20 Rehearsal Dinner Ideas That’ll Take Your Affair to the Next Level

Make your prewedding event stand out.
Hannah Nowack The Knot Senior Weddings Editor
by
Hannah Nowack
Hannah Nowack The Knot Senior Weddings Editor
Hannah Nowack
Senior Editor, Weddings
  • Hannah writes and edits articles for The Knot Worldwide, with a focus on real wedding coverage.
  • Hannah has a passion for DE&I and plays an integral role in ensuring The Knot content highlights all voices and all love stories.
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Hannah was the Social Media Editor at Martha Stewart Weddings.
Updated Oct 27, 2023

Like a wedding welcome party, the rules surrounding rehearsal dinner ideas are fairly flexible and relaxed. So if there were things you wanted to do on your special day, but you had to reign it in (it happens), do it for the rehearsal dinner. From having an intimate backyard dinner party with your nearest and dearest to mingling on a boat, you can truly do just about whatever you want for your prewedding event. But all that freedom can feel intimidating. Read on to help narrow down the best wedding rehearsal dinner ideas for you. We put together our favorite ways people have executed their rehearsal dinner look and provided tips on where to begin brainstorming.

Rehearsal dinner ideas in this article:

Fun | Casual | Rustic | Unique | Rehearsal Dinner Themes | How To Personalize Your Rehearsal Dinner

Fun Rehearsal Dinner Ideas

You don't have to stick to tradition for your event. Get creative and have fun with these wedding rehearsal dinner ideas.

1. Vintage Car Photo Area

    You don't have to save the photo booth moments for your wedding. Consider doing something like this happy couple who had a white vintage car at their rehearsal dinner for their guests to take pictures in.

    2. Rehearsal Dinner Gift Exchange

      Two people exchanging gifts at rehearsal dinner
      Photo: Abby Jiu Photography

      Share a sweet moment with your loved ones during the rehearsal dinner. It's the perfect time to exchange gifts with the wedding VIPs.

      3. Rehearsal Dinner Welcome Box Gift

        Welcome gift box at rehearsal dinner
        Photo: Kelsea Holder Photography

        The rehearsal dinner can be a great time to give loved ones welcome bags and other amenities. Attendees at this rehearsal dinner received decorated gable boxes filled with goodies.

        4. Nautical Sailboat Rehearsal Dinner

          Sailboat rehearsal dinner
          Photo: Jaimee Morse

          Instead of hosting their rehearsal dinner on land, this couple took to the seas. The prewedding rehearsal dinner took place on a sailboat off the coast of Massachusetts.

          5. Bonfire Rehearsal Dinner Activity

            Bonfire at rehearsal dinner
            Photo: Kelly Anne Photography

            This couple capped off their rehearsal dinner with a fun bonfire for guests to enjoy. Have a s'mores station so guests can enjoy a sweet treat as part of the bonfire.

            Casual Rehearsal Dinner Ideas

            There's no rule saying your ideas for your rehearsal dinner have to be over-the-top. Here are a few ways you and your partner can have a beautiful and chill celebration.

            6. Seafood Boil Rehearsal Dinner

              Seafood boil rehearsal dinner
              Photo: Kate Headley

              Rehearsal dinners don't have to be formal affairs. This couple settled on a fun seafood boil for their coastal rehearsal dinner. You could even host a BBQ bash or enlist some of your favorite food trucks if you're looking for other casual ideas to kick off the wedding weekend in style.

              7. Simple Restaurant Rehearsal Dinner

                Simple rehearsal dinner at restaurant
                Photo: Ryan Greenleaf Photography

                Your rehearsal dinner can be as low-key as you want. This couple chose a favorite restaurant they loved as the rehearsal dinner venue to host their event.

                8. Wood Fired Rehearsal Dinner Pizza

                  Wood fired pizza at rehearsal dinner
                  Photo: Mary Costa Photography

                  A pizza dinner is a popular food choice for rehearsal dinners, and it's not hard to see why. Remember to have gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options for your guests so everyone can have a slice.

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                  9. Rehearsal Dinner Taco Bar

                    Taco bar at rehearsal dinner
                    Photo: Blue Barn Photography

                    Don't be afraid to have fun with your rehearsal dinner menu. If you have a favorite food that didn't make it on the wedding menu, consider serving it before the big day. This DIY rehearsal dinner idea is a fun way to make the event interactive.

                    Rustic Rehearsal Dinner Ideas

                    If you're having a rustic-themed rehearsal dinner, there are numerous ways to go about it. Take a peek at these natural, countrified looks.

                    10. Elevated Western Rehearsal Dinner

                      Elevated Western themed rehearsal dinner
                      Photo: Kelly Hornberger Photography
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                      Florist: Flower & Vine

                      At this Aspen, Colorado rehearsal dinner, the wood tables, chairs and string lights bring the Western vibe to the event. The pastel blue table runner, goblets and mini flower arrangements are simple additions that make the affair look effortlessly elevated.

                      11. Barn Rehearsal Dinner Venue

                        Rehearsal dinner in barn venue
                        Photo: Kelly Hornberger Photography

                        This couple's wedding venue had a beautiful barn, but they wanted a summer wedding reception in a tent and weren't planning to use the space on the wedding day. Instead of letting it go to waste during the wedding weekend, the couple used the barn for their rehearsal dinner.

                        12. Horseshoe Rehearsal Dinner Activity

                          Horseshoe game at rehearsal dinner
                          Photo: Kelly Hornberger Photography

                          Get your guests mingling and active by having rehearsal dinner games. At this outdoor function, they had horseshoes for people to play with––perfect for the couple's Western theme.

                          13. Rustic Farm Tablescape at a Rehearsal Dinner

                            At this rustic outdoor rehearsal dinner, all guests dined around one long farm table. Dining like this creates a cozy, intimate feel everyone will love.

                            Unique Rehearsal Dinner Ideas

                            Put the most into your prewedding party just like you will for the big day. Here are four non-traditional rehearsal dinner ideas that are simply gorgeous.

                            14. Bespoke White Rehearsal Dinner Place Setting

                              Bespoke white place setting at rehearsal dinner
                              Photo: Megan Noll Photography

                              Ensure your rehearsal dinner stationery has personality. We love this dinner stationery with its unique fonts and titled text positions.

                              15. Diner-Inspired Rehearsal Dinner Lounge Area

                                Diner-inspired lounge area at rehearsal dinner
                                Photo: Logan Cole Photography

                                The soon-to-be weds wanted to honor their grandmothers, so they added vintage rehearsal dinner decorations throughout. Retro vinyl banquettes and a backdrop with black and white photos of relatives from the 1900s to the present day made up the seating area.

                                16. Modern Acrylic Rehearsal Dinner Sign

                                  Modern acrylic sign at rehearsal dinner
                                  Photo: Kelsea Holder Photography

                                  The welcome sign fit the event's modern and fresh aesthetic. Welcome signs are the perfect way to greet guests and introduce the vibe.

                                  17. Jewel-Tone Rehearsal Dinner Decor

                                    Jewel-tone decor at rehearsal dinner
                                    Photo: Kyle John Photography

                                    This couple was leaning into a more neutral color palette for their wedding ceremony and reception. That's why they decided to go all-out with a festive jewel-tone color scheme for their prewedding event.

                                    Rehearsal Dinner Themes

                                    Themes aren't required, but it doesn't hurt to have a cohesive atmosphere. Look at some of our favorite rehearsal dinner themes we've seen thus far.

                                    18. Celestial Rehearsal Dinner Theme

                                      Celestial theme at rehearsal dinner
                                      Photo: Kelsea Holder Photography

                                      What's not to love about this modern celestial style? 3D stars of different materials and sizes hung above the long table where guests dined during this rehearsal dinner in California.

                                      19. Italian and Lemon Rehearsal Dinner Theme

                                        The bride and groom wanted to honor their Italian heritage with an Amalfi Coast-themed rehearsal dinner. Lemons were used as decor everywhere, bottles of olive oil as place cards, bright florals on every table and gelato for dessert.

                                        20. Coastal Rehearsal Dinner Theme

                                          Neutral colors and botanicals brought a beachy, coastal vibe to this rehearsal dinner tablescape. Tan chargers, herbs placed in sand bowls and decorative oysters also graced the rehearsal dinner tables.

                                          How To Personalize Your Rehearsal Dinner

                                          When it comes to rehearsal dinner decoration ideas, the sky is the limit. There's some flexibility since the rehearsal dinner isn't the main event. Use these tips to inspire you while you plan.

                                          Start with a solid foundation.

                                          Before diving into the creative details like a color palette or rehearsal dinner food ideas, you need to take care of the who, what and where of the whole thing. For the guest list, Lara Mahler, a wedding planning expert and founder of The Privilege is Mine, shares that "the rehearsal dinner is usually for select people. Typically close friends and immediate family members (or your wedding party) would be invited to the rehearsal dinner. Then the welcome party would open up to all guests and be a less formal."

                                          Sonal Shah, who has a two-decade event planning career and founded Sonal J. Shah Event Consultants, tells us what's best for the food situation. "For the rehearsal dinner, it is easiest to do a plated, coursed, sit-down dinner with choices of entrees. But, if our couple wants more of a fun, party vibe, we recommend stations where there's a variety of food, and the focus is on walking around, talking to guests and even dancing. A lot of times, the rehearsal dinner is only for the main family and bridal party, so, in this instance, we say to do a more intimate sit-down dinner."

                                          Have fun.

                                          Feel free to let loose and do what you want for this prewedding event. To start, think about your hobbies. Your interests can make a great base for your rehearsal dinner theme or aesthetic. "The rehearsal dinner doesn't always have to be a formal dinner," explains Sneh Diwan, founder of Diwan by Design and wedding planner and event expert. "This is an event for a couple to show their gratitude toward their closest friends and family for all the hard work put into making this wedding happen. Whether it's a sit-down dinner or a small get-together at the house following the wedding ceremony rehearsal, at its core, the dinner is an opportunity to gather your favorite people and remember how their support got you to this place."

                                          Highlight your love story.

                                          Your rehearsal dinner is the opportunity to spotlight your relationship and introduce your family to details they might not know about the two of you. Maybe your first date was at a quaint Italian restaurant, so have the place cater for your event. Did you meet at a local bookstore? Incorporate old books into your decor. Using your love story allows you and your partner to have a meaningful theme that feels authentic.

                                          Chapelle Johnson contributed to the reporting of this piece.

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