Getting your families together with your wedding party the night before your “I dos” is a wonderful way to introduce people who might never have met before, and to ramp up the excitement for your wedding. Hosting the rehearsal dinner at a private home is a great idea for couples on a budget, or those who crave something a little more intimate. Read on to discover everything you need to know to plan an at-home rehearsal dinner.
1. Size of the home.
Some etiquette books suggest that both families, the wedding party and all out-of-town guests should be invited to the rehearsal dinner, but if you’re hosting the event at home, you may need to cut down the guest list to fit your space. If you’re having fewer than 30 guests, an average-sized home is probably big enough. More than that, you may need to convince a family member with a large home to play host, or rent out a room at a restaurant. You can always have a separate night of cocktails with your out-of-town guests if you’d prefer to keep your rehearsal dinner guest list down.
2. The seating plan.
Your seating arrangements will depend on the size of your home and the number of guests attending your dinner. If you have a table and room large enough to accommodate all of your guests, set that up and acquire any additional chairs you may need. Otherwise, consider offering up casual seating, with guests on couches, chairs or sprawled on the lawn if weather permits.
3. Set up.
Be sure you clean your home (and yard if you’re having the party outside) thoroughly the week before your rehearsal dinner. Then, the day before the event, decorate and set up the space: hang outdoor twinkly lights and lanterns; string up garland; iron and lay out table cloths and runners; set up tables, chairs, flatware and dishes; and organize your serving area.
4. Who’s cooking? Who’s serving?
You have an infinite number of menu choices if you’re having an at-home rehearsal dinner. You could bring in catering from a favorite restaurant and have them set up the food buffet-style in your home. You might also want to hire serving staff to dish up the meal so that neither you nor your guests have to lift a finger. Alternatively, you could cook the meal yourself or grill up some tasty barbecue and serve a plated meal or a buffet-style spread. Note that keeping the oven on all day while you cook will heat up the house — serving the meal outside will keep guests from getting overheated. The potluck option is also a lovely one: If most or all of your guests live in the city or town where you’re getting married, ask each person to bring a dish you’ve shared with them over the years.
6. Clean up.
After your guests have gone home for the night, put away leftovers and tidy up as best you can. But know that it’s worth it to hire a cleaning crew to come in and take care of things the next day — you’ll be getting married and won’t want to handle the mess!
A final note: If you don’t like the idea of hosting a dinner party the night before your wedding, you could always have a rehearsal brunch or tea at home instead. You’ll have more time to relax and unwind after the event and take care of any last-minute wedding details. Just follow the guidelines above and adjust your menu to suit the time of day.