Nontraditional Rehearsal Dinner Locations

From bowling alleys to a bar on wheels, rehearsal dinners have never been so creative, varied and downright fun.

The vows are memorized. The walk down the aisle is perfected. And the gleaming, ribbon-laden faux bouquet has made its appearance. Now it’s time for the rehearsal dinner—the night-before soirée that lends itself to food, drinks, and toasts galore.
     Typically held the evening before the big day, the rehearsal dinner sets the tone for the wedding. It can be a traditional affair at an elegant restaurant, or a stand-alone event that offers a unique experience for your friends, family, and the wedding party. It can be an intimate gathering or a huge extravaganza that wows the attendees.
     In fact, says Laura Mullen of Laura Mullen Event Design in Minneapolis, the rehearsal dinner can be anything you envision. “While your wedding reception may be formal, your rehearsal dinner can be as casual as you wish,” Mullen says. Traditionally hosted by the groom’s family, the dinner gives the couple and guests alike a chance to kick back and relax before the big event. Luckily, the Twin Cities is teeming with unique options to kick off your nuptials in style.

Family fun rehearsal dinners
For the couple who wants something casual and completely different from their reception, wedding planner Amy Rubins of Minneapolis’ Fête Perfection recommends a bowling alley such as Bryant Lake Bowl. “The venue alone is vintage and looks like a movie set, which couples love, and it sets the tone that the evening will be fun and unpredictable.” Heavy appetizers and drinks can be enjoyed as your guests strive for that perfect score (or not).
     If you love all things British, Brit’s Pub offers a wonderful, warm atmosphere, with traditional English cooking, and lawn bowling in the summer. For a couple with strong Irish roots, wedding planner Nicole Walesch of b.inspired rented out part of The Local, an Irish pub in Minneapolis. “A private room was rented that had pool tables, plenty of Irish food and a great local Irish band playing in the background,” Walesch says. “At the end of the night the guests were given a complimentary CD from the band so they could continue the Irish music on their way home.” As an added surprise, the prankster-minded couple put “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” bumper stickers on all the wedding-party cars.

Outdoor rehearsal dinners
For centuries wine has played a major role in weddings, so why not host your rehearsal dinner at one of Minnesota’s wineries? In addition to vineyard tours, guests can sample the wines produced at the vineyard, along with food specially prepared for each vintage. St. Croix Vineyards winery in Stillwater offers a private tour of the vineyards and winery, as well as unique wine-related events, including their popular grape-stomping event in September.
     For the more outdoorsy couple, the Minnesota Horse and Hunt Club is a great alternative. The club, located amid acres of beautiful prairie, is a mere 40 minutes from the Twin Cities. “It has many indoor and outdoor options for dining—even a fire pit that could be used for some after-dinner s’mores,” Walesch says. The club also has on-site lodging for guests; and if you want to make this an event for the whole family, dogs are welcome too.

Historical rehearsal dinners
History buffs and aviation enthusiasts will be thrilled to attend a rehearsal dinner in a World War II vintage airplane hangar. The Commemorative Air Force—MN Wing offers a unique space where guests can browse through the museum filled with artifacts of “the Greatest Generation,” and you can even book a “history” ride in one of their four planes.
     For a rustic lodge feel, The Wirth Fireplace Room in the Clubhouse at Theodore Wirth Park is a wonderful option. With its chalet architecture, vaulted ceilings, and generous wood-burning fireplace it’s the perfect backdrop for a rehearsal dinner. And though you might feel as though you’ve been swept away to an Alpine hideaway or a North Woods retreat, it’s only few minutes from downtown Minneapolis.

Luxurious rehearsal dinners
Of course, a traditional fine-dining experience will always set the stage for your upcoming nuptials and please your guests. As soon as they walk through the regal, elegant doors of La Belle Vie, they’ll know they’re in for a treat. “For the true foodies with discriminating tastes who aren’t on a budget, La Belle Vie is a celebration of all good things,” Walesch says. A portion of the space or the full restaurant can be reserved for your party.  
     Le Méridien Chambers offers couples the splendor of a party in an upscale, contemporary art gallery with all of the amenities of D’Amico Catering, plus a luxury hotel at your fingertips. Couples have many options for spaces including the Burnet Art Gallery, a rooftop lounge with floor-to-ceiling windows, and an outdoor courtyard with a trendy glass fire pit, video art, and cabanas.  

Have the fun come to you
If you’re looking to add an element of distinction and surprise to your rehearsal dinner event, consider bringing the entertainment to your guests.
     A tarot card reader or astrologist can be a fun, interactive way to make your rehearsal dinner memorable. “I like this idea because they can set up a little table out of the way and guests can participate if they want,” Walesch says. “Also, it doesn’t take away from the event; you don’t need a larger space; and it’s relatively easy to implement.”
     Live music can also set the mood and add to the atmosphere—and it can be as simple as a steel drum band, jazz trio, or even just one acoustic guitarist. A magician, with an act tailored to an adult crowd, is also a great way to delight guests and add a little something unexpected to the party.
     Rubins has coordinated stylish affairs in beautiful settings like Windows on Minnesota, which included a casino night, band, and food stations. “When guests entered, they received poker chips for betting; a band was playing low-key background music initially, then cranked up the playlist as the night went on for a dance contest with prizes,” she says. Food stations meant guests could nosh with variety, whenever they liked, without interrupting the games. Guests continued to collect poker chips and the top four winners redeemed them for great prizes like a Kindle, iPod, flat-screen TV, and numerous gift certificates. “While the competition was fierce, it was also friendly and good-natured, since the guests would be spending the rest of the weekend together,” Rubins says.

Interactive entertainment
Who says you need a traditional rehearsal dinner where guests simply wine and dine? Mullen recommends introducing your guests to a unique cooking experience at Cooks of Crocus Hill, where partygoers work side-by-side with professional chef instructors. If you’d like a more hands-off experience, the chefs can create a meal right before your guests, for a live culinary adventure.
     “I had a couple who wanted to do a cooking class at Cooks of Crocus Hill, but it was already booked so they went to Jax Café in northeast Minneapolis,” Rubins says. “The chef set up a table in his kitchen and provided an interactive experience for the foodies in the group. The sommelier also offered a presentation and mini wine-tasting instruction.”
     For golf aficionados and novices alike, an informal tournament is a great way for families to mix and mingle. “More traditionally this has been done by the groomsmen before the wedding, but why not let everyone in on the fun?” Walesch says. If it’s not in your budget to host a round of golf for all your guests, try mini-golf. The Centennial Lakes course in Edina includes a 24-acre park with real grass and a pond. After a round or two, guests can take a paddleboat ride on the lake or enjoy lawn bowling.
     For film buffs or anyone looking for a casual yet memorable rehearsal dinner, consider renting a movie theater. The New Hope Cinema Grill has a fully catered facility with comfortable chairs and plenty of dinner-type seating, Walesch reports. Couples can bring in their own movie, such as a childhood favorite or a wedding-themed romantic comedy. It’s a great option if you’re on a limited budget but want to do something different.

Rehearsal dinner meals on wheels
To give guests a peek of one couple’s fun-loving personality, Walesch orchestrated a pub-crawl of Northeast Minneapolis with a Pedal Pub, a bar on wheels operated courtesy of your guests’ footpower. The couple supplied the guests with complimentary T-shirts; once on the pub, guests took a tour of Northeast Minneapolis and saw some of the couple’s favorite establishments. “The tour ended at the bar where the bride and groom first met,” Walesch says. “It was so personalized and fit the couple perfectly!”
     If you have a smaller group and want to experience a bit of city life, treat your guests to a Cocktail Safari by Renee’s Royal Valet Limousines, in which they take a limo ride to three selected dining destinations in the Twin Cities. The restaurants’ signature cocktails and appetizers await guests at each stop, culminating in dinner at your favorite place.