The rehearsal dinner is a pre-wedding event that is usually reserved for those closest to you. And while many couples still opt to do a dinner, others are choosing alternative rehearsal dinner ideas that get their loved ones in the mood for a wedding weekend. Your love story is unique, so why shouldn’t your festivities be? If you’re looking for inspiration, we’ve assembled a list of possible themes, menu items, fun decor, and more so your wedding weekend and rehearsal dinner theme is unforgettable from the moments guests arrive.
“Sweet silverware soirée”, designed by Rebecca Durflinger
Wedding rehearsal dinner ideas like this one are relatively easy to execute and a lot of fun, especially if you’re getting married close to home. For the menu, grill up some hot dogs and hamburgers and something for your vegetarian friends! Consider making stations for condiments, sides like potato salad, chips, nuts, and one for drinks. Decorate the tables with checkered or colored tablecloths, sunflowers, lanterns, or pennants, and at each table setting put plastic silverware and napkins in a paper bag with your wedding monogram on it.
Hang lights from the trees and offer sparklers to guests. Put lawn games out in the backyard, like cornhole, horseshoes, and giant Jenga for some memorable laughter and bonding. When the sun goes down, present carts with all the fixings for s’mores and turn on a couple of fire pits for people to make their own dessert, campfire-style. The dress code can be casual.
Private Yacht Charter
Go on a sunset sail that locals and out-of-towners alike will love for the beautiful views and the adventurous nautical theme. Talk to the charter company about whether you have the option of doing a buffet or sit-down rehearsal dinner option and what’s best for your group size. Either way, be sure to incorporate some of the seafood greats, like clam chowder, lobster, crab cakes, and oysters. For those who aren’t as crazy about seafood, offer delicious chicken, steak, and a vegetarian salad option. And make sure to have plenty of champagne, beer, and a specialty cocktail on hand.
Nautical rehearsal dinner decor is easy to make chic, and you can consider using nautical knot card holders to display each table number. Adorn the center of the tables with minimalist flower arrangements or nautical touches like rope, driftwood, or navigational instruments. For added fun, you can place a beer koozie at each place setting that says “We’re Tying The Knot'' and a stem charm anchor (so the guest can choose depending on what they’re drinking!) for a playful twist and leave a pair of binoculars at each table for sunset whale watching.
The bride and groom should be given captain’s hats upon arrival. Attire can range from cocktail attire to silly dress-up-like-a-pirate-theme. It’s up to you!
Wine Tasting/Beer Tasting
If you love everything red, white, or hoppy, then rent out a private room at a winery or brewery for a very fun rehearsal dinner idea. If you go the winery route, discuss the tastings with the sommelier and hire some catered food to be served that will complement it. A full sit-down dinner isn’t required as it’s likely that with wine flowing, people will want to be mingling. Hors d’oeuvres like crudités, canapés, bruschetta, goat cheese stuffed mushrooms, mini sliders, and anything else gourmet yet hearty are perfect for this type of pre-wedding soiree.
A benefit of hosting at a winery or brewery is that chances are it’s pretty and the natural scenery abounds, so a lot of decorating won’t be necessary. In wine tasting rooms there are typically beautiful barrels and a clear design aesthetic. You may want to bring in the color scheme of your wedding, or consider using a lot of greenery for the tables and some burgundy (think: merlot) roses or peonies on every table. Pass out a monogrammed wine glass to every guest. If you decide to do a seating chart, use wine corks to hold escort cards. Attire is completely up to the wedding couple, but if you’re going the route of typical wine tasting attire, women would be advised to wear long dresses and hats and men to wear jeans or slacks with a button-down.
Love and tacos, are there two better things? This affordable rehearsal dinner idea is perfect for a backyard or park fiesta. Set up a table with taco shells and creative ingredients such as steak, baja fish, shredded chicken, poblano peppers, mushrooms, and roasted corn. Offer an array of toppings like bacon, roasted corn, guacamole, creative salsas, and anything else you love to have on your tacos! As for drinks, margaritas are a must when it comes to Mexican food, but feel free to put your own spin on it by creating a margarita that matches your decor; say, a peach or pineapple margarita.
For a fresh take on a taco bar fiesta, use rehearsal dinner decor like papel picado, table runners in white and gold pineapples at every table, and bleached or colored palm leaves for a fresh look. Leave a maraca at every place setting that is personalized to say “taco bout love” or includes your wedding monogram. Include a fun game for everyone by including a piñata, perhaps in the shape of the letter of your new last name, or a diamond ring. Ask the women to wear colorful, casual dresses and the men to wear colorful shirts. Have sombreros available for those who want to don one after a margarita or two.
One of the more traditional rehearsal dinner ideas can also be done on a budget. Choose your favorite restaurant and go simple by making a reservation for your group rather than doing a partial or full buyout of the private space. Work with the restaurant to come up with a pre-fixe menu and a couple of drink options (note a limit on the number of drinks) or choose a variety of dishes for the group and have that served family-style. Guests can then order their drinks individually. If the restaurant will let you, print the menus with the date, the bride and groom’s name, and perhaps your monogram.
If you’re opting for one long table, spread eucalyptus or other greenery down the center. Since flowers can get expensive, choose to do smaller arrangements of baby’s breath along the table(s) or review other ideas listed in our complete flower guide. Using candles as decor is inexpensive and sets a pleasant mood, too. An extra touch is colorful cloth napkins that tie in well with the silverware and tableware. It may be a color from your wedding theme! Set a chalkboard sign up to welcome guests, which is easy and fun and may be something you are already using for the wedding. Add in fun extras, like a card that says “5 Things Her Side Should Know About Him” on one side and “5 Things His Side Should Know About Her” on the other, as well as name tags for each guest stating how you know the bride and groom.
As far as rehearsal dinner themes go, a New England-inspired clambake at the beach or in a backyard is a creative way to get together with your loved ones before the big day. Cook up lobsters, clams, corn, and potatoes in a rock-lined pit, or have a professional chef come do it for the group. Some good choices for dessert include watermelon slices, strawberry shortcake, or blueberry cobbler. Set up a buffet-style table with cooked items as well as oysters, chips and salsas, and any toppings you’d like to have on hand. For beverages, beer and wine are a good bet.
For a sophisticated clambake theme, draw on the colors of the ocean and beach, using blue linen tablecloths and tan table runners. Feature rustic newspaper or kraft paper with lanterns and scattered seashells for an organic feel. If you’ll have a variety of seating areas, use pillows in different shades of blue. When everyone has eaten, play a fun game such as personalized bingo or bride and groom trivia. As for what to wear: it really depends on the season. If you’re going to be on the beach in the fall, advise people to bring a warm jacket. If it will be the middle of summer, you want to even advise maxi dresses with a swimsuit. This can be as dressed up or casual as you’d like to make it. You could even ask your guests to wear all white for a chic look.
This is one of the more affordable wedding rehearsal dinner ideas and it’s a fun, unique way to calm pre-wedding nerves. Reserve the appropriate number of lanes to accommodate your guests at a bowling alley and set up space for hot dogs, chips, nachos, and popcorn. Set up a tab at the bar for drinks and give each guest a designated number of drink tickets to keep costs down. For dessert, have bowling pin-shaped cookies or cupcakes with little sugar bowling pins and balls on top.
A bowling alley rehearsal dinner doesn’t require much decoration, but including a few touches always goes a long way. Consider going a retro route with navy blue, green, and red colors. Put out a chalkboard sign by your lanes that reads “Bowling for Love” with your names under it so your guests know where to go when they arrive. Create napkins that have your first names on them and your wedding date, use colorful recyclable plates, napkins, and utensils, and place a bowling pin prominently so that attendees can sign it for the happy couple. Bring matching bowling shirts for them that say “Mr.” and “Mrs.” for some great photo opportunities! If you like the idea of going retro, have everyone wear their knee socks and shorts and have one of the most memorable nights. Or just call for a generally casual dress code and everyone is sure to have fun.
Instead of getting dressed up and glam, get down to earth–literally! Invite your wedding rehearsal dinner guests to the beach, where they can abandon their shoes and take in the fresh air. Keep dinner light and easy, with fruit and veggie skewers, different pastas, potato salads, sandwiches, and grilled burgers. Offer select wine, beer, and non-alcoholic options.
When it comes to setting up rehearsal dinner themes like this one, you can play off the beauty the beach already has to offer. Use pallet wood crates as low tables in the sand with boho rugs, pillows, candles, and a sunset-palette table runner. Set up a couple of different stations so that after the meal there are lounge spots with ottomans, blankets, and umbrellas. As everyone is lounging and the sun is going down, ask each rehearsal dinner guest to share a memorable story about the bride or groom. Depending on the weather, make sure your attire request will allow your guests to be comfortable. Regardless, we can probably agree that all outfits should include one of two things: flip flops or bare feet!
Flip your wedding rehearsal dinner on its head and have it in the morning! Accepted rehearsal dinner planning etiquette simply states that the party should occur sometime during the wedding weekend before the actual ceremony. Plan it for the morning before or the morning of the wedding and, instead of dinner, do a rehearsal garden brunch. Delight in sweet menu options like gourmet donuts and cinnamon rolls, and some savory ones too, like mini quiches and bagels with a variety of cream cheeses. And of course, it wouldn’t be brunch without mimosas!
Make the garden brunch theme truly original by displaying the food creatively. Consider hanging macrame baskets full of donuts and other pastries from a tree branch (easily within reach for the average adult) and placing a table with bagels, cream cheeses, and other savory items to the side of it. An adjacent table can serve as a mimosa bar with several different fresh squeezed juices! Use colored plates, napkins, and tablecloths that share the same scheme as your garden theme. This will provide a cheery, modern vibe. Ask guests to wear brunch attire.
Food Truck Sampler
If you’re looking for rehearsal dinner ideas that are clever and unique, this one could be for you! Find a great outdoor setting and hire one or two food trucks and a drink cart to serve treats to attendees. As you consider the food you want on the menu, also consider the aesthetic of the trucks for any photographs and the general ambiance of the evening. Once you decide on the restaurants and secure the food trucks, finalize the menu. You’ll want to have the menu displayed for guests to easily see.
Keep it funky and chic and set up a variety of table sizes and chair types. None of it needs to match unless you want it to! Set up a lounge area with a couch and a few seats with a coffee table. Make it an open, laid-back, and casual environment. String lights above, and string colorful paper flags and streamers. If you want to really get into it, ask a band to come play. Make it as fun and playful as possible!
Contact your favorite local pizzeria and rent it out for the night of your rehearsal. The restaurant will have ingredients out for guests to make their own pizzas and then they’ll be baked in the woodfire oven. Have the restaurant bring out buffet-style salads for guests to help themselves until the pizza is ready. Serve wine and beer, along with the non-alcoholic drinks of your choice.
Use red and white checkered tablecloths and white plates. For decor, white flowers in small vases will be darling! At each place setting, have a card that says “thank you for being a pizza our wedding.” Have the bride and groom wear chef hats as they make pizzas and ask guests to dress up in cocktail attire for fun!
Pancake and Waffle Breakfast
Full-on, unapologetic breakfast? We’ll rank that as one of the top rehearsal dinner ideas. This theme idea is fun for everyone, because most adults don’t get to eat like a kid every morning and it is a treat to indulge while celebrating people you love. You can make interactive food stations for the pancakes and waffles, with lots of toppings including local fruits and different types of syrups. You can serve mimosas here but also place an emphasis on a coffee and espresso bar.
This theme is great for a tropical wedding destination where fresh fruits and bright sunny mornings abound. Instead of using paper cards as labels for “pancakes,” “waffles” and to identify toppings, try to use native leaves and have someone with exceptional handwriting use a gold calligraphy pen to write on those instead. Long tables with informal seating can be set up with bright flowers down the center in vases that are a variety of heights. At each place setting, guests will find seashell mimosa glass charms. For attire, ask everyone to wear a tropical shirt or dress to the event.