Showers & Parties

Tips for Planning a Rehearsal Dinner

Great ideas for a fun, festive pre-wedding celebration

You've got less than 24 hours until you and your betrothed tie the knot. Family and friends have all arrived. Only one thing can keep you from having a major anxiety attack—a really fun party. Enter the rehearsal dinner, which, as weddings have turned into weekend affairs, has become the grand kickoff to the festivities. Here, are a few good ideas.

Be Creative

Imagine the possibilities. Think of how the location, the time of year, and your passions can mesh together to create the perfect party atmosphere.

For example, Frank Andonoplas of Frank Event Design, in Chicago, created a Fourth of July picnic for one rehearsal dinner. The twist? It was all indoors. "Instead of fighting the crowds—and I mean hundreds of thousands of people—for Chicago's lakefront fireworks, we rented a private club with an awesome view of the lake from the 80th floor."

On the menu: picnic foods like hot dogs, burgers, and ribs, with apple pie for dessert. Red-checked tablecloths decked the tables, but there were also blankets on the floor that people could sit on for the full picnic experience.

Keep it Casual

Break out the jeans and beer—or at least khakis and cappuccino. You're going to dress to the nines for 12 hours at the wedding the next day, so you might as well be comfortable at your rehearsal dinner. Even highbrow types, according to our experts, are going for barbecues or casual affairs.

Open Up the Mike

Your guests may want to take the night to say a few words about you two, so open the floor to anyone who wants to speak their mind. Don't be surprised if there's more roasting than toasting. The stories that might not be appropriate for the reception are usually told here.

Infuse It with Local Flavor

Serve up hometown favorites—especially if you'll be introducing guests from out-of-town to your local cuisine. Chicago pizza, New Orleans Cajun, Tex-Mex, Maine lobster—your guests will eat it up.

Tempt Their Taste Buds

With fewer guests than you'll be feeding on the big day, you will have fewer likes and dislikes to worry about—so be daring. Serve up a fajita-filled fiesta at your local cantina. Or kick in some foreign flavor with Thai, Indian, or Greek food.

Do Something Besides Dine

Throw the party on a casino boat, so guests can gamble the night away. Set up a volleyball court or hold the rehearsal dinner at an interactive game place, so guests can bowl, play video games or Ping-Pong to their hearts' content, says Andonoplas. If you aren't afraid of being forced onstage to sing "I Feel Pretty," crank up the karaoke machine. If you're a true dancing queen, you could even rent a sound system or head to a dance club so you and your guests can get down and boogie.

Give a History Lesson

Guests will love the story behind the locale if you bring them to one of your most memorable spots. Hold your party at the microbrewery where the two of you met, the Italian restaurant where you had your first date, or the beautiful park where he proposed.

Bring It Outside

If you're tying the knot in a temperate climate, you'll find that the open air will boost your party spirit, especially if you have guests traveling from places plagued with nasty weather. If you can find a location that will allow you to have the party outside, it's even better. People can really relax and mingle.

Take It Easy

Experts recommend that you do something fun and simple. After you and your fiancé have worked so hard to plan your wedding together, you deserve to enjoy this evening with each other and your loved ones.

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