As far as wedding prep goes, the rehearsal dinner is a pretty laid-back affair to organise. By the time the rehearsal dinner comes around, everything for your wedding is booked, signed off, and ready to go. All you need to do is sit down with your loved ones, run through the speeches, and generally get excited for the big day ahead.
This being said, you still want your rehearsal dinner to be a bit special. After all, it’s still a part of your wedding and should tie in accordingly. Increasingly, couples are opting for Al Fresco rehearsal dinners to bring a bit more light and informality to proceedings.
Having an Al Fresco rehearsal dinner is a great choice, but it’s not without its issues. All of these are easily resolved, but you do have to consider them all in the planning process. Don’t worry though, we’ve got you covered!
So let’s have a look through our guide to how to throw an Al Fresco rehearsal dinner.
First things first, if you’re going to be throwing a dinner, you’re going to need to think about the kind of food that you’re going to be serving. Traditionally, rehearsal dinners take place on one long banquet style table, where you and your loved ones can interact with each other.
This layout lends itself well to family-style eating, which really brings the community vibe to your Al Fresco rehearsal dinner. Get a couple of different mains and sides and pass them around the table, sharing stories as you chow down. This also makes the rehearsal dinner a little bit more informal, which is probably the low-stress option you’ll be looking to achieve.
You can also just pick a nice simple set menu in a different cuisine to the one you’re having at your actual wedding. Most of the time, the rehearsal dinner is the night before the big day so you don’t want the same kind of food two nights in a row.
Al Fresco rehearsal dinner venue
Now you know what kind of food you want to have at your Al Fresco rehearsal dinner, you can start looking at venues. Primarily, you’ll be looking at beer gardens, outdoor courtyards or patios that are attached to hotels, bars or restaurants. This is a convenient option because you don’t have to think about external caterers or waiting staff.
The downside of this is that you’re largely limited to how you can decorate and may have to walk your party through a busy restaurant full of other guests. If you’re at a different outdoor location like a beach, a vineyard, a gallery or a rooftop event space, you might have more scope to create your vision, but it’ll be a lot more work to bring all the logistical elements together. It’s up to you.
Table setting style
The next thing to consider is your table setting style. We’ve established that chances are, you’re going to be using a big, long banquet style table. Using this as a base you can start to layer different linens, styles of ceramics and crockery, and centrepieces to bring your Al Fresco vision to life.
Obviously, the amount that you can alter in terms of crockery, stemware and cutlery might be contingent on your venue. For example, if it’s a restaurant, they might not be open to using different plates and bowls just for one specific table. So, make sure you check with your rehearsal dinner venue before putting together your table setting scheme.
What you should be able to do is swap out some of the linens and have some fun centrepieces on your table. You’re going to want to draw on your surroundings to create a cohesive look. So if you’re in a Mediterranean-style courtyard for example, maybe use warm terracotta tones and use some fresh greenery and tropical citrus notes to bring some more fun to your table setting style.
You’re going to have a good idea of how to put a beautiful table together from planning your wedding reception, so it’s the same theory – start with the vibe of the venue, think about functionality and layer your look accordingly.
Similar to your table setting style, you’re also going to want to think about the general decor of your Al Fresco rehearsal dinner. Normally, you’ll be in a courtyard, garden, or area to the side of an existing restaurant, bar or hotel. Of course, the establishment will have some of its own decor and an atmosphere that they’ve created. Obviously, you’ve chosen this venue for a reason so you don’t want to completely change the vibe, but you do want to put your stamp on it.
You want to think about your wedding theme, color schemes and how you can incorporate this with your venue’s existing decor. This might be through using plants and floral arrangements similar to the ones being used at your wedding reception. It might be that you bring some colorful ceramics or trinkets that connect to your overall color scheme.
It doesn’t have to be anything massive, after all this is a fairly chilled out part of the wedding, but just a hint of what’s to come!
Let’s round out this article with a few quick tips for throwing an Al Fresco rehearsal dinner:
- Check the weather. This is a big one especially if you’re in a location or a season where the weather isn’t dependable. Even if it’s a dry day, check the temperatures as in hotter places, the temperatures nosedive after sunset. This way you can come prepared with blankets or a firepit for your guests to enjoy.
- Only invite the people who absolutely need to be there. Weddings are expensive and rehearsal dinners are for immediate family and the wedding party. You can hang out with everyone else and your wedding party’s plus ones at your wedding – you don’t need to pay for two meals for everyone!
European-Flavored al Fresco Rehearsal Dinner
What a high bar Stephanie Yonce Photography and More Events by Cody have set for rehearsal dinners. I could not be more thrilled to share this ‘straight from Tuscany,’ European-inspired rehearsal dinner inspiration shoot with you here today. Every detail is absolute perfection!
From Stephanie Yonce Photography – “A family gathering by means of a laid-back, European-flavoured ale fresco celebration was the perfect recipe for this rehearsal dinner inspiration shoot. The grounds of Keswick Vineyards were transformed to a Tuscan getaway, where earthy elements infused the feeling of heritage and legacy. From the calligraphy menu and place cards to the pink floral pervaded popsicles, the details of this shoot blended together seamlessly.
Rustic tones and a neutral colour palette allowed for the rich greenery to stand on its own. Tying in the open-air atmosphere with the plush indigo seating and robust farm table made the rehearsal dinner complete. Vintage details of etched glass, silver platters, and cobalt place settings provided the feeling of traditions and treasure that have been passed through generations.”
More from Stephanie – “Seemingly imported from the Italian countryside, the decadent spread of cuisine is simple, yet hardy. From the grilled chicken and summer-roasted vegetables with the handmade cheese, the majority of the featured fare was brought in from local farms and gardens.
The rain that day did not put a damper on the shoot – in fact, it serves as one of the favourite details, lending to the shoot’s cosy atmosphere. And not so surprisingly, one of the favourite aspects of the shoot was sweet Aspen, the quiet and lovely Golden Retriever “model.”
I ultimately decided to shoot this session in 35mm film to help contribute to the overall feeling of tradition and nostalgia. The film has a subtle but very noticeably different final look, and the textures and colours complemented Cody’s goals for the shoot beautifully.’”
Credits: Photography: Stephanie Yonce Photography // Coordination, Planning & Styling: Amore Events by Cody // Floral Designs: Blue Ridge Floral Design // Cake: Maliha Creations // Calligraphy: Joie de Vivre Calligraphy // Hair & Makeup: Studio FBJ // Catering: Barbeque Exchange // Vintage Chairs: Paisley & Jade // Farm Table & Crossback Chairs: MS Events // Bride’s Attire: J. Crew // Models: Bride – Savanna Rae Brown, Groom – Monte Heaps, MOH – Samantha Tobias, Best Man – Michael Mignone, Dog – Aspen // Venue: Keswick Vineyards in Charlottesville, Virginia.