How to Plan a Rehearsal Dinner Menu That's *Chef's Kiss*

Because a mid menu is just not an option.
Sarah Title - Bridal Fashion & Shopping Expert.
Sarah Title
Sarah Title - Bridal Fashion & Shopping Expert.
Sarah Title
Bridal Fashion & Shopping Expert
  • Sarah writes a variety of content for The Knot and WeddingWire, including bridal fashion advice and product recommendations.
  • Sarah’s work has also been featured in Brides, Nicki Swift, Betches and Style Me Pretty.
  • Sarah lives in Alexandria, VA with her (new) husband and golden retriever named Brady.
Updated Oct 04, 2023

If you're well into the wedding planning process, it's probably time to begin planning your rehearsal dinner. It might not feel like something you need that much time to figure out (after all, you have a much bigger event to worry about), but you should start planning earlier than you think. One of those planning steps? Figuring out your rehearsal dinner menu. "start planning out these details at least 6 months before the wedding weekend," recommends Rob Pausmith, founder of Pausmith Group.

Read on if you need help planning your rehearsal dinner menu. We tapped experts to give advice on how to plan your menu for rehearsal dinner and for rehearsal dinner food ideas to inspire you.

In this article:

How to Plan Your Rehearsal Dinner Menu

If you're not sure what to serve at your rehearsal dinner, here are a few factors you should consider.

Think about the overall vibe.

Think about what kind of event you want to have. Pausmith recommends couples ask themselves a few questions like "What kind of experience are you looking to provide for your guests? How do you want them to feel throughout the evening and at the end of the night?" Knowing what kind of experience you want them to have (fun and informal or elegant and sophisticated?) will inform other aspects of the evening.

Ask a pro for help.

Whether you're having your rehearsal dinner catered or you're having it at a restaurant, ask the people in charge what they'll take care of. "Just like on the wedding day, you don't want to have to worry about the set-up, service, and clean-up logistics of the dinner," recommends Emma Pool, the chief operating officer at Fitzgerald Hospitality Group Make sure to ask if your caterer is all-inclusive and will handle those details (like providing china, flatware, etc.) for you."

Understand your budget.

Whether you and your S.O. are paying for the rehearsal dinner or others are hosting it for you, it's important to understand what is and isn't possible within your set budget. This is something a pro can help you with.

Find your kind of venue

From barns to ballrooms, discover reception venues that feel like you.

Consider what you're serving at the wedding.

You likely don't want to serve guests the exact same thing for both nights. "What are you serving on your wedding night—and do you want to stay consistent with that type of cuisine, or switch things up and go bold for this first-impression event?" asks Pausmith. Once you figure out the answer to these questions, you'll be one step closer to making a decision.

Don't wait until the last minute.

"A lot of times the rehearsal dinner falls on the back-burner during wedding planning, but like we said earlier, it sets the tone for your weekend and should be a priority item once you have the big wedding day items checked off," advises Pool. "We recommend starting the rehearsal dinner conversation when you're discussing wedding menus with your caterer."

How to Find Rehearsal Dinner Catering

Visit The Knot Vendor Marketplace to find your rehearsal dinner venue. If they don't have an in-house caterer you'll want to ask the venue if they have a preferred vendor list and head to The Knot to read the reviews and find the perfect fit for your celebration.

Rehearsal Dinner Food Ideas

"Your rehearsal dinner should feel like an extension of the wedding itself, as it's an opportunity to welcome your guests and show your appreciation for their support of your big day, so don't hold back," advises Pausmith. Check out these 4 ideas that are sure to wow your guests.

Grazing Stations

Grazing Station for your rehearsal dinner
Photo: Erin Egleston Photography | Shutterstock

Grazing stations are a curated food station featuring bite-size snacks. Each station is usually filled with food that is typically served together like charcuterie, cheeses, baked goods, fruit, the options are truly endless. "Grazing stations are a great way to take elevated menus and make them feel less stuffy for a dinner environment that encourages mingling amongst family, wedding parties and close friends," explains Pool.

Themed Cuisine

"Create a theme based on a location, season or memory that's impactful for you and your partner," suggests Pausmith. If you're tying the knot near the water, consider having a New England-style clambake for your rehearsal dinner. Getting married further south? Why not opt for a BBQ? It also doesn't have to relate to your location at all. Do you both love sushi? Consider serving that at your rehearsal dinner. Personalizing your menu will make the event that much more special.

Customizable Stations

A make-your-own taco bar, a carving station, a mac and cheese bar, the list goes on for the different stations you could incorporate. This gives guests a variety of items to choose from and creates more of a mingling atmosphere. Talk to your venue or caterer about what's possible, figure out if it fits within your budget.

Signature Food and Drink

"Create a 'signature moment' and utilize it throughout the meal. A custom cocktail, an infused butter served with tableside bread, an element featured in each course (like a specific spice, citrus notes, etc.)," recommends Pausmith. Not only is this a fun experience for your guests, it makes everything feel a bit more personal.

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