The rehearsal dinner is traditionally the time when the two families come together with the wedding party to celebrate the evening before the wedding. It is generally the culmination of all the preparation that has gone into the event and a time to celebrate the joining of the two families in a more intimate setting. During this time as we despretly want to see our loved ones we also want to be safe which is why we have tips for a COVID Safe Rehearsal Dinner.
That being said, in the era of COVID-19, hosting a gathering where people mingle in a traditional manner isn’t going to be the easiest thing to plan. The traditions around this event have mellowed over the years (hosted by the groom’s family, strict attendance by only participants, etc.) so your event may have its own flavor to begin with. Now adding in COVID-19 safety guidelines can complicate the matter even further. We have some tips to help the planning go more smoothly.
4 Tips for COVID Safe Rehearsal Dinner
1. Who’s Coming to Dinner?
The first decision about the rehearsal dinner is often who to include? Traditionally the guest list includes the bride and groom, their parents/family, the wedding party, the officiant and any plus one’s. Sometimes, out of town guests are included as well to give the bride and groom an opportunity before the big day to visit with them in a less rushed setting. The number of guests can affect how you prepare for a safer gathering.
The hardest part of this is limiting your guest list to those who are symptom-free. Some sites recommend having your guests tested before they come to the event, but many times that isn’t feasible due to lack of test availability or even an unwillingness on the part of the guest themselves. This leaves you as the host with a situation you have to address. Ultimately, your guest’s safety is up to you. By setting up expected behaviours ahead of time, your guests can know what you expect of them and act accordingly. This should include masks, hand washing/sanitizer and social distancing at the very least.
2. Location, Location, Location
Once the guest list is set, it’s much easier to determine the location. Depending on local COVID-19 guidelines this can be a room at a restaurant, it can be a backyard bar-b-que, it can be a rented venue, or anything in between.
- The first step is to determine what the local guidelines are for hosting a gathering. Staying within the state guidelines can prevent unwanted consequences from interrupting your party. A little research can go a long way. Don’t forget to recheck the guidelines right before the event. COVID-19 has been creating a lot of changes back and forth––what may have worked in June may not work in September!
- Determine the level of formality you are looking for at this event. Some people want to match the formality of the wedding, while others prefer a more relaxed rehearsal dinner as an opportunity for the participants to “let their hair down” a little after the stress of planning for the big day. No matter your style, ensure that the venue has space available for the recommended six foot social distancing. See our article on how to make any event COVID-19 safer for more tips.
3. Menu Planning
How you go about planning the menu will be affected by where you choose to host the party. A restaurant will have its own menus and will solve a lot of the food planning challenges. If you choose a local venue or a bar-b-que, menu planning is more important. Here are some ideas to make the night go smoothly if you are planning the menu.
- The first step to think of when it comes to safety is to forego the buffet. The hassle involved in setting up a COVID-19 safe buffet just isn’t worth it after all the work put in to make the wedding go smoothly. That’s the last thing you want the day before the wedding.
- If you are having some form of self serve, consider pre-plated, individual servings. This can be accomplished both by a professional caterer and by the host themselves. Simply provide the food in disposable containers and individual portions.
- “Family style” meals are also a no-go. There isn’t really a safer way to pass dishes from guest to guest without potentially sharing germs.
- The best option is to have a sit-down, served style dinner no matter where you host it. Be sure your server is wearing a mask (possibly your guests as well during service to prevent cross contamination). For a larger gathering, maybe even have the bride and groom do the serving as a chance to interact with each table.
4. Celebrate Safely
While alcohol is often a big part of any celebration, celebrating safely has taken on a whole new meaning in the time of COVID-19. Of course we want our guests to not drink and drive, but alcohol often reduces a person’s inhibitions as well, making them less likely to follow COVID best practices. While not recommending a “dry” celebration, it is best to keep an eye on the guests for signs of inebriation that may lead to not only a hang-over on the day of the wedding, but also to a reduced fear of spreading COVID-19.
Your big day should always be something you remember fondly. The rehearsal dinner is a part of that day that often has some of the best memories attached. Enjoy your COVID Safe Rehearsal Dinner and the CDC has recommendations for helping it to be safer along with our ways to help it still be memorable.
Written by: Marianne Vanderbeke