money is an issue, have something more casual. Most guests will agree the night is a celebration of the next day's festivities. It's about good company in anticipation of the next day's events. How much you spend isn't important.

3. Book a Party Room

While the great outdoors may work in some climates and seasons, others call for a large indoor space. You aren't limited to restaurants however. A number of places offer inexpensive party rooms. Do any family members live in a housing complex with a party room that can be reserved? Many communities have facilities that can be reserved at parks and community centers for this kind of event; in addition, many service clubs, organizations and churches will make their space available for minimal rental fees.

For a little more expense, try local businesses such as casinos, bars, sports clubs, arenas and other entertainment venues. Often they have private rooms that can be reserved, while allowing your party to take advantage of their facilities. Letting everyone hit the gaming tables, bowl a few frames, watch a sporting event or concert at the rehearsal dinner is a surefire way to have a memorable occasion. Having an activity is also a great ice-breaker when members of the wedding party are not already well-acquainted. Some other places that often rent out private rooms for events include:

  • Museums
  • Zoos
  • Aquariums
  • Vineyards
  • Historic homes and gardens

4. Have a Picnic

Who says a rehearsal dinner has to be indoors? Imagine a lakeside or scenic park picnic. Dress is casual and there's plenty of room to invite anyone you want. Plan a game of softball or volleyball and let the little ones run around. Just like an event at home, you can have a restaurant or caterer provide the food or ask everyone to bring their favorite specialties... What could be more memorable?

5. Gather for a Barbecue

Like the picnic, a backyard barbecue is a casual, low key affair. It'll give family members and the wedding party a chance to get to know each other before the wedding. This is perfect for a rehearsal dinner that includes children, too.

6. Entertain With a Hawaiian Luau

A luau is a fun change from the usual formal sit down affair. Light the tiki torches and pour the mai tais. Guests can dress casually in their favorite tropical attire and be treated to some wonderful food and entertainment.

7. Dessert Decadence

Who says you have to have a dinner? While dinners are traditional, you can substitute another meal or even a dessert bar for your event. Offer an array of miniature pastries, a chocolate fountain, champagne and coffee for a luxurious and sweet celebration. Just make sure to be clear when inviting people so they won't come expecting a full meal. This is a great option if your wedding is on a budget.

The Menu

If the mother of the groom is allergic to fish, it's probably not a good idea to have the rehearsal dinner in a seafood restaurant. Likewise, if the maid of honor is a vegetarian, you'll want to choose a menu with at least one meatless option. In other words, consider your guests when planning the menu and try to have enough variety or options to allow all your dinner guests to find a meal that works for them. If you are limiting the menu, try to have two or three entrée options available with one that is meatless.


Printed invitations are not necessary for this event. Guests can be phoned, emailed or invited in person. You may want to do either a casual printed or electronic invitation as opposed to a verbal one if the venue is unknown to many of the guests so you can include the address and directions for everyone's convenience. Many hosts enjoy the convenience of evite or another electronic invitation as a perfectly acceptable option.

Rehearsal Ideas Made Simple

A rehearsal dinner is a way to thank wedding participants and to let everyone share in the excitement building toward the big day. It does not have to be fancy or elaborate to accomplish those things. It is much more important to plan something within your budget that matches the style of the bride, groom and attendees. Ultimately, there are no rules for a rehearsal dinner other than to throw a nice event and enjoy one another.

Was this page useful?
7 Wedding Rehearsal Dinner Ideas