Bits & Bites / Restaurants/Bars / Savannah / Wedding Planning

Weekends are for Weddings: The Rehearsal Dinner

Weekends are for weddings!  If you’re like me, with 9 weddings each year, the weekends are, quite literally, for weddings (attending them, that is).  Also if you’re like me, the weekend is a time to think about planning your own wedding.  Lots of people carve out a certain time each week for wedding planning (Wedding Wednesday seems to be very popular).  It ensures the wedding doesn’t take over their whole lives; however, I find that confining wedding planning to a specific time is too pressure-filled and bicker-prone.   I planned my wedding when inspiration struck.  Weekends, in particular, offer the time to let my mind roam and plan my own wedding in a stress-free environment.  In this series, I’ll take you through some of my major planning steps – hopefully this will help you plan your own wedding!


Sure, we had already had a few events (here and here) by the time the rehearsal dinner rolled around, but this event is when it really starts feeling real.  You’re getting a little more dressed up and everyone has really started looking right at you.  Since we had so many out of towners attending our wedding, we decided to keep the rehearsal dinner to just wedding party and immediate family (still a whopping 69 people) and host another party for the rest of the folks who traveled to be with us (more on that in next week’s post).

The Background:

In the South, the rehearsal dinner is when a lot of the action takes place.  Traditionally, Southern wedding receptions are done as stations vs. a sit down dinner.  That leaves the rehearsal dinner as the opportunity to have everyone sitting down and focused, so all the speeches are done then.  This is the chance for the family and wedding party to roast and toast the bride and groom, something I always love to watch.  We saw it all – a rap, a spot-on impersonation of the groom and me, a dance-off, a slideshow, and a rather embarrassing look into my past as a wrestler.

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The Best Man and Man of Honor served as MCs for the evening

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Clearly, we found the toasts quite funny

The Where:

We had our dinner at Vic’s on the River, a lovely space on Bay Street overlooking the Savannah River.  I have always liked the food there, and they made everything so easy.  Our price included table linens and centerpieces, and they had AV equipment for the speeches and a slideshow.  Considering this is a place I like to go to under normal circumstances (meaning, not as an event venue), those features made hosting an event there too good to pass up.

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Rehearsal dinner views

HOT TIP #1: It’s common to look for restaurants that churn out events, but I suggest you start by thinking about those restaurants you already enjoy and see if they can accommodate you.  You know how when a recipe calls for wine and they suggest using what you already have in the house rather than traditional cooking wine?  It’s like that.  If you already like it for dinner, you’ll like it for an event.  Plus, if it’s a place you’ve been to before and can go to again, they’ll be more inclined to work with you because they know you and can expect future business (vs. an “event” place which is one and done).  It’s also nice to go someplace where you have history – these things are always better when they feel personal.

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Fave feature of our rehearsal dinner venue: the balcony

The Look:

As mentioned, the venue included centerpieces in the deal, but it wasn’t a pre-fab situation.  They were very open to working with me to design something using any flowers we wanted.  We wanted something relatively simple so people could enjoy the very open and airy space.  The focus was on the speeches and our literary touches (more on that below).

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When the venue asked if I had flowers in mind, I said I just wanted bright and seasonal.  I let them know a few flowers I disliked and also mentioned I was a fan of sunflowers, hydrangea, and palm/greenery.  I think the centerpieces came out lovely.

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We went with a more rustic/vintage look for the table numbers to match the vibe of the evening – we didn’t want to feel ultra modern.  (Table numbers by BHLDN; “5 Things You Didn’t Know…” cards by me.)

Our wedding weekend had a slight literary theme that we decided to incorporate into the rehearsal dinner seating.  I brought a ton of my own books from home to use on the table  that was front and center when you enter the room – it’s amazing how taking the jacket off a hardcover immediately makes it look more serious.  Guests could find their escort cards in a vintage card catalog that I found on Etsy, and the escort cards looked like those found in an old card catalog.  The cards directed them to their table, each of which was named after a favorite and meaningful book.  I tried to match the guests with the theme of their table; for example, I made sure my friend Rachel was seated at the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets table since she’s a Potterhead who had her bachelorette party at Harry Potter World.  Further underscoring the literary theme, the menu for the evening was printed on a library check-out card.

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Also on each table and bar were cards that provided some “did you know” information.  We had three “5 Things You Didn’t Know” info cards on each table: one about the bride, one about the groom, and one about us as a couple.  We designed them to look similar to the rehearsal dinner invites (see: top of post).  We wanted to make sure the entire weekend was 1) personal and 2) whimsical and fun.  These cards were a way for us to give people a chuckle, make them feel like the

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Love that we got to pick out our beers, including a local fave, Sweetwater

For our final piece of decor, we laid out the cutest coasters I received from Jen as a gift when I got engaged.  I saved them for this very evening and loved how they looked splayed out on the welcome table next to the escort cards.  The coasters allow people to write on them and offer tips for a good marriage.  They made for pretty much the most adorable guest book ever.

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Pun by me hehe

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The food:

  • Cocktail Hour:
    • Passed Hors d’Oeuvres:
      • Fried Macaroni and Cheese Balls with Tobasco Syrup
      • Fried Oysters with Chili Lime Aioli
      • Short Rib Crostini with Horseradish Cream
    • Veggie Display
  • Dinner
    • First Course: She Crab Soup
    • Second Course: Southern Caesar Salad with Lemon Scented Dressing and Buttermilk Croutons
    • Choice of Entrée (all served with roasted garlic mashed potato and seasonal vegetable)
      • Spinach and Boursin Cheese Stuffed Organic Chicken Breast with Creole Tomato Sauce
      • Pan Seared Sea Scallops with Lemon Herb Truffle Butter
      • Pan Seared Filet Mignon with Red Wine and Shallot Bordelaise
  • Dessert: We opted against serving a dessert course because we were serving dessert at the welcome reception that was immediately following the rehearsal dinner.  This also ensured we would have enough time to serve the soup course and still leave on time for said welcome reception.

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Close-up of the menu and escort cards alongside the amazing she crab soup.  I made sure our table was named after my favorite book, of course.

HOT TIP #2: When building out your rehearsal dinner menu you’ll be faced with a lot of pre-set options.  Don’t let that keep you from asking if you can change things around a bit.  In our case, because we needed to be finished with dinner at a certain time to make it to the rehearsal dinner, the venue pushed for a 3-course, pre-set menu.  I actually much preferred the entrée options on the 4-course menu (which featured more of their nicer, normal menu items) and the fact that there was a soup course in addition to the salad.  When I asked if we could do that instead, I learned the hesitation was around that menu allowing diners to choose their entrée that evening, which takes much longer to cook and would keep us from finishing on time.  We talked it out and determined we could offer these same entrées as long as we had our guests pre-select them.  Done!  We whittled down the options to only offer our guests 3 and we got the better food with zero problemos.  As long as it’s 3 courses, it didn’t matter, it didn’t need to be app-entrée-dessert; it could be app-app-dessert and still maintain the schedule.  They agreed to nix the dessert and reduce the price per person for the 4-course menu accordingly.  Your venue will likely be amenable to such changes, so ask!

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More rehearsal dinner views

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Photos by The Happy Bloom and myself when I remembered to whip out my iPhone

Escort cards and menus by The Bird and The Beard, a shop I found on Etsy.  The table numbers were from BHLDN (similar here – make sure you buy at the end of a given season where you can get them for $2 a number!).

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