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How to Plan a Rehearsal Dinner You Can Be Proud Of 

Planning a rehearsal dinner should be fun. This dinner is all about celebrating the upcoming joy of your wedding with your most intimate circle of family and friends. So, take a deep breath, follow this guide, and enjoy!

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Step 1: The Guest List

Your wedding ceremony and reception will be filled with loads of people coming to celebrate your union. Most of those people will be your wonderful family and friends. But, let’s be honest. Your ceremony and reception guest list will include a lot of people you and your husband probably don’t even know that well. It happens.

Your reception dinner is time to shrink that circle a little. Keep the guest list smaller and full of people who are intimately connected to you and your families. Now, an extra guest is better than bad blood so, if feelings are an issue, it’s better to invite than to exclude. However, your reception dinner should be small, cozy, intimate, and close. These are the people you want to thank, to toast, and to really celebrate with.

Step 2: The Venue

Choosing a venue can be an interesting process when it comes to rehearsal dinners. Sometimes hosting at your reception hall is out of the question, and you don’t necessarily want to have it in a crowded restaurant. Choose a venue with a private space for you and your guests to share with as little interruption as possible. This venue does not need to be as lavish as your reception, but it should be suitable for a grand occasion. Try to choose a venue that is already well decorated, with adequate space for everyone to have a little breathing room.

Step 3: The Food

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Here’s where things get really fun. Your rehearsal dinner doesn’t need to be as expensively catered as your reception but the food should be worth the trip. If your venue doesn’t cater, make sure to find a decent catering service that serves a variety of foods, and choose two starters, three entrees, and two deserts for your guests to choose from. You can be as creative as you desire with the food options. The cuisine for rehearsal dinners can be more casual than that of the wedding. An important note: it is great to have two meat options to choose from, but you might want to reserve a third for a vegan, or vegetarian option. You wouldn’t want to make one of your guests feel awkward. Send out menu post cards with your invitations to your rehearsal dinner. Make sure to send them out addressed and stamped so you actually get returns, and RSVP notices so you can get a head count.

Pro Tip #1: Have a section on these postcards for your guests to list any and all food allergies they may have.

Pro Tip #2: If you receive a lot of RSVPs that didn’t fill out the dinner options try calling your guests first to get their options. If you can’t get in touch before the rehearsal dinner, then just list them as the least expensive dinner option. At least they won’t go hungry.

Pro Tip #3: Always account for a few people who didn’t RSVP. Their postcard got lost, they just didn’t send it back, they thought you knew they were coming, whatever. For every three RSVPs there is probably one who will show up without one. The cheapest dinner option is fine, but have one or two of the others to dodge food allergies.

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Step #4: Seating Arrangements

Rehearsal dinners are usually small enough that you don’t really need a seating arrangement unless you’re dodging a family feud of some kind. If you don’t have a specific seating arrangement, then have your guests retrieve a name card to set in front of their plate to let servers know which dinner item goes to which person. If you do decide to have a seating chart, get it checked by your fiancee, your parents, your future in-laws, and maybe even one of your bridesmaids to make sure you won’t make anyone uncomfortable. You don’t want arguments or tension to ruin the celebratory mood of your rehearsal dinner.

Step #5: Photography

It is absolutely appropriate to book your photographer for your rehearsal dinner. You’ll want these memories to cherish for a lifetime. However, budget is always a factor. If you’re low on cash, you can either have a friend take pictures for you or you can put disposable cameras on all of the tables and tell your guests to take pictures. It’s cheaper than hiring a photographer and is fun for your guests.

Step #6: Booze

If you choose to serve alcohol at your rehearsal dinner, be sure to do so sparingly. It’s inadvisable to pay for an open bar or to serve hard liquor to your guests on this particular occasion. Toasts will be given at this event. But you do not want guests to have enough alcohol to get drunk and make a fool of themselves. Rehearsal dinners should be fun, but they should reserved and not crazy.

Step #7: Toasts

Toasts at your reception are totally appropriate. However, keep it to a minimum. It’s appropriate to limit toasts to the best man, the maid of honor, and both sets of parental figures. So, about six toasts. Then, it is really important for the bride and groom to each give one short, sweet, sincere toast to their guests and to each other. But even these can be brief.

In the end, your rehearsal dinner shouldn’t be stressful or overdone. Keep it simple, and streamlined. You’ll need to get your beauty sleep for the wedding so don’t let it stretch into the late hours of the night. Your rehearsal dinner is a precious gift to spend time the people you care for the most. Celebrate, relax, and enjoy the company of your friends and family at this wonderful time in your life!

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