The rehearsal dinner is more than a fun night out after the wedding rehearsal. It’s an opportunity for all of the disparate social circles involved in the wedding party to meet and get to know each other for the first time, as well as an opportunity for everyone involved in the wedding to relax and blow off some steam. Rehearsal dinners have traditionally been a simple sit-down dinner. But you don’t need to be beholden to tradition on this one–as long as there’s some food and a relaxing atmosphere, your rehearsal dinner can be whatever you make of it. Here are some ideas:

A Backyard Barbeque

If you (or your parents or in-laws) have a nice big backyard, you can’t beat a backyard barbeque for creating a good, relaxing getting-to-know-you atmosphere. Stock up on lawn chairs, paper plates, summer beer, and watermelon. You can do the traditional hot dogs and hamburgers, or go for broke with racks of ribs. Either way, you can end the evening with a bonfire for marshmallow roasting and fireside chatting.

Family-Style Restaurant

Who says the rehearsal dinner has to be at the fanciest restaurant in town? We’d rather chow down at a family-style place where you can all share dishes together. Italian and Chinese restaurants are good go-tos for family-style dining. Or, if you’re in a bigger metropolitan area, you might have a good Indian place as well. Either way, a family atmosphere is good for breaking the ice between folks who haven’t met, and breaking bread with old friends.


Sometimes the rehearsal dinner isn’t about the meal itself–instead, you can focus on a fun group activity and make the food secondary. If you have enough attendees, you can do a pick-up softball game in a local park before having a picnic dinner. Or go for a night out bowling with a bar-food dinner. You could also get everyone in touch with their inner child with mini-golf or arcade night out. Activities are great for getting everyone talking and enjoying each other’s’ company.

Rehearsal Brunch

For that matter, who said the rehearsal dinner has to be a dinner? Schedule your wedding rehearsal earlier in the day and end it with a dynamite brunch. Think pancakes, waffles, Bloody Mary bar, mimosas, and the whole nine yards. Your wedding party will appreciate having their evening free, and everyone gets to bond over breakfast food (which is, as Ron Swanson observed, the best food).

Formal Dinner

The traditional formula is to have a casual rehearsal dinner and a more formal wedding dinner. But that assumes your wedding is formal–if you have a more casual wedding planned, you can have a little fun with a formal rehearsal dinner. Since there are fewer attendees than at your wedding, you can go a little more upscale on the choice of restaurant. Let your guests feel a little fancy and pampered–they’ve earned it!

Whether you go for a casual backyard barbeque or a formal sit-down dinner, your rehearsal dinner is a time for your wedding party to get to know each other and unwind before the big day. As long as there’s good food and good conversation, you can count it a success.