Keeping the Rehearsal Dinner Casual

Hannah Roth

The Mannerings chose a laid-back rehearsal dinner to relax before their big day.

Shaina and Michael Mannering had an amazing rehearsal dinner with delicious food, a Star Trek cake and something for everyone. What set their dinner apart, however, was the location: Instead of an upscale restaurant, a friend of the couple hosted a backyard rehearsal dinner the night before their June 10, 2016, wedding.

“We’re not big on pomp and circumstance,” Michael says. “We didn’t want it to be stuffy,” adds Shaina. “We wanted everybody to have fun.”

The home that hosted the party had a bocce ball court, an outdoor fireplace, a pond and a basement with a pool table, dart board, full liquor cabinet and wine cellar. “A lot of little kids [there] were great with the lake,” Michael says. “I mean, 6-year-olds have no interest in rehearsal dinners. … Catching frogs, they have interest in.”

The to-be-weds preferred a casual rehearsal dinner based on past experiences at restaurants, where it’s often harder for guests to move around and converse.

“You’re dressing up the next day,” Michael says. “This day is fun. You’re supposed to relax, have fun, get to know some people you haven’t gotten to know or whatever. Then you can get stuffy the next day.”

Friends of the couple had suggested Carfagna’s for catering, so they went to the restaurant for a tasting. Shaina says they tried—and loved—just about everything on the menu.

“Each year we’ve seen growth [in] … casual catering for folks who are having anywhere from 15, 20, 30, 50 people coming over for an event,” says John Hoyt, catering manager at Carfagna’s.

Randy Arehart, City Barbeque’s catering manager, also has seen a rise in casual catering. “I believe that you can have incredible food, incredible service and casual catering,” he says.

There can be a lot of stress when coordinating a rehearsal dinner at home, and a caterer can lessen that. “We’ve done this thousands of times,” Hoyt says. “We know what to bring; we’re always prepared.”

“Even if guests haven’t mentioned it, we always make sure to have things that we’ve done before at other events on hand, just in case they need it,” he adds.

If given the choice, the Mannerings say they wouldn’t change a thing about their rehearsal dinner. As Michael put it, the evening featured “a beautiful night, beautiful weather, beautiful food and lots of fun.”

Photo: Dan Buckley Photography