A Not-Rehearsal Dinner
On the spectrum of Traditional to Totally Offbeat, our wedding is going to be somewhere in the middle. When it comes to making decisions about our big day, we usually start thinking about the “traditional” thing to do, then decide how we’re going to own it and make it fit our personal style, budget or guest list. The rehearsal dinner was no exception.
Rehearsal Dinner Kit by Brooke Courtney via Oh So Beautiful Paper
Traditionally, the rehearsal dinner is held the night before the wedding and includes the bridal party, plus any out-of-town guests. The idea is that after you rehearse the actual ceremony (with bridesmaids, groomsmen and whoever else is walking down the aisle), somebody (usually the groom’s folks, but sometimes the couple themselves) treats the bridal party to dinner and invites any guests who traveled to the wedding and might need something to do.
I’ve shared before that Mr. Rooster and I are (a) are paying for the bulk of the wedding ourselves, and (b) inviting a ton of out-of-towners. Like, 90 out of 100. So hosting a traditional rehearsal dinner, for us, essentially means hosting a second wedding. And it’s safe to say that doubling our expenses is squarely out of the wedding budget. So we had to get creative, once again.
Last year Roo and I traveled to attend a high school bestie’s wedding in Maryland, where her guest list had the same proportion of travelers as ours. As out-of-town guests tend to do, Roo and I arrived the day before the wedding to settle in, but the rehearsal dinner was limited to the bridal party (and gurrl, I can’t blame them). But some wedding magic came later in the form of an impromptu little mixer. After the rehearsal dinner, everyone (including the couple, bridal party and any guests staying nearby) decided to meet up at the hotel bar to catch up and have some drinks. It was totally unplanned, but gave the wedding VIPs and all the out-of-town guests a chance to see each other and get some good face time.
Inspired by that turn of events, J.R. and I decided to capture that lighting in a bottle and host an official “Meet & Greet” in lieu of a rehearsal dinner. The idea is to arrange a specific spot for everyone to meet and see each other the night before the wedding, just like we did back in Maryland. To facilitate the pre-wedding meeting and greeting (and drinking), we’ve reserved the upstairs private room at a restaurant that’s walking distance from our guests’ hotels. We’re inviting everyone, including the bridal party, out-of-town guests and anyone in-town who wants to come (there’s, like, 10 of them. No need to leave them out).
Roo and I ordered a bunch of cocktail party nosh for the night like chicken wings and sliders, and our guests have the ability to order drinks from a cash bar. The cash bar isn’t ideal, I know. We would love to completely host everyone for the night. But after the awesome unplanned experience we had at my friend’s Maryland wedding (everyone handled their own drinks that night), I’m hoping that our guests won’t mind and instead will appreciate that we tried to accommodate them instead of closing off our rehearsal dinner. Plus we’re feeding them sliders. That has to count for some hospitality points, right?
To make sure it’s all clear for our guests, we included this bit of text on our wedding website:
Everyone is invited to join us upstairs at Hudson Grille the night before the wedding to greet the bride, groom, and the rest of your fellow guests before the big day. We’ll have heavy hors d’oeuvres and appetizers for everyone to feast on, and there’s a private bar where you can order your own booze and cocktails.
I’ll let you know how it goes once everything is said and done, but Roo and I are both tremendously excited for our wedding Meet & Greet. If you’re in a budget pinch and considering the same option, reach out to some restaurants or bars nearby. We were able to reserve the upstairs private area with only a food & beverage minimum (no extra room fee), and the cash bar counts towards that amount. For just a bit of extra money and some extra time planning, we now have a “second wedding” to look forward to.