10 Unique Rehearsal Dinner Ideas for 2022 Weddings

From food to fashion, here's how to create a one-of-a-kind experience for your guests beyond the big day.

emma and jade
Sam Docker

Blame it on a post-lockdown desire to party or the popularity of longer wedding weekend celebrations, but the rehearsal dinner has officially gotten an upgrade from the traditional intimate gathering after a standard ceremony walk-through. Now, the night before the wedding and the string of welcome events before it are as produced and leveled up as the main event—complete with friends, family, and a taste of the town.

Use the rehearsal dinner as an opportunity to create an experience for your guests that doesn't quite suit the scale, theme, or traditional nature of the wedding night. Whether you bring in your favorite chef, throw an all-night dance party, or opt for a theme that's undeniably you, this is a night to explore another facet of your styles as hosts. Ahead, our top rehearsal dinner ideas to level up your celebratory weekend—no matter where in the world you wed.

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Make It About the Fashion
bettina looney
La Dichosa

Don't stop your fashion prep at the ceremony and after-party looks. Your rehearsal dinner ensemble ushers in the weekend's celebrations and is likely the first time you'll greet your guests as a bride and groom. A dedicated photo session prior to or during the event guarantees that you'll have photos in looks other than your wedding dress; it also works to get you warmed up in front of the camera before the wedding day.

When styling your welcome party look, channel the look of the location and incorporate silhouettes, color, prints, and styles you aren't addressing down the aisle or at the reception. For example, if you're going to be a princess down the aisle, a sophisticate at the reception, and a party girl at night, this is the chance for you to keep it sleek—or a touch bohemian.

Pictured: Bettina Looney at her welcome party in South Africa

Stack Your Toasts
rehearsal dinner ideas
NORMAN & BLAKE

A seated rehearsal dinner or a night of drinks and passed hors d'oeuvres is where your key toasts belong. Tap a lovable bridal party member to be your MC and program speeches throughout the event rather than requiring conversation to cease for a string of back-to-back speeches.

In a more intimate setting, a string of sentimental toasts from faces the majority of the room recognizes is more likely to be enjoyed by many, rather than falling flat in a crowded room. Unless you have performers or seasoned public speakers in the mix, save only the key toasts for the wedding day and keep them short and sweet— you'll thank us later.

Party in Theme
ivy getty
Jose Villa

Treat your guests to a theme party to kick things off for the weekend—and make it undeniably you. For Ivy Getty and Tobias Engel's festivities in San Francisco, pictured here, the couple opted for a mod party channeling London in the '60s as an ode to the groom's English heritage and the bride's love for all things retro. Event designer Stanlee Gatti pulled inspiration from Barbarella, the 1968 sci-fi film. As for the fashion, the bride's three looks referenced icons such as Twiggy, Mary Quant, and Jean Shrimpton.

Adapt this concept with any theme that best suits you as a couple and as individuals. Get inspired by family history, films you love, or your event's location. From a Western hoedown to a Hawaiian luau on the beach, the sky is the limit if you're opting for a party in theme.

Bring In Your Favorite Chef, Cuisine—or Restaurant
wedding rehearsal dinner ideas
Allan Zepeda

The rehearsal dinner is a naturally more intimate event, especially if you're keeping the guest count to only those participating in the ceremony. Use the smaller number of guests as a chance to elevate the guest experience in every way, from curated tabletop to live music.

Food on the wedding day tends to be classic and people-pleasing; whether you love French, Italian, Indian, or sushi, this is your moment to surprise, delight, and share something you love with your guests. Make the menu even more personal by bringing in your favorite dishes or chef.

For an event in Cape Cod pictured here, BAZAAR Bride best planner Marcy Blum coordinated a pop-up of the couple's favorite New York City restaurant, Carbone, for an over-the-top evening. If you're after something casual with options for a variety of palettes, bring in a slew of your favorite food trucks instead.

Interactive Entertaining
hat branding station
Jose Villa; Easton Events

Activities for guests to experience and participate in—be it a wine tasting, tarot card reading, a portrait artist, and more—can seem gimmicky on the wedding night; but at the welcome party, they set the event's tone, encourage conversation, and create a more dynamic setup for gifting.

Case in point: At a recent Western-themed welcome party created by Easton Events and David Beahm Experiences at a ranch in Aspen, guests were invited to brand hats from Nick Fouquet with their initials and accessorize their brims, outfitting them for the evening and the remainder of their stay in the mountains.

Set the Scene
zimmermann event capri
virgile guinard

Consider your destination when designing your rehearsal dinner tablescape—or pull inspiration from somewhere you love visiting together.

Whether it's a tablescape inspired by the English countryside, a riad in Marrakech, the onsens in Kyoto, or (in this case) the citrus trees of the Amalfi Coast, let your rehearsal dinner take on a color palette, energy, and a slew of details you don't plan on including on your wedding day, but absolutely love.

Embrace Local Talent
rehearsal dinner ideas
THE TIMES WE HAVE

Book a mix of talent from near and far, hiring your go-tos and talent you've always admired. The rehearsal dinner can be an ideal time for a performance, ambient tunes, or an all-night dance party.

Embrace the sounds of your event destination; a wedding in Mexico may call for a mariachi band, like the artists pictured here. The same could be said for opera singers in Italy, or Palenqueras in Cartagena. These talents set the scene and encourage everyone to get on the dance floor.

Apply the same concept to your cocktail hour; consider an olive oil tasting in Greece or a bourbon tasting in the South if that feels apropos.

Time to Party
after party rehearsal dinner
SERGIO SANDONA

Skip the sit-down dinner; after a year-plus in lockdown, all your guests want to do is party. Give them what they want with music, entertainment, and more—be it a fabulous DJ or a playlist curated by you both.

The key to successfully kicking off the weekend without tiring out your group is to provide hydration and sustenance—but make it fun. Surround the dance floor with mouthwatering small bites and keep the options coming down to dessert and late-night junk food. If you're hosting a crowd that loves a late night, take luxury to the next level and offer services like IV stations and oxygen bars the next morning to revive and refresh loved ones for the wedding day.

Plan for a Portrait Session
rehearsal dinner shoot
Feather & Stone Photography

Planning time for a shoot in your rehearsal dinner outfits is something you won't regret—it captures the time and effort you spent getting dressed up and reinforces your comfort level with your chosen photographer and with each other in front of the camera.

Keep it casual: Take a stroll near your event venue, grab a drink, or head to a spot that's stunning but may be challenging to get to on your wedding day for a first look.

Mocktail Hour
mocktail rehearsal dinner ideas
Jose Villa

While every thoughtful party should have options for those who don't consume alcohol, an enticing mocktail (or two) on the menu will lessen the pressure to indulge the night before yet another late night. A delicious beverage offering not only elevates the overall culinary experience but cuts down on the FOMO—and the possibility of having a hungover guest list the next day.

Or, if you're wanting one killer party after the next—and why wouldn't you?!—start your rehearsal dinner on the early side.

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