Wedding Rehearsal Dinners: 5 Ideas We Love

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a dinner table for a wedding rehearsal laid with colorful tablecloth, flowers, and a bottle of rose wine with a chalkboard sign

Rehearsal dinners are the last thing many couples want to think about when they are knee-deep in wedding planning—it can seem like just another thing to pay for and plan. The key is to make the most of your rehearsal dinner: this post-ceremony-practice event isn’t just a cumbersome wedding custom, but a chance to take some time before your wedding day to relax and enjoy being with your partner and your closest friends and family. To illustrate just how extraordinarily fun this portion of your wedding weekend can be, we’ve put together five wedding rehearsal dinner ideas. They may differ in style, but each really gets to the heart of the meaning behind the custom—making memories with those you love.

Backyard BBQ Wedding Rehearsal Dinners

First up on our list: BBQ in the backyard. Although laid-back and simple in style, this rehearsal dinner idea is anything but boring or plain. Whether it’s a Southern-style pig-pickin’ or hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill, gather in the backyard for a home-cooked, delicious meal, play games in the grass, and have a great time. We love rehearsal dinners of this type because they aren’t overly complicated to plan, they seem more like a summer party than a wedding event, and they are a lot cheaper than the their formal counterparts. It’s easy to relax and just enjoy yourself with this low-key and no-fuss-style rehearsal dinner.

A bride photographed below the neck holding a white dinner plate with pulled pork barbecue on a roll and green salad with white dressing

Photo Credit || Katelyn James Photography

A large black bowl filled with shredded pork raised on bricks with a sign reading "Whole Pit Roasted Pig" and wooden tongs

Photo Credit || Molly Joseph Photography

two hot dogs in white paper wrappers with the names "Jaryn" written in mustard and "Mark" written in ketchup

Picnic Wedding Rehearsal Dinners

If you want to take it a step further and make it even more lighthearted and easygoing, then you can’t go wrong with a picnic-themed rehearsal dinner. Throw some blankets out into the yard or in a local park, order some fancy sandwiches and cheese boards from your favorite gourmet deli, chill a bunch of beers and bottles of rosé in coolers, and you’re all set. We just adore picnics because they are uncomplicated and add a whimsical, romantic touch. The best part of this approach to your wedding rehearsal dinner is that it’s so darn easy—plus it’s a great excuse to get outside in warm weather, and almost everyone loves a classy picnic.

man and woman sitting on a picnic blanket by a lake in retro 1950s clothing holding hands with a picnic basket and a vintage bicycle in the background

Photo Credit || Christy McKee Photography

fruit and cheese platter with grapes, figs, dried apricots, and sliced and cubed cheese

Photo Credit || Milou and Olin Photography

Soda cans and plastic water bottles on ice in a clawfoot tub outside

Photo Credit || Ivory Door Studios

Formal Wedding Rehearsal Dinners

Before you start wondering why this one made our list, hear us out. Although they can often take on the characteristics of a wedding before the actual wedding, the formal rehearsal dinner also has its merits. First of all, this approach can be very intimate. With everyone seated at tables together, sharing conversation and laughs becomes easy. And since this type of rehearsal dinner is typically catered, you won’t have to worry about sourcing, serving, or cleaning up the meal.

Another reason some couples choose to host formal wedding rehearsal dinners is that their original vision for a formal, black-tie wedding became too expensive to pull off.  So instead, they take a more more laid-back route for the wedding and save the formality for the smaller rehearsal dinner (less guests = less costs). Win-win.

We also love formal wedding rehearsal dinners for certain logistical reasons. For one, wedding toasts can take up a lot of precious dancing time, so a formal rehearsal dinner can be a great way to get toasts accomplished before the wedding in a more private setting. Their intimate nature can also allow the couple to spend quality time with guests than the quick greetings their wedding day timeline might only allow for. Lastly, couples can show off another side of their style. Couldn’t incorporate those amazing candleabras into your wedding day decor? Use them during the rehearsal dinner.

wooden farm table set for a wedding reception with green floral runner and white cloth napkins

Photo Credit || Michelle Kujawski Photography

A group of people making a cheers toast and touching champagne flutes together over a flower arrangement of red flowers and greenery at a wedding reception table

Photo Credit || Emilia Jane Photography

Wedding place setting with blue napkin, silvereware, water goblet and a floral printed welcome menu tucked into the napkin

Photo Credit || Lovely Valentine Photo + Film

Brunch Wedding Rehearsal Dinners

Nobody ever said that your rehearsal dinner actually had to be a “dinner.” Instead, you can mix it up a bit and do a wedding rehearsal  brunch the morning before your wedding or the same day as your wedding if you’re having an evening affair. This way you aren’t hosting two dinners in a row and you can treat yourself and guests to an amazing brunch spread which, let’s face, is everyone’s favorite kind of food. Serve pancakes or waffles, put together a fruit and yogurt station, set up a self-serve mimosa bar, and you’re all set for a less conventional version of the formal rehearsal dinner.

broken soft-boiled egg in brown shell in a turquoise egg cup on a blue and white floral plate with toast and a silver spoon

Photo Credit || The Click Chick Photography

Woman in green dress smiling looking at man in gray suit and black bow tie while seated at a table set with fruit tarts and berry-topped cake

Photo Credit || Ivory Door Studios


His and Hers mimosa bar display with vintage tables and stools, juice in glass carafes, and bottles of sparkling wine

Photo Credit || The Click Chick Photography

Activity Wedding Rehearsal Dinners

Similar to the breakfast rehearsal, the activity-based rehearsal dinner is more focused on a fun group event rather than a sit-down meal. For some, this could mean playing baseball (or actually going to a game), teaming off for a round of mini-golf, or even having a carnival-inspired games and prizes. With this type of rehearsal dinner, your imagination is the limit—which is one of the many reasons why we applaud this approach. Even more than that, it’s an incredible way to take your mind off the upcoming wedding. Although a bit more work to pull off, this style isn’t any more difficult than planning a sit-down soiree. The best part? Your rehearsal dinner guests will love it.

white benches set in a baseball field facing the dugout

Photo Credit || IJ Photo

man and woman seated in a canoe on a lake with the man rowing with a wooden oar

Photo Credit || Chrissy McKee Photography

So before you declare your dislike for wedding rehearsal dinners, explore different ways to approach the event and really make it as much a part of you as your wedding day. Forget rules and traditions: make it a fun party that will inspire lively stories and memories for a lifetime.


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