Outdoor tablescape with greenery

Photo: Lovers of Love Photography

The rehearsal dinner, also known as the “party before the party” is one of the last pre-wedding functions before you’re officially married. The evening is typically spent reminiscing about your relationship, with the help of photo slideshows and LOL-worthy toasts. However, this doesn’t mean that the rehearsal dinner needs to overshadow the wedding. This event is thrown after you’ve had the chance to rehearse with everyone who will be participating in the ceremony and is usually a more intimate celebration that includes the wedding party, immediate and extended family as well as close friends.

Traditionally the dinner is paid by whichever family is not footing the bill for the majority of the wedding, but nowadays more couples are opting to pay for the party by themselves. If you are in the middle of planning your rehearsal dinner and worried you may break the bank, we’ve got your back!

Here are several tips that will help you save some cash while you are throwing your party.

Keep things simple
You don’t have to go all out with decorations in order to have a lively rehearsal dinner. When searching for a venue, look for restaurants or other venues that won’t require much additional decor. Then dress up the tables with family photos in order to give your dinner a personal touch. Outdoor soirees are also often ideal for rehearsal dinners, as scenic outdoor spaces also require little added decor.

You also don’t have to have a formal three-course dinner for your rehearsal, you can easily still have a blast enjoying a simple (less expensive) menu. Some of our favorite themes for a relaxed rehearsal dinner include a barbeque affair where guests can enjoy some southern flair of sauced chicken or chowing down on hot burgers and dogs that are fresh off of the grill. Another option (perfect for seafood lovers) is a crab feast where everyone can crack and pick crabs together while mixing and mingling. Having a dinner that is less formal can cut costs and also creates a laid-back and fun environment for everyone.

plain table setting

Photo: Ashbury Fair

Cut the guest list down
One of the easiest ways to save on your rehearsal dinner is by keeping your guest count low. Traditionally, the rehearsal dinner is only for members of the wedding party, their plus-ones, and your immediate family members. Remember that the rehearsal dinner is not your wedding, and you’ll be seeing everyone else the next day. If you have close friends or out-of-town guests who aren’t in the wedding, it can be a nice gesture to invite them to the dinner, but only if your budget allows. Keeping the guest list limited not only lets you have a smaller and more intimate venue, but also means less meals and drink orders. A smaller guest list lets you have a chance to bond with everyone and also ensures new family members, such as in-laws get to know the other side of the family.

Don't splurge on attire
Your attire also doesn’t have to be over the top. You can keep things on budget by not splurging on a new outfit just for your rehearsal dinner. We suggest either re wearing something you already own and dressing it up with jewelry or other accessories. If everything in your closet bores you, opt to borrow something from a friend or family member to keep things fresh!

Host it in the afternoon
We know it’s called a rehearsal “dinner,” but the event doesn’t necessarily have to take place in the evening. You can cut costs by having a rehearsal luncheon in lieu of the traditional dinner. If you’re renting a private room, this time slot, which can be around the hours of 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., will usually be less expensive than the popular dinner times of 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Plan the function in a cocktail-hour style and opt for light passed hors d’oeuvres instead of a fancy sit-down meal. A cocktail hour-style rehearsal lets you easily make your rounds and catch up with everyone. Sometimes, with a sit down dinner, it’s difficult to get around to everyone, so a luncheon offers a more casual environment without the formality of a dinner.

family photos on washing line

Photo: Katie Gutman Design & Photography

Throw the dinner on an off night
The rehearsal dinner also doesn’t have to be the night before your wedding. Plan the event a few days earlier, perhaps during the week, to help keep your dinner on budget. A lot of venues run a bit higher during the busy weekends. Therefore if you plan your event on an off night, such as a Wednesday or Thursday, you can get a discounted price on your venue.

Plan an after-party
Even if you keep the guest list for the actual dinner small, you can still celebrate with the rest of your crew by hosting an informal rehearsal dinner after-party. Meet up at a local bar or lounge for a fun pre-wedding event. This gives you a chance to meet up with friends and family for drinks or dessert without the cost of an actual dinner. It is also a great option if you have a lot of out of town guests traveling into town. Just make sure you don’t stay out too late!