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Rehearsal Dinner Party Ideas: Celebrate in Style before the Big Day
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Rehearsal Dinner Party Ideas: Celebrate in Style before the Big Day

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Rehearal Dinner Invitations You've planned your big day from top to bottom: Venue? Check. Dress? Check. Florist, photographer, and caterer? Check, check, check. You've created endless to-do lists, spent hours on the phone with vendors-and, likely, your mom-and perhaps shed a tear or two. Now it's time to put on a great party dress, enjoy time with your family, friends, and soon-to-be spouse, and let someone else be in charge for a while.

The rehearsal dinner is a time-honored tradition, but it's also a necessity. It gives the bride and groom a chance to take a breath and visit with loved ones whom they might not have seen in ages-and might not have a chance to talk to in the flurry of the next day's nuptials. Unlike the wedding, in which there are always places to be, people to see, and things to do, the rehearsal dinner is largely an unstructured event designed to be fun and relaxing.

Whether the groom's parents are hosting your rehearsal dinner or you're doing it together, here are some ideas to consider and share for a one-of-a-kind pre-wedding bash.

1. Do something completely different. One wonderful thing about a rehearsal dinner is it's not a wedding. There aren't nearly as many requirements for planning a rehearsal dinner, so take advantage of that freedom. Have fun with the event, and make sure it's not simply a prequel to the big day.

Make the rehearsal dinner a completely different affair than the wedding: If the wedding is black-tie formal, why not plan a backyard barbecue or even a bowling party for your rehearsal dinner? Use the location of the event as inspiration-for instance, if you'll be getting married in an East Coast town, a clambake or a lobster boil would be the perfect casual counterpart to your nuptials by the sea. Or, since it's all about having fun, you might design your rehearsal dinner around an activity you and your fiancÚ love-such as dinner at a winery if you're oenophiles, or a karaoke party if you're musical sweethearts.

2. Have fun with the invitation. The rehearsal dinner invitation you choose should provide all the important details of the event-date, time, place-but it should also reflect the more relaxed atmosphere of the party. You can always choose an invitation that coordinates with the wedding invite, but if you want to do something truly different for this unique occasion, try something more playful. A postcard invitation with a photo of the two of you on one side and all the relevant information on the back is one eye-catching approach. Or, if you're hosting a rehearsal dinner barbecue or a beach-themed party to go along with a destination wedding, pick a more casual invitation that plays off the theme (here are two examples: Rehearsal Dinner BBQ Invitations and and Rehearsal Dinner Beach Invitations. Whatever you choose, make sure it captures the essence of your rehearsal dinner, whether it will be a semi-formal dinner at a downtown restaurant or a picnic out back of your future in-laws' home.
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3. Make it personal. The best way to throw a rehearsal dinner unlike any other is to personalize it. Make the event a celebration of your relationship, from those first blissful days to the moment that has brought you all together. In deciding on a location for the venue, consider a spot that has special meaning for you both-where you had your first date, or first kiss, or where you became engaged-or a favorite restaurant or place in the city where you live, such as a park or an art gallery.

If the rehearsal dinner and wedding will not be taking place in the city where you two met or live, you might pick a venue based on your interests or passions. If you love Italy and plan to honeymoon there, a quaint Italian restaurant would be a lovely spot for an intimate dinner party. If you're outdoors enthusiasts, a picnic at a city park, with plenty of fun activities like horseshoes and bocce ball, might be more in order. Still another option is to design the rehearsal dinner around an important cultural or family tradition.

Once you choose the right location for your party, add personal touches in the space as well. Here are three ideas:
1. Designate a table for displaying framed photographs of the two of you through the years. Or display framed photos of couples you admire-such as your parents, grandparents, siblings, and best friends-on their wedding days.

2. Make or hire someone to create a video montage of photographs of your growing-up years up through your years together. Set the montage to a playlist of songs that are important to you both.

3. Set up an area of the room where guests can leave personal messages for you. This can be a traditional guest book, or an enlarged photo of you set in a mat on which guests can sign, or something more unusual and unique, like a large serving dish that people can sign if you're a couple who love to cook.

4. Encourage mingling. A rehearsal dinner is an excellent time to introduce your guests to one another before they gather for your wedding. Especially if you have people coming from far and wide, you'll want to make sure there are no awkward silences at the dinner table. To facilitate lively conversations, consider having an icebreaker game at each table. Seat people with those they might not know as well (as long as you think they'll be comfortable with this arrangement). Place a list of questions about you and your fiancÚ at each table, and invite the people seated together to try to answer them as a team. They'll have fun trying to figure out the right answers, especially if you make the questions tricky or silly-and if you award a prize to the table that answers first or most.

If you want to take a looser approach to encouraging mingling, try one of the following:
1. To designate tables, use a funny photograph of one or both of you (such as an awkward photo from your teenager years). It will get people talking and laughing as they sit and introduce themselves.

2. Plan a cocktail hour before the dinner so that people have a chance to walk around and chat before sitting down to eat.

3. Ask people to help out with different aspects of the event-for instance, if you're having a barbecue, invite people who like to grill to help you prepare the food.

5. Give thanks. You might not have a chance to thank those who have helped you along the way on the big day, so take time at the rehearsal dinner to give thanks. One or both of you can give a brief toast to family and friends who have helped you in direct and indirect ways. This is also a good time to give out gifts to your wedding party and, if you choose, to your parents.

The rehearsal dinner is all about spending quality time with the people you love, sharing a meal and good conversation with your family and friends. So visit, talk, laugh, eat-and get a good night's sleep so you're fresh for what tomorrow brings!

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