How to Keep Your Rehearsal Dinner From Becoming a Wedding Reception

Some couples purposely open their rehearsal dinner to a wider group because they love the idea of throwing two large celebrations. When else will they have the chance to party (twice) with everyone they love? But if you’re worried your rehearsal dinner will start morphing into another wedding reception (and steal the spotlight from the main event), don’t worry—here are a few simple ways to make both nights feel distinct, special and manageable.

1. Keep the guest list tight.

If you only take away one tip, make it this one. The easiest way to make your rehearsal dinner feel different from your reception is to refrain from inviting everyone on the main guest list. We know, you want a chance to visit with everyone—especially if you’re having a destination wedding—but there’s a way to do it without making your rehearsal dinner feel like a reception trial run. For example, you could keep rehearsal dinner invites to just your family, wedding party and officiant (aka anyone participating in the ceremony rehearsal), then meet the rest of your guests at a local spot for drinks.

2. Make it less (or more) formal.

If you’re having a black-tie wedding, your rehearsal dinner doesn’t need to be quite as buttoned up. Take it down a notch with a more relaxed dress code, whether that’s a semiformal dinner, rehearsal brunch or barefoot clambake on the beach.

3. Host it somewhere that feels different.

This might sound obvious, but find a night-before spot with a different vibe than your reception venue. Keep the décor minimal and not too wedding-y (is that a word?). Go easy on the ivory florals, don’t add all your dance floor favorites to the playlist and serve a meal with a totally different flavor profile.

5. Take a fashion risk.

Don’t want your wedding outfits to feel redundant? Your rehearsal dinner is a great time to change things up and try something unexpected. Whether it’s a leather jacket, scarlet dress or fun pair of pants, why not wear something totally different than your wedding day look?

6. Don’t feel pressure to hire as many pros.

You’ve hired all your wedding vendors, but you don’t need to splurge on pros for the rehearsal. Unless you want to hire them (it’s your party, after all), skip the four-piece band, professional photographer, late-night food truck and caricature artist for this event—all you need is a great space with ambience, delicious food and festive drinks for toasting.

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