Rehearsal Dinner Details

Planning the rehearsal dinner was a huge headache for us.  I figured it would be a piece of cake compared to the complicated reception with twice as many people. Definitely not.

I don’t want to drag out the pain so here’s the short version:

Mr. Squirrel and I kept going back and forth between having a casual “welcome picnic” with all the guests or a fancier sit down dinner with only immediate family and wedding party. I was rooting for the welcome party for a long time. I loved the idea of seeing all the guests as much as possible. It was great in theory, but a logistical nightmare. We couldn’t find a venue (who knew parks were $500 to rent for the evening?) and without any family or close friends in town to help, a DIY dinner for 90 people was a scary thought.

Mr. Squirrel could see my frustration, so he jumped in and took the rehearsal dinner reigns. He started making calls to restaurants all over Tampa. Some of the responses were just laughable. One manager rambled on for twenty minutes about how “of course they could accommodate our party” and there would be signature food, drinks, basically anything our little hearts could desire…all for a $5000 minimum. Hah, no.

We capped our budget for the rehearsal dinner at $1500 and we quickly realized that, in order to have it at a restaurant, we had to limit our guest count to the 45 people that made up the bridal party and immediate family. I was bummed, but we came up with a little bit of a compromise (…wait for it).

Mr. Squirrel finally found a great restaurant called Pane Rustica. (Remember, I just spared you about four months of restaurant calling.) It has your traditional American smattering of options: steak, seafood, pasta, etc. They have an in-house bakery with some insane goodies for dessert. The decor is pretty swanky and we will have our own private room for our loud obnoxious families (a requirement for us!). You see, my family historically interprets “rehearsal dinner” to mean “roast.”


Image via Pane Rustica

We were both completely over planning the rehearsal dinner when we remembered we still had to actually invite our guests. We were feeling some serious invitation burnout after constructing books and I was SO CLOSE to getting the green light from Mr. S to just order an invite off of Etsy. The invites we liked only invited guests to the dinner, not to the rehearsal itself. I figured a quick message to the shop owner could fix this issue. Mr. S decided he would rather just do it himself…sigh. So, we agreed that he could design it if he only spent a short amount of time on it and promised not to get invested.

Thankfully he stuck with the plan and quickly designed our invite. Simple, classy and to the point. No fuss and ready to be sent out!


Yes, the dinner will be delish, but what I am most excited about is that we are still going to have a “Welcome Party” after dinner that all the wedding guests can come to! It will be at an outside bar right in front of the hotel where everyone is staying. The bar is located right on the Tampa Bay waterfront and has live music and a great vibe. We are keeping this very casual and just making a note of it in the welcome packet that will go in the out of town bags. We are not paying for drinks or food, but basically suggesting a central location for all the guests to meet up. Win win in my book!

Was it stressful to plan your rehearsal dinner? Did you feel like it was just becoming a second reception?


Mrs. Squirrel

Tampa, FL
Wedding Date:
May 2013

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  1. Member
    anemonie 1578 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:19 am

    That place looks great, as do your invitations! The rehearsal dinner is one of those thing I just kept forgetting about because planning the wedding itself was so overwhelming. The thought of finding another venue, planning another meal, finding more money in the budget, shopping for another white dress…it just exhausted me.

    I literally called a restaurant I’d never been to and when they said they had a space available, that there was no minimum or deposit, and that guests could just order from their normal menu, I just made the reservation and forgot about it. Invitations never occurred to me so we ended up inviting people by…wait for it…phone call, word of mouth, or Facebook. Luckily, it all turned out great! The restaurant had great, affordable Italian food that suited DH’s Italian family and their pumpkin cocktails went over amazingly.

  2. Member
    Mrs. Road Trip 752 posts, Busy bee @ 7:32 am

    Gorgeous restaurant! That bar is amazing!

    We’re going very low-key with the rehearsal dinner (at least that’s the plan): Mexican restaurant we went to on our first date that has a considerably back room area. Plus there will only be like 15 people to wrangle.

  3. Member
    Mrs. Bracelet 1411 posts, Bumble bee @ 8:59 am

    Our rehearsal dinner planned itself pretty easily – few venue options to choose from where we got married, so we went with the easiest: BBQ at our wedding hotel/venue. Everybody enjoyed it and it required minimal planning.

  4. Member
    Mrs. Treasure 1641 posts, Bumble bee @ 9:02 am

    Our rehearsal dinner was exactly like this – dinner with just people in the wedding and then a casual welcome party following dinner. It was mostly just family members who came, so it didn’t feel like a second reception.

  5. Member
    Mrs. Mongoose 726 posts, Busy bee @ 9:32 am

    Wow, the restaurant you guys chose looks very chic! Our Welcome Dinner will be at a micro-brewery for all guests to attend–however we are keeping everything SUPER casual. We’ve ordered a ton of appetizers off the menu (a la carte) and let guests know it is a cash bar. We didn’t want to spend too much time and effort on this (didn’t want it to turn into a mini-wedding).

  6. Member
    Mrs. Toadstool 2485 posts, Buzzing bee @ 9:44 am

    An intimate moment with those involved in the wedding and then party with the guests= I think that is a perfect compromise.

  7. Member
    Mrs. Pony 9265 posts, Buzzing Beekeeper @ 10:28 am

    Your rehearsal panning sounds like a pain, but your choice looks beautiful!

  8. Member
    Mrs. Lemur 616 posts, Busy bee @ 11:03 am

    I can’t believe you couldn’t find a park for less than $500! Granted, we’re renting a shelter, but it’s in a large park so I figure we’ll have plenty of room… it was only $75 and we are DIYing for a smaller welcome dinner.

    But your invites are adorable and love what you came up with! Your guests will too!

  9. Member
    almost-mrsp 2056 posts, Buzzing bee @ 12:00 pm

    We are doing the same thing… smaller RD, and then a welcome party (which we are not hosting, more of an organized meeting space). I’m excited, hopefully it will go over well!

  10. Member
    Beezysbreezy 540 posts, Busy bee @ 4:33 pm

    That’ll be awesome! And very similar to what we’re doing. I’ve only heard good things about that restaurant, but have yet to try it! Gotta make it down to South Tampa more.

    We’re doing a small rehearsal dinner at the hotel, but we’re going to have Ciccio’s cater the dinner and order a little extra for the party portion. Happy planning!!!

  11. Guest
    Anon, Guest @ 8:19 pm

    Have a blast at your rehearsal dinner!!
    You have worked so hard for so long.
    Sit back, relax and let the good times roll!

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