Double feature: Treat your rehearsal dinner as a separate event

Photos: Meg Runion Photos: Meg Runion

From the beginning of their wedding planning, Lizzy and Nik knew they wanted their wedding weekend to be very personal: Lizzy had grown up in Charlottesville and attended the University of Virginia and Nik’s family spent many years living in Mexico City. So, for their rehearsal dinner, the couple decided to merge the two: an authentic fiesta de los novios (party for the bride and groom) at UVA’s Colonnade Club.

Luckily, the groom’s mother, a veteran event planner, stepped in to curate the entire event—start to finish.

“We worked with my mother-in-law to create an aesthetic similar to that of celebrations she attended while living in Mexico,” says Lizzy. “All of our inspiration was drawn from real experiences.”

It’s not uncommon for couples to use the rehearsal dinner as a preview for the wedding to come. But, it’s also a great opportunity to do the opposite: incorporate details that guests won’t get on the big day.

“In many cases, the wedding day is traditionally hosted by the bride’s family. But couples really want to be able to incorporate both sides of the family in their event,” says Orpha Events’ Marisa Vrooman. “The rehearsal dinner, hosted the night before, provides a fantastic opportunity to creatively highlight the groom’s side of the family and their traditions.”

While Vrooman wasn’t involved in Lizzy and Nik’s rehearsal dinner (though she did plan their wedding), she’s noticed a lot of couples pulling off what are essentially two different events.

“For example, I plan a lot of weddings where the bride’s family is from the north and the groom’s is from the south, and so very often the rehearsal dinner favors more traditional and casual Southern foods with bluegrass music and a more relaxed décor,” she says.

Photo: Meg Runion
Photo: Meg Runion

For Lizzy and Nik, who merged Virginia with Mexico, that meant a few key details: A custom piñata in a traditional star shape hung in the center of the garden from strings of paper wedding flags; Gay Beery of A Pimento incorporated family recipes into the menu of Mexican cuisine; and the night ended with a special surprise from Nik’s parents: a live serenade from Mariachi Ay Ay Ay, a Mariachi group from Washington, D.C. And Lizzy’s favorite detail? A set of hand-painted maracas at every place setting.

“The sights and sounds generated by these ancient instruments as we cheered on speakers throughout the evening transported us from Jefferson’s Lawn to the Mexican countryside.”