The biggest part of throwing a rehearsal dinner is choosing the rehearsal dinner menu, but all it takes is a little thought and preparation to find food that will contribute to an unforgettable meal.
Picking a theme for the evening is the fastest and easiest way to decide on a rehearsal dinner menu, because the theme does the choosing for you. With a Jamaican-themed evening, the menu might include jerk chicken, black beans, and a rice pilaf. An Italian dinner could mean lasagna, roasted vegetables, and garlic bread. Of course, the meal’s theme could be as simple as the first meal the groom cooked for his bride or the dishes the couple enjoy making together. It would also be good to have themed dinnerware sets instead of plain plastic dinnerware sets.
Hint: When choosing to serve more exotic dishes, it’s always a good idea to have something on hand for the children and/or the picky eaters.
Most restaurants offer a set number of choices to especially large parties. These choices can vary depending on the restaurant, the host’s budget, the number of guests, etc. Banquet halls always have a set menu, and again the choices usually depend on the same things. When choosing a rehearsal dinner venue, be sure to taste the items that will be served to the guests, and it’s important to avoid dishes that will be served at the reception.
The food is important, but so are the drinks. Beyond the obvious necessity of hydrating the guests, people will be giving toasts, and it can be a nice to touch to have something special to drink while everyone’s lifting their glasses. This could mean champagne, a nice wine, or, for children and adults who don’t drink, sparkling cider.
Also, try coordinating the drinks with the rehearsal dinner menu. For a Jamaican evening, consider serving Jamaican Rum Punch. If the dinner’s inspired by Italy, serve Merlot or Chianti.
Be sure to take the prep time into consideration. Who will be doing the prep work for the dinner? If the hosts are people who will need to participate in the ceremony rehearsal, it might be a good idea to call in favors from close friends or family members that won’t be needed earlier in the evening. Another option is to choose dishes that can be prepared ahead of time, or perhaps even arrange to have the meal catered.
Having a potluck dinner is an easy way to take care of the prep. Ask guests to bring a dish that they love or that means something to them. Provide recipe cards in the invitations and request that they copy down the recipe as a gift to the new couple. Of course, it’s important to coordinate the dishes, so that there aren’t seventeen side dishes and no main course.
Sit-down Dinner or Buffet
Traditionally, rehearsal dinners have been sit-down meals. This cuts down on the number of possible distractions during the toasts. However, an easy workaround is to serve everyone buffet-style, wait, and then have the toasts after dinner.
Once the rehearsal dinner menu is in place, everything else will be a piece of cake. Speaking of which, don’t forget dessert! The sky’s the limit, but it’s a good idea to avoid cake, since everyone will be having some the following day at the reception. So find something sweet to serve and enjoy the evening.