Ring in your wedding weekend with engaging and creative wedding rehearsal dinner ideas. For most couples, after all, the wedding weekend begins with the rehearsal dinner.
In addition to carving out space and time to — well, rehearse — the rehearsal dinner is a fantastic time for family and close friends to connect before the hubbub of the big day ensues.
So What Do You at a Wedding Rehearsal Dinner?
Good Question. When it comes to planning a successful wedding rehearsal dinner, renowned event planner Keith Willard of Keith Willard Events tells us “to keep it simple.” He rightfully reminds us that guests may have traveled long distances to partake in the wedding celebration.
With that in mind, we’ve come up with some essential steps to hosting a two to three hour affair. Of course, a lot can happen in a few hours — including great food, memorable speeches, and personalized touches.
When it comes to planning a successful wedding rehearsal dinner, renowned event planner Keith Willard of Keith Willard Events tells us ‘to keep it simple.’
1. Select a Theme with Meaning for Your Wedding Rehearsal Dinner
Modern Art Deco
This glamorous rehearsal dinner at Contemporary Arts Center, planned by Blue Gardenia Weddings & Events, combined the groom’s love for modernity with the bride’s passion for Art Deco.
Nuage Designs contributed to the Art-Deco color Palette with gorgeous black, gold, and white linens.
A bubbly bar doubled as an escort card station, while the all-white floral décor by Bee’s Wedding and Event Designs created a classic and modern aesthetic.
We especially loved the etched-metal menu complete with a laser-cut paper jacket.
photographer: Arte De Vie | planner: Blue Gardenia Weddings & Events | florals: Bee’s Wedding and Event Designs | design & décor: Pret a Fete | venue: Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans | linen: Nuage Designs | rentals: Event Rental, LLC | calligraphy: Vcalligraphy | videographer: One Louder Productions | cake: Melissa’s Fine Pastries | lighting: Firefly Ambiance
The Great-Gatsby theme was on full display at this rehearsal dinner set at Tortoise Supper Club.
Event planner Becky Randle of Tortoise Supper Club created a 1920s throwback with glittering jewels, feathery centerpieces and plenty of candlelight.
Floral and décor company Ashland Addison Floral and Event Decor perfected the scene with clusters of white roses, orchids, calla lilies, and babies breath.
Party hosts took advantage of the long hallway at Westin Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas and rolled out the red carpet (literally and figuratively).
This South Asian rehearsal dinner wowed guests with a vibrant Bollywood theme.
Click to see how retro Bollywood posters, authentic Indian furniture, and a marquee photo op set the scene at this spacious event venue.
Boho-chic was the theme of the night at this tropical outdoor rehearsal dinner.
Sergio Sandoná Photography captured every detail and intimate moment. Woven chandeliers hung above every long table centered with whimsical and neutral floral centerpieces.
We love how this palette was able to be transformed from day to night with the perfect lighting design.
2. Opt for a Favorite Venue for Your Wedding Rehearsal Dinner
Yes, you read that right. When it comes to selecting a venue, keep it personal. Willard says, “Using a favorite location will help bond you to your guests.” For many, there’s no more favorite locale than their own home or city. After you peruse our favorite wedding rehearsal dinner ideas, check out some our top private dining spots as well as our favorite beautiful backyard weddings. After all, home is where the heart is.
For this Wisconsin couple, it was important to choose a venue that represented their deep connection to home.
They threw a spectacular rehearsal dinner, planned by LK Events, aboard the Lake Geneva Cruise Line. As guests celebrated the couple-to-be, they enjoyed views of lakeside estates built between 1870 and 1920.
As Willard tells us, “Try and find a place with a view so that even when the conversation goes quiet, there is something else to look at.”
photographer: Christy Tyler Photography | planner: LK Events | florals: Lilypots | venue: Lake Geneva Cruise Line | caterer: Gooseberries | entertainment: Bourbon Aristocracy | transportation: Jones Travel
Room with a View
The glass atrium-style architecture of the Greenhouse gave everyone plenty of talking points and reasons to celebrate this vibrant city — as well as the couple at hand.
RELATED: Best Wedding Centerpieces [Guide]
3. Welcome Guests with Eye-Catching Signage
We’re not through yet. The rehearsal dinner is the first opportunity for a couple to welcome their wedding guests, so do it with style. From neon glow to calligraphy, these rehearsal dinner ideas signal a good time had by all.
For this oceanside rehearsal dinner at Fleetwoods on Front Street, event planner Elements by K.H. & co. greeted guests with a neon “so glad you’re here” sign. The sign made the perfect backdrop for a bohemian lounge area.
Other welcoming details included a kid-friendly crafting station and signature cocktails for the adults.
Sunya’s Flowers & Plants added to the whimsical aesthetic with eclectic floral arrangements.
photographer: Tamiz Photography | coordination, design, décor rentals: Elements by K.H & co. | florals: Maui Floral & Sunya’s Flowers & Plants | venue, caterer, & bar: Fleetwoods on Front Street | vintage bottle rental: Rustic Maui Creations
In addition to a welcome sign, complete with framed photographs of the couple and their family, the party boasted a vibrant bar station decorated with the couple’s names.
Both signs, designed by LBrown Design & Paperie, matched the personalized cocktail straws and colorful ceiling décor.
4. Set the Scene with Florals at Your Wedding Rehearsal Dinner
Look: Floral décor is often the starting point for determining the overall aesthetic of any party. These floral-forward rehearsal dinner ideas capture the imagination with beauty and creativity.
Contrasting floral groupings added depth and texture to the industrial setting, while a single sputnik-style centerpiece drew all eyes to the bar.
Event planner Randy Schuster And Associates added mixed metals and lucite chairs to further emphasize the simple, yet elegant vibe.
Vibrant and Tropical
At this sea-side rehearsal dinner, planned by Posh Parties, the couple opted for a tropical theme.
Designer and florist Xquisite Events brought this theme to life with vibrant floral arrangements and pineapple vases.
Tea light in various colors and golden linens added additional color to this celebration at Eau Palm Beach.
Blue-and-white patterned linens perfectly accentuated the colorful candles and floral arrangements.
We especially love how a white wall decorated with red and yellow flowers made for a unique dining backdrop.
Classic and Refined
This rehearsal dinner at The Palmer House Hilton, featured lush fern arrangements by Erin McDonald Co. Engaging Events by Ali, Inc., created an elegant vibe with personalized signage and chic acrylic table-top décor.
Don’t miss the classic black linens provided by BBJ Linen.
photographer: Averyhouse | planner: Engaging Events by Ali, Inc | florals: Erin McDonald Co | venue: The Palmer House Hilton | invitations & print: Clementine Ink + Paper | rentals: BBJ Linen, Northern Décor, Inc., & Hall’s Rental Service, Inc | lighting: Frost Chicago | entertainment: Ron Bedal Orchestra | videographer: Poetic Productions
5. Get Creative with Décor at Your Rehearsal Dinner
In case you may be wondering, florals aren’t the only way to add beauty and color to your venue of choice. In fact, the rehearsal dinner is a great opportunity to think outside of the box and get creative. When it comes to wedding rehearsal dinner ideas, the sky’s the limit.
Ornate metal tableware and embroidered linen napkins added additional bursts of color at this stylish celebration.
photographer: Julie Pepin Photography | planner & design: Lindsay Piram Creative | florals: Tulipina | venue: Ojai Valley Inn | stationery: Gretchen Berry Design Co | custom chocolates: maggie louise confections | furnishings: Revelry Event Designers | tableware: Casa de Perrin | balloons: Balloonzilla
Uplighting by Evoga Events transformed this rehearsal dinner at the Mandarin Oriental, Miami into a wonderland of color.
Pops of vibrant colors combined with rustic elements (like these cork-filled vases) made this rehearsal dinner at Merryvale Winery a photographer’s dream.
Florist Plan Decor completed the look with colorful floral décor.
6. Honor Your Guests with Personalized Touches
Wedding rehearsal dinners are often intimate affairs, attended by the couple’s family and closest friends. At PartySlate, we know that personal touches go a long way in creating a meaningful celebration that honors your most important guests. These wedding rehearsal dinner ideas are guaranteed to make your guests feel extra special.
For this rehearsal dinner, planned by A Good Affair, Wedding & Event Production, each table setting was distinguished with a guest’s name spelled out in gold lettering.
Guests knew exactly where to sit as they gathered to enjoy catering from Made By Meg and toast to the happy couple.
Xquisite Events contributed to the boho theme with colorful floral arrangements and marbled linens.
Click to see how seashell-style plates made for a photo-worthy dining experience.
photographer: Chris Joriann Photography | event planning & design: Something Fabulous | florals, linen, lounge, & chairs: Xquisite Events | venue: Eau Palm Beach | calligraphy: Painted Palettes | entertainment: South Florida’s Heatwave Band
RELATED: 20 Wedding Trends for 2020
7. Dress Up the Table with Chic Linens
But wait, there’s more. A wedding rehearsal dinner, as the name implies, means wining and dining. With that in mind, we love stylish linens as much as a delicious meal. From paisley to tie-dye, these wedding rehearsal dinner ideas will elevate your tablescape.
Polka-dotted napkins, wicker votives, and black dinner plates completed the sophisticated look.
With Prosciutto di Parma on menu, the celebration took dining to the next level.
Guests enjoyed award-winning cuisine and passed hors d’oeuvres throughout the evening.
Tie-Dye with Style
The venue’s backdrop of wine barrels made for a picture-perfect scene.
photographer: The Edges Wed | planner: Cole Drake Events | florals: M Design | venue: Black Swan Lake | caterer: Elaine Bell Catering | linen: La Tavola Fine Linen | rentals: Encore Events | chair rentals: Bright Event Rentals
Rustic and Charming
Printed linens stole the show at this rehearsal dinner set at Montage Palmetto Bluff.
Ornate glass votives, crimson dinner plates, and pink roses created an aura of romance during the dining experience.
We especially love how the venue’s exposed-wooden beams and brick fireplace added to the rustic aesthetic.
8. Experiment with Inventive Catering Displays
It’s true, cooking is an art form. So why not display your catering in an artistic fashion that accommodates mobility? Willard says “Stations or buffets allow people to meander and not be tied down to a seat.” He also tells us, “Comfort food is always appropriate, and make sure you have vegetarian options available.” Keep reading for engaging (and delicious) wedding rehearsal dinner ideas.
In Full Swing
Elegant food carts and swings doubling as food trays (yes, you read that right) enticed guests to take out their cameras before indulging in the delicious cuisine.
photographer: Nicee Martin Photo & Design | planner, décor, & lighting: Kesh Events | venue: Chez | caterer: Jewell Events Catering | linen: Tailored Elements & Delma Zia | stationery: Parchment By Dami
The Geneva Inn brought their award-winning (and artistically-plated) cuisine to this intimate rehearsal dinner.
Florist Willow Design graced the banquet table with white and blush roses.
Ivory-tapered candles and gold-geometric votives added additional elegance.
photographer: Krysta Holden Photography | design & florals: Willow Design | venue: The Geneva Inn | rentals: Collins Custom Creations
This rehearsal dinner at Pacific Standard Time wowed guests with exceptional cuisine cooked in two onsite-hearth ovens.
The venue’s breeze walls and abundant greenery were the perfect backdrop for the geometric-copper votives, minimalist floral arrangements, and deep-blue accents.
9. Give Your Rehearsal Dinner Guests Plenty of Reasons to Toast
We haven’t even started. Your guests will want to toast to your happiness, so make sure to include a bar station. Besides, as Mark Twain once said, “Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.”
We love how this tented rehearsal dinner at Winslow Estate, planned by Daylynn Designs, created the perfect photo op with an Airstream bar by Hive Events.
This bar-on-wheels also served as a chic lounge area for relaxing guests.
The trailer’s chalk backdrop allowed the couple to display their names along with on-theme hand-drawn seashells.
photographer: Kelsie Corbett Photography | planner & design: Daylynn Designs | florals & flower crown station: Whitemoss and Twigs | venue: Winslow Estate | tent rental & lighting: Undercover Tent | tables & chairs: True North Event Rental | airstream bar: Hive Events | mini ice cream sandwiches: Ellie’s Providence | stationery: Modern Vintage | caterer: Clambakes, Etc. | tabletop rentals: PEAK Event Services | transportation: Cape Destinations
In between delicious bites and beverages, guests had the opportunity to watch photos of the couple projected on a spacious-white wall.
Twinkling string lights and towering palm trees made for simple, yet elegant décor.
Wine was in abundance at this rehearsal dinner set at the elegant City Winery Chicago.
Guests enjoyed cocktails in the outdoor Wine Garden before moving into the main dining room for the evening.
Indoors, guests enjoyed the comforts of a majestic brick fireplace.
Shelves of wine wrapped around a curving staircase for dramatic (and photographic) décor.
10. Get in the Celebratory Mood with Music
Look: No celebration is complete without music. Whether you want to get guests out on the dance floor or simply serenade them while they dine, music infuses a party with energy. These wedding rehearsal dinner ideas are bound to get the party started.
The venue’s vibrant modern art served as a gorgeous backdrop for playing the hottest tunes.
With walls of artwork on display, event planner John Gandy Events kept the décor chic and simple — opting for minimalist floral arrangements and lucite seating.
This rehearsal dinner at 620 Loft & Garden was beyond romantic.
11. Include Meaningful Speeches at Your Wedding Rehearsal Dinner
It’s true, speeches are a great way to bring the entire room together for a magical moment. Willard offers great advice on how to give a winning rehearsal dinner speech. “I typically say a great speech is two minutes or less. The opening statement should be something that everyone can relate to. A great speech starts with a heartwarming story, a mention of something heartfelt, followed by something funny, then a personal statement regarding the love between the couple, and then the toast.”
Raise a Toast
We love how the table formation at this rehearsal dinner at Scott Conant Culinary Suite, planned by NYLUX Events, allowed for an engaging moment.
The abstract artwork and fuchsia flowers by Carlos Rivas Design & Production were the perfect décor.
12. Entertain with a Unique Activity Station
Like with any celebration, activity stations are a great way for guests to have fun and make new friends. Willard tells us, “Remember that most of your guests will not know each other, so finding opportunities to interact will help your guests become more comfortable for the following day.” Keep reading to see discover unique wedding rehearsal dinner ideas.
Anticipate the Magic
Designer Sterling Fell got guests excited for the future (aka the next day) with gorgeous succulents and purple floral arrangements.
A chalk-board word search from Chalk Shop and giant Jenga set gave guests an opportunity to meet new friends.
Lee James Floral added additional joy to the scene with warm-hued flower cascades.
photographer: Victoria Angela Photography | planner: Whitney Carillon Events | florals: Lee James Floral Design | venue: The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes | invitations & print: Chalk Shop | rentals: Hello Florida Destination Management | videographer: LUXECINE
13. Spread the Love with Heartfelt Party Favors
What better way to thank your guests (and get them ready for the weekend ahead) than with a care package? Spread the love with these heartfelt rehearsal dinner ideas.
As guest opened their packages, they found far more than just boxed water, dark chocolate, and other edible treats.
Inside the lining of the box was a welcome message from the couple — a harbinger of all the love to come over the weekend.
photographer: Di Natale Photography | planning & design: The Lynden Lane Company | design & styling: Karson Butler Events | venue: Parker Palm Springs | furniture: Hire Elegance & Folklore Rentals | lighting: Amber Event Production | linen: La Tavola Fine Linen | paper goods: Katie O’Brien | invite production & design: Swell Press | napkins: For Your Party | gift boxes: Madovar Luxury Gift Boxes | drink stirrers: The Bleu Dahlia
Get the Party Started
Event planner Alyson Fox, Levine Fox Events delighted guests at Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village with take-home (and personalized) whiskey bottles.
The sweet (and gorgeous) signage added to the heart-warming gesture.
photos courtesy of & planner: Alyson Fox, Levine Fox Events| florals: Marks Garden& Nancy Kaye | décor: Revelry Event Designers| venue: Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village| rentals: Tacer & The Ark | linen: Resource One Linens | print: Sloane Harmony Design| entertainment: The David Aldo | lighting: Images By Lighting| audio: Clearwave ATV
14. Create an Unforgettable Wedding Rehearsal Dinner Moment
Between greeting guests and going through the usual pre-wedding rituals, the bridal couple has plenty of activities to keep busy. With that in mind, we love the idea of carving out time in the celebration for a heartfelt moment.
Make a Wish
Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, Mexico
This destination rehearsal dinner at Esperanza, An Auberge Resort gave everyone the perfect chance to mindfully celebrate the joy of marriage.
Event planner LK Events provided wish lanterns for guests to write down their hopes for the couple.
As the sun began to set, everyone released their lanterns into the evening sky.
photographer: Chris + Lynn Photographers | planner: LK Events | décor, florals, lighting, & rental furniture: ELENA DAMY | venue: Esperanza, An Auberge Resort | videographer: I Do Films | entertainment: DJ Spider and DJ Chris Kennedy
See Any Rehearsal Dinner Ideas That You Love?
It gets better. PartySlate can help you find your dream team of vendors to bring these ideas to life. Click here to discover photographers, caterers, décor teams, and more. You can further narrow down your search by location and services.
You can also find more wedding rehearsal dinner ideas here.
Who Comes to the Rehearsal Dinner for a Wedding?
While the final guest list is always up to you, we recommend extending an invitation to immediate family, the wedding party, and any people participating in the wedding ceremony or reception — along with any spouses.
If your budget allows for it, you may also want to include close friends and out-of-town guests.
Remember, the rehearsal dinner is both an opportunity to spend time quality with loved ones and thank them for their support and participation in the wedding itself.
In the end, you want to feel happy with your guest list. After all, your wedding day is likely to be one of the busiest (and most momentous) days of your life. Let the wedding rehearsal dinner be at time to slow down and bask in all the love and support.
Do Out of Town Guests Attend the Rehearsal Dinner?
Traditionally, couples have often extended rehearsal dinner invitations to out-of-town guests as a way of thanking them for the time and expense that comes with traveling.
However, you may prefer to have an intimate wedding rehearsal dinner that only includes immediate family and close friends. In that case, there are many other ways to make your out-of-town guests feel special and appreciated.
One of our favorite ways to show appreciation includes providing out-of-town guests with welcome gifts or party favors. It also just happens to be one of our favorite wedding rehearsal dinner ideas.
You can also use PartySlate’s image search for more gifting inspiration. You’ll find everything from monogrammed swag to personalized party favors.
How Long Does a Rehearsal Dinner Last?
A rehearsal dinner often begins with a run-through of the actual wedding ceremony. We recommend scheduling this “rehearsal” after working hours for the convenience of your guests.
The rehearsal usually takes 30 – 45 minutes. After that, the festivities begin. Many couples choose to arrange transportation from the ceremony venue to the rehearsal dinner venue. PartySlate can help you find top transportation services in your area.
The wedding rehearsal dinner can last anywhere from an hour to several hours. This will depend on how much time you decide to allocate for dining and additional activities. For example, you may want to include time for a cocktail hour, speeches, and entertainment.
Just remember, you want to make sure you get a good night’s rest for the wedding day. While we hate for any party to end (especially one with so many great wedding rehearsal dinner ideas), we also suggest ending the dinner at a decent hour. After all, the next big celebration is only a night’s sleep away.