The Rehearsal Dinner

I'm back and recovering from Houston, where we spent the weekend celebrating the marriage of Em's brother Matt to his wife Adrienne. Aside from picking out my party dress and getting all of my traveling ducks in a row, I volunteered to handle the decor for the rehearsal dinner. Many of my friends know how much I labored over the details for this event, and to be honest, I invested quite a bit of myself into it because I wanted to make it special. I feel like our parents raise us to be good siblings, good friends and good kids. What I don't think I ever learned was how to be a sister-in-law, beyond observing the relationships between my extended family. I wanted to make sure I put my best foot forward and shared my talents and skills with the couple and their extended family members. As it is the groom's family's responsibility to handle the rehearsal dinner, I seized the opportunity and did what I could to make the evening special. From all the feedback during the event, and even during the wedding the next day, I can safely say it was enjoyed by everyone who attended. It was a great feeling to know that so many people enjoyed all of my hard work.

Venue: The Swinging Door - a well known barbecue restaurant in Richmond, TX. We rented the dance hall which has old wood covered walls and very rustic decor. We were not allowed to hang anything on the walls and we weren't completely sure of the layout of the space before arrival. The staff from The Swinging Door who worked our party was INCREDIBLE. I tried my hardest to do whatever I could to make them happy throughout the evening and made sure they went home with caramels, cookie cutters, apple butter and flowers.
Theme: the bride wanted the space to go from rustic to romantic - I had a feeling (and was right) about the fact that there was little I could do to remove the rustic from the space, but I did what I could. I also kept in mind the fact that this was just a rehearsal dinner and it serves as an opportunity for mingling and socializing, so I didn't go crazy with decor.
Food: obviously it was catered by The Swinging Door, and it was DELICIOUS. We had brisket, ribs, chicken, smoked sausage, green beans, coleslaw, red beans and all sorts of other deliciousness. It was served buffet style. There was also an open bar with the Shiner Bock flowing.
Attendees: this was not a traditional rehearsal, which is usually limited to the wedding party and close family. We had about 100 guests at the party.

For the most part, this was what the space looked like. There were six tables, three seated 18 people, three seated 19. They were long, family style tables with white plastic tablecloths over the standard green and white check. The chairs were old banquet style chairs in various shades of brown. We couldn't move anything that the restaurant provided. There was dancefloor, and a stage which would be a lot of fun if you had a band. We went with carefully planned mixes on CDs - people wanted to mingle and you can't do that with a band.

There was a small nook near the bar which I converted into the wedding party nook - Adrienne and Matt sat there with the best man, a groomsman and a few friends. As you can see I added a burlap table runner on top of the white plastic tablecloth. I needed some sort of natural fiber!

The longer tables also had burlap table runners, which I had to custom order. I had no idea how long the tables actually were and it wasn't really possible for me to get those measurements before we arrived, so I guessed. I was right! After the party we left the runners with the restaurant.

The flowers were, of course, my favorite part. Planning them was frustrating and time consuming, but I was able to find an incredible florist who understood my vision, even over the phone. We had 26 vintage blue Ball Mason pint jars (about 5" tall) that I had shipped in from an awesome Etsy seller. Each vase had a unique arrangement - with combinations of larkspur, snapdragons, craspedia, stock, delphinium, dahlia, and other things I had never ever seen before! They looked as though I went to the most spectacular field of wildflowers and picked them myself. I made sure to give them to guests, local and visiting, to decorate their homes or hotel rooms.

The favors! They were awesome, if I do say so myself. We had a little muslin favor bag which held caramels and a cookie cutter - either an apple shape or a dogwood blossom. The outside of the bag was stamped with a Mason jar and a red heart inside of it. We also gave away jars of apple butter from McCutcheon's, a well-known mid-Atlantic jam and jelly company based in Frederick. I topped them with red and white checked fabric and tied twine around them with little labels that read "A <3 M Spread the Love". People were over the moon with the favors.

The dogwood blossoms with the little "Share the Love" note attached were placed on each favor bag. We scattered pens on the tables and asked people to write notes of advice or good wishes on the back of them. We asked people to drop them in the big half-gallon vintage Mason jars shown below and I will incorporate them into an album for Matt and Adrienne, along with photos of the event. I asked the guests to send me their photos by incorporating a little card in each favor bag saying as much.

In order to increase the "romantic" factor, I used tiny tart molds as tealight holders and scattered them on the tables and all around the room. The flame flickered and caught the texture of the mold, adding a really nice ambiance.

Vendors: I tried to stick with independently owned and local businesses for the supplies I needed in order to pull this event together. Not only did I feel good about it, but doing so increased the personal and unique feeling of the dinner.

Flowers: John Friedman Flowers (Houston) - after weeks of annoying and frustrating phone calls and e-mails to various florists in the Houston area, I found John and we were able to work together splendidly. He put together incredible arrangements for the party and I would recommend him HIGHLY to anyone sending flowers in the Houston-area. He is great.
Burlap table runners: Rayna Lane (Etsy) - she custom made the outrageously long runners for the tables and they were absolutely perfect.
Tart molds for tealights: Hill's Kitchen - it was a strange and random purchase, but Leah was awesome as always.
Vintage Ball Mason jars: Matt & Laura Jones (Etsy) - I was able to request a custom order of 26 pint jars and two half-gallon jars and they arrived expertly wrapped. Not a single one broke!
Favor bags: Sugar B Supplies (Etsy) - these same bags are available in other more well known shops for an absurdly higher price. Sugar B is a great place and her customer service is awesome.
Caramels: Good Karmal - I still can't get over the fact that we ordered 630 caramels, but we did! They were delicious and perfect. We customized the labels with Adrienne and Matt's names and the date of the wedding. The junior bridesmaid has a severe peanut allergy and because Good Karmal manufactures their caramels in a nut-free facility, she was able to eat caramel for the first time EVER in her life. She was so sweet and excited about it. It broke my heart!
Cookie cutters: Confectionery House - they were able to quickly put together an absurdly large order of cookie cutters, and communicated wonderfully.
Dogwood blossoms: Jen Aitchison (Etsy) - she reproduces her lovely watercolor illustrations on cardstock and cuts them out by hand. Stunning!
Apple Butter: McCutcheon's (wholesale) - delicious and awesome, as always! This has been my favorite brand since I was a kid and everyone was excited to take some home at the rehearsal!
Apple Butter labels: Miss Pickles Press - I absolutely love everything she creates, and these were perfect for the occasion. I was able to customize the colors, too!
Photo cards: Moo - I made 100 of the Moo mini cards and customized the look and information for the cards using

If you'd like to see the idea workbook I created for this rehearsal dinner, click here.


    so festive, so down home and cozy. can i live under one of those tables for life? feed me apple butter. you're awesommmmmmme

  2. wow! you did an incredible job :)

  3. Looks SUPER beautiful!! I love all of the details that you incorporated - it makes all the difference. The flowers are gorgeous, but I think the giftbags and apple butter are my favorite! :)

  4. Everything looks wonderful and you can see the love and hard work you put into it!

  5. Why didn't you mention these skills when I got married ten years ago?!?!?!? Sooooo creative!

  6. AMAZING! You are so very talented! I'm enlisting your help should I get married one day! :-)

  7. Very very nicely done! Continue being creative, I will check out the book. As, I love crafty, creative, designing and learning new things.


  8. Um. Lady. You have a knack and should do this for a living! But then it may not be as fun, eh?
    You are incredible! Someday I'm going to hire you ;)


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All content © Meaghan O'Malley, 2009-2012. Header image by Rebekka Seale.