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Unique Wedding Rehearsal Dinner Ideas

Jul 17, 2019
By Wedding Spot

Sometimes you may think that if you’ve been to one rehearsal dinner, you’ve been to ‘em all. Ceremony rehearsal, dinner, slideshow and speeches, repeat. While the effort that goes into planning a successful rehearsal dinner shouldn’t rival that of your actual wedding day, there’s no need to conform to the traditional expectations for any pre-wedding event. Have fun with it!

Explore some of our unique wedding rehearsal dinner ideas:

1. Pool or beach party

Invite your guests to lounge with you poolside or dance in the sand to celebrate your “last splash!” Make it a dressy party or keep it casual. Bring in big and colorful pool floats, or float some candles in the water instead. Dine by the light of the sun or light it up with tiki torches and a wood burning fire. Whether or not you actually plan to take a dip in the water will help you determine the mood and formality of your party.

2. Pizza party

Maybe you don’t want your wedding to come off as cheesy, but for the rehearsal dinner, cheese it up! Cater your favorite pizza joint and have a buffet spread of perfect pies as far as the eye can see. Perk: The pizza pun possibilities are endless!

3. Food truck rally

The only thing more romantic than dining under the glow of string lights is dining under the glow of string lights while encircled by your favorite food trucks. Save the heavy passed hors d'oeuvres for your wedding cocktail hour. Bring in a couple of your favorite local food trucks to delight your guests with a delicious meal and a fun and unconventional serving style.

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4. Backyard cookout

Nothing brings a family together like the enticing scent of food in the air. Host a homestyle cookout in the comfort and familiarity of your backyard or book a homey wedding venue with a perfect outdoor space. You know yourself and your guests best, so choose a meal you think you may all enjoy. Try some southern smoked BBQ with all the fixings or keep it simple with juicy burgers and dogs hot off the grill.

5. Family game night

Help members from both sides of the family break the ice and get to know each other a little better before the big day with some friendly competition. Have a random team selection process, or make it a battle of the sexes! Any assortment of games will do, so try a mix of classic board games like Monopoly or Clue, video games, like Just Dance, or yard games like corn hole, giant Jenga, or a relay.

6. Make it sweet

Skip dinner and go straight for dessert, just this once. Have an ice cream bar, with a build-your-own-sundae station, an ice cream sandwich station with warm cookies, a colorful candy display à la Dylan’s Candy Bar, an outrageous milkshake station, trays and trays of baked goods galore, tiny pies, or cupcakes. Whatever you choose, make it sweet!

7. Southern crab boil

A seafood boil is a super fun and interactive way to have a meal with your wedding party. Big pots filled with crab, corn on the cob, red potatoes, and smoked sausage are poured on top of newspaper or parchment paper that is laid out in long tables in front of your guests. Make sure to provide lots of butter, crab boil bibs and wet naps in case things get a tad bit messy. 

8. Pasta bar

If you’re on a budget, a pasta bar is a tasty and affordable way to have a rehearsal dinner. Make a few different types of pasta such as fettuccine alfredo, baked ziti, spaghetti and meatballs, along with garlic bread to place buffet style at a location of your choosing. You can cook the pasta bar yourself or invite family and friends to help you make the assortment for your Italian feast.

9. Crudite and charcuterie 

Add some extra sophistication to your rehearsal dinner with crudite and charcuterie boards. This allows you to really get creative in the presentation of your boards while keeping the food relatively light. It’s also a great way to incorporate vegan and vegetarian options into your meal.

10. Potluck

If you’re having a formal wedding, it’s good to mix it up and have your rehearsal dinner be more casual. Potlucks are a great way to create a less formal vibe amongst your guests. Consider being responsible for the main dishes and beverages and have the guests bring salads, side dishes, and desserts. 

11. Picnic

Meeting in a park is a fun way to incorporate the outdoors of your city into your rehearsal dinner. Even better if the park allows you to rent a gazebo complete with tables, chairs, and BBQ grills. Feature classic picnic foods and decor like finger sandwiches with flavored lemonade along with checkerboard tablecloths and simple florals. Add yard games like corn hole and horseshoes to complete your picnic-style feast. 

12. Local brewery

Take a trip to your city’s local brewery or winery to add an activity your wedding party can do together. Most breweries offer tours and if your party is big enough, you can even request a private tour just for your group. After the tour, enjoy tasting various beers and wine while you chow down on classic bar foods. This is an especially great way to introduce your guests to local food and beverages from your city.

13. Black and white party

Black and white parties are great because they don’t require guests to have to go out and buy a costume, but still allow for a theme. Request that guests come in black and white attire. Think black and white-themed dishware, decorations, and even food and cocktails. Serve variations of white and dark chocolate, popcorn with black salt, sushi, and more. Set out cameras complete with black and white film and set the venue lighting to dim to create an elegant vibe.

14. Sports outing

If the bride or groom is into sports, why not have your rehearsal dinner at a sporting event! Tailgate with some game day snacks before you enter the football arena. Or cheer on your local baseball team as you munch on hot dogs and cracker jacks together. Most sports venues offer discounts on group tickets, so make sure you ask about group rates before purchasing. 

15. Oyster bar

Create a show-stopping presentation of various types of oysters amongst beds of ice to wow your guests. Elevate the meal even more with unique mignonette sauces from sweet to spicy and add perfectly paired wine to complete an elegant and classic meal.

16. Fondue night

Lean into the 1960s vibe with a fondue night for your rehearsal dinner. Have cheese fondue complete with veggies and freshly-baked bread for dipping to start and finish with chocolate fondue paired with marshmallows, strawberries, and pound cake bites. Decorate the space in 1960s fashion with mid-century modern decor and vintage plates and glassware.

17. Tacos and margaritas

When you want fun and delicious, look no further than tacos and margaritas. Create stations set with various taco fillings from ground beef to sauteed veggies complete with all the fixings like guacamole, cheese, rice and beans. You can even have a salsa bar where you set out a few different types from classic pico de gallo to tropical pineapple salsa. Pre-mix various flavored margaritas and pour into large labelled glass beverage dispensers to allow guests to fill up their own cups and try unique flavors like strawberry jalapeno and blood orange margaritas.   

18. Honeymoon themed

Going to Italy for your honeymoon? Create a Tuscan night under the stars with white wine and panzanella. Jumping a plane to Hawaii after the nuptials? Think luau theme with Mai Tais and poke. Give your rehearsal dinner guests a little taste of what you plan to experience with your honeymoon so they feel more connected to your wedding and your future honeymoon memories.

19. A night at the theatre

For the couple who is involved in the performing arts, take your wedding party to a night at the theatre. From a stand-up comedy show to a dinner theatre, getting your loved ones involved in an activity that is near and dear to your heart is an excellent way to host your version of a rehearsal dinner. Include a light bite at a local restaurant around the corner from the venue if the theatre doesn’t offer food to complete a perfect rehearsal dinner.

20. High tea

Host high tea either at your home or a local tea shop. If you’re creating high tea at your home, include embellished teacups and dishware and bright florals to adorn your table. Present an assortment of teas (both caffeinated and non) with beautiful towers of smoked salmon, egg salad and cucumber sandwiches along with scones, petit fours, and biscuits with clotted cream. If you’re feeling especially in the spirit, add mimosas to the menu. 

21. Paint and sip

Both artists and non-artists alike will enjoy creating a piece of art while sipping a glass of wine. Look into local art shops that offer group classes where you learn to paint on canvas, pottery, watercolor paper and more. They even have classes for floral arrangement and jewelry-making. Confirm with the art studio that it is okay for you to bring in hors d’Oeuvres and wine to complete this perfect and unconventional artsy rehearsal dinner. 

22. Time for the bride and groom 

With your wedding kicking off into full swing, it’s important to make time for the two of you as a couple during this unforgettable and sometimes hectic weekend. Take some time for just you with a romantic dinner for two the night before your wedding. After all, this weekend is about your love for each other, so if you want to take this night to yourselves, then absolutely do it. There are no written rules for how a wedding needs to be. So be sure to make it whatever you want it to be.

How much does a wedding rehearsal dinner cost?

The cost of a rehearsal dinner is determined by many different things such as how many guests are attending, plated dinner vs tray-passed appetizers, alcohol vs booze free, etc. That being said, according to, the average rehearsal dinner costs around $1,330. This price can decrease or increase based on your specific wants. Save money by having the rehearsal dinner at your house. If you’re looking to jazz up the venue with florals, budget extra for that. It all depends on what you want to do and where you want to do it.

Who speaks at a wedding rehearsal dinner?

Traditionally, the parents of the groom speak first, especially if they are hosting this event to thank everyone for joining in this celebration. Next, both the best man and maid of honor speak, followed by the bride and groom. You can then decide if you want to open it up to extended family or not. If your wedding officiant is someone close to you, it’s common that they speak at this point. Then traditionally there is an open mic portion at the end where anyone can speak. That being said, the format of speeches at the rehearsal dinner is totally up to you.

Up next, explore some budget-friendly alternatives to a traditional sit-down dinner on your big day.

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Wedding Spot

The Wedding Spot blog is designed to help couples navigate every step of the wedding planning journey. From before the engagement to after you say “I do,” our goal is to give you the tips, ideas, and inspiration to prepare for your big day — and all that comes with it.