When you’re planning out all the costs to get a wedding ceremony and reception off the ground, it’s sometimes easy to forget about the rehearsal dinner. The groom’s parents traditionally pay for the rehearsal dinner, but many modern brides and grooms are taking on this responsibility themselves as traditions change. Rehearsal dinners can get pricey pretty quickly when you have to feed and buy drinks for the entire bridal party, parents, and grandparents, so finding ways to cut costs is essential. While you still want to make sure everyone has a fun night and a good meal after the rehearsal, there are still ways to ensure you don’t blow your wedding budget before you even get to the wedding. Here are some ideas on how to save money on the rehearsal dinner.
1. Host a Rehearsal Pot-Luck Dinner
Everyone loves a good pot-luck dinner, and there’s no reason why you can’t have one for your rehearsal dinner. Host your rehearsal dinner pot-luck at a parent’s house, a friend’s house, or even in a hotel conference room. You’ll save money by having guests bring their favorite dishes, but be sure to provide something for your guests to show your appreciation—such as paying for drinks or desserts.
2. Have a Pizza Party
Everyone loves pizza, so why wouldn’t it be a hit for the rehearsal dinner? Order up a bunch of pizzas to the rehearsal location or have them delivered to the hotel where the bridal party is. There’s no rule that requires a rehearsal dinner to be fancy, so don’t stress about it. Just keep it casual. Have guests bring their favorite cases of beer or sodas, and just enjoy each other’s company in a relaxed setting before the big day.
3. Fire up the Barbecue
If the weather looks good, consider a barbecue rehearsal dinner at your in-laws’ or at your parents’ house. Ask everyone what his or her favorite barbecue meat is, and then have guests bring side dishes to go along with the main grilled meats. Be sure to set up a game of horseshoes or croquet and get the fire pit going so that your guests can enjoy themselves.
4. Rent a Spot at the Local Park
Assuming the weather cooperates, renting a covered picnic spot at the local park is another cost effective rehearsal dinner idea. You could easily set up a barbecue there or get food delivered for you and your guests. If you live by a lake or the ocean, have guests bring their swimsuits for a day of swimming, relaxing, and sunning. Renting a spot in the park is a low-key way to host your rehearsal dinner because there’s little to no cleanup and your guests can come and go as they please.
5. Pick a Large Group Activity to Do
Another fun and money-saving rehearsal dinner idea is to pick a large group activity to do like bowling or ice skating. These activities are both fun for all ages and are really easy and cheap to organize for large groups. Many bowling alleys and skating rinks will give you discounts for shoe or skate rentals for a large party, and some will even reserve lanes or party areas for you. Give guests some food and drink tickets at the snack shop and have guests eat at their own leisure. Not only is this an inexpensive way to celebrate your rehearsal, but also it’s one that your guests are sure not to forget.
6. Organize a Brunch
Breakfast foods are easier and cheaper to make in mass quantities than plated dinners are, so hosting a brunch is cost effective and a sure crowd-pleaser. Get a friend or family member to agree to host at his or her house so that you can spend the entire rehearsal dinner budget on brunch food. Have one of the bridal party members man the omelette station, set up a make-your-own mimosa bar, fry up a bunch of bacon, and display a colorful wall of doughnuts. It doesn’t even matter what time of day you decide to host your brunch—everyone loves breakfast for dinner, after all.
7. Skip the Plated Dinner
Plated dinners or ordering from a restaurant for a large group can get expensive, so just give your guests the best part of the dinner: appetizers and desserts. Have a caterer provide some “heavy appetizers” like mini-tacos, sliders, or nacho,s and order a wide variety of cakes, brownies, cookies, etc. Be sure to have the champagne ready to pour!
8. Reserve a Food Truck
If you don’t want to take everyone in your wedding party out to dinner at a restaurant, have the restaurant come to you. Reserve your favorite food truck for the evening, and have the truck come to the rehearsal spot. Talk to the food truck owner about how much you want to spend and have them come up with custom meals or snacks that will fit within your budget. Provide your guests with sodas, waters, or beers (if they’re allowed at the rehearsal spot), then just sit back and enjoy.