Before you say "I do," twist and shout - let it all hang out at your wedding rehearsal dinner, because rehearsal dinner styles are changing to accommodate diverse tastes and lifestyles.
The rehearsal dinner is usually hosted by the groom's family and takes place immediately after the ceremony rehearsal the night before the wedding. Because this is may be the first time the bride and groom's families will meet, the rehearsal dinner should be set in a relaxed and fun atmosphere.
CNN's wedding basics offer a guide for wedding rehearsals and suggest it's no longer a strict rule that the groom's parents host the dinner. It can now be hosted by the bride and groom or friends can get together to celebrate.
Everything, from casual to elegant is in. The only requirements are food and fellowship. The protocol is flexible according to many wedding guides.
The rehearsal dinner should have a different style and menu than the wedding. If the wedding is a formal sit-down dinner, then plan a rehearsal dinner that is more casual.
Jimmy met Suzie in Hawaii and for their rehearsal theme they hired a company to put on a Hawaiian Luau at a noted Peninsula mansion. Friends of theirs took a different route. They decided to sip, sniff and swirl at a local vineyard. Many wineries will host a dinner party and offer a discount on cases of wine.
If the rehearsal is scheduled for the morning, a light brunch with an appetizer buffet of bagels, smoked salmon, cream cheeses, fruit, muffins and juice and coffee serves nicely. If it's in the afternoon, a picnic at Cuesta Park in Mountain View, where guests can play games, pitch horseshoes or play volleyball on the lawn, provides a casual atmosphere.
A formal sit-down dinner at a restaurant is always an option. Many local restaurants offer customized menus that complement the wedding theme. Los Altos Bar and Grill, the new Z restaurant and Beausejour have separate rooms for large parties.
The first hour of the rehearsal dinner should serve as a "cocktail hour" where guests can walk around and mingle with each other before dinner.
If finances are slim, for a simple, inexpensive and homey feel, grill up some corn, herbed chicken and tofu kabobs for a backyard rehearsal dinner. Use fruit baskets as centerpieces and an ice cream sundae bar for dessert. Many ice cream parlors will sell ice cream by the gallon if you order in advance.
Check out the Downtown Farmers' Market Thursday evenings for great deals on fresh veggies and salads. Order buckets of flowers from sunflowers to dahlias weeks in advance from the many vendors.
Some other suggestions offered by the USA Today Bride Section for this special event:
Send out written invitations to all the rehearsal party guests; responses should be handled by phone. Include directions and a map for both the ceremony rehearsal and the dinner site.
Invite everyone who is in the actual rehearsal to the dinner party and include close friends and relatives who have traveled to the wedding.
Keep in mind the special needs of the family when planning the dinner. Maybe grandma needs a soft chair and grandpa is on a dietary restriction.
Hire a few extra people to help set up, clean, replenish and serve.
The rehearsal dinner should set the mood for the wedding the next day. The dinner should be light, fun and relaxing without the large crowds and tight schedule of the wedding day.
Start planning your rehearsal dinner early and don't forget to eat and drink well.