Rehearsal dinners are a great way to kick-start the wedding celebration, and to welcome friends and families who have traveled to be a part of your special day. Last Friday, I coordinated a fabulous rehearsal dinner at El Dorado Kitchen, a chic and stylish restaurant in Sonoma. My clients Mariko and Matt were from New York, and they had friends and families flew in from all over the world to attend their wine country wedding. When asked why they chose the wine country, they had a consistent answer: "It is equally inconvenient for everyone!" Mariko's family flew in from as far as Japan for this celebration!
When selecting a rehearsal dinner site, you should consider several important factors. First of all, is there a private room or a semi-private area that could be sectioned off? Because there may be toasts and thank you speeches, it is often better to have a secluded, quiet area for your party. Secondly, I often recommend that my clients choose restaurants that have a different style or cuisine of food than what they will be serving at the wedding reception. Therefore, your guests will get a chance to enjoy completely different menus both nights. Last, but not least, consider logistics such as parking to make it as convenient for your guests as possible. Make sure there's a nice waiting area or bar/lounge for guests to enjoy a drink or two if they arrive early.
I recommend having assigned seating for the rehearsal dinner. It doesn't necessarily make it more formal, but you will find that your guests often hesitate in where to sit when they approach such events. They are unsure of the etiquettes, so it's best to guide them to make them feel more at ease.
If you have gifts for your attendants and families, the rehearsal dinner is a terrific time to pass those out and to express your gratitude for their participation in your wedding. Toasts do not need to be 'pre-arranged' and often is more appreciated when they are spontaneous at a rehearsal dinner, so sit back and enjoy!!!