Five unique rehearsal dinner ideas to get the party started early
by Karly Anderson

The night before the wedding has become just as important and memorable as the big day itself.

Whenever I reflect back on my wedding day, I always first remember the fun and intimate rehearsal dinner that my in-laws hosted. They went above and beyond to decorate in ways that were personal to my husband and I, and it was an opportunity for us to spend quality time with our bridal party and close family that we otherwise may not have been able to focus on the following day.

So, exactly what is a rehearsal dinner and why in the world is it included in most pre-wedding activities?

  • The rehearsal dinner is an opportunity for both sides of the family to get to know each other, if they don’t already, in a relaxed, nonthreatening atmosphere. This also allows the bride and groom to spend quality time with their bridal party and close family members where they otherwise may not have as much time to dedicate to them on the wedding day.
  • Traditionally, the dinner is held the night before the wedding after the bridal party attends a walk-through at their ceremony space.
  • The groom’s parents typically host the dinner, but the bride and groom may choose to take matters into their own hands or both sets of parents may share hosting duties.
  • The rehearsal dinner should not upstage the main event, therefore not nearly as many people should be invited. Every family is different, but at the absolute minimum, immediate family (parents and siblings) and the bridal party and their significant others and spouses should be on the guest list. It also is polite to invite the wedding day officiant and their spouse or significant other.
  • Most rehearsal evenings will start with a cocktail hour that includes drinks and appetizers before moving onto dinner and dessert.

The wedding rehearsal is an integral event in setting the overall tone for the wedding and surrounding activities. Regardless of who is hosting the night, the rehearsal is a chance to honor the bride and groom’s personalities and to break the ice between both sides of the families.

That being said, a formal sit-down dinner may not be for everybody. By thinking outside the box and breaking some tradition, you instead can opt for a more inventive rehearsal that can be just as memorable as the wedding itself.

Here are five fun and unique rehearsal dinner ideas to get the planning started.


A backyard BBQ is perfect for the relaxed, laid-back couple who would prefer to celebrate their pending nuptials at someone’s home. Offer everybody’s favorite cookout foods, such as hot dogs and burgers, and consider serving drinks in mason jars for an authentic, rustic feel. You also could put out lawn games, including bags and horseshoes, to stir up some friendly competition between the bridal party and other guests.


A wedding rehearsal doesn’t have to consist of just dinner. Relieve your childhood birthday party days, and host your rehearsal guests at the local bowling alley. Consider creating fun awards to give out – most gutter balls, most strikes, etc. – to add a personal touch. You can serve pizza and beer directly at your lanes, or you can opt to go to a nearby restaurant after you’re finished bowling.


You can’t get more of a fun, party atmosphere for a rehearsal dinner than a Mexican restaurant. With their bright colors and décor, it’s bound to put everybody in good spirits and an upbeat mood for the festivities ahead. Plus, Mexican food typically is a crowd pleaser. Try to seek out a restaurant that employs a mariachi band to get your guests dancing and the party started.


Are the bride and groom avid moviegoers? What better way to surprise them and guests with a dinner and a movie-themed rehearsal! You can choose to go the restaurant and movie theater route, or set the event up in someone’s backyard or a local park. Going the DIY route is easier than you think – the SITS Girls offer a great how-to guide on how to host a backyard movie night. Don’t forget to provide all the traditional movie theater treats and goodies, and find out ahead of time what the couple’s favorite movie is to show for the feature presentation.


If you’re really looking to get rehearsal guests to kick back and have a good time, host a night at a local indoor arcade and entertainment center (think GameWorks and Dave & Buster’s). Beyond the traditional arcade games, these locations also may offer mini golf or go-carts – something for everybody! If you still want to ensure that everybody spends time together, host a cocktail hour before sending guests out to play games.

The rehearsal dinner really can be another opportunity for the bride and groom to shine their personalities on their special weekend. While perhaps the wedding day has a more formal tone and theme, the rehearsal can take on a more relaxed, party atmosphere.

The sky is the limit when it comes to creativity, so don’t be afraid to make the rehearsal dinner your own and one that your guests will not soon forget!


Karly Anderson is a born and raised Midwest girl currently residing outside Milwaukee, Wis. Her blog, Miss in the Midwest, chronicles her take on beauty, life and style in the Heartland. Catch up with Karly on InstagramFacebook and Twitter