Did you get engaged recently (or know someone who did)? Congratulations! You are about to embark on a wonderful, unforgettable journey. Yes, planning a wedding is daunting and there are numerous decisions to be made, however, if you’re hosting your big day in Salem, we can make it very easy for you to decide where to host your rehearsal dinner! Bentley’s has four fabulous spaces that will accommodate anywhere between 10-100 people!
The rehearsal dinner often sets the tone for the entire wedding weekend. For many, it’s also when both sides of the couple’s families are gathering and meeting each other for the very first time. Since the rehearsal dinner has a more intimate and casual ambiance than the wedding reception the next day, it’s best to keep it simple and casual enough so guests can feel comfortable getting to know each other and celebrate the couple.
If you are hosting a rehearsal dinner, you’ll want to figure out the guest list as soon as possible since this will impact most of your decisions moving forward. Rehearsal dinner hosts traditionally invite members of the wedding party and immediate family members of the couple along with their significant others. It’s also customary to invite extended family members and friends who are traveling from out of town, however, if the idea of serving dinner to a large number of guests feels overwhelming, it is perfectly acceptable to host a special gathering to welcome extended family members and out-of-town guests following the rehearsal dinner.
We’ve hosted many rehearsal dinners and wedding related events here at Bentley’s through the years and we’ve learned a thing or two about ideas that work. Want to make your rehearsal dinner stand out without overshadowing the main event? Here are some ideas.
#1 Book a special venue where guests will feel comfortable 4-6 months in advance
When you are booking your rehearsal dinner venue, you’ll want to find a place that is elegant but does not overshadow the actual wedding reception. An ideal venue is a place where guests will feel comfortable and free to socialize and mingle about. Convenience should be another factor in your decision making, you would not want for guests who have been traveling all day have to spend too much time traveling too and from the rehearsal dinner venue. The rehearsal dinner venue must also accommodate the number of guests you are inviting and should offer a unique local dining experience for out-of-town guests. If possible visit the potential rehearsal dinner space in person (or ask a trusted friend or relative to do it for you) to get a feel of the venue and bring a list of questions to ask the owner/manager.
#2 Choose a menu to reflect the region you are in.
Every region has its own unique flavor and out-of-town guests, especially those traveling from other states or countries, might enjoy trying dishes with seasonal, local ingredients unique to your part of the country. Try to find out in advance if any of your guests have food allergies or dietary restrictions (i.e. dairy free, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free) so they may be accommodated. The Bentley’s culinary team takes pride in creating Pacific Northwest inspired menus featuring seasonal ingredients that are sourced locally and pairing them with local wines from the Willamette Valley. We will meet with you in advance to help you select items from our exciting new menu or work with our staff to create a customized meal that you and your guests are sure to remember.
#3 Customize your invitations.
Rehearsal dinner invitations should be sent 2-3 weeks before the event. Never assume that members of your wedding party or family would automatically know they’re invited to the rehearsal dinner. Though some couples choose to use email invitations, there is something special about sending a customized paper invitation. Whether you choose a formal or informal invitation, make sure it matches the theme and the overall tone of the rehearsal dinner. If you are not sure what information is supposed to go on the invitation, read Sample Wording for Your Rehearsal Dinner Invites. You can also check out sites like Shutterfly, Etsy, and Pinterest for inspiration.
#4 Get Creative with Decorations.
Decorations help to set the mood for the evening so why not get creative and have some fun? Since rehearsal dinners tend to be smaller and more intimate, its the perfect occasion to add a personal touch to the table settings so everyone feels welcome. Here are some tips to make your decorations stand out.
- Choosing a color palette to integrate into the decor is a nice touch that will help your event stand out.
- Choose centerpieces with the decor in mind, low floral arrangements are ideal so everyone can see each other.
- Get creative with table arrangments. When choosing the room set-up, keep in mind that round tables encourage people to socialize, but long tables provide an intimate, family-style atmosphere.
- Signage adds a personal touch, and it’s a considerate gesture for guests who may not know the venue or the layout.
- Place framed pictures of the couple from childhood through adulthood throughout the room. Not only are they great conversation starters, but it’s also a special way to personalize the occasion and celebrate the couple.
- Select rehearsal dinner centerpieces based on your color scheme and theme of the party. Colorful flowers in a vase are appropriate for a formal setting.
- Ask the couple for a list of their favorite songs then print an assortment of lyrics from those songs on special on colorful paper (one for each guest) to and add them next to every place setting for another personal and special conversation starter for guests to enjoy.
#5 Be prepared to say a few words.
Since rehearsal dinners are less formal than the big event the following day, there is no need to put an enormous amount of effort into entertaining your guests, they usually take care of that themselves over dinner and drinks. However, this is a good time for close family and friends toast the couple in a more intimate setting. Let guests know in advance that they can make a toast during the dinner in case they want to prepare something. The rehearsal dinner is also a good time to make announcements about the wedding day. It’s a good time to check in and make sure everyone knows where they are supposed to be and when they are expected to arrive.
If you are searching for an atmosphere that is elegant but not stuffy, provides service that is attentive but not overbearing, and features Northwest wines and cuisine in a convenient downtown Salem setting with free parking, host your event here at Bentley’s!