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

These ideas are guaranteed to get the party started early.

Bride and groom dancing behind dinner table

Photo by Sarah Joy Photo

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. To do so, simply incorporate one (or all) of the creative ideas below. Who knows? Your rehearsal dinner might be just as memorable as the wedding itself. Here are 16 ways to make your rehearsal dinner epic.

01 of 16

Hire a Local Band

Band

Photo by 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 16

Have a Picnic-Style Setup

dinner table

Photo by Aaron Delesie

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 16

Serve Drink-Friendly Escort Cards

Lime escort cards in shot glasses

Photo by Ana & Jerome Photography; Event Planning by David Pressman Events

If you're going to give your guests assigned seating (and you definitely don't have to), you might as well make it fun. Tequila enthusiasts will love these limey concoctions—perfect for a pre-meal shot.

04 of 16

Embrace a Cool Bar

Mobile bicycle bar at wedding reception

Photo by Abby Jiu Photography

Adopt the newest trend in cocktails and serve them from a mobile bar. 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 16

Set Up a Fire Pit

Fire pit

Photo by 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 16

Make a Photo Montage

Photo montage in lounge area

Photo by 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 16

Incorporate a Grazing Table

Grazing table

Photo by 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 16

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 16

Make It Interactive

Cigar Bar with cigar roller

Photo by 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 DIY cocktail mixing.

10 of 16

Get Creative With the Food

Girl at a gelato bar

Photo by 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 16

Provide Liquid Escort Cards

Tequila shot escort cards

Photo by 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 16

Don't Be Afraid of a Theme

Bride and groom at reception table

Photo by Nicole Kirshner Photography

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 16

Get Competitive With a Game

Jenga

Photo by 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 16

Work In a Photo Op

Photo wall

Photo by 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 16

Fill a Bathtub With Champagne

Bathtub filled with champagne

Photo by 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.

16 of 16

Hire a Palm Reader

Palm reader holding a person's hand, pointing out palm lines

Elkhamlichi Jaouad / EyeEm / Getty Images

Nothing says memorable like a personal palm or tarot reading from a certified psychic. Guests will be lining up to see what the cards have in store for them—more wedding bells in the near future, perhaps?

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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