The Ultimate Guide To Planning An Unforgettable Rehearsal Dinner

Published by Claire Gould on

Article by our friends at Truly Experiences, with images by lovely Amanda Karen Photography

American couples have a tradition we’ve yet to really adopt in the UK: the wedding rehearsal dinner. We think it’s a lovely tradition to adopt – a way to introduce people in an informal setting, a distraction from your nerves the day before, and a lovely way of gathering up all your guests who’ve travelled from other towns and counties in readiness for your big day.

It’s called a rehearsal dinner because it follows the wedding rehearsal – another tradition we’ve yet to adopt from US weddings (and if I’m honest I think we can skip this one… I love the spontaneity of the wedding morning, and having a rehearsal kind of makes the whole thing feel like a performance or a school play!) Really the rehearsal dinner is just a foodie gathering before the big day – and that sounds like a lot of fun!

With friends and family travelling and often staying over the day before your wedding, it makes perfect sense to get together for a pre-celebration beforehand. It doesn’t need to be a stiff, formal sit-down affair – you can make it as fun and light-hearted as you wish! You can start your wedding celebrations off casually and create the perfect event for all of your friends and family to mingle, relax and enjoy each other’s company.

We have put together a list of some of the most creative pre-wedding dinner ideas we could think of to help you make your event truly unforgettable.

Consider Your Guest List

Guest lists and seating plans can be an absolute nightmare, regardless of whether you’re hosting a huge event or a micro wedding. But once you have it locked down, your life will become so much easier. Make sure that you are careful not to let your rehearsal dinner guest list go too far – not everyone attending the wedding needs to attend the rehearsal dinner!

At a minimum, make sure that your wedding party (including flower girls and pageboys), their spouses or dates and your and your fiancé’s immediate families are invited. Making sure that you have them all at your rehearsal dinner will allow you to create some truly special memories of your last night as a singleton.

Incorporate A Fun Bar

One of the newest cocktail trends is to serve up refreshments from a mobile bar. Your rehearsal dinner guests will absolutely love a drink that’s made on the spot by a professional bartender.

You and your fiancé can make it even more special by designing a signature cocktail to serve at the event. Just be sure to have an alcohol-free version on offer to cater to everyone’s varying needs. This will also keep hangovers to a minimum!

Use Your Destination As Inspiration

This one works well, especially if you’re having a wedding out of town. Find something interesting about the location and turn it into the focal point for your rehearsal dinner.

If you’re near the ocean or a river, consider charting a yacht or hiring a riverboat cruise. Hosting a cocktail party on board at sunset will make for a truly memorable experience. Not only will this provide you, your other half and all your guests with a special memory to cherish, but it also makes for a great way to experience a new place, so out-of-towners will absolutely love it.

Incorporate A Theme

Your rehearsal dinner serves as a form of representation of the two of you. There is no cookie-cutter or prototype as to what the perfect theme for your dinner should be, so why not make it something completely unique to the two of you?

Don’t hesitate to express yourselves through the theme that you choose. If you’re both fans of folk music and barbecues, why not theme it around that? Or if you had an amazing trip to Scotland that you wish you could share with everyone, why not host a ceilidh?

Hire A Band

For many couples, music has formed an important part of their relationship. You and your fiancé may have a special song or a special genre that defines a part, or all, of your relationship. When planning your rehearsal dinner, consider hiring a band to convey this.

Set the mood for the event with a local band and have them cover some of your favourite songs. They don’t need to take centre stage as you may want to save the dancing for your wedding day, but they’ll add a wonderful touch if they play background music.

Consider A Picnic

A picnic might not be the right idea for everyone, but if it is, go all out with it!

The day of your wedding is likely reserved for all sorts of formal dining, so why not take a more laid back approach to your rehearsal dinner? You can rent several picnic tables and use natural linens elevated with flowers to make it look more wedding-esque. Picnics also create the ideal opportunity for guests to circulate, so everyone can get to know each other a bit better before your big day.

Set Up A Fire Pit

If you’re hosting your rehearsal dinner at home or at your parents and you have a space with an outdoor area, why not build a fire pit. Fire pits always add an extra element of fun to any outdoor event. They give your guests something to talk about, and are an excellent spot to gather together and keep warm.

You could even provide s’mores for everyone to tuck into at the end of the night – one US tradition that has really made its way over here in recent years! S’mores are perfect for both kids and grownups!

Incorporate A Grazing Table

One of the best ways to bring guests together is with food. This is why grazing tables are becoming more and more popular at weddings and dinners. They look great in pictures and give your guests the opportunity to decide what they want to eat. This option is also ideal for reducing food waste, as your guests will only take whatever they want to snack on, instead of trying to finish massive courses of plated food.

Get Creative With The Food

You can really use the food to make your rehearsal dinner unforgettable. If you have a destination theme, then you can create a fun and immersive experience for your guests. For example, if your theme is Mediterranean, you can serve up some wholesome and delicious mezze platters. Or if you have an Italian influence, consider a build-your-own gelato bar with plenty of toppings for your guests to pick and choose from.

Craft An Interactive Experience

Give your guests something to do at your rehearsal dinner. A fun activity makes for an excellent ice breaker.

Incorporate a form of entertainment that is both special and unique – think along the lines of setting up a lounge area for guests to play old school board games, or hosting a mini-masterclass on chocolate making, cheese or wine tasting. Your guests will quickly find common ground while they enjoy a shared experience.

Watch The Clock

One of the biggest pain points of both weddings and rehearsal dinners is the fact that they often run over time or go on too late. This is the last thing you want before your big day!

Ahead of your event, set a schedule and get your wedding planner to stick to it stringently. This will help ensure that you and your guests have a wonderful time – and get a good night’s sleep before you tie the knot!

Claire Gould

Claire spends her days writing - either in beautiful calligraphy or online. She lives on the edge of the English Lake District only minutes away from the beach, where she loves to escape and unwind. Claire's calligraphy can be found at Claire launched the English Wedding Blog in November 2009 - it's been a top 10 UK wedding blog ever since, with a regional focus we hope you LOVE.


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read previous post:
A stunning Felicity Westmacott dress for Wendy & Nigel’s beach wedding, with Thomas Frost Photography

Let's never forget weddings are for everyone: while the wedding media's demographic tends one way, here at English Wedding we're...