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Planning the Perfect Rehearsal Dinner

Rehearsal dinners have evolved into full-blown events, but there's no need to stress out about planning your own if you haven't hired a professional wedding planner. However, if you are stressed out, we are always happy to help out! We know you've got less than 24 hours until you and your fiancee tie the knot. All of your friends and family have arrived and everyone is looking forward to a really fun party!

Traditionally, the rehearsal dinner was hosted by the groom's parents the night before the wedding. Everyone from out of town, as well as the wedding party and both families were invited. The rehearsal dinner also used to be more of a formal affair, but like everything else with modern day weddings, couples have made these pre-nuptial parties all their own.Going much more casual, intimate, or in some cases, they serve as another outrageous party!

These days, with weddings becoming a full weekend affair since Nashville is such a destination for couples, their friends and families, the rehearsal dinner has become the grand kickoff to all the festivities.

Here is our ultimate rehearsal dinner planning checklist.

1. Decide who's hosting.

Traditionally, the bride's parent would pay for the wedding and the groom's parents took care of the rehearsal dinner. These days, anything goes. If both sets of parents are sharing the costs of the wedding, then perhaps you and your fiancé may want to pay for the rehearsal dinner.

2. Consider keeping it casual.

More and more couples are opting to keep their rehearsal dinner relaxed and low-key...even doing something outdoors if the weather permits. Aside from ensuring that the rehearsal dinner won't upstage the wedding, a casual rehearsal dinner breaks the ice for guests who are meeting for the first time. The dress code can come down a notch or more from the wedding attire...break out your jeans and jumpers. After all, you're going to dress to the nines for 12 hours at the wedding the next day, so you might as well be comfortable at the rehearsal dinner. And don't forget to encourage conversation among your guests with open seating rather than assigned tables and serving your food via buffet or family-style.

3. Choose a fun theme.

A fun way kick off your wedding weekend is to incorporate a theme into your rehearsal dinner. Build the party around your cultural background, a colorful tapas-and-paella fiesta to reflect Spanish heritage, or play up your location, a bourbon and barbecue party if you're getting married in Nashville. Or our favorite, the "First-Date Celebration." Chances are, your first date was romantic enough to inspire the two of you; so let that same spirit infuse your dinner. Hold the party at the site of your first date and name tables after other locations that are meaningful to you.

4. Pick a unique location.

Hosting the party in a unique location can also give the celebration a different feel such as bowling at Pinewood Social, toasting at The Pharmacy or tasting at Greenbriar Distillery. Restaurants are always a popular choice, of course. They can handle every aspect of the evening, from cocktails to menu to music to flowers, but perhaps go for something a bit unusual like Urban Cowboy.

A fun location requires little to no decoration and since its not the wedding reception, you don't need over-the-top centerpieces. We always find that open air venues like fun and festive rooftop bars of Nashville like White Limozeen and The Bobby Hotel will boost your party spirit, especially if you have guests traveling in from out of town. People can really relax, mingle and ease into that southern state of mind.

Guests love the story behind the locale if you bring them to one of your most memorable spots. Hold your party at the microbrewery where the two of you met, or the restaurant where you had your first date or even the beautiful park where the proposal took place.

5. Create the guest list.

Rehearsal dinner guest lists typically include close family members and anyone participating in the wedding ceremony plus their spouses or dates. It's also considerate to invite your officiant and out-of-town guests to the festivities. However, if you end up with a long list of people to include, you can keep costs down by serving only cocktails and hors d'oeuvres opposed to a full meal...just make sure your guests are made aware of this prior to attending as the name rehearsal "dinner" will lead them to believe they will be actually eating dinner.

6. Time it right.

The rehearsal dinner schedule is traditionally held the night before the wedding. Usually, the ceremony rehearsal begins around 6:00 p.m. to give wedding-party members enough time to get out of work and head to your venue. Most rehearsals typically lasts about 30 to 45 minutes. Dinner then takes place immediately following the rehearsal. For a Sunday or holiday wedding, you have more options, of course, and some couples decide to hold the rehearsal dinner two nights before the wedding so that everyone has more time to relax and recuperate before the big day.

7. Think about the food.

The easiest way to select your cuisine? Host your rehearsal dinner at your favorite restaurant! You know you'll be getting top-notch food and service from the get-go. Or, serve up hometown favorites...especially if you'll be introducing guests from out-of-town to the local cuisine. Your guests will eat it up!

8. Pass the mic.

It's customary for the host to welcome guests at the beginning of the party. But because the atmosphere at a rehearsal dinner tends to be relaxed, some guests may also want to get up and toast the happy couple, so consider opening the floor. Don't be surprised if there's as much roasting as there is toasting! You and your fiancee should also plan on making short speeches yourselves either after the host does or just before the evening ends.

9. Give gifts to the wedding party.

The rehearsal dinner is also the traditional time to present gifts to members of your wedding party, especially if the gifts are items you'd like them to wear during the wedding, as well as to your parents, to thank them for their love, guidance, and support.

10. Make any last-minute friendly reminders.

Before the dinner comes to an end, take a moment to slip in any announcements about the wedding day. Double-check that everyone in the wedding party knows what items they're supposed to bring and when and where they're expected to arrive to get ready. If you have a larger audience, remind guests about any activities for them the next day, as well as pickup times and locations for transportation you've arranged to get them to and from the ceremony.

11. When it comes down to it: remember to have fun!

We always recommend that you just do something fun and simple. After you and your fiancé have worked so hard to plan your wedding together, you deserve to enjoy this evening with each other and your loved ones!

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