15 Ways to Make Your Rehearsal Dinner as Memorable as the Wedding Itself

These ideas are guaranteed to get the party started early.

Couple kissing in front of a green, retro bus

Carrie Patterson

Here's an idea: Skip the typical formal rehearsal dinner and do something a little more fun and lighthearted instead. We love this because it means your wedding weekend begins with a casual start, making it easier for your friends and family (many of whom are strangers before this day) to mix and mingle. And just because we say "casual" doesn't mean this event needs to be your everyday backyard BBQ (unless that's your style). No, you should definitely still have an open bar (wine and beer are okay), tables, and some kind of entertainment—this is a party, after all.

That being said, we say you should make this night about the two of you and not go overboard with the flowers, food, and entertainment. Make like the couple above and celebrate with a low-key, happy, and friendly party—and your guests will thank you later. To do so, simply incorporate one (or all) of the creative ideas below and, who knows, your rehearsal dinner might be just as memorable as the wedding itself.

Here are 15 ways to make your rehearsal dinner epic.

01 of 15

Hire a Local Band

Band

Sylvie Gil Photography

Set the mood for the night with some local music—whether it be a mariachi band, Spanish guitar players, or a bluegrass group. Your guests will appreciate the entertainment as they mix and mingle with strangers (and new friends).

02 of 15

Have a Picnic-Style Setup

Picnic tables with gingham tablecloths and colorful flower arrangements

Jen Fariello 

Okay, this idea is not for everyone, but we think you should at least consider it. The next night is going to be fancy so make the rehearsal dinner homey and laid-back. Picnic tables and natural linens do the trick. (But, of course, elevate this look with next-level flowers because, c'mon.)

03 of 15

Serve Drink-Friendly Escort Cards

Mule mug escort cards

Carrie Patterson 

If you're going to give your guests assigned seating (and you definitely don't have to), you might as well make it fun. We're obsessed with these copper mugs—perfect for a pre-meal shot or mini Moscow mule.

04 of 15

Embrace a Cool Bar

Retro mobile bar

Carrie Patterson 

Adopt the newest trend in cocktails and serve them from a vintage Airstream. Your guests will love the drinks almost as much as they heart the photo op (and they do love a good photo op). Up the ante a bit and serve a signature cocktail, especially if you've decided to skip it for the wedding itself.

05 of 15

Set Up a Fire Pit

Fire pit

Sarah Kate Photography

Give your guests something to talk about (and around) with a fire pit. You can even provide s'mores at the end of the night for some good old-fashioned memories (and to channel your inner kid before the big formal event).

06 of 15

Make a Photo Montage

Photo montage in lounge area

Pure 7 Studios

 

Many couples do some kind of slideshow at the rehearsal dinner that starts with their baby photos and celebrates their relationship to date. Take this idea (it's a fun one) and make it a pretty design focal point. Everyone will love browsing the photos—and lounging in a chic area.

07 of 15

Incorporate a Grazing Table

Grazing table

Kelsie Lowe Photography

What's the best way to bring guests together? Food, obviously. Grazing tables have taken over cocktail hours with their fun and aesthetically pleasing, family-style alternative to the usual hors d'oeuvres and canapés.

08 of 15

Create an Experience

Guests enjoying drinks on boat

bernardbodo / Getty Images 

Find an interesting aspect of your location and make that the focal point. Is your locale near a body of water? Charter a yacht, or hire a riverboat cruise, and host a cocktail hour on board so guests can take in the sights. This is perfect for a destination wedding but can highlight cool local hotspots, too.

09 of 15

Make It Interactive

Cigar Bar with cigar roller

Ashley Jensen; Event Planning by A la Carte 

Bring in a form of entertainment that is both special and incorporates an interactive element. You can even fit this to the destination to make it even more special. Think along the lines of setting up a lounge area with a cigar roller or hiring a palm reader.

10 of 15

Get Creative With the Food

Girl at a gelato bar

Lisa Poggi; Event Planning by Exclusive Italy Weddings 

Kick the menu up a notch and turn it into a fun experience by drawing from local tastes and flavors to really immerse your guests in the culture. If you're having a coastal New England bash, why not bring on the clam bake and lobster rolls? Flying guests into Tuscany? Hello, gelato bar.

11 of 15

Provide Liquid Escort Cards

Tequila shot escort cards

Jeremiah & Rachel; Event Planning by Greenwood Events  

Serve up some liquid courage at the beginning of the event to encourage guest mingling and general enthusiasm. Just make sure to switch to bubbles or cocktails for the rest of the night, lest everyone be nursing a hangover at the wedding.

12 of 15

Don't Be Afraid of a Theme

Tiki Torches

Steve Steinhardt; Event Planning by Duet Weddings 

Your rehearsal dinner should act as a representation of the two of you as a couple, and not a cookie-cutter prototype of other events or a mirror image of the wedding reception to come. So don't hesitate to make it special to who you are with a theme (just be sure to keep it classy and not too kitschy). If you both love country music and BBQ, why not have a good ol' hoedown. If you love vacationing in Hawaii (or that was where the proposal took place), what better way to highlight that than with a luau?

13 of 15

Game On

Jenga

Lilly Red Creative; Event Planning by Opihi Love  

There is always a lull at the beginning of the reception dinner when the bridal party is actually rehearsing and the plus-ones and assorted family members are just sitting around. Why not give them something to do with their idyll time? Classic games like Jenga or lawn competitions like cornhole are a great way for guests to let loose and can even serve as low-key ice breakers.

14 of 15

Work In a Photo Op

Photo wall

Christian Arevalo 

Did we mention guests love photo ops? Because they really like photo ops. No need to wait until the big event, they'll appreciate an instagrammable setup all along the way. Now, werk!

15 of 15

Fill a Bathtub With Champagne

Bathtub filled with champagne

D'Arcy Benincosa 

Need we say more? If you want to really up the ante at the rehearsal dinner—and inject equal parts whimsy and Art Deco glam—all you have to do is fill a bathtub with champagne (we can also see a case being made for gin in this scenario, bathtub gin). This is perfect for an industrial-chic vibe, but we think it could also be altered to fit a fantastical garden party theme.

Now that you're brimming with rehearsal party inspo, it's time to figure out who should actually be invited to this shindig.

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