10 Wedding Rehearsal Dinner Ideas That Are Truly Unique

Your guests will never forget the time they played Jenga at a rehearsal dinner.
Heather Bien - The Knot Contributor.
by Heather Bien
Updated Sep 14, 2021

A nice dinner to accompany a wedding rehearsal is wonderful, but maybe you're looking for a wedding rehearsal dinner idea that's a little bit more inventive. You want to throw a party that keeps things fun and casual the night before the wedding, lets your closest friends and family spend quality time together, and gives you a chance to relax before the big day.

These unique rehearsal dinner ideas are perfect for the couple that wants to show off their personality while also keeping things laid-back. After all, isn't the actual wedding day the time to get fancy? So throw out all of the rehearsal dinner etiquette you thought you knew, because this is your opportunity to let your hair down and celebrate in a way that's truly your own.

Make It True to You

First and foremost, the perfect rehearsal dinner (and wedding ceremony and reception, for that matter), is all about the couple themselves. When you're thinking of your theme, consider the hobbies, activities and interests you two have together. What makes up your love story?

"Reflect back on some of your favorite dates together and think about how you can translate those memories into something your guests can experience as a kick-off to the wedding weekend," says Mary Guido, founder and owner of Mary Guido Atelier, a luxury wedding planning studio based in Washington, DC.

Don't worry about going overboard with a theme. Because your rehearsal dinner will likely have a more intimate guest list than you'll have the next day, it can be easier to successfully pull off a well-executed theme.

A wedding planner can help bring your vision to life. "We love playing up a theme for a rehearsal dinner," says Laura Ritchie, principal designer at Grit & Grace. "Since rehearsals are typically smaller than the wedding and consist of a bridal party and immediate family, we love to create high-touch and intimate themes to spend time with VIPs ahead of the big day."

1. Wine Tasting or Cooking Class Rehearsal Dinner

One of the advantages of just having a small group of loved ones and family members is celebrating in a way that might not be possible with a large group. You'll create a delightfully unexpected rehearsal dinner by treating guests to an interactive dining and drinking experience where they're learning just as much as they're consuming.

"I love when rehearsal dinners are immersive experiences that highlight the couple's story," Guido says. "Maybe this means a dinner with a sommelier-led wine tasting that features wines from the region in Italy where they'll honeymoon, or a group cooking class that recreates the paella they shared on their second date."

2. Hometown Rehearsal Dinner

If the couple is from different places, a hometown-themed rehearsal dinner can be a wonderful way for a couple to show off everything that makes their cities special. Serve cuisine that's unique to the regions represented and create centerpieces that show off the cities' landmarks. Incorporate the locales into edible favors for guests to take home at the end of the night—think airplane-bottle-sized maple syrup for Vermont or crab chips for Maryland.

3. BBQ Rehearsal Dinner

Keep it laid-back by serving family-style barbecue to your rehearsal dinner guests. You can't go wrong with plenty of barbecue sauce, mac and cheese, cornbread and all of the fixings you'd expect at a backyard BBQ bash.

If both partners are from BBQ-proud states, do a barbecue battle royale. Serve Texas brisket, Alabama white sauce chicken or Memphis-style ribs, and see which wins the favor of your close friends and family—particularly those with no allegiance.

The best part? There's no need for fancy dinner rentals. Disposable tablecloths and plastic cutlery are absolutely appropriate for a casual BBQ rehearsal dinner.

4. Food Truck Rehearsal Dinner

Food trucks are having a moment, so your groomsmen and bridesmaids will be thrilled when they leave the ceremony rehearsal to find food trucks waiting for them. Go with just one or book two to three options and give the party a fun, food festival feel. Bring in easy picnic benches or hightop tables so guests can mix, mingle and compare the dishes they chose.

Tip: Contact your favorite restaurants to see if they either have food trucks or have the ability to serve their food out of a truck. This gives everyone a peek at the food you love!

5. Fiesta Rehearsal Dinner

Always craving Mexican food? String up lights and vibrant banners at an outdoor rehearsal dinner venue and plan a colorful, lively, fiesta-themed rehearsal dinner. Serve your guests tacos, chips and salsa, and margaritas for an easy menu that's sure to please everyone on your list.

6. Game Night Rehearsal Dinner

Encourage a bit of friendly competition by hosting a game night rehearsal dinner. If you have a beautiful evening, bring in croquet, bocce ball, and other low-impact games to keep guests conversing long after cocktail hour is over. Or, if staying inside is a better option, bring in board games that encourage groups like Scrabble, Jenga and Catch Phrase. Serve heavy hors d'oeuvres and let guests socialize over winning, losing and calling it a tie.

Providing classic games for multiple players helps everyone from the groom's family to the bride's college friends break the ice and get to know each other.

7. Summer Campfire Rehearsal Dinner

Who says a summer soiree needs to be fancy? Bring guests back to simpler days when a bonfire in the summer was all you needed for an occasion. With easy cookout food like hot dogs and hamburgers and everybody's favorite summer treat—s'mores—your guests will have the perfect time celebrating the night before the big day.

Ritchie also suggests adapting this easygoing summer party theme to your location. "If you are by the beach, think crabs, buckets of summer shandy beer and lobster bibs," she says.

8. Pizza Party Rehearsal Dinner

Everyone loves pizza. Host your friends and family for a classic pizza party with all of the garlic knots, fountain sodas and glass jars of crushed red pepper and parmesan that you know and love from childhood. Bonus points if you can recreate those iconic red-and-white checkered tablecloths.

"I did a rehearsal dinner this season with a vintage pizza party hosted out of a refitted 1951 Ford truck," says Tanya Cornwell, wedding planner and founder of Starry Night Events in Richmond, Virginia. "The bride and groom wanted a laid-back, casual night on the eve of their wedding, and we brought in pizza truck slingers for a unique experience for the guests. Everyone raved about the whole package, including their vintage truck, wood-fired pizza oven and the goodies that came from it."

Pro tip: This is a great way to serve a group on a budget if you plan on inviting all or most of your wedding guests to the rehearsal dinner.

9. Movie Night Rehearsal Dinner

If the couple happens to be movie buffs, a movie night rehearsal dinner is both a great conversation starter and an entertaining theme. Plan a slideshow of the couple set to favorite movie scores and let the guests guess the title. Bring in an old-school popcorn machine and serve buckets of beer at cocktail hour. Give each table a specific movie theme that relates to one of the couple's all-time favorite flicks. Stock a photo booth with movie props and old Hollywood costumes, and you're all set for a night to remember.

10. Sporty Rehearsal Dinner

Ritchie worked with a couple eager to do something outside of the box and involve their nearest and dearest in one of their favorite ways. "We recently did a wedding in Dallas and the clients were avid runners," she says. "They printed marathon shirts that were provided in the welcome gifts and hosted their guests for a 'trot before the knot' fun run around downtown that ended with Tex Mex in the city."

Just make sure the rehearsal dinner invitation adequately explains what guests are in for with an endeavor like this and provide a low-key option for those who'd rather not break a sweat.

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