Clam bakes, Italian feasts, and lobster boils are just some of the possibilities.
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What you serve at your rehearsal dinner largely depends on the venue you've selected. If you've decided to host at a hotel or restaurant, you'll likely be limited to what these properties already offer, though you may be able to work with the chefs to put in a special request. In all other cases, it's helpful to have a starting concept in place and build your menu from there. Given the more casual style of a rehearsal dinner, this is a chance to be less traditional, get creative with themes, and bring in something that's more interactive. Here, we explore the options.

The rehearsal dinner is a chance to be less traditional.

"We think the rehearsal dinner is definitely an opportunity to be a bit more playful with the menu, especially if the couple is having a traditional wedding meal," says Lainey Nash, director of events at Fig & Pig Catering. "When we're planning rehearsal dinner menus, we always try to differentiate from the wedding menu and bring in a sort of 'theme' that relates to the couple."

Choose a theme.

Nash encourages clients to choose a theme that has significance to them. She says, "Maybe the menu theme is Italian because the couple's engagement was in Sicily. Or, we can base the menu off of their favorite food memories together. It's always fun to do something a little more niche that they can then share with their closest family and friends, especially if it wouldn't necessarily work in a formal wedding setting."

Work with the formality level that suits your venue.

A venue's formality level will often dictate the format of a rehearsal dinner, including the menu. For example, if the rehearsal dinner is taking place outdoors, you'll have fewer restrictions around needing it to feel formal. "Often, we'll do a barbecue for the rehearsal dinner, or a casual family-style Italian dinner if the wedding is a formal, elegant affair," says Leslie Levin Nilsson, creative director of catering company Bartleby & Sage.

Don't be afraid to choose something that's more hands-on.

Because the rehearsal dinner is a more casual affair, it can be a good opportunity to serve something local that guests have to be more hands-on with eating. Nilsson says, "I love doing a clam bake or pig roast for the rehearsal dinner." Crab or lobster boils on the east coast are very popular, as are crawfish boils in the south. These formats can be really fun for guests because they encourage interaction and give guests a chance to get to know each other at the start of the wedding weekend.


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