In Wedding Planning, Don't Neglect Your Rehearsal Dinner

How to ensure that the party before the party goes off without a hitch

Emma Frankart Henterly
Columbus Monthly

This story first appeared in the Spring/Summer 2020 issue of Columbus Weddings, published December 2019.

You’ve probably spent a significant amount of time pondering the options for your reception dinner. (And if you haven’t yet, you will.) But another meal also deserves careful consideration: your rehearsal dinner.

“You want to provide a really nice meal; most likely, it’s the start of your wedding weekend. But I think it’s also really important to focus on having fun that night,” says Grant Cassidy, director of catering and sales at Lindey’s. “You’re usually bringing two families together, and maybe a lot of these people have not met.” For that reason, he adds, it’s important to ensure the atmosphere and flow of the evening provide ample opportunity for casual interactions.

To that end, Cassidy recommends starting your rehearsal dinner with a small cocktail hour. Think: drinks and hors d’oeuvres with cabaret tables dotting the room to encourage conversation. At Lindey’s, a private upstairs bar that connects to each of the private dining areas makes for an excellent pre-dinner gathering space.

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But don’t get carried away with a minute-by-minute timeline, Cassidy warns. “You’re going to have your hands full the next day [at the wedding] … so just be a little bit more informal and try to have fun that night.”

Of course, an informal atmosphere doesn’t have to mean inferior food or service. Lindey’s standards of service will always be more formal, Cassidy says, but the restaurant’s private spaces enable guests to relax a bit more than in a public dining room. “You can still have very nice wine, you can still have very nice food,” says Cassidy, “but as far as the mood, you can keep that a little bit more lighthearted and free-flowing.”

A buffet is one way to keep guests moving around the room in a casual atmosphere, he notes, but the effect can also be achieved with a three- or four-course plated dinner. Ask your rehearsal dinner venue if they’ll serve a meal family-style, with platters of food meant to be passed around the table, to encourage conviviality even more.

The last piece of the puzzle? You and your betrothed, of course.

“I think it’s important for the couple to be very present to the rehearsal dinner. Be up and about, introducing people to each other,” Cassidy says. “You’re laying the groundwork for the wedding. If you can get everyone to have a wonderful time at the rehearsal dinner, chances are, you’re going to have a better wedding reception.”