What to Look for in a Rehearsal Dinner Venue
Before the walk down the aisle is the pre-game show. Rehearsal dinners are common, but it’s not something planners always give the attention they should. Where will you host the meal? Does it need to be elaborate? From the venue to the food choices to the time of day, learn what questions you should answer before the final run-through.
Location, Location, Location
Because the definition of a rehearsal dinner is the meal that takes place directly after the wedding rehearsal, it only makes sense to have it within close proximity of the actual wedding venue. You can choose to have it in the same venue (many wedding locales offer separate dining facilities just for this purpose,) or you can choose to go offsite with a more intimate restaurant or another eatery that is easy for everyone to get to.
Remember, the bridal party is often nervous about the big day and exhausted from all the travel, planning, and rehearsal. Make getting to the dinner a simple, effortless task that won’t take any additional energy out of them.
Make It Cozy
Even if you pick a ballroom out of the way of the grand foyer where the wedding will be held, work with the venue to create a more intimate space from larger rooms. This is often the first chance that the families of the happy couple will be meeting and chatting. The dinner is a chance to grow the beginnings of this hopefully warm relationships; too much distance can thwart that goal.
That’s often why people choose to pick private dining rooms of public restaurants or reserve the rooftop patio space from lofts and penthouses. They take the wedding party away from the noise and bustle of the rest of the world but are far from being sterile or stuffy. You want people to feel relaxed and the dinner to be more like something you would host at home.
While you’re at it, why not pass the peas? The new fad of family-style dining isn’t a fad, at all. In fact, many cultures embrace the theme of larger bowls and dishes of food that get shared between all members of the dinner party. Whether you’re sharing notes on the evening, or pouring from the same bottle of wine, shared food experiences are a natural way to bring about organic conversations and memories the families will cherish for years to come.
Some cuisines are more family-friendly than others. Small plates (such as tapas) or pasta make good choices. If you want to use a restaurant that’s not big on the shared food themes, order lots of appetizers and make a meal out of them. Many catering services are keen on the family-style dining trend and will be happy to help you choose the menu to suit your tastes.
If your wedding is a formal tuxedo affair, the rehearsal dinner should offer a different experience. While it can be tempting to share a theme across the events of the week, it's nicer for guests to feel like each individual event is its own. You don't want guests feeling like the rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, wedding, and reception are just small pieces of one, long continuous event. Break up the boredom and make every part special, by clearly defining a separate theme or style for each. Casual rehearsal dinners can be a welcome addition for people who will be dressed to the nines for the wedding later on.
Even if you hire a photographer for the wedding, consider securing services for a few hours on rehearsal night, as well. This can be the perfect time to snap photos of the less time-sensitive details, such as the exterior of the buildings, select guests, invitations, or the décor. The immediate family will usually be eager to get some photos of the rehearsal, as well, since the wedding day can feel rushed and won’t always be the best time to capture everyone on film.
If you can't get the venue or photographer to provide photo services during the rehearsal (or you don't want to splurge), ask a talented family friend to do their best to document the evening. These photos will be more casual while offering a warm look at the very beginnings of the couple's life together.
Time It Right
With many rehearsal dinners happening right before the wedding (and often the night before), it's important to allow for some breathing room. Making sure out-of-town party members arrive is key, but you should also let your guests have a little time to unwind and rest before the wedding date. If you do host the day before, consider keeping it early in the day. Let guests have a full night's sleep without forcing them to cut the get-to-know-you party short. Balancing the needs of the guests is just as important as making sure the lucky couple gets what they want. Without those precious party members, it's not really a wedding.
Let the Experts Do Their Job
Location, menu, timing, style…. It may seem like there's too much to consider when picking a rehearsal venue, but compared to the wedding details, this will be cake! If you feel that the task is too much to take on, don't hesitate to outsource to family, your maid of honor, or the event planner. Many of the locations that specialize in rehearsal dinners are happy to take much of the hard work off your plate! From décor to menu design, this is what they live for; allow those who excel to bring their A-game, so that you can put your energy in making sure you show up fresh for the big walk down the wedding aisle.