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Throw a Successful Outdoor Rehearsal Dinner with These Ideas


In some ways, the rehearsal dinner hasn’t changed much over the years: most couples still host it the night before their actual wedding, and it’s still typically the time and place to give a special shoutout and thanks to close friends and family, especially those who have travelled from out of town. When it comes to theme and venue, however, the rehearsal dinner has absolutely evolved: where it was once held in the actual wedding venue—often a church or place of worship—these days, the outdoor rehearsal dinner is becoming increasingly popular.


An outdoor wedding rehearsal dinner is exactly that: a dinner that takes place outdoors, after your wedding rehearsal. Simple as that, right? Yes—and no. Yes, because you’ll be expected to serve food (it is dinner, after all), and no, because the sky’s the limit when it comes to outdoor rehearsal dinner ideas, decorations, and even where to host it. We’ve broken down each element for you here.


If you and your partner love the idea of having as many parts of your wedding outdoors, you’ll need some outdoor rehearsal dinner ideas. Our tip? Start with your venue and work from there. It may be somewhere that needs to be booked in advance, a space that has a distinct style of its own, or a blank canvas that will need plenty of decorating. Here are a few common venue ideas to get you started.

Rehearsal Dinner in the Park

What could be more picturesque than a wedding rehearsal dinner with birds chirping in the background, the sun setting over a beautiful scene? Whether you choose a landscaped, well-manicured park, a wooded forest or a flat perch on a mountaintop, a park is a wonderful place to host a rehearsal dinner. Besides plenty of photo opps, you’ll have lots of room for tables, guests, decorations and games—just be prepared to figure out a few extra logistics such as a mic and speakers for speeches, a rain plan, and how and where to prepare food.

Backyard Rehearsal Dinner

There’s no place like home, right? When it comes to an outdoor wedding rehearsal dinner, your very own backyard may very well be the ideal place to host it: what you save on renting a venue, you can spend on decorations, food and drinks; you can plan as many outfit changes as your closet has room for; and, of course, you know your own house—and its limitations—like the back of your hand.

Backyard rehearsal dinner


Rehearsal Dinner in a Hotel or Restaurant Courtyard

If the idea of figuring out catering, food and seating for all your guests stresses you out but you don’t want to give up on the idea of a gorgeous outdoor rehearsal dinner, a hotel or restaurant courtyard may be the option for you. The main considerations here, of course, are cost, any rules or restrictions on theme and decorations, and, of course, what to serve for dinner.


Once you’ve locked in your outdoor rehearsal dinner venue, it’s time to consider your theme. Your budget will dictate whether you can hire an event planner to help bring all the elements together (especially as there’s always something you might not have thought of), but the vibe you want for your rehearsal dinner is also key.

Want to keep things low-key and playful? Things like a photo booth with a few props or an Instagrammable flower wall or arch made of colourful balloons lend themselves to spontaneity and fun. Love all things bohemian? Go with natural materials and wildflowers. Prefer a more formal mood? Shining silverware, pristine white linens, and plenty of greenery will keep things sophisticated.


An outdoor rehearsal dinner is still, well, a dinner—which means food is a must. If you’ve chosen a venue with a restaurant or a theme that goes hand in hand with a particular cuisine, then the hard part is already done for you. If not, there are a couple of questions that will get you and your partner started: do you want to assign seats, or do you want your guests to mingle and meet other people? Do you want your guests seated and served, or do you want to encourage them to serve themselves, family style?

Similar to decorations, the mood you want to create at your outdoor rehearsal dinner and your budget will heavily influence what you serve. For a wallet-friendly, casual approach, a food truck (or two) is always a crowdpleaser; similarly, if you’re lucky enough to have some particularly foodie friends, everyone loves a potluck. If you’ve got a bit more cash to splash, a completely catered meal is always a safe, good option.


There aren’t any particular rules about what happens at a rehearsal dinner, but you do want to keep your guests entertained with a few activities. There are probably fewer speeches to get through than the wedding reception itself, and in between these, a video or photo presentation of the engaged couple is a lovely, sentimental idea. Icebreakers, trivia—especially one with questions about the couple—and low-impact games such as bocce ball or pétanque are always fun.

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