Frugal, Fairy Tale Weddings: Rehearsal Dinner (Part 2)

Welcome back to Frugal Fairy Tale Weddings! As I mentioned in Part One, my husband and I enjoyed a beautiful wedding day with a price tag of about $5,000. In this series, I will share some tips and ideas that my mother, sister and I have compiled for cutting the typical expenses of a wedding. Hopefully these ideas will provide a springboard for your own brainstorming. Your day can be just as dreamy and gorgeous as you ever imagined it for thousands less than you thought possible.

Let’s start with the Rehearsal Dinner:

The Rehearsal Dinner is an opportunity for the parents of the groom to reward anyone who has helped with the wedding and to give the bride’s family a chance to relax and enjoy a meal for which they are not responsible.

  • Set a budget for your dinner. Be realistic, but conservative. I’ll share some ideas in today’s article for keeping your costs in check.
  • Plan your guest list carefully. You may want to include the musicians, close family members of the bride or groom (grandparents, for example), and out-of-towners. Remember, though, that you do not have to invite everyone. It’s perfectly acceptable to limit your rehearsal dinner guest list to the wedding party and families.
  • Choose your venue. Your guest count can dictate your choice in venue. If you will have a small, intimate group, perhaps a restaurant would be your best choice. If you want to include all of your helpers, family, and out-of-town guests, you might consider a less expensive option, such as a potluck or BBQ in your home or backyard, in the pavilion of a local park, on the beach, or in the reception hall of your church, club, or civic organization.

Restaurant Rehearsal Dinner:

  • If you choose go have your dinner in a restaurant, be sure to shop around and compare prices before settling on your venue.
  • Let the manager know that you are doing price comparisons and see what kind of discount they can offer you. See if there is a difference in price based on the day of week, time of day, etc.
  • Choose your menu items carefully. There is often a big difference in price between chicken and beef.
  • Ask if you can provide your own dessert. You could save dramatically by making or purchasing your own dessert and bringing it to the restaurant. Maybe the couple loves your homemade apple pie; make and bring it!
  • Compare eat-in prices with catered prices. Perhaps it would be less expensive to order the meal, pick it up yourself, and bring it to your venue. This option also gives you the opportunity to decorate your own venue to your preferences.

Do it yourself Rehearsal Dinner:

The do-it-yourself rehearsal dinner is usually a more cost-effective option but does require a bit of planning and work.

When my brother was married, my mother did an Italian-themed rehearsal dinner in the fellowship hall of their church. The menu included homemade pasta sauce (made by our Italian grandfather), spaghetti, salad, bread, and dessert. The ingredients for each menu item were purchased at discounted prices. The room was decorated with drippy candles, red checked placemats, Italian flags and paraphernalia, and pictures of the couple. It was authentic, original, and cost-effective.

  • Choose a theme for your dinner. Serve the meal that the couple ate on their first date or on the day of their engagement. Run with the theme of their favorite pastime or hobby, their honeymoon location (if they don’t mind everyone knowing…), your state, or some other distinction specific to the couple or to you as the family of the groom.
  • When family or friends ask if they can help, let them! Give helpers recipes and ingredients for your menu items and ask them to make the dishes and drop them off at your rehearsal dinner location.
  • Have a pizza party!
  • Let Sam’s or Costco “cater” your meal. Stop in and check on their ready-made dinner options. Don’t just check the freezer section, check the fresh section, as well. You’ll find several entrée options, as well as pre-cut fruit, veggie, and cheese platters.
  • Consider a progressive rehearsal dinner. Start at your home or other venue and end up at a nice restaurant for dessert.

Do it yourself menu ideas:

  • Winter: lasagna, chicken parmesan and pasta, baked chicken and green beans, steak and mashed potatoes, or pork chops and asparagus. Salad and bread are great sides. Dessert could be cake or pies.
  • Summer: BBQ on the lawn, at the park, or on the beach. Grill steaks, chicken, burgers, or kabobs. Serve salads, chips, and watermelon. Dessert could be as simple as banana splits or ice cream sundaes complete with lots of toppings.

When my husband and I married, our primary concern for the rehearsal dinner was that it be a fun, relaxing time with family and friends. We enjoyed a simple, delicious, catered meal in the fellowship hall of the church. What stands out the most in my memory, though, is the time of sharing after the meal, the song my brother wrote and sang with his guitar to my husband-to-be and I, and the excitement of the day to come.

What are your ideas for keeping the costs down on the rehearsal dinner? Leave a comment below!




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  1. [...] joining us, don’t forget to read Part One (an inside peek at the cost of our wedding), and Part Two (ideas for keeping the cost down on the rehearsal [...]

  2. [...] on invitations and wedding attire. If you missed the previous posts in this series, check them out here (ways to save on the rehearsal dinner) and here (early [...]

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