Rehearsal Dinner on a Budget - Wedding Compass Blog

Trying to keep the rehearsal dinner within budget? Check out these ideas.

Whether large or small, casual or formal, sit down or buffet style-rehearsal dinner planning can sometimes take its own route, a route often outside of your wedding day plans. It’s important to remember that the rehearsal dinner is a more intimate gathering, before your wedding day. It’s a chance for both families to get together with you, to say thank you to those involved and enjoy the evening together before the whirlwind of your big day.

“But my budget is small,” you say.  Not to worry. Below are some tips to make your rehearsal dinner an intimate affair as personal and unique as you.

Rented tables, chairs and linens may be available through the caterer. Image provided by Turnip Rose Events and Catering
Rented tables, chairs and linens may be available through the caterer.
Image provided by Turnip Rose Promenade and Gardens


Hit the Beach…Texas style

Gather your friends and family for a beach party featuring BBQ, pasta salad, sun tea, potato salad and all the fixin’s. Purchase these items at your local grocery store or have it catered family-style.  S’mores are optional as the sun sets over the ocean.

Smokey pulled pork sandwiches with coleslaw. Image provided by Seafaring Events and Catering


To keep the cost down, consider borrowing folding tables and chairs from friends, local clubs or a church. Rent linens, napkins, dishes and flatware in appropriate colors and styles or buy patterned or solid colored flat sheets of the appropriate size. Table decor can consist of a collection of sea shells purchased through a local craft store or online retailer. If candlelight is desired make sure the votives are deep enough to protect the flame from wind gusts, use lanterns or battery operated candles. Be sure to have a long lighter handy to safely light candles. Check with friends who have recently married or who have had a wedding in the family, they may have vases, votives and other decor they are willing to lend.

Park It

Southern California is full of national parks and wildlife areas that provide the perfect backdrop to an eco-friendly dinner.  Guests can bring their pets for an easy way to break the ice among everyone. Contact your local park department for availability. Using the park’s picnic tables can save money. If electricity is available, consider stringing white lights from surrounding trees or on a a provided shade structure to create an enchanting setting.

Let nature be your guide when decorating for these events. Consider using pinecones, berries, sprigs of fresh herbs tied with ribbon, the smooth, round stones from a stream bed, moss, twisted branches, etc. to create a beautiful table inexpensively. Mason jars or wooden boxes filled with wildflowers can set the stage with perfect, understated elegance.

Sea shells set the tone for an elegant beach rehearsal dinner. Image provided by French Buckets Florist Photography by Hanssie Trainor Photography

Image provided by French Buckets Florist Photography by Hanssie Trainor Photography

Sea shells set the tone for an elegant beach rehearsal dinner.

Home Sweet Home

Why not have a catered or homemade event at your own home? Nothing is more intimate and personal than a rehearsal dinner at your own place. To keep things simple and inexpensive, try a Mexican or Italian food night with things such as spaghetti and garlic bread or tacos on the menu. Check with local restaurants, some, like Buca di Beppo, offer family-style entrees and sides to go. Create a sweetheart table that’s quaint but elegant too!

Fine dining opportunities are created when hiring a caterer or private chef that has quality and service at the forefront. A rehearsal dinner by design is usually a limited group of people and hosting a private dinner at a home using a great catering company can provide the elegance you desire but not overwhelm your budget. Caterers can often supply tables chairs, linens, and tableware in addition to the food and will even provide staff to set up, serve and clean up.

To further your chosen style, set up a sound system and choose music that evokes the mood you want to capture. Keep it just loud enough to lend atmosphere, but not so loud that guests need to raise their voices to be heard. The rehearsal dinner is a great time for people from both sides to get to know each other. Save the dance music for the wedding reception.

If there isn’t enough space to set up tables and chairs for a sit-down dinner, consider a cocktail-style party. Supply a few small tables for guests to gather around and a place to set small plates and glasses. Provide a few seating arrangements to make it easy for guests to converse, maybe borrow patio furniture from friends or relatives. Spread some pillows on low walls for extra seating. Serve plenty of hearty appetizers and finger foods, cocktails, wine, etc. Depending on the time of year, you may need to rent some outdoor propane heaters, or supply a fire pit. Provide seating that is easy to get in and out of for elderly guests and those with physical challenges.

If there will be quite a few guests at your in-home rehearsal dinner, informing the immediate neighbors is a nice gesture so that they aren’t alarmed by unfamiliar cars parked in front of their homes, or the unusual increase in noise.

Regardless of what you choose, remember that the evening is about two families coming together as one and not about the fanciness of the evening. Make your evening personal by adding your own touch (i.e.: photos of you and your groom on each table or a slide show of both families) and decorations.  What better way is there to share the love between two people than with good food and family?
Happy planning!

Images provided by Turnip Rose Elite Catering, French Buckets Florist, Seafaring Events and Catering, Hanssie Trainor Photography, Flowers Forever Florist, Gourmet Gourmet Catering

Find more information about Rehearsal Dinners and get inspirations/ideas at: and

A collection of small vases wrapped with jute and filled with branches, hydrangeas, larkspur and lavender create a woodsy feeling. Image provided by Flowers Forever Florist

Cold beer goes well with a bbq or buffet meal. Image provided by French Buckets Florist

Bright fabric draped tables make an attractive set up for a buffet. Image provided by Gourmet Gourmet Catering

A selection of marinaded vegetables and fresh fruit are perfect accompaniments for a bbq. Image provided by Gourmet Gourmet Catering

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