After you've had a rehearsal at the ceremony site, it's time to party! The official start of your wedding festivities, the rehearsal dinner, is usually held the night before you walk down the aisle and has an intimate guest list — the bridal party, your immediate families, the officiant and their significant others. To ensure everyone has a standout time, follow these simple tips.
1. Book a place that's completely different from your wedding venue.
If you're having a formal reception in a vineyard, for example, do something that in no way resembles a grape theme. On the other hand, if your big day is informal (like a barbecue in your backyard), you could have a seated dinner in an intimate restaurant. Doing a complete 180 will avoid making it seem like you're trying to create a mini version of the wedding reception.
2. Don't overplan it.
Since the rehearsal dinner has a more casual ambiance than the next day's main event, you won't need a strict timeline. It's basically talk, eat, give toasts and have fun.
3. Speaking of toasts, make sure they'll be plenty.
Those funny, from-the-heart speeches your closest family and friends make about you and the groom will be the highlight of the night. To ensure you have enough speakers throughout the party, ask several guests a couple of days before to plan on saying a few words. No need for a teleprompter or cue cards but giving a heads up avoids anyone having to come up with something clever or compelling on the spot.
4. Do a slideshow that includes the guests.
Though you two will be the centers of attention all night, give everyone else a chance to shine. So instead of images of just the two of you on the screen, surprise guests with photos or video clips that include them too.
5. End the evening on the early side.
Guests will be glad the next day when they — and especially you — have had a good night's sleep. Save the bar crawl for the wedding's after party.