Hitched 2.0: 5 Alternatives To A Formal Rehearsal Dinner

I can say with absolute confidence that my upcoming wedding is the most formal event my fiancé and I will ever plan. And I’m cool with that. In fact, we’re so confident that it’ll fulfill everyone’s fancy quota for the weekend that we decided to go in the opposite direction for our rehearsal dinner the night before. After all, the “rehearsal” part refers to the wedding ceremony; I’m fairly certain we don’t need to practice eating a nice, plated dinner while dressed to the nines. So we’re going to keep our wedding-eve festivities casual and low-key, and save our sophistication for the big day. (That is, until “Shout” is played. Then, all bets are off.) If you’re keen on doing the same, try one of these ideas for an informal rehearsal dinner both you and your guests will enjoy.

1. Go somewhere for bowling, ping-pong, or other social sports.

This is the route we’re going: We’re renting out space at a bowling and billiards bar not far from our condo. The dinner itself will be mostly frill-free finger foods, and guests will be able to mill about and channel their inner pool sharks as they please. Plus, our out-of-town family and friends will get a chance to check out our neighborhood, rather than only experience the more touristy parts of the city. If bowling’s not your thing, browse for venues that offer similarly cool and casual activities. Think: ping-pong, bocce, or even indoor rock climbing.

2. Host a rooftop pizza party.

When my fiancé’s brother got married, they opted to host the wedding-eve crowd for a pizza party on their apartment building’s communal rooftop. They took advantage of the resources at their disposal: A spacious rooftop, ample seating, and a beautiful view. And why not? If you have a perfect (and free) venue under your nose, why waste the time and money to plan an event somewhere else just because you think you should? Throw in a variety of pizza pies and catering-sized salads, and you’ll have yourself a pretty perfect, low-cost, and relaxed evening. Let’s be honest: The chance that there will be anyone at your rehearsal dinner who doesn’t like (nay, love) pizza is slim.

3. Plan a picnic in the park.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say most of us don’t picnic enough. What’s not to love about chilling with some wine and eats while enjoying fresh air? Use your rehearsal dinner as an opportunity to do just that, whether at a local park or beach. Bring in rental tables, chairs, and catered food for a “fancy” take on the outdoor event, or keep it casual with blankets and homemade favorites (Did someone say pasta salad?). Need help? Make it a potluck party, and ask your bridal party and close family members to contribute different courses. Just be sure to plan for the elements, whether with a tent, large umbrellas, or an indoor backup location.

4. Hit up a karaoke bar.

True, karaoke isn’t everyone’s thing, but if you think enough people on your rehearsal dinner invite list are the uninhibited, extroverted type, it’ll make for a killer sit-down-meal alternative. Reserve space in a single-stage karaoke bar, or go the private room route to allow you and your guests maximum mic time. Just be sure to pick somewhere that serves food—it is, after all, a rehearsal dinner. Even if there are a few people in the group who would rather spend your entire reception doing the “Macarena” than sing in public, chances are they’ll be perfectly happy as spectators (and hecklers). A word of caution, though: Not surprisingly, many people rely on liquid courage to fuel their karaoke acts. Think about the crowd you’re planning for—if they’re likely to overindulge, maybe pass on this option. The last thing you want is a group of miserable, hungover zombies standing up at your wedding.

5. Make it a food truck feast.

Who says you can only enjoy food trucks when they’re parked outside your office? Many food trucks are available to rent for private events—you just have to provide a location (perhaps a driveway, patio, or park). Reserve one—or a couple—to cook and serve your favorite foods, and supplement it with some cocktails and music. It’s almost guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser. Bonus points if you find a traditional, old-fashioned ice cream truck to show up for dessert.

Hitched, our weekly column about getting married, is back! This time around, we’ll be walking down the aisle (well, in spirit) with writer Emma Sarran, who will be sharing her thoughts on long engagements, the institution of matrimony and that godforsaken wedding industrial complex every Thursday. Follow her on Twitter!