There's something uniquely wonderful about the rehearsal dinner, when your families and wedding party gather to celebrate — and you actually have a chance to chat with a few of them. Excitement is high but stress is low, so it becomes this incredible night you'll remember just as much as your wedding. Here are eight of our favorite venues for rehearsal dinner parties in Chicago.
Fig & Olive (Above)
This 10,000-square-foot space can accommodate a variety of party sizes, but for smaller gatherings, we love idea of a cocktail reception for 50 on the outdoor terrace. It's an elegant setting with a casual nature that allows you to mingle with family and out-of-town guests (something that may not happen as much the following day). Plus, the Mediterranean-inspired menu of crostinis and cured meats lends itself to passed hors d'oeuvres that are quite literally finger-licking good.
Photo: Courtesy of Lovely
This quaint bakery and café in Wicker Park is just that — lovely. The tented patio is perfect for an intimate cocktail party (for 65 seated and 100 standing), and when you mix in vintage china and silver candlesticks, ball jar glassware, and yummy comfort-food fare, it's truly charming.
Photo: Courtesy of Sepia
Housed in a 1890s print shop, this Michelin-starred restaurant maintains that old-world vibe with rustic décor accents while serving contemporary cuisine and craft cocktails. You might remember Sepia from the film The Dilemma, in which Jennifer Connelly plays the chef/owner and stars alongside Vince Vaughn, Winona Ryder and Kevin James. The dimly lit private dining space, which can accommodate 65 seated and 100 standing, is warm and inviting, yet undoubtedly refined and romantic — a perfect prelude to your "I Do's".
Photo: Courtesy of Pelago Ristorante
Operated by a husband-and-wife duo (she designed the interior; he, the menu), Pelago serves modern Italian cuisine for parties of 10 to 75 guests. We wouldn't call it classic comfort food, but there is something rather comforting about housemade pasta served with fresh fish or a veal loin chop. Design elements like a Tiffany-blue banquette and exposed mother-of-pearl mosaic fireplace in the center of the room create a delightful environment for exceptional fare.
Photo: Courtesy of River Roast
It's hard to decide what we love most about Tony Mantuano's latest project. The location offers an outdoor space along the Chicago River with some of the most iconic views of the city, but the renowned chef, who's most famous for his fine dining Italian restaurant Spiaggia, puts his own inventive spin on hearty tavern food, making the menu equally as enticing.
Photo: Courtesy of Alpana Singh
Of course you'd expect Alpana Singh, who was the youngest woman to pass the master sommelier exam at age 26, to own a restaurant with a stunning art installation of more than 9,000 suspended wine glasses. Her five-floor restaurant offers many private event spaces, but we recommend the mezzanine for smaller parties (16 seated or 30 standing). Lofted above the main dining room, it feels private but also maintains the energy of the bustling restaurant below. Plus, it puts guests at eye level with a second piece of art comprised of 4,600 Reisling bottles hanging from the dining room's 25-foot ceiling.
Photo: Courtesy of Shaw's Crab House
This upscale seafood and steak restaurant is known for pristine white tablecloths, polite waters and stiff martinis. We love the idea of a rehearsal dinner in its more casual Oyster Bar, which can accommodate up to 150. Vintage black-and-white chess flooring and chrome bar stools transport you back in time, but the menu is anything but stale. Shaw's serves the freshest oysters and crab cakes, best tuna tartare appetizer in town, and, our personal favorite, an old-fashioned sundae with Homer's peppermint ice cream and hot fudge.
Photo: Courtesy of Gibsons Steakhouse
Located in the space formerly known as Mister Kelley's (a nightclub made famous by singers and comics like Barbara Streisand, Bette Midler and Woody Allen) Gibsons is at the core of Gold Coast nightlife, known for its oversized cocktails and even larger cuts of beef. Skip the see-and-be-seen scene and book one of its many private dining options (that can accommodate anywhere from 12 to 500 guests). A totally private space on the second floor is an inviting ambiance characterized by maple wood panelling, hardwood floors and French doors that lead to small balconies overlooking Rush Street.