One Rehearsal, Five Ways

By Jessica Cerretani | Boston Weddings |

Once just simple sit-downs for the wedding party, rehearsal dinners now run the gamut in size, cost, and theme. But there’s one rule that hasn’t changed: "The evening should reflect the couples’ style—and that of their families, if they’re hosting," says Boston-based bridal consultant Alexis Eliopoulos O’Mara. Whether that means a fuss-free beachside clambake or an elegant black-tie affair, we’ve got you covered with five inspired ideas to kick-start your wedding planning.

THE DIY DINNER

The extra planning involved in this type of event can be a nightmare for busy couples with limited time, but dedicated do-it-yourselfers may delight in crafting every aspect of their rehearsal dinner. "You really have to be motivated and excited about all the details to be able to follow through with this kind of planning," explains O’Mara. If you are, though, a DIY dinner can allow you the opportunity to truly personalize the event—without the higher price tag that often accompanies typical rehearsal parties.

Who Should Do It

Couples who have flexible schedules, extra time to plan, or who want to keep costs down.

The Invitations
There are countless kits available for making your own invitations, and their design, paper quality, and accessories often belie their inexpensive, easy-to-assemble nature. Try one that lets you print your event information on the invites, like Do-It-Yourself Digital Invitations Kits from Paper Source ($70–$108 for 50, 617-536-3444, paper-source.com).

How to Pull it Off

Unless you’re a hardcore DIYer, consider consulting your wedding planner for advice on executing this type of rehearsal dinner. Scout site space at your parents’ or friends’ homes and confirm it well in advance; no matter how enthusiastic you are now, the prospect of hosting this dinner in your own home likely isn’t going to seem so great the day before the wedding. Hire a party rental company for everything from linens and tableware to a tent and chairs (617-517-0480, rentals-unlimited.net). And unless you have family or friends who are comfortable cooking for a crowd, arrange for a chef, such as Cambridge-based J. J. Gonson of Cuisine En Locale, to take over the kitchen (617-285-0167, enlocale.com).

 

THE CLAMBAKE

Who says your rehearsal dinner has to be serious? Instead, take a break before the formality of your wedding day by staging a casual clambake where you can relax and have fun with your bridal party and out-of-town guests. Keep the décor in line with the party’s unpretentious theme: Slip on your sandals, light some hurricane lanterns, and spread out colorful beach blankets. Serve steaming lobsters, fresh-shucked oysters, and ice-cold beer on folding tables topped with newspaper "tablecloths," metal buckets (for shells), utensils, and bibs.

Who Should Do It
Couples hosting downtown weddings might have a harder time incorporating this type of event, but it’s perfect for those getting married near the beach or who want a casual evening before a more elegant wedding reception, says O’Mara.

The Invitations
Send fun invites that reflect the party’s relaxed vibe, such as "Flip Flops" from Crane & Co. ($134 for 50, 617-247-2822, crane.com).

How to Pull it Off
Contact a one-stop shop such as Treats Catering and Flying Lobster Clambakes, which takes care of all the food, drinks, cooking, and (most importantly!) cleanup (508-385-1540, treatscatering.com). If your rehearsal dinner will be on the Cape or in another area where beach access is limited or restricted, check with the local town hall to find out which permits are necessary. The week before, stock up on beach blankets, candles, beach chairs for older guests, and sand-proof disposable cameras at Target (617-602-1921, target.com).

 

THE COCKTAIL PARTY

Dinner, dancing, champagne, and eveningwear: No, this isn’t your wedding reception—and you want to make sure your guests know that. Hosting a black-tie rehearsal dinner can be tricky, says O’Mara, who warns that the reception itself may seem like a letdown if it’s too similar to the previous evening. That means aiming for elegance without extravagance. For a classy yet lower-key gathering, host a black-tie cocktail party where family members can meet and mingle, and serve a variety of passed hors d’oeuvres instead of a seated meal.

Who Should Do It
Couples who want to host a truly over-the-top experience and whose wedding reception plans and venue won’t be outshined by a formal rehearsal dinner.

The Invitations
Choose sleek, sophisticated invites, like "Engraved Black and White" from Crane & Co. ($299 for 50). Remember to indicate the dinner will be black-tie.

How to Pull it Off
Reserve space in a nearby hotel that offers smaller private function rooms, like the Liberty Hotel, a national landmark that once housed the Charles Street Jail (617-224-4000, libertyhotel.com). Order floral centerpieces that complement your reception arrangements without competing with them; try Winston Flowers (617-541-1100, winstonflowers.com). O’Mara suggests brides may want to have their hair and makeup done professionally for their rehearsal dinner and even arrange for their wedding photographer to document the evening.

THE CLASSIC

For many couples, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. The traditional sit-down rehearsal dinner remains popular—and for good reason. It’s generally no-fuss, especially when you host it at, or near, the hotel where many of your guests are already staying (this eliminates concerns about transportation and other logistics). The traditional dinner also allows you infinite possibilities for putting your own personal twist on the event: Consider having it at you and your fiancé’s favorite boîte.

Who Should Do It
This classic style is a great choice for couples—or their parents—who appreciate tradition and prefer to focus more on the details of their wedding than on the rehearsal dinner the night before.

The Invitations
Stick to the classic theme by using simple ecru invites that reflect the general theme of your event, like "Brilliant Border" notes from Papyrus ($142 for 50, 617-523-5355, papyrusonline.com). Or add your own flair with invitations that incorporate your wedding colors in an unexpected way and order printed menus and place cards to match.

How to Pull it Off

Reserve a private room at your guests’ hotel (choose a full-service venue that includes food, not just accommodations). If you go the restaurant route, plan for the dinner to take place within walking distance or a short cab ride from where guests are staying. Good local choices include No. 9 Park (617-742-9991, no9park.com), Mistral (617-867-9300, mistralbistro.com), a
nd UpStairs on the Square (617-864-1933, upstairsonthesquare.com).

THE FIELD TRIP

What was once a day away from the elementary school classroom can be just as fun for adults. The difference? Instead of holding hands en route to a farm or museum, you’ll be bonding with your wedding party and visiting with friends and extended family as you float down a river in inner tubes, tour a local brewery, or compete on a go-cart track. You’ll want to feed your guests later, of course. But taking a field trip to a nearby location lets you spend more time with your guests, and gives everyone a break from all the stress and anticipation of the next day.

Who Should Do It
Adventurous couples and those who wish to spend extra time with out-of-town wedding guests.

The Invitations

Whatever invites you choose, be sure to tell your guests of your plans in advance, so that they expect a longer evening and wear proper attire. It’s also a good idea to provide maps and directions, if not transportation.

How to Pull it Off
A mini-excursion needs advance planning, just like any other rehearsal dinner. Determine where you want to take guests and which activities work best for them: Athletic endeavors like hikes or go-cart racing (F1 Boston, 781-848-2300, f1boston.com) are great for younger guests, but older family members may prefer less-active pursuits, such as a tour (Samuel Adams Brewery, 617-368-5080, samueladams.com) or theater event. Or choose an excursion that works for everyone. "I worked with a client who took her rehearsal dinner guests to a local Greek church for after-dinner Greek dancing lessons," says O’Mara. "The guests loved it!"

Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2008/06/one-rehearsal-five-ways/