Rehearsal dinners once were simple events, a last simple party to attend prior to the main event after all the planning and practice had passed. Now, these events rival receptions in their grandeur and preparation. To help you avoid becoming overwhelmed by this once casual affair, we’ve gathered together a list of ideas that will help you avoid adding more stress to an already jam-packed schedule.

Remember What It’s For

Many couples plan their wedding for months. Clothes fittings, wedding showers, meetings with the caterer, venue decoration and last-minute emergencies can cause the feelings of pressure and anticipation to build to an almost unbearable level.

By the time the bride, groom, and their closest family members get to the rehearsal dinner, they will likely be tired. The next day will be packed with excitement, and you’ll want to enjoy every moment. Make it a priority to relax at the rehearsal dinner and just enjoy the people who matter most to both of you.

Sometimes at the rehearsal dinner, key family members are meeting for the first time. When deciding on a venue, menu, and related activities, think how you can make your guests most comfortable and encourage mingling.

Choose Your Venue

You most likely planned your wedding menu and venue to appeal to a wide range of guests, but your rehearsal dinner can be a little more informal. Choose cuisine that’s meaningful to the bride and groom or a setting that reflects the circumstances under which they met. If the weather is pleasant, a backyard barbecue or evening in the park allows guests to get to know each other in an informal setting. If you’re having a sit-down meal, choose a location that allows open seating and serves food family-style.

Time it Carefully

Rehearsals normally begin around 5:30, so members of the wedding party don’t have to leave work early to attend. If you start the rehearsal dinner around 7 in the evening, participants have plenty of time to celebrate without worrying about being groggy the next day. If time is tight or out of town guests won’t arrive in time, plan a rehearsal brunch the day of the wedding instead of celebrating the night before. Whenever you have your event, keep it simple and remember to enjoy what you’ve worked so hard to bring together.

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