Rehearsal Dinner Winner

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Kick back and enjoy a barbecue.

The night before Kelsey and Adam Cellar got married, the couple wanted to relax and get members of their bridal party acquainted.

The solution: a backyard barbecue.

Kelsey credits her mother-in-law with having the idea to host a catered cookout, complete with cornhole, a ring toss, hula hoops and giant checkers. It was exactly the type of casual affair the couple wanted.

"We liked that we could have fun games for the bridesmaids and groomsmen to play and interact and kind of bond before the wedding," Kelsey says. "I also think it was more relaxing than some of the other rehearsal dinners I've been to personally."

Scott Erwin, regional catering director for City Barbeque, says he's seeing an uptick in cookout-style rehearsal dinners in Central Ohio.

"We're doing quite a few of them. At last count, we had 35 rehearsal dinners booked for the 2016 season, which is an increase from last year, and about 20 more in our pipeline of people who have requested quotes," says Erwin. "They're becoming very popular."

"The rustic wedding barbecue theme has really taken off," agrees John Hoyt, catering director at Carfagna's Catering. "We've had couples order items like our barbecue ribs and pulled pork and baked beans."

Erwin points to two distinct advantages of a casual rehearsal dinner.

"For a bride and groom having a more traditional wedding, they think City Barbeque is something a little more fun they can do the night before," he says. "Rehearsal dinners are also getting larger and much more expensive."

Erwin said a menu with two meats and two sides would cost about $11 per person. Adding a third meat choice, cornbread and dessert would run about $14.50 per person.

Yet it doesn't have to look cheap, adds Hoyt.

"Rustic is a big design theme on Pinterest," he says. "And we offer high-end disposable plates that are acrylic, but almost look like china. Anything you can do to make cleanup easier and keep costs down-just remember to load up on the napkins and wet wipes."

For couples wanting something a bit more novel, City Barbeque also offers a macaroni-and-cheese bar, where guests can add their own toppings, as well as a smoked potato bar and a lemonade stand. Carfagna's can bring its grill on-site to cook items to order.

For the Cellars, hosting a backyard cookout came with one big risk: the weather. That's why they ordered a tent along with the extra tables and chairs they needed.

"It did rain, so it was well worth the extra money to rent the tent just in case," Kelsey says. "It didn't ruin anything as far as our plans went."

Some couples avoid potential weather issues by having the barbecue set up indoors.

"With rehearsal dinners, you have people getting together at the church, so we've had several couples ask us to set up there, right at the church," Erwin says. "That way they don't have to go out somewhere else. It's very convenient."