The Ultimate Guide to Rehearsal Dinner Alternatives

image of a rehearsal dinner table set family style

A rehearsal dinner is typically held the night before a wedding as a thank you to the wedding party for attending the rehearsal. After practicing walking down the aisle, the order of the ceremony, readings and anything else that needs to be covered in preparation, the couple, their close family and the wedding party sit down for a nice dinner.

Is a rehearsal dinner necessary?

As you know here at Loud Bride, I don’t believe that anything is necessary just because it’s tradition. So here is why you should consider a rehearsal dinner and when it isn’t needed.

In general, a rehearsal dinner is not necessary. It is seen as a nice gesture to thank the wedding party after attending the rehearsal. You can thank the wedding party in other ways, like with a small gift. Or even skip the rehearsal altogether if your ceremony is uncomplicated and your venue allows.

And it’s especially not necessary to turn your rehearsal dinner into a large welcome party for out of town guests or to add a larger event after the dinner for guests outside of the wedding party. This has become a common event at modern weddings but it is not mandatory. If you like the idea of celebrating an additional night with your guests, go for it! Just know that you can skip it if the idea is overwhelming or impacting your budget.

Is it rude to not have a rehearsal dinner?

I know you’re used to hearing “do whatever you want!” and “it’s your day!” but that doesn’t always help ease your anxiety around whether your guests will think it’s rude if you don’t have a rehearsal dinner. So we did a poll of over 100 couples on Facebook.

In general, is it not considered rude to not have a rehearsal dinner. The majority of couples we asked in our poll, about 80%, said it was acceptable to skip the rehearsal dinner.

A few people did mention that if there was a rehearsal planned, they would expect a dinner to follow. So if you are having a rehearsal, you may need to make it clear that dinner is not following the event. Or you can plan an alternative meal or activity. Keep reading for a list of alternatives to a formal, sit-down dinner.

rehearsal dinner table outdoors with floral centerpieces

What can you do instead of a rehearsal dinner?

If a formal rehearsal dinner sounds boring or too stuffy, or just plain too expensive, let’s talk about ways to make it your own. Here are some ideas for a great alternative to the traditional rehearsal dinner:

Host a rehearsal brunch

Everyone loves a good brunch! This is a perfect, relaxing way to celebrate the day before the wedding while still hosting a rehearsal-like event. You can have the rehearsal before or after the brunch. If you want to invite out of town guests to this, it will be more cost effective than a dinner with drinks. Then you can mingle with guests before the chaos of the wedding. 

Make it a backyard BBQ

If you’re inviting everyone who’s coming from out of town to the rehearsal dinner, this is a great way to do that without all the hassle and major expense at a restaurant. Throw a casual backyard BBQ with everyone you want to see the day before the wedding. Keep it low-key or high-key by inviting as many people as you want – you could even incorporate fun things to do like live music, yard games, and so much more. But don’t upstage your own wedding the next day by going too fancy or large-scale.

Have a rehearsal dinner picnic in the park

No backyard to host a barbecue? No problem. Take your wedding party to the park instead and lay out a spread of charcuterie, sandwiches and juice boxes. Depending on your local container laws, a flask or two might also be appropriate.

fancy park wedding venue with wood gazebo

Plan a group activity

Bowling, seeing a movie, ax-throwing… the possibilities are endless when it comes to planning a group outing rather than a formal rehearsal dinner. This is especially a great option if you’re looking to make things more fun. You also get a chance to see some of the sights if you’re having a destination wedding.

Host a wine tasting

Whether you go to a vineyard to sightsee the area near your wedding, hit up a wine bar, or even hire a sommelier to come to your house, hosting an intimate wine tasting can be a great way to switch things up. Bonus points for including some snacks with your tasting and gifting your wedding party a bottle of wine each from the experience.

Hire a food truck

I went to a welcome party / rehearsal dinner where the couple hired a pizza truck to make brick-oven style pizzas in their yard. It was a fun, casual event with great food. And an amazing way to welcome out of town guests.

Host a welcome cocktail hour

If you’re not into the idea of doing a full rehearsal dinner but you do want to host some kind of get-together the night before your wedding, a welcome cocktail hour is a great way to do so. This can be an event held at your venue or your house. Or you can invite some people to meet up at your favorite bar. You can make it what you want – an elaborate event at a fancy venue or a relaxed evening at your favorite local spot. 

photo of a welcome cocktail hour with charcuterie, cheese and fruit

Skip the dinner and give out favors instead

If planning another event is too taxing, consider other ways to thank your wedding party for being there for your special day. You can get them a gift and give it to them immediately following the rehearsal in lieu of a sit-down dinner. Just make sure you set expectations beforehand that you’re skipping the rehearsal dinner. You don’t want your wedding party to arrive hungry and expecting a meal.

Looking for other alternative ideas to traditional wedding events? Check out this post on alternative wedding themes. And our guide on wedding dress alternatives.

Need additional tips from other like-minded brides? Whether you’re planning a wedding at the last minute or on a budget, check out our free, exclusive Facebook group – Wedding Planning Club


Jaime is the owner of Loud Bride and Coast Designs LLC. She got married in 2017 in Geneseo, NY and designed her own wedding invitations and programs for the occasion. Now, she designs bespoke wedding stationery and affordable templates for other couples. She lives in New York city with her husband and two children.

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