Denver Rehearsal Dinner at Coohills

Newlyweds, Mark and Alex, hosted their wedding in downtown Denver last October. With nearly 75% of their guests coming from out of town, they wanted to keep everything within a close proximity including their rehearsal dinner. With a little help from their wedding planner, Cammye (We Tie the Knots), Mark and Alex decided on a modern restaurant near their hotel, Coohills. The evening was impeccably planned from start to finish.

Often, there are a lot of questions surrounding a rehearsal dinner from who to invite to whether or not a photographer is necessary. So, we sat down with Alex, Cammye, and Amy (Amy Caroline Photography) to get the inside scoop on how to plan a picture perfect rehearsal dinner. 

Question:

What was the criteria you used in selecting your rehearsal dinner location?

Answer:

Alex, "Mark and I wanted a place that could house 150 people, so that's where we started. We also wanted people to be able to either take a very short uber or walk from their hotels to the restaurant. Also, being that it was mid-October we really wanted part of it outside, and after some calling around (and discussing with Cammye) we ended with Coohills. Beer is also a very important part of Mark's life (he's the Lab Manager for Left Hand Brewing in Longmont). We wanted to make sure we could try and get some of Mark's favorite beers on tap. Coohill's was exceptional to work with - we special ordered Mark's favorite beers to have on tap for that night. Also, their food is incredible!"

Question:

What was the rehearsal dinner budget relative to your overall wedding budget?

Answer:

Alex, "I think we spent about 25% of the budget for the wedding on the night before. That included a 3-course dinner for 30, appetizers/desserts for 140, and an open bar [both of our parents insisted on top shelf liquor] all night (also this is a full night buyout of Coohills)."

Question:

What do you recommend to your couples on a budget for rehearsal dinners?

Answer:

Cammye, "Traditionally, the rehearsal dinner is arranged by the groom's parents, so we always suggest that they pick a budget that they feel most comfortable with. We always tell our couples to pick a place that is special to them or is a reflection of who they are as a couple. For some couples that means hosting it at a brewery with their favorite food truck and for others, it's their favorite neighborhood restaurant. The most important things to consider when picking a rehearsal dinner spot is that it is a place you are excited to share with your favorite people and it sets the perfect tone for the beginning of your wedding weekend!"

Question:

Do you need to mail formal invitations? 

Answer:

Alex, "We added a "Rehearsal Dinner" card invite into the 30 that were invited for dinner and then added a "Welcome Party" card into the invitation suite for everyone else."

Cammye, "Being a designer, I love all paper! I think the rehearsal dinner, in general, is a place where my couples can have a lot of fun, so I think a formal invitation can be a great opportunity to bring a different vibe to your wedding weekend and set the rehearsal dinner apart from your wedding day!"

Tip: Use your ceremony arrangements at the rehearsal dinner to add some extra flair! Work with your florist to design hardy arrangements that will last through the weekend. 

Question:

Did you plan a separate welcome reception for those not invited? 

Answer:

Alex, "We had a "grooms dinner" for about 30 people (wedding party and close family) from 5:30-7:00 PM. Then 7:00-11:00 PM was when the remainder of the 140 guests came for some food, drinks, and dancing." 

Question:

Should a bride and groom also host a welcome reception? 

Answer:

Cammye, "A welcome reception is typically much more laid back than the actual rehearsal dinner. I think the main reason for a welcome reception is to add another great event that guests can attend and spend some time with the bride and groom. Wedding weekend can be a whirlwind and I know that guests are there to spend as much time with the bride and groom as possible. This is why a welcome reception is so great because it allows for another opportunity outside of wedding day to sneak in some quality time with the bride and groom before they say "I do"! We always recommend that this be at least open to all out of state guests, but even better if you can invite the full guest list!" 

Question:

How'd you narrow down the guest list?

Answer:

Alex, "At first we originally thought we may want to invite everyone for the rehearsal dinner,  but we decided we'd like to spend some extra time with our closest friends and family. Plus, it's great to get your favorite people all in a room together! So we agreed on the bridal party, our immediate families, and the uncles and aunts. We decided not to invite cousins to the actual dinner portion. But everyone was invited at 7:00 PM. We felt that because 80% of the people coming to the wedding were from out of town, we wanted to have the night to mingle with them. Honestly, I'm so happy we invited everyone for the party because I was able to make my way around most of the guests on Friday and didn't feel pressured to on Saturday. Which worked out much better for Mark and I."

Question:

What is the etiquette surrounding the rehearsal dinner guest list?

Answer:

Cammye, "This really depends on budget and the overall feel the couple is going for. Some of my couples want to keep the cost down and the vibe intimate, so they just invite immediate family and wedding party. I think this is lovely! Some of my other couples have a bit more flexibility on budget and are hoping to host a party that sets the tone for their big day. These couples tend to invite all out of town guests and sometimes even their full guest list! Again, I think it comes down to the overall budget and the atmosphere you are hoping to accomplish!"

Question:

What are the pros and cons of hiring your photographer for the rehearsal dinner? 

Answer:

Alex, "In my opinion, this was the best money spent. I absolutely love the photos taken the night before - you can tell Mark and I are definitely more relaxed and we were able to take more casual photos with our families."

Amy, "I definitely recommend couples hiring their photographer for their rehearsal dinner. 

For these reasons:

  • Firstly, your rehearsal dinner is such a fun and relaxed atmosphere. Usually, it's not as strict a timeline as your wedding day, and you often have the most fun toasts, and laughter at this event. It's the perfect time to grab some group shots with your besties. It's wonderful to have those relaxed photos of some of your favorite people.
  • As a photographer, it's a great time for me to meet your parents, your best man and maid of honor. This way on your wedding day they too feel relaxed around me, and we get even better pictures of them on your day. 
  • As everyone tells you, your wedding day goes by in a blur. Having your rehearsal be an extension of your wedding day just gives you some extra time to soak it in. You can grab photos with those special guests that aren't in your bridal party, or family but who you love so dearly. Often there isn't time for all those extra photos on your wedding day. So treating this day as part of your wedding-weekend really helps extend the fun and celebration. 
  • Lastly, you often put a lot of thought, planning, effort, and details into your rehearsal dinner. Having those moments, and little details captured makes your wedding experience even better remembered. 

Not very many couples choose to add on rehearsal dinner coverage. It can be quite pricey, as your photographer may need to take an extra travel day, or perhaps turn down another wedding to cover it for you. There is a lot of preparation for your photographer on this day to make sure they are not only ready for the rehearsal but also all set for the big wedding day. So it's probably about 20% of couples who chose to have their rehearsal photographed. But the memories you will have from it are priceless."

Question:

Who gives a toast?

Answer:

Alex, "During the groom's dinner Mark's parents gave a small toast to kick off dinner. During the party between songs, we had my best friend and Mark's best friend say a toast as well. We saved the best man and maid of honor for the wedding night."

Cammye, "The rehearsal dinner is a perfect opportunity to allow any special people to toast the bride and groom! As a wedding planner, I know how much time toasts can take on the wedding day and how fast the day can already feel, so I always recommend that my couples open up the floor to toasts at their rehearsal dinner and keep wedding day toasts to parents, maid of honor and best man!"

Question:

Is a seating chart necessary?

Answer:

Alex, "We had a seating chart for the 30 person dinner, just to make it easier on everyone. And honestly, I'm so type A - I wanted it that way."

Cammye, "I think this 100% depends on the venue. If you are doing a sit-down dinner, I think a seating chart is very helpful and can be a great opportunity to be intentional about introducing some of your favorite people! On the other hand, if the rehearsal dinner is much more casual, it might make more sense to let people pick their own seat. You always want to make sure to give some time in the beginning for mingling so your guests have some time to meet other people or reunite with friends!"

Question:

Should the bride wear white?

Answer:

Alex, "Every other rehearsal dinner I've ever attended, the Bride always wore white. But I don't necessarily love myself in white... to be honest. I guess I'm not the stereotypical bride? Originally I wanted to wear black! Haha. My mom and I decided on this blue dress, more of a cocktail party vibe versus a bridal vibe. I'm so happy I decided not to wear white. I was in white the entire next day! One day was good for me!"

Cammye, 'I have to admit, I love a great white dress and there is no better excuse to wear white than when you are a bride! But I love my brides who pave their own way with bridal fashion. White is not for everyone, so I tell my brides to wear what makes them feel most fabulous. And don't be afraid of a great jumpsuit ladies!"

Question:

What did you learn in the process of planning the rehearsal dinner?

Answer:

Alex, "It was like a mini wedding! Although we didn't hire Cammye for the night of - she was still extremely helpful since I planned that one on my own. We used some of the florals that were going to be at the ceremony the night before at Coohills, which was fun. We also had signage made specifically for Friday night which was a lot of fun to have around. I would 100% recommend to have a "welcome night" party if you can swing it with all the guests. It really takes the pressure off of trying to talk to everyone the night of your wedding. Also, why should your wedding celebration only be 1 night! Everyone has flown in to celebrate, might as well make it multiple nights!"

Question:

Any other pieces of advice/tips for future brides/grooms planning their rehearsal dinner?

Answer:

Alex, "It's your night, so make sure that your needs are met first. If you want something small, then plan something small. Our goal was to be able to talk to as many people as possible Friday night, which made our wedding night that much more enjoyable. I didn't feel the pressure to make "the rounds" which I know is very common. We wanted Friday night to feel nothing like our wedding, the color scheme was different and we made sure people were eating different food. Also, Brides -  don't feel pressured to stay the whole night. I left at 10 PM to make sure I got enough sleep!"

If you're a bride or groom planning your big day, take a deep breath! Don't sweat the little details. The rehearsal dinner is meant to be a fun way to kick off your wedding. If you have more questions regarding planning a rehearsal dinner or welcome reception reach out to your wedding planner. Or, comment below and we will follow-up with an answer!

To see more photos from Mark and Alex's wedding, be on the lookout for Rocky Mountain Bride V4 where their wedding will be featured!

Subscribe

Sign up for monthly inspiration!