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The elements of planning a rehearsal dinner are similar to planning a wedding, but the significance of this event is often overlooked or left to the last minute.

The rehearsal dinner is more than what its name suggests, a dinner the night before the ceremony, right after the rehearsal.  It’s actually the kick-off to your wedding weekend (unless you’ve had a welcome reception the night before for out-of-town guests).  It’s the opportunity for you and your fiancé to spend quality time with your immediate family and closest friends and to present them with gifts of appreciation.  If you are concerned about what your uncle Sal might say at the reception, invite him to make a toast at the rehearsal dinner.  He’ll feel included but you won’t risk the wrong thing being said in front of a large group.  If you have photos you want to share in a slide show, this is a captive audience for that as well. Be thoughtful about your venue choice as you’ll want this evening to be special and enjoyable for everyone in attendance.

When choosing a venue, it’s important to know who is hosting (paying) for this dinner. Once upon a time, etiquette suggested that a groom’s parents host the rehearsal dinner.  This is still common but not always true today.  Determine the guest list and the budget.  Immediate family and bridal party are invited, and sometimes guests from out of town are also included.

Once you’ve determined the host, narrow down your venue choices by location, budget, availability, food and private rooms able to accommodate a group of your size.  It’s a great idea to start in your neighborhood. Consider things such as: Where did you get engaged?  What’s your favorite cuisine?  A rehearsal dinner is an excellent opportunity to share a favorite or special place with those closest to you.  Or it’s the chance to make a new place significant.  However, try to choose a place that is distinctively different from your wedding venue.  You don’t want your guests to feel like they are attending two weddings.  Rehearsal dinners are an opportunity to exercise creative liberties.  It should be fun, comfortable and in an environment that fosters socialization and conversation.  This is often when families will get to know each other and members of the bridal party will begin to forge bonds.

Some suggested questions to ask your chosen venue:
Do you have a screen and projector for a slide show?
Is there a sound system that allows for an iPod to be plugged in?
Is there a microphone we can use for speeches and toasts? 


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