Unique Rehearsal Dinner Ideas

From unique venues to creative menus, Zola has the ultimate guide to having a unique rehearsal dinner.

By Emily Forrest

Unique Rehearsal Dinner Ideas
Photo by Amanda May Photos

The First Look ✨

With all that goes into wedding planning, it’s easy to forget about the wedding rehearsal dinner. In fact, many people choose to simply go the traditional route and have their rehearsal dinner in a restaurant or banquet hall.

While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a traditional rehearsal dinner, some couples may want a less traditional event.

In this guide, we’ll cover ways to make your rehearsal dinner truly unique—from choosing cool wedding venues with a little help from Zola to entertaining guests with exciting activities. By following the below rehearsal dinner ideas, you’ll make your rehearsal dinner as memorable as the moment you say “I do.”

Choose a Unique Venue

Choosing your rehearsal dinner venue is one of the most difficult (and exciting) aspects of wedding planning. Unless you’re holding the rehearsal dinner and wedding in the same place, chances are that you’ll be in a different location for each.

If you’re looking to make your rehearsal dinner one for the ages, consider having it at one of the five following memorable locations.

#1 Local Brewery or Winery

Similar to restaurants, most breweries and wineries serve food while providing a lively atmosphere. However, unlike traditional restaurants, breweries and wineries tend to be more informal environments with distinct, even quirky, personalities. These distinct spaces often reflect the personalities of both partners.

For instance, if you’re into German culture, having your rehearsal dinner at a brewery that specializes in German beer gives you a chance to show your wedding guests your taste for German cuisine. What’s more, socializing with friends and family in the “Biergarten” is a fun, informal way to relax before your wedding or nikkah.

If you’re thinking about holding your rehearsal dinner at a brewery or winery, consider doing the following:

  • Going on a group tour of the brewery or winery
  • Treating your guests to a beer or wine tasting
  • Reserving a space in the facility to mingle and eat hors d'oeuvres

Having your rehearsal dinner at a brewery or winery comes with many perks. Not only will you and your guests enjoy your favorite beverages, but you’ll also treat your guests to a fun, informal outing.

#2 A Sporting Event

If you really want to set a fun, laid-back tone for your rehearsal dinner, consider having it a sporting event.

Regardless of the sport, tailgating with your nearest and dearest is one of the best ways to show both of your personalities while building excitement for your sangeet.

What’s more, holding a rehearsal dinner at a sporting event doesn’t mean that you only have to scarf down hot dogs in a crowded parking lot. At most sports venues, you can rent luxury suites that come with tables, food service, and all the comforts of a traditional restaurant.

For instance, at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, you can rent luxury suites with high-quality catering for up to forty guests. Celebrate your ceremony while cheering on your favorite team from the best seats in the house.

#3 A Theater

For the couple who loves all things Broadway, a rehearsal dinner in a theater is a unique and fun way to celebrate your upcoming marriage.

From curtain calls to playbills detailing your love story, you and your wedding party will enjoy getting “dolled up” as you set the stage (literally) for an amazing wedding ceremony.

If you choose to have your rehearsal dinner in a theater, consider taking the event to the next level by doing the following:

  • Printing playbills for each guest detailing how you met
  • Displaying your names out front on the marquee
  • Having guests give speeches on stage
  • Raising the curtains to show a video montage of your story
  • Designing your tables so that they reflect the elegance of Broadway

If cinema calls to you more than traditional theater, having your rehearsal dinner in a movie theater is a unique way to bring your loved ones together in a space you both enjoy. After the movie, treat your guests to your love story by showing a video montage on the big screen.

#4 Local Arcade or Amusement Park

Having your rehearsal dinner at an arcade or amusement park is a surefire way to thrill your guests, while pumping them up for your nissuin or wedding.

If you don’t want to rent out the entire arcade or amusement park, consider renting out a private space in the facility where you can eat dinner and toast champagne before challenging your father-in-law to a game of Skee-Ball.

To add a more personal touch to this venue, think about incorporating the following:

  • Arcade prizes that reflect your interests and personalities
  • Ticket stubs with the date you met each other printed on one side
  • Photographs of your wedding party barreling down a roller coaster

Choosing an arcade or amusement park as the venue for your rehearsal dinner is sure to give your guests an experience that they’ll never forget.

#5 On the Water

If you or your partner are celebrating your wedding in a port city or near a lake, having your rehearsal dinner on the water is a beautiful and unique way to celebrate your upcoming marriage.

Treat your guests to the full cruise experience by serving food on the mezzanine, dancing on the upper deck, and touring the ship. What’s more, if you’re cruising past a historic city, you and your guests will delight in the moonlit views from the water.

To plan this type of rehearsal dinner, it’s best to contact the event coordinator for a luxury charter boat company. The event coordinator will then customize the entire experience from the place settings on the table to the ship tours.

While you’re making plans to treat your loved ones to an elegant night on the water, check out Zola for ways to design your rehearsal dinner invites with a nautical theme in mind.

Entertain Guests With Memorable Activities

In addition to choosing an unconventional venue, filling your rehearsal dinner with unique, playful, and stress-free activities is an excellent way to make your rehearsal dinner distinctly you.

From incorporating board games to hiring palm readers, read on to discover how you can entertain your guests from start to finish.

Play Games and Conversation Starters

Although you probably know everyone attending the rehearsal dinner, there’s a good chance that not everybody knows everyone else. Therefore, it may be a good idea to break the ice with a few conversation starters.

An easy, fun way to get guests to interact with one another is to ask each rehearsal dinner guest to write down how they’re associated with the soon-to-be-married couple on a blank name tag; this is sure to get guests talking. Other conversation starters include:

  • Asking each table to play “Two Truths and a Lie.” To play this game, have each guest write down two truths and one lie about the wedding party. The other guests then have to try to guess the lie.

  • Give each table wedding-themed “Mad Libs” and ask them to fill them in.

  • Set up a trivia game in which the questions pertain to the wedding party. The table with the most correct answers “wins.”

In addition to conversation starters, entertain your guests by setting up lawn games such as cornhole, bocce ball, and croquet. You might also consider setting up an area with board games. To this extent, Jenga is an especially enjoyable way to get your guests interacting.

Set Up a Photo Booth

Many people set up photo booths during their wedding reception. Why not do the same at your rehearsal dinner? A photo booth is an easy way for guests to show off their creativity and excitement for the big day to come.

To add a personal touch, stock the photo booth with objects that reflect both of your interests and personalities. And don’t forget to include funny props, cool backdrops, and photo strips to make the experience as memorable as possible.

On average, photo booths cost $125-$200 per hour making them affordable, exciting activities for your entire wedding party.

Hire Live Music

While your reception will most likely feature a live band or DJ, having live music at your rehearsal dinner may add a more personal touch to the event.

This is especially true if you’re having a destination wedding. For instance, hiring a mariachi band for a rehearsal dinner in Mexico can add to the already fun, relaxed atmosphere.

However, you should only incorporate live music if it fits within your budget. Live music is expensive, and you’re likely to have some form of live entertainment during your wedding reception.

Give Palm Readings

Hiring a certified psychic to read tarot cards and give palm readings is a surefire way to make your rehearsal dinner unlike anything your guests have ever experienced.

In addition to your wedding party lining up to have their fortunes read, you and your partner will be thrilled to hear what’s in store for your wedding ceremony.

On average, tarot card readers cost $40-60 per hour, but that price may change depending on the location of your event and the experience and reputation of the psychic.

Roll Cigars

Cigars aren't for everyone, but if you or your partner (and your wedding party) are into cigars, hiring a professional cigar roller may just be the thing that takes your rehearsal dinner to the next level.

Not only will your wedding party be thrilled to watch the cigar roller at work, but they’ll also enjoy one with you after dinner while you get ready for your big day.

Hiring a cigar roller tends to be a bit pricey, however. Cigar rollers typically cost around $400, but this price could change depending on the size of the wedding party, the location of the event, and the duration.

Light a Bonfire

There are few things better than warming yourself by a bonfire with your closest friends and family. Take this experience to the next level by treating your wedding party to a rehearsal dinner bonfire.

After dinner, your guests will love roasting s’mores and singing songs beside a fire as vibrant as your love story.

Bonfires work especially well for destination rehearsal dinners. A beach bonfire beneath a sky full of stars will keep your guests talking about your rehearsal dinner for years to come.

Lean into a Theme

Most people love events with a theme. A themed rehearsal dinner is an easy way to make your rehearsal dinner truly your own.

From backyard barbecues to “nights at the casino,” the following themed rehearsal dinner ideas are guaranteed to inspire you.

Backyard Barbecue

At first glance, a backyard barbecue doesn’t seem like a unique theme. But if you go all out in terms of decor and food, you can transform a simple barbecue into an event well worth remembering.

Treat your wedding party to the best barbecue that they’ve ever experienced by doing the following:

  • Step up the decor – Who says a barbecue must only feature wobbly plastic chairs and red plastic cups? Make your barbecue-themed rehearsal dinner stand out by decorating picnic tables with checkered tablecloths, flower arrangements, and napkins with snippets of your love story printed on them. Additionally, consider stringing up lanterns and pennants.

  • Modify the food – While barbecues are known for burgers and hotdogs cooked over charcoal, it doesn’t mean that you can’t make your barbecue-themed rehearsal dinner elegant by changing up the food for more refined fare. Grilled salmon is always a crowd-pleaser, as are ribs and whole chicken. For sides, instead of baked beans and chips, consider serving watermelon salad with feta, grilled Mexican street corn, or some other more distinct barbecue fare.

  • Set up lawn games – As mentioned above, lawn games definitely help encourage the wedding party to get in the celebratory spirit. Set up ring toss and cornhole sets with your names emblazoned on the boards. For a more personal experience, consider designing an “activity wheel” that guests can spin to see which creative activity they’ll have to engage in, from “showing their best dance moves” to “giving an impromptu speech.”

  • Hire live music – To really get into the barbecue theme, hiring a live band that specializes in bluegrass, country, or some other genre associated with a traditional barbecue is a fantastic idea.

Exciting and inexpensive, a barbecue-themed rehearsal dinner may just be the informal, relaxing event you need before you walk down the aisle.

A Night at the Casino

You don’t have to go to Vegas or Monte Carlo to give your guests the casino experience they’ve always dreamed of. Raise your rehearsal dinner’s “stakes” by having a casino-themed event.

Whether you set up blackjack tables outside or wear your poker face inside, your wedding party will love dressing up in their best attire, throwing dice, and winning prizes. Additionally, feel like James Bond for the night by sipping highballs from the “casino’s bar.”

To fully immerse yourself in the casino experience, consider adding the following touches:

  • Hire dealers to run the blackjack, poker, and roulette tables
  • Decorate your space with poker chips that feature your wedding monogram
  • Send out rehearsal dinner invites on customized playing cards

Build excitement for your casino night well before the rehearsal dinner by adding the event’s details to your wedding website. At Zola, you can customize your wedding website so that details about your ceremony are just a tab click away from your more playful casino night in “Monte Carlo.”

Relax on the “Beach”

Even if you’re not having a destination wedding in a tropical paradise, you can still recreate the experience of white sands, clear water, and cold daiquiris by having a beach-themed rehearsal dinner.

To feel like Jimmy Buffet for the night, create a relaxed, “beachy” vibe by doing the following:

  • Set up tiki torches in your backyard

  • Have your wedding party wear informal, beach-inspired attire, such as flowery Hawaiian shirts and sandals

  • Serve a buffet-style dinner on long surfboards

  • Hang hammocks from trees

  • Hire a steel drum band or a band that specializes in “surf music”

  • Serve beach-inspired drinks such as daiquiris, hurricanes, and margaritas

  • Serve fish and other seafood

A beach-themed rehearsal dinner comes with many perks. Enjoy dancing the night away with your wedding party on your own private beach.

A Day at the Country Club

A country club-themed rehearsal dinner works best if you’re able to rent out a space at your local country club, but you can easily transform your backyard into a “mini-Augusta” as well.

If holding the event in your backyard, immerse yourself in the theme by setting up putting greens, chipping areas, tee boxes, and a “veranda” to watch the golfers. You might also consider designing a scoreboard outfitted with your wedding monogram.

Unique Rehearsal Dinner Tips

Now that you know a few ways to make your rehearsal dinner stand out from the pack, let’s go over a few tips to make your unique rehearsal dinner everything you hoped for and more.

Tip #1: Dazzle With Your Invites

Although your rehearsal dinner is generally less formal than your wedding day celebration, you should still send out invites to your wedding guests. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t be creative.

As mentioned above, you can design your invites to match your rehearsal dinner theme. For example, if you’re having a beach-themed event, invites that evoke tropical environments are sure to be a hit.

However you decide to design your invites, be sure to send them out well in advance. Unique rehearsal dinners often require more planning than traditional events. In general, be sure to send out invites at least four to six weeks in advance.

Tip #2: Don’t Let Traditional Guest Counts Constrain You

Rehearsal dinners have traditionally been smaller affairs featuring the couple getting married, the wedding party, and immediate friends and family. However, if you’re having a more distinct rehearsal dinner, it’s ok to invite more than a select group of guests.

This is especially true if you’re holding a themed event in your backyard. Unique rehearsal dinners give you more leeway when deciding who to invite. If you want to invite your golf pro third cousin to your country club-themed rehearsal dinner, you can do so.

Tip #3: Get Creative With Your Menu

Having a unique rehearsal dinner means that you’ll likely be in charge of the menu. Why not make it as creative and delicious as possible?

If you’re throwing a themed rehearsal dinner, you’ll probably want to serve food that matches the theme, but don’t let the theme restrict you. If you want woodfired Sicilian pizza at your luau-themed rehearsal dinner, go for it.

For more catering information, be sure to click on Zola’s wedding vendors tab for caterers in your area. Whether you’re having your rehearsal dinner in San Francisco or Shreveport, Zola has you covered.

Zola: For All Your Unique Rehearsal Dinner Needs

For many couples, rehearsal dinners are an important part of wedding festivities, but this doesn’t mean that you have to throw a cookie-cutter rehearsal dinner.

Make your rehearsal dinner truly unique by following the above tips.

Be sure to also check out Zola for rehearsal dinner planning advice, as well as advice for the wedding reception and beyond. For all things wedding, Zola is there.

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