My family is pretty spread out. I have family members who live in far-flung places all over the world. I even have an uncle who lives at the top of a lighthouse in Switzerland! As a result, my relatives and I hardly ever see each other. Our family reunions are pretty much limited to weddings and funerals, and we haven’t had either one in awhile. That means the Wallaby wedding will be a big family reunion.
Aside from my relatives, I also have a lot of friends from college who will be flying down from Seattle and other parts of the country, and Mr. W has a few relatives who will be coming from the East Coast, and one aunt who will come from Iran. (We are so, so honored that someone will fly around the world to come celebrate our marriage with us!) If you tally up all of the out-of-towners on the guest list, that puts us at about 40 people who will be traveling to the wedding from outside of Texas.
My parents and I want to make sure that all of our relatives feel welcome the weekend of the wedding, and that everyone has plenty of opportunities to catch up and spend some quality time together. We have decided to invite all of the out-of-town guests to the rehearsal dinner. Yes, that’s right—40 out-of-towners, in addition to the whole wedding party and our immediate families, will be feting with us the evening before the wedding. It is going to cost Mr. W and I a pretty penny, but we’ve decided that this will be a great way to get everyone together and give everyone a warm welcome to Houston. We even found a few ways to save money on this dinner.
Our venue is in the outskirts of Houston, and the block of hotel rooms that we’ve booked for our guests is in the same area, so we wanted to find a venue for the rehearsal dinner that is close to the hotel so no one will have to drive too far on Friday evening. (Houston traffic can also be a beezie during rush hour, so we are trying to skirt our guests away from the city gridlock on Friday night!) Our first idea was to buy sandwiches and have a picnic at a park with picnic tables, where everyone can play some games and relax in a low-key atmosphere. But we couldn’t find any parks with enough picnic tables, or with adequate covering in case of rain, so we decided it would be too risky if the weather turned bad. We’re having an outdoor wedding, so that could also be too much time for some guests to spend outside.
We then researched a number of restaurants in the area. The only cuisine that was off-the-table was barbecue, since we’ll be serving that at the wedding reception. We called the managers of a couple steakhouses, but all of them had Friday night minimums that would no doubt bust our budget. We also thought about hosting the rehearsal dinner at an Italian restaurant, since Italian food is a reliable crowd pleaser, but Houston’s Italian restaurants are mostly…meh.
From some more time spent browsing the pages of Yelp and Urban Spoon and a few more phone calls to restaurant managers and event coordinators, Wallaby and I found a venue that met all of our expectations and could fit within our budget: Américas, a trendy Latin American restaurant. It’s a 10 minute drive from the hotel, and it’s located right on the “riverwalk”—an outdoor shopping and dining area bisected by a beautiful man-made river and very pretty landscaping. Américas offers a private dining room that can accommodate up to 85 people. The restaurant also has a popular bar where our night owl guests can continue their conversations after the rehearsal dinner ends.
A huge factor that allowed us to book Américas was that the events coordinator offered us the option of ordering from the lunch menu, rather than the pricier dinner menu. This is saving us about 50% of the cost of a dinner for our large group. The portions will be a little smaller, but we’ll still be able to serve our guests a three course meal. (Brides in the planning process, don’t forget to ask about this! A lot of restaurants and catering companies may be able to cut you a discount if you are flexible with the menu!) The events coordinator, Janine, also offered us some discounts in other areas so that Mr. W and I could meet our strict budget for the dinner. The day of the rehearsal, Janine will decorate the room and organize everything, so all we have to do is show up. I am very grateful for that stress-free part of the wedding weekend! I didn’t realize that some restaurants offer events coordinators dedicated to organizing large private dining events, but I would strongly recommend this to anyone planning a large event at a restaurant.
Here are some pictures to give you an idea of this deliciousness I’m talking about…
Did you have a formal rehearsal dinner for your wedding party? Did you invite out-of-town guests, or just the wedding party and immediate family?