4 Creative Rehearsal Dinner Decoration Ideas

The night before your big day should be a beautiful one. Try these rehearsal dinner decoration ideas from Zola.

By Emily Forrest

Rehearsal Dinner Decoration Ideas
Photo by Zola

The First Look ✨

  • Our favorite rehearsal dinner decoration ideas include inspirations from seasons, movies, animals, and cities.
  • Host your rehearsal dinner the evening before your wedding, following your ceremony rehearsal. Proper etiquette includes hosting the dinner near the wedding venue and your guest’s accommodations.
  • The average cost of a rehearsal dinner is $1,330. You can minimize costs by shortening the guest list or opting for less traditional dinner options, such as a potluck, barbecue, picnic, beach party, or cocktail hour.

The night before your wedding is an exciting time, filling your stomach with a smorgasbord of delicious food and a kaleidoscope of butterflies. Hosting a wedding rehearsal dinner provides an inconspicuous respite for couples to celebrate their upcoming matrimony with close friends and family from both sides of the aisle.

While the wedding-day decorations will certainly be the star of the show, many couples also kick off their wedding weekend in style by infusing themes or decor into their rehearsal dinners. To help, we’ve compiled a guide to help couples adorn their rehearsal dinners with the perfect trimmings.

4 Standout Decoration Themes for Rehearsal Dinners

Rehearsal dinners give you the freedom to explore non-traditional themes that you otherwise wouldn’t reserve for your wedding day. Take a look at our four favorite rehearsal dinner decoration ideas that you can easily integrate into your pre-vow soiree:

  • Seasons
  • Movies
  • Animals
  • Cities

1. Embrace the Season

Whether you’re planning to say your I dos under the radiant summer sun or opting for a dazzling winter ceremony, you can draw inspiration from the time of year to decorate your rehearsal space in a way that beautifully reflects your environment.

Spring Decor

Celebrate your spring nuptials with floral designs and arrangements, such as garlands, centerpiece bouquets, and flower arches to invite your guests into an enchanting meadow of springtime merriment. You don’t even need fresh flowers to embody this theme. Incorporate floral printed decorations, such as napkins, programs, table runners, and tablecloths.

Springtime rehearsal dinner decorations at a restaurant are easily achievable. How about floral-printed paper fans for outdoor dinners on a warm spring night? Or a dress code that encourages floral-printed sundresses and bow ties? If you’re dining under the stars, you can even hang blossomy lanterns from nearby trees to impress your guests with botanical grandeur.

Autumn Decor

Few can resist the allure of an autumn wedding—warm tones, brisk breezes, and gorgeously moody atmospheres. Transition into the autumnal season with an enticing color palette of reds, oranges, yellows, and browns. Infuse these colors into table cloths, napkins, and rehearsal dinner centerpieces.

Complete the theme with garlands of autumn leaves wrapped in string lights. You can also allude to your favorite holidays with bountiful cornucopia centerpieces or adorable pumpkins.

2. Evoke Your Favorite Animal

Your favorite animal could be the key to a quirky and cute rehearsal dinner theme that’ll have your whole wedding party roaring with excitement. Here are some of our favorites:

Beautiful Birds

Winged creatures great and small can inspire your decorations both symbolically and literally. Seamlessly incorporate birds figuratively into your rehearsal dinner decor by embracing their bright and vivid colors or using feathers as a unique decorative touch.

Feathers can also be added to centerpieces and floral decorations, while enormous plumes are perfect for a more extravagant affair. You can also use your favorite bird as a motif on napkins or stationary. Or, go big and hire some real doves to make guests gasp in awe.

Aquatic Atmosphere

There’s a vivid and wonderful world beneath the earth’s lakes, rivers, and oceans, teeming with aquatic creatures who’d love to make an appearance at your rehearsal dinner. Center your dinner around a single animal, or embrace the ecosystem entirely with dark blue hues, sparkling lights, and bright green foliage.

Adorn your table settings with faux sand dollars and starfish centerpieces, or opt for other decorative touches like colorful coral. You can also get creative with tiny fish bowl centerpieces (fish optional) or host your rehearsal dinner at the aquarium for decorations that can swim along past your guests.

3. Conjure Your Favorite Movie

Select your favorite movie or genre to inspire your decorations. You can choose explicit references or reflect your chosen film in a more subtle way via color scheme, attire, or a backdrop.

Sci-Fi Scenarios

Sci-Fi-inspired decorations can be absolutely out of this world. Bring intergalactic style back down to earth with monochrome colors, silver balloons, and unusual flower arrangements filled with buds that look like they were plucked from a galaxy far, far away.

You can also choose more muted sci-fi decorations by conjuring the night sky. Select a black color scheme and fill the room with sparkling string lights and luminous planets to take your guests on a journey through time and space. If you’re dining outdoors, sparklers are lots of fun and will create truly stunning star-studded pictures.

Darling Decades

Are you a sucker for the oldies? Do you and your spouse-to-be regularly adopt the mid-Atlantic accent when deciding on dinner plans? Do you stare at your partner with the same passion shared between Gatsby and the green light? Incorporate your love for old-timey vibes with a movie-themed rehearsal dinner.

Some of our favorite examples include:

  • “Pretty in Pink” promenade – Invite guests to wear their best eighties dresses and tuxes and purchase campy decorations reminiscent of a high school gymnasium dance, such as a magnificent balloon arch or a cocktail punch table.
  • “Casablanca” gin-joint affair – Book an out-of-the-way speakeasy for a romantic affair complete with white suits, black ties, and sophisticated red-rose centerpieces.

4. Summon a Popular City

If a city holds special significance to you and your partner, honor the locale with a location-themed rehearsal dinner that pays homage to the place you two love most.

Parisian Charm

As they say, Paris is for lovers. Celebrate the twinkling city lights by filling your rehearsal dinner venue with romantic candles and string lights. Use the Eiffel Tower as a motif on napkins or stationary, or even as the centerpiece on each table. You can even decorate the space with checkered chairs and tables straight from a French bistro along the Seine.

Malibu Moves

This southern California city awakens images of laid-back, casual beachside days. Flowy, gauzy white fabric draped across tables and walls can help your guests feel as if they’re in a breezy cabana. You can also choose more obvious decorations such as beachy centerpieces built from sand and seashells. You might even craft garlands made from seashells and starfish.

For more whimsical couples, make your rehearsal dinner a veritable tiki bar or beachside barbecue. Guests can enjoy their drinks from carved coconuts, and pineapples can make simple, yet fun centerpieces.

Rehearsal Dinner FAQs

Now that decorations are sorted, let’s tie up any rehearsal dinner strings before you tie the knot. Below, you’ll find guidance on the who's, what's, where's, when's, how's, and why's.

When Should We Host Our Rehearsal Dinner?

Rehearsal dinners are traditionally held the night before the nuptials and occurs after the ceremony rehearsal (hence the name). Not all couples have wedding rehearsals, but many still host dinners the night before their wedding. Here’s the timing for weekend weddings:

  • Friday weddings – Host your dinner the Thursday before the wedding. Or, if your wedding party is unavailable during the week, opt for a Friday or Saturday the week before.
  • Saturday weddings – For Saturday weddings, the dinner is usually Friday night.
  • Sunday weddings – For Sunday weddings, the dinner can be held on Friday or Saturday night.

It’s best practice to schedule your dinner earlier in the evening so that you and your guests can get enough sleep before the big day.

Where Should We Host Our Rehearsal Dinner?

Out of respect and convenience, it’s best to host your dinner near the wedding venue and guest accommodations. It’s also helpful to provide transportation, such as a party bus, van, or limousine, for guests (if you’re able).

Who Hosts and Who Pays?

Traditionally, the groom’s family hosts the rehearsal dinner and covers the costs. However, many couples no longer follow those traditions. In fact, co-hosting can be a wonderful way for both families to intermingle. Moreover, many couples today pay for both their rehearsal dinner and wedding themselves.

Who Should We Invite?

One of your first decisions will be whom to invite. We recommend the following categories:

  • Your immediate family is usually at the top of the rehearsal dinner guest list. Not everyone feels this way, but generally, couples invite their parents, siblings, and grandparents.
  • This isn't necessary, but many couples invite extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins, godparents) if they are close to them.
  • The wedding party is usually invited to the rehearsal dinner, but it's optional whether you want to invite their plus ones.
  • Unless you’re hosting a destination wedding, it's a polite gesture to invite out-of-town guests to the dinner, since they’ve spent time and money traveling to your wedding.
  • Customarily, couples will invite their officiant to their rehearsal dinner since the rehearsal usually precedes it.

How Do We Approach Invitations?

They're actually pretty simple. Rehearsal dinner invitations come in many forms, from paper invitations to digital invites. In any case, every invitation should include:

  • Names: Of the hosts and guest(s)
  • Information: Location, date, time, RSVP contact
  • Details: Meal options, attire

It’s polite to send out rehearsal dinner invitations four to six weeks in advance. Then, guests can organize their schedules accordingly. You can also use this time to reach out to anyone who hasn’t RSVP’d.

How Much Does a Rehearsal Dinner Cost?

The average cost of a rehearsal dinner is $1,330—about three percent of the cost of the average wedding. That being said, your bottom line can vary drastically depending on the length of your guest list, size of your dinner, and type of catering. Typically, the couple or their parents will host and foot the bill.

How Do We Create a Seating Chart?

For informal or smaller rehearsal dinners, a seating chart is usually unnecessary. However, larger dinners or ones where guests don’t know each other benefit from the organization of a chart. When yours, consider:

  • The couple is usually at the head or center of the table.
  • The parents of each partner should be seated near the couple or other family members.
  • The host of the wedding should be seated near the couple.
  • The bridesmaids and groomsmen should sit with each other or with their plus-ones.
  • The ring bearer and flower girl should both be seated with their parents.

If you have guests who are alone and don’t know many other guests, try sitting them next to other guests with similar interests or complementary personalities.

Are There Alternatives to a Traditional Dinner?

In short, yes! Wedding rehearsal dinner ideas can be outside the box. Get creative with location, food, and even rehearsal dinner favors. Alternative ideas include:

  • Set up a potluck dinner at someone’s home and have guests bring food and drinks for a more casual get-together.
  • Reserve picnic tables at your local park and bring a delicious basket of packed food to eat with family and friends.
  • Host a more formal cocktail hour or just make a reservation at a restaurant or bar for drinks and appetizers that don’t require lots of planning.

For any of these alternatives, you can still utilize your decoration ideas to make it feel special and unique.

Find Inspiration at Zola

After planning bach parties, a bridal shower, and your wedding, a rehearsal dinner may feel overwhelming. Rest assured that, whichever theme you choose, it'll be a night you'll never forget—only rivaled by your wedding day itself. To get started, look to Zola's vendor search. Find pre-screened venues with the click of a mouse or tap of your hand.

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