Your rehearsal dinner sets the tone for your wedding weekend and choosing an unexpected activity, location, or menu is a sure way to get your guests into the celebratory spirit. For many people, summer is all about getting outdoors, soaking up the great weather, and hanging out with loved ones. So, we think it’s only fitting that your summer rehearsal dinner has one–if not all–of those elements.
There are countless ways to get your celebration started, but here are 11 of our all-time favorite summer rehearsal dinner ideas that would be perfect for any style, budget, and crowd!
Summer Rehearsal Dinner Ideas
1. Outdoor Barbeque
Is there a more classic combination than summer and barbeque? We don’t think so. That’s why we love an outdoor barbeque as a summer rehearsal dinner idea. It’s perfect for low-key couples, those on a budget, or anyone who simply loves to eat BBQ. Set up some picnic tables in your backyard or at a nearby park, add pretty centerpieces, simple place settings, and some cafe lights strung through the trees and you have the perfect dinner setting.
You can either cater food from your favorite BBQ joint or have someone work the grill. To keep the fun going all night long, add some lawn games and then you’re all set for a night of classic summer fun.
2. Tacos and Tequila
If an outdoor barbeque doesn’t suit your taste, consider a fiesta with tacos and tequila. As far as summer rehearsal dinner ideas go, it’s one of the easiest and tastiest meals. With hundreds of different variations, tacos can satisfy even the pickiest eaters. For a rehearsal dinner with more than 15-20 people, you may want to hire your favorite food truck. It gives your guests options without putting the burden of cooking for a large group.
If you’re expecting a smaller crowd, we love the idea of a make-your-own taco buffet with all the fixings–think chips, salsa, guac, and queso. Rent a frozen margarita machine for the night and you’re ready to party.
3. Camp-Inspired Picnic in the Park
A picnic in the park is always a fun, super casual idea. But we love the idea of adding a theme to take it up a notch for your rehearsal dinner. Because it’s summer, you can’t go wrong with a camp theme. It lets guests feel one with nature while bringing back the nostalgia of summer camp.
Lay down blankets and pillows in the grass, set up small glamping-inspired tents or umbrellas, and provide lots of cold beverages. You could even plan a few group games, like horseshoes or charades, and end the night with a s’mores bar.
4. Seafood Boil On the Beach
Shrimp, clams, sausage, potatoes, corn, sun, sand–what says summer more? If you live near a beach or are having a destination wedding near the beach, there’s no better way to get your guests into the spirit than with a seafood boil. Check your area for companies that provide all-inclusive services to set up, cook, and clean up. This will make your life much easier. You could also make it a multi-hour event with friends or family who know how to boil seafood and invite the rest of your guests to join when it’s time to eat.
Just be sure to remind your guests to wear casual attire that they don’t mind getting a little messy. It’s also wise to check the beach rules to see what the curfew is and if you can have a bonfire.
5. Boat Cocktail Party
If you have access to a boat or have the means to rent one for a few hours, there’s nothing more romantic than a boat cocktail party at sunset. Ask guests to dress in comfortable but dressy attire and set sail a few hours before the sun goes down. This will give you and your guests time to mingle and eat before it gets dark. Provide one or two signature cocktails for the evening and don’t forget a few snacks–such as meat and cheese boards, mini sliders, or shrimp cocktail.
6. Backyard Game Night
If you’re looking for a super casual option for your summer rehearsal dinner, a backyard game night is an ideal way to soak up the warm weather. For large groups, have a few different game stations set up–board games on the patio and lawn games in the grass–and let guests rotate between them. Order pizza then set out bowls of chips, pretzels, and veggies with dip, and buy a few cases of beer and bottles of wine. Guests won’t be expecting anything fancy for an at-home game night, which means you can spend more time enjoying their company in a super low-key setting with zero pressure.
7. Late-Night Dessert Bar
There’s no rule that dinner technically has to be part of a rehearsal dinner. If your guests are getting in late in the evening or you just want something short and sweet–literally–plan a late-night get-together with a variety of desserts instead. Host it at a local coffee shop, your guests’ hotel, or even in your backyard.
Provide a variety of your favorite desserts, such as brownies, cookies, pies, or chocolates, and a few non-sweet items for guests who might not have a sweet tooth. If you want to include adult beverages, this would be a great time to include dessert wines, cordials, and sweet cocktails such as espresso martinis. If it’s a bit brisk out, you could even consider having a spiked hot chocolate bar complete with toppings.
8. Fondue Party
Fondue parties are fun all year round, but they make for a great summer rehearsal dinner idea because they’re typically pretty laidback. Rather than a sit-down meal, set up one or two stations with different cheeses, bread, meats, fruits, and veggies. Provide a couple of different wines that pair with the cheeses you select, and make sure to have plenty of extra napkins and fondue skewers on hand.
If you want to add dessert, bring out the chocolate fondue later in the evening, and provide berries, marshmallows, graham crackers, and bite-size brownies for guests to dip. This would also be a great time to bring out a nightcap to ease your guests into the rest of their evening.
9. Beer Tasting
If you and your fiance are really into beer or you have lots of craft breweries nearby, a beer tasting is a great option. Most breweries can handle large groups, but make sure you call ahead to ensure space and availability for the day you choose. If a lot of your out-of-town guests have never tried your local craft beer or are new to beer drinking, this would also be a great time to book a brewery tour for the entire group to learn the ins and outs of the process.
For couples who prefer a more personal and intimate rehearsal dinner experience, have a DIY beer tasting at your home instead. Choose a variety of your favorite brews, stock up on glasses, and let your guests do side-by-side tastings of all your favorites.
10. Rooftop Lounge Party
Downtown dwellers might not have yards or parks that can accommodate a rehearsal dinner group, but they do have what most suburban areas don’t–a rooftop. Take your guests up to look out over the city that matters most to you. It’s one of the chicest summer rehearsal dinner ideas available. You can set up cocktail tables and lounge areas, keeping the space nice and open so they feel free to move around and chat.
To drown out the loud city noise, consider having relaxing background music such as jazz or blues, and provide the same signature cocktails and finger foods you would at a traditional cocktail party. Because rooftops evoke a more sophisticated vibe, make sure to tell your guests to dress for the occasion and opt for elevated but minimalistic details, such as well-designed floral centerpieces, gold utensils, nice dinnerware, and real wine glasses rather than plastic.
11. Outdoor Movie Night
For the movie buffs and cinephiles, we can’t think of anything better than a movie night under the stars. Use an inflatable screen or simply hang a sheet between trees or on a fence, and use a small projector to display your favorite movies. To make everyone feel extra cozy, set up lawn chairs, bean bags, pillows, and blankets in the yard. And, of course, no movie-watching party is complete without the classic foods–popcorn, candy, sodas, nachos, pretzels, etc.
To take it to the next level and make the evening feel a little more sophisticated, create a top-your-own popcorn bar with various toppings, such as flavored salts, flavored olive oil, seasonings, or even candies for those sweet-n-salty fans.