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Should Your Rehearsal Dinner Be as Formal as Your Wedding?

Formality can be specific to each event.

Contributing Writer
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Photography by: Elisabeth Millay

By the time you start planning your rehearsal dinner, the majority of your wedding's details should be nailed down, so you'll have a solid sense of the look and feel you're going for on the big day. That makes planning this pre-wedding party all the more exciting, as you now have an opportunity to plan an event that's not as focused on tradition and formality. If you're planning a black-tie wedding, you may feel as though you have to have a rehearsal dinner that's just as formal, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Want to keep it casual and have a pool party with a DJ and a wood fired pizza oven? Go for it! Interested in an evening that's more intimate and sophisticated? Head to a local winery for dinner in the caves.

 

The best thing about planning a rehearsal dinner is there are no expectations of what you "have" to do, so you can really make this event feel unique. Here, we offer planning tips based on the style you're currently leaning towards.

 

Related: How to Throw an Unforgettable Rehearsal Dinner

 

If you want to go casual...

Depending on how casual you want your rehearsal dinner to be, you might decide on a backyard gathering or pool party with a taco truck. You could also give the dinner a costume theme if the setting feels more formal and you want to lighten the mood, or you might bring in some form of entertainment that feels more casual, like a bluegrass band. A crab boil on the East Coast or a menu that includes BBQ in the Midwest proves that the food choice can create a relaxed feel as well. There are so many creative ways to toe the line between casual and formal, but combining a little bit of both might be where you (or your parents, if they're paying) feel most comfortable.

 

If you want to go formal...

If your rehearsal dinner will take place at the same location as your wedding, it's often tempting to go with a similar look or formality to the wedding night. That's totally fine if that's what you want to do, but don't be afraid to host this evening in a different part of the property or with a different style of food to set it apart. And if you're having a fairly relaxed wedding reception, know that there's nothing wrong with serving a multi-course meal during the rehearsal dinner. If you wanted to throw an event that's more elevated than the main affair, this pre-nuptial celebration is the perfect opportunity.

 

If you're thinking about combining the rehearsal dinner and the welcome party...

If you're interested in planning a combined rehearsal dinner and welcome party (and therefore inviting all of your big-day guests to the event), you have even more reason to make it feel really different from the wedding night. This is particularly common with destination weddings, where you might find that heading off of the main property feels right for you. In this case, finding a local restaurant that can host your group will usually determine the formality of the event.