A Creative Kickoff

CircleofLove.gif

Ryan Joseph Photography

For a while we've been noticing the rehearsal dinner turning into more of a "welcome dinner" for lots of brides and grooms, who open it up to all of their out-of-town guests, not just the bridal party and close family. But with a guest list of 100 or more, it can be hard to make the gathering feel warm and intimate. Incorporating an activity is one way to encourage mingling; the NYC restaurant Fig & Olive reports that its olive-oil tastings are a popular pick for rehearsal dinners, since guests get to sample small plates, wines and a variety of the fragrant oils in small groups. Having off-the-beaten-path musicians perform, such as a cappella singers or a bluegrass band, is another easy way to break the ice. (We love the Manhattan a cappella group GroundStone, which had guests buzzing at our recent 25 Trendsetters Awards dinner.)

And an unexpected seating arrangement can also do wonders: This "circle of love" design at a recent rehearsal dinner at the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort in Longboat Key, Florida, allowed tables to touch, sparking instant conversation. Buffets and bars were set up around the perimeter in a serpentine shape for easy access from anywhere in the circle, and fire pits, palm trees and tiki torches lined the circle's entrance, lending an air of excitement from the start. —Betsy Goldberg, deputy editor, Modern Bride

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