Rehearsal Dinner Party Ideas
Whether you rent out a four-star restaurant or order in pizza is up to you — a rehearsal dinner can be anything from a simple picnic in the park to an elaborate themed feast. Ditto for decorations. Go all out to match your theme (the honeymoon destination may spark inspiration) or save the big guns for the wedding and stick to a few vases of daisies — your call.
No matter what your plan, a photo board and/or slide show is a touching touch. Include shots of the couple, of course, but consider adding other photos as well, such as wedding pictures of the couple's parents and siblings (assuming they're still married, natch), pictures of the bride and groom as children and snapshots of them with friends and family in attendance. For a photo board, go to an office supply store, get a presentation display board and affix prints right to it. For a slide show, scan the photos and put them all in a digital album online. Then do a Web search for "audio-visual equipment rental" and your city to rent a projector (which will typically set you back about $125/day), hook the projector up to a laptop, find a blank wall, dim the lights and give the future Mr. and Mrs. their moment in the silver screen spotlight!
The groom's parents traditionally host the rehearsal dinner, though the couple, the bride's parents or both sets of parents may host it instead. Who scores an invite? Some people include out-of-town guests and some the entire wedding guest list, but the only folks who must be invited are the couple's immediate family, the officiant and members of the wedding party (the ring bearer and flower girl are optional, but you should invite their parents), along with their partners.
The party itself can be as fancy or casual as you like. Many aim for an evening that contrasts with the wedding — for example, a clambake rehearsal dinner and a black-tie reception — to make both events stand out. The only rule is that the rehearsal dinner shouldn't be more formal than the reception.
Besides feeding your nearest and dearest after all that work rehearsing the ceremony, the primary purpose of the rehearsal dinner is to encourage the couple's families and attendants to get to know each other. To that end, a cocktail hour with lots of mingling is a marvelous way to kick off the merry-making. That's also a perfect time for the couple to hand out gifts to attendants and parents to thank them for their support.
Just before the main course is served, make sure everyone's glass is filled for toasts. Traditionally, the evening's host (usually the groom's dad) goes first, welcoming the guests and congratulating the couple. The bride's father is customarily next, followed by members of the wedding party and/or anyone else who wants to say a few words. The bride and groom may also toast each other as well as their parents and attendants and thank everyone for coming.
The food depends on the type of rehearsal dinner you're planning — anything from caviar to chimichangas may be appropriate. If you're planning a theme, use that as a cue for what to serve. If not, consider asking the couple to name their favorite dishes and include some of those on the menu.
And don't forget dessert. Anything goes for the rehearsal dinner, but some couples opt to serve a groom's cake — typically a chocolate and/or liqueur-soaked flavor in contrast to the traditional white wedding cake (though it can certainly be any flavor the groom chooses).
Since toasts are traditionally part of the rehearsal dinner festivities, you'll probably want to have alcoholic as well as nonalcoholic bevvies on hand. However, because there's a big day tomorrow and probably more drinking on tap for tomorrow night, keeping the libations on the lighter side may be advised.
This Champagne punch is as effervescent as the occasion. Make a smaller batch without the Champagne for those who prefer not to imbibe.
Champagne Punch (serves 24)
- 1 1/2 cups Cointreau or Triple Sec
- 2 cups brandy
- 4 cups pineapple juice
- 1 2-liter chilled bottle ginger ale or club soda
- 4 750-milliliter chilled bottles Champagne
Combine the first three ingredients and chill until cold. Just before serving, pour the mixture into a punch bowl and add the ginger ale and Champagne.