In the midst of planning your wedding festivities, you’ll likely be including another event: the wedding rehearsal dinner. This time-honored tradition is a beloved way to celebrate the closest family and friends who are involved in your wedding—and chances are, you want it to be special.
A wedding rehearsal dinner typically takes place the evening before the wedding, right after the wedding rehearsal, and includes the couple’s parents and close family, the wedding party and their guests, and out-of-town or other special guests. Traditionally the groom’s family pays for the rehearsal dinner, but many couples opt to host it themselves and include it in their wedding budget.
As you brainstorm what kind of event you want your rehearsal dinner to be—such as a formal dinner, a themed party, or a casual evening of drinks and hors d’oeuvres—keep in mind potential venues, decorations, activities, and rehearsal dinner invitations.
To help you get started, we’ve pulled together 15 rehearsal dinner ideas that cover a range of fun, popular, and modern possibilities.
Food-themed rehearsal dinners
Build the evening around specific meals or cuisines with one of these delectable ideas.
1. The couple’s favorite restaurant
Sometimes all it takes to knock it out of the park is a classic dinner experience at the couple’s favorite restaurant. For destination weddings, find a local restaurant with a private dining room that serves their favorite cuisine—anything from sushi to Persian food. Choose a stately and simple rehearsal dinner invitation, and decorate with subtle metallic touches like gold vases or silver place cards printed with an anecdote explaining the significance of the restaurant for the couple. Of course, remember to ask your guests their dietary requirements and preferences, which you can do right along with the invitation when you choose Paperless Post.
2. Fanciful French feast
Bring the love story to life with a romantic dinner scene. Choose an intimate French restaurant or find a small banquet hall—or even your home—that you can decorate with twinkle lights, candles, and dreamy white floral centerpieces. Vintage lanterns, ivory linens, and porcelain table settings complete the look. Our Plume d’Oie invitation harnesses the elegant French aesthetic to set the vibe for your event. Select a menu around seasonal French flavors, like fresh herb salads, roasted chicken breast with apricot, and, of course, a finale of fromage.
Whatever you choose for the menu, make sure it’s easy to eat—messy menu items and first-time introductions are never a great pairing.
3. Mexican food and margaritas
Mexican cuisine can accommodate a range of diet needs, from gluten-free to vegetarian—and who doesn’t enjoy Mexican food? Pick a vibrant Mexican restaurant with a private dining room or outdoor courtyard, or decorate a banquet hall or other venue with mini-succulent centerpieces and colorful papel picado banners that match your invitations.
Start the party with chips, guacamole, and homemade salsa. Allow guests to order off the menu, or serve a buffet-style dinner with enchiladas, fajitas, tacos, beans, and rice. Order margaritas in pitchers, or set up a DIY margarita bar. Make it an epic fiesta, and hire a mariachi band to serenade the party during dinner.
4. Indian banquet
The aromas of coriander, cumin, and saffron combined with decor in opulent jewel tones will dazzle the senses of your entire party. Many Indian and Pakistani restaurants feature banquet halls perfect for a wedding rehearsal dinner. Incorporate saree textiles, gold table settings, and deep red and pink flower arrangements to match your themed invitations.
Serve all of your favorite Indian dishes, like biryani, butter chicken, samosas, naan—and gulab jamun for dessert. If you’re not already having a traditional South Asian wedding, consider hiring a henna (mehndi) artist to draw intricate designs on guests’ hands after dinner.
5. Clambake or seafood feast
If your wedding destination is near the sea, consider hosting your dinner at a waterfront restaurant or seaside outdoor pavilion. Choose decor and dinner invitations that emphasize the nautical theme and create a coastal atmosphere. This works especially well if your wedding will have a different style entirely as you probably want each night to be memorable in its own way.
Design a menu to showcase fresh seafood and traditional clambake fare, like steamed clams, grilled fish and shrimp, clam chowder, and coleslaw. Include some vegetarian or non-seafood choices for guests who have allergies or dietary restrictions. Serve a signature cocktail with a salted rim or seaweed garnish for that oceanic touch.
Unique and fun rehearsal dinner ideas
Wedding rehearsal dinners can be quite the party, too. Many who host destination weddings opt to host a welcome party where all guests are invited instead of the traditional rehearsal dinner. It shows appreciation and allows you extra time to bond with all of your friends and family who traveled to celebrate with you. Here are some fun rehearsal dinner ideas to keep the smiles going all night.
6. Brewery tour
If the happy couple’s circle enjoys good beer and a casual atmosphere, hold the rehearsal dinner at a local brewery that has an event space or spacious taproom. Choose an invitation for the rehearsal dinner that you can personalize with a photo of the couple making a toast with their favorite brew.
Keep the menu casual—opt for classic brewery fare like beer-battered fish and chips, artisanal pizza, or sliders. Arrange for a guided brewery tour or beer tasting before dinner.
7. Drinks on a rooftop bar
For a trendy, upscale rehearsal dinner, find a swanky rooftop bar or lounge with panoramic city views. Decorate the space with gold confetti balloons and feathery flower centerpieces.
Liven up your libations by creating one or two signature cocktails, and serve a buffet of hors d’oeuvres or tapas-style dishes. Hire a photographer to take pictures of guests against the skyline backdrop, or book a mixology session before everyone starts raising their drinks to toast the couple.
8. Garden party
A rehearsal dinner doesn’t have to take place at dinnertime. Especially if the wedding is formal, an afternoon garden party in the backyard can offer a relaxed and casual change of pace for everyone. Choose garden-themed decor like floral arrangements, bohemian garlands, and paper lanterns, and pick a floral invitation.
Set up food and drink stations or a buffet featuring fresh salads, grilled fish or chicken, or tea sandwiches and pastries—or opt for a Middle Eastern feast with hummus, falafel, kabobs, and tabouleh. Set up lawn games, or install a small dance floor for after-dinner entertainment.
9. Farmhouse setting
Make the night before the wedding a cozy, romantic affair at a charming farmhouse or barn venue. Create a casual, relaxed vibe with vintage accents like checkered tablecloths and wildflowers in mason jars. Our “Heart Setting” invitation captures the rustic simplicity of a countryside dinner.
Fill mini picnic baskets with a baked treat and a personalized note for cute rehearsal dinner favors.
Enjoy a true farm-to-table smorgasbord with locally sourced ingredients, homestyle dishes, and comfort foods. Jazz it up with a DIY dessert table—think dip-your-own-doughnuts or s’mores around a fire. Delight your guests with a hayride, or play the newlywed game, but with the couple’s parents in the hot seat for some lighthearted entertainment.
10. Evening at the winery
For a fun excursion, consider a vineyard or winery. Choose a destination that’s nearby—especially if guests have already traveled for the wedding. Include a Travel Block on your Paperless Post invitation to keep guests in the loop about transportation details.
Set the tone with centerpieces featuring candles and wine bottles with olive branches. You can’t go wrong pairing your wine with a selection of cheeses or a charcuterie board. Order or cater in small, in-season appetizers and small bites. Make the event extra memorable with a vineyard tour or a wine trivia-and-tasting game.
11. Enchanting brunch
If your wedding rehearsal is early in the day, follow it up with a delicious brunch. Look for a cozy café or bakery with a private patio. Make pretty centerpieces from vintage teapots filled with flowers, or tie up a few herbal tea blends in twine, and tuck them into vintage teacups for lovely favors. Choose from our wedding brunch invitations to get your guests’ undivided attention.
Offer an exquisite menu of pastries, fresh fruits, omelets, and French toast. A mimosa or specialty coffee bar will be an instant hit with the guests.
Casual rehearsal dinner ideas
The wedding rehearsal dinner is a great chance to kick back and relax before the wedding unfolds. For a laid-back, casual evening with friends, try one of these ideas.
12. Rehearsal picnic
Leave the formal dinner and fancy table settings for the wedding, and host a rehearsal picnic dinner at a picturesque park or in the backyard. Provide large floor pillows and picnic blankets for lounge-worthy seating, and string paper lanterns, Edison bulbs, and colorful garlands overhead.
Serve individual picnic feasts packed in picnic baskets—include pretty paper plates that match the picnic vibe, and serve cold beer or chilled wine. Set up lawn games, or build a fire and supply the fixings for s’mores.
13. Park or beachside cookout
Combine the serenity of nature and a way to cook up hamburgers and hotdogs or ribs and chops, and you have a winning recipe for an enjoyable, laid-back rehearsal dinner. Have a variety of meats and vegetarian options ready to grill, along with everyone’s favorite barbecue sides, like corn on the cob, coleslaw, rolls, salads, and cool drinks. Don’t want to man the grill? Hire a catering service to bring the goods to the party. Provide blankets or beach chairs, and hand out sparklers for after-dark festivities. Welcome each guest with a lei, sunglasses, or a sunhat, and have a bonfire ready to light as soon as the sun sets.
14. Game night
If the happy couple and their favorite people enjoy playing games, gather up a pile of board games, and host a rehearsal game night. Send game night-themed invitations to let your crew know what awaits. Decide ahead of time what types of games you want to play, and offer a variety of options to keep things interesting.
Keep the menu simple—serve easy-to-eat finger foods like mini sandwiches, kebabs, wings, or pizza, and set out veggie and fruit platters or charcuterie boards. Include a spread of grab-and-go desserts like cupcakes, cookies, and brownies.
15. Food truck festivities
Invite the fun straight to your home—or any open space you prefer—with a food truck. Book your favorite food truck, and let guests know what to expect on the invitation—use a customizable Block to highlight the menu.
Simple outdoor decorations, like vibrant tablecloths, paper fans, and lantern lights, create an instant festive ambiance and make everyone feel welcome. After dinner, get everyone on a makeshift dance floor with some live music or your favorite playlist.
Plan a rehearsal dinner to remember with Paperless Post
When organizing a wedding rehearsal dinner, aim to create a welcoming atmosphere, whether you choose a formal affair or a casual party. The goal is to make it a personal and meaningful experience for everyone—and that starts with the invitations. Paperless Post makes it easy to customize your invitation and send it via email, text, or shareable link. And our guest management tools, like RSVP tracking and guest messaging, help streamline planning.
From classic and timeless wedding invitations and bridal shower invitations to coordinating thank you notes, Paperless Post offers a variety of options for every type of wedding event you’ve got up your sleeve.