Your big-day rehearsal should be followed by a celebration that suits you to a T, so we compiled special spots for three very different occasions.
The rehearsal dinner is the official start of your wedding weekend and your first chance to party with friends and family-and also to set the tone for the celebrations ahead. To hit the right note, it's important to consider both your revelry style and the guests you'll be hosting. We picked options for three distinct rehearsal-dinner styles.Family-Style Fun
Got a sizeable gang that's all about having a good time? A more formal restaurant won't work-you need a place where a noisy group won't be a problem, where service is equipped to handle a crowd and where the drinks flow freely (and affordably).
You may fall totally in "amore" with a place like Buca di Beppo, where every meal is supposed to be a party.
"If you're looking for a formal, intimate and quiet evening, you're not going to find it here," says Laura Catalogna, the sales manager for the restaurant's Columbus locations.
Instead, she describes the atmosphere as being akin to "your best friend's Italian grandma's house." That is, of course, if your best friend's Italian grandma had a penchant for red velvet, checkered tablecloths and thematically decorated rooms. One of Buca's most beloved dining spaces, the Pope Room, is unsurprisingly stuffed with papal and Catholic memorabilia. You can even book a dining table in the kitchen and watch the restaurant's chefs at work for a little built-in entertainment.
The soundtrack is heavy on the Dean Martin, and the food is served on massive family-style platters. Think red-sauce Little Italy favorites for dinner-spaghetti and meatballs, chicken parmesan, fettuccine alfredo-with plenty of garlic bread and red wine alongside. And, of course, cannoli and tiramisu to top things off.
Buca's kitschy, anything-goes vibe is perfect for a family that tends to get a little boisterous when it comes time for a celebration, because the restaurant is lively to begin with.
"We are all about that fun, party atmosphere," Catalogna says.
They're able to accommodate groups from 2 to 200, and she and other staffers are happy to work with brides to create customized dinner packages-most meals are between $26 and $36 a person.
"We're so used to working with groups that we've really simplified and streamlined the planning process," she adds. "It's one less thing to have to worry about."Backyard Barbecue
Not much beats a summer cookout in the backyard, with some burgers on the grill and a beer in hand. And you can easily capture that chilled-out vibe at your rehearsal dinner without having to host it yourself-or making Dad man the grill-at the Scotts Miracle-Gro garden at Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.
In the southeast corner of Franklin Park, the garden serves as both an educational facility and a party outpost. There's a restored turn-of-the-century home that keeps with the manses surrounding the park and immaculately maintained gardens overflowing with blossoms. It's just as beautiful as the ecosystems inside the conservatory-and you'll barely have to do any decorating.
The entertaining space consists of a barn with doors that can be opened onto a brick patio with a fire pit and a grilling space, comfortable for up to 50 guests. (If you need to accommodate more, tenting options are available for an extra fee.)
"When you get that fire pit going, it's totally got that romantic, backyard feel," says Megan Heady, the conservatory's corporate sales assistant manager.
Franklin Park requires you use their in-house caterer; for some couples, having to juggle a second catering company in addition to the wedding-night crew is a turn-off-but this catering company is able to make wood-fired pizzas for dinner, and the space has a full liquor license.
Keep in mind that no matter how tucked away you may feel in the intimate party area, you're still in a park that's public property. (Heady says there's never been a problem with wandering passersby, though, and the park provides security for every event.)
"It's very peaceful and feels separate from the rest of the world," she says. "We are a conservatory, after all."Intimate and sophisticated
If your tastes run a little more black-tie-and-white-tablecloth than backyard cookout, there's no reason your rehearsal dinner can't follow suit. Many romantic restaurants around town-the places you might someday eye to celebrate an anniversary-are equipped to handle small to mid-sized crowds for special events, perfect for impressing out-of-town guests with Columbus' sophisticated cool.
Take, for instance, Due Amici. Lexie Gantzer, the private events manager for the Downtown restaurant, says she can put together coursed meals for up to 120 people in their separate, semi-private dining area.
Both the main dining room and private space are chicly appointed, with exposed brick walls, wood beams, low lighting and flickering votive candles dotting the tables. Beyond that, the room's look is all up to you.
"It's very upscale," she says. "You don't have to do a lot of decorating to make it look good."
Gantzer can work with groups to do multi-course options, as well as specialty cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. Once you reach out to the restaurant about a special event, she sends out several menus at varying price points from which you can choose.
Keep in mind you'll often run into minimum orders or other requirements, much like you would with a traditional caterer. Due Amici's is $1,500, but that includes dedicated servers and bartenders.
In addition, their facility includes full electronic equipment access-you can pick the soundtrack for the evening (or leave it to the staff, whose tastes tend toward unobtrusive pop), use their projectors and audiovisual equipment to display slideshows or videos and borrow one of their microphones for speeches and thank-you messages as the evening rolls along.