When it comes to wedding planning, one thing that can easily be overlooked is the rehearsal dinner. Whether it’s been handed off to the groom’s parents or another host to plan or you’ve spent all your time and energy nailing down every last detail of the actual wedding day, it can be difficult to give much attention to this special event that typically kicks off the wedding weekend. Thanks to local wedding planner Skylar Caitlin with Chancey Charm, we’re sharing her expert tips on planning a rehearsal dinner that’s a clear reflection of the celebration to come. Read on for Skylar’s advice!
(guest post by Skylar Caitlin of Chancey Charm)
Photos // Josh and Dana Fernandez
Keep it Cohesive
Set the Tone for the Weekend
A rehearsal dinner that is cohesive with the wedding creates a complete wedding weekend experience for guests. This doesn’t mean, however, that it should be carbon copy of your wedding day. Think of it like a multi-course meal. Each course is unique with its own flavor profile and textures, but a great chef has thoughtfully prepared an evening where the courses effortlessly transition from one to the other.
Color Palette Twist
Mix in a bolder or softer version of the same tones you’ll use the next day. Or take a more masculine or feminine take on your wedding day style. It’s all about creating the right level of contrast that differentiates the events, while remaining cohesive and intentional.
Streamline Your Team
One easy way to create a seamless flow from rehearsal dinner to wedding day is to hire the same vendors partners. Not only will the consistency in overall style remain, but since they are the ones producing for your wedding day they have the full knowledge to suggest the unique textures and “flavor profiles” that will make your rehearsal dinner the perfect appetizer to your wedding day.
Scheduling is Key
As a planner, my experience has taught me that a really great event begins with the logistics. Yes, even before all those gorgeous details we love sharing on our Instagram, logistics can make or break your event.
Leave Enough Time Between Ceremony Rehearsal & Dinner
To start your rehearsal dinner off on the right foot, talk to your wedding coordinator about how long they request you block out for your ceremony rehearsal. Depending on your coordinator, venue and complexity of ceremony, this may be anywhere from half an hour to an hour or more. Once you know this, factor in time for your rehearsal to run a little late and travel time from the rehearsal to the venue for dinner. This will inform the invitation start time.
I also recommend a 15-30 minute cocktail welcome at the front end of the event before dinner service to allow for varying arrival times and to provide that place for people who may be seeing each other for the first time in a while – or even the first time ever – to mingle.
Use this Time to Get Toasts Out of the Way
With a lot of couples moving to allow time for toasts during the rehearsal dinner instead of at the wedding reception it’s important to schedule the time in for these. We recommend starting approximately 20 minutes into dinner service or after the first course. This will allow plenty of time for speakers while still allowing guests to chat with their table mates. If you don’t have an emcee for the evening, be sure to designate someone to start off the toasts. This could be the host(s) of the evening or just an outgoing friend. Be sure to have them make it clear at the end of their toast if this will be an open mic or if all those speaking have been predetermined.
Invite Out of Town Guests to Join for Welcome Drinks
Welcome drinks for all guests – whether or not they’re a part of the rehearsal dinner – are becoming an increasingly popular way for couples to get more time with their people during their wedding weekend. This can be full-hosted, first-drink’s-on-us, or pay-your-own-way, all depending on your budget and venue capacity. If you’re hosting this the same night as your rehearsal dinner, I’d suggest telling guests the start time will be at least 45 minutes after the projected service time of the last course for your rehearsal dinner. This will give time for speeches and dinner to wrap-up so you can travel to a new location or clean up before non-dinner guests arrive.
Hire a Photographer
Don’t Overlook Capturing These Memories
This is an often overlooked vendor for the rehearsal dinner. But when you’re investing in a beautiful setting to spend the night before your wedding with your nearest and dearest, shouldn’t you have someone there to capture all of it?
Keep it Simple
This doesn’t need to be a significant number of additional hours, but we’d recommend having them arrive 30-45 minutes before guest arrival to get wide room shots and photos of the table settings. Then they’d capture a mixture of candid and posed photos during the cocktail welcome (a great time to schedule in those few family photos, like your parents with their siblings, that you don’t have time for day-of). You can have them stay through the end of toasts or have them duck out after the first 15 minutes or so if you’re having an open mic and don’t need all of them to be memorialized.
Add-On to Your Wedding Day Photographer’s Coverage
Again, adding this onto your wedding photographer’s package will ensure consistency in style for pictures. And it may even be less expensive than finding someone new.
Meet Skylar and the Chancey Charm team: We’re the Chancey Charm team, and from San Diego to Boston — and everywhere in between — we come alongside brides and take the stress out of planning! With over 150 published weddings and editorials under our brand, we love serving clients with custom design boards and inspirational sketches. Chancey Charm planners work from offices in more than 13 cities, meticulously designing feminine, sophisticated weddings. Each location is owned by the lead associate planner, ensuring excellent customer service for every Chancey Charm client. We have access to multiple mentors and a team of planners to help with sourcing and problem solving, as we plan your wedding. We also have back-end business support behind us, so that we can focus on planning your wedding, without having to worry about marketing and PR simultaneously. We lean on cloud-based planning and our custom online planning tools to meet our brides where they are: from hometown to destination affairs, let’s make planning a stress-free process. Whether it’s a small, intimate vineyard wedding or a grand ballroom celebration, we want you to head down the aisle at ease as the belle of the ball in your elegant, publication-ready vision.