Wedding Etiquette Forum

Cheap rehearsal dinner ideas?

edited May 2013 in Wedding Etiquette Forum
I'm trying to stay under $200 for a rehearsal dinner for 20 people. The rehearsal would be on a Wednesday evening near the end of September at about 6pm. I have thought of several ideas, but they don't work for one reason or another. 

I thought we could do it at a park pavilion and buy some catered food without service, laid back. But it's going to be getting dark by the time we get there. 

My fiancé and I live in a small apartment, and no one in our families or our bridal party has a house that can accommodate 20 people for dinner to have it inside, as I would rather not have people eating in two or more rooms. 

I've seen suggestions of "pizza" for a cheap rehearsal dinner, and pizza or non-service catered pasta or sandwiches would all be fine if we had a large enough home to host it in. However, that is not the case. I'm afraid anything in a restaurant will lead to people ordering appetizers, drinks, etc that would run our bill up too much.

How can we have a cheap rehearsal dinner for $10 or less per person including tax and any gratuity we might have to pay in a restaurant or other venue? Everything I have seen involves like a three hour minimum with at least one server at like built in for $20 each per hour, even for a buffet. Anything that says they can accommodate a rehearsal dinner is $20-80 per person! Our wedding reception is only $30 per person including servers for salad, linens, plates etc, decor, and alcohol! I really hate this tradition/etiquette. We have to practice the wedding dinner (which will probably have no toasts either) which will nearly overshadow the wedding reception itself. It is meant for the families to meet, but my fiancé's family will not even be there because they do not support the wedding! I'm also afraid no one will even want to stay out so late to have dinner at 7pm on a Wednesday.

I nearly want to just say to everyone: Hey, join us for dinner if you can spare more time and money to pay for your own plate (our attendants barely have jobs and will have to pay for their attire and a gift should they choose to give us one)!

So suggestions of places that could give us a location and a set menu for under $10 per person would be great. We are in St. Louis if that helps. Now I'm wondering what the prices of Chuck E Cheese are these days. LOL.

EDIT: I now realize this may not have been the best place to put this... I was initially thinking "Do I need a rehearsal dinner?" That would be etiquette... Sorry. I'm not sure how to move this if I even can.

Re: Cheap rehearsal dinner ideas?

  • zizibetzizibet member
    1000 Comments Third Anniversary 100 Love Its Name Dropper
       Are you sure you need the rehearsal? If you skip it, no need for dinner.
    Do any of the parks nearby have lights? If so, the dark won't matter. Does your complex have a clubhouse, or any of your friends' apartments?
      I think your best bet may be to just not have the rehearsal.
  • ditto zizibet on skipping the rehearsal if possible.

    Have you looking into local pizza places?  I've been to showers at pizza places where they have pitchers of soda and water, a big bowl of salad and then had people put in topping requests so there's no one ordering erroneous appetizers or mixed drinks or something.  Not sure if they'd have any kind of limit to get the room, but worth looking into.

     

    What about a bowling alley? There might be a place with a deal on a Wednesday night for cheap lanes.  Lots will even let you bring in your own food so you could bring some deli platters and make sandwiches 

     

    Also - do you really need 20 people?  You mentioned its for your and FIs families to meet; not sure if that's, like, parents or if you're inviting others who wouldn't strictly need to be included?  Only ones who HAVE to be invited to a RD are those rehearsing +significant others.

  • We're having a friend (who is ordained and planned on doing it as a job on the side or something but never did) do it, so I definitely want to make sure it goes smoothly by having a rehearsal. Trying to figure out who goes where and when should not be done at ceremony time. I don't think any of us has been to many weddings and is 100% sure what will happen.

    I was absolutely planning on having it at the clubhouse of our complex, but a few jerks who can't clean up ruin it for everyone--they won't do it anymore (Why they just don't charge a hefty fee instead for that, I don't know). Oh, I also forgot--I think the rental fee was like $200+ to use it, not even keeping other people from coming it--it was higher for that. So I guess that wouldn't have worked anyway.

    All the apartments are too small (even smaller than ours) and badly located. We could barely fit that many people in them. let alone give them a place to eat. The best thing I can think of is my grandmother's house, but half will have to sit at the kitchen table in one room while the others sit in the dining room.

    The front yard is...shared by 8 apartments. I don't like even being out there because of the lack of privacy. I'd also have to buy another 6 foot table and chairs, which would be the $200 budget. And--the same problem as the park pavilion, it's at night. All of our outdoor lights are always out, even two days after they replace them.
  • Would a local Italian place be willing to do a family style meal for you?  All of the details of what would be served would be worked out ahead of time.  You may be able to pass around some salads and two or three pasta/sauce choices and breadsticks or something and still be under budget.  Also make it clear that you are not hosting alcoholic beverages so the wait staff should not offer or take order for them to put them on your bill.  Or would they let you bring in your own bottles of wine (probably not, but you never know if you don't ask)?  
    Or... Could you meet for dinner first and rehearse afterwards so you have the daylight you need for an outdoor location?
  • We're getting married at the same place the reception is at. I considered it (though it would probably be too pricy). The food would probably be very similar, and most importantly, it would take away from the actual reception.

    I have definitely considered local Italian places, but don't know how it would work with the budget. I'm also Italian, so I'm incredibly picky with Italian food. I'm disappointed whenever I try somewhere new.
  • AddieCakeAddieCake Beyond the Wall member
    10000 Comments 500 Love Its Fourth Anniversary 25 Answers
    We went to Pizza Hut and nobody ordered extras. 
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  • I would be fine doing a pizza place. I just have to figure out the logistics of ordering, etc. so that they don't come and try to order stuff for themselves on my tab. I don't know how to go about doing it. I figured 4 pizzas and sodas (which cost nearly as much as the pizzas. So ridiculous. I want to just bring my own 2 liters, but you can't do that at a restaurant).

    I definitely considered a Chinese buffet; there's even a big one one with a private room here, but a buffet/drink per person is not in my budget. I think we're looking at $8 per person before tax/tip.
  • I would be fine doing a pizza place. I just have to figure out the logistics of ordering, etc. so that they don't come and try to order stuff for themselves on my tab. I don't know how to go about doing it. I figured 4 pizzas and sodas (which cost nearly as much as the pizzas. So ridiculous. I want to just bring my own 2 liters, but you can't do that at a restaurant).

    I definitely considered a Chinese buffet; there's even a big one one with a private room here, but a buffet/drink per person is not in my budget. I think we're looking at $8 per person before tax/tip.
    I think you should plan on ordering more than 4 pizzas, depending on how large they are, of course.  If you are talking 4 HUGE pizzas, that will probably be fine, but if you are talking about a pizza that is comparable to a large from Pizza Hut, I think you need more. That is only 1/5 of a pizza per person, and many people will have at least three slices, especially if you aren't serving any sides.  I would get at least 7 or 8 large pizzas and also plan on having a salad or breadsticks served.  Maybe my friends just eat a lot, though.

    Also, if the Chinese buffet is $8 per person, that would fit perfectly into your budget, even with tax and tip.  If you figure 5% sales tax and a 20% tip, that would be almost exactly $10 per person.  
  • libby2483 said:
    I would be fine doing a pizza place. I just have to figure out the logistics of ordering, etc. so that they don't come and try to order stuff for themselves on my tab. I don't know how to go about doing it. I figured 4 pizzas and sodas (which cost nearly as much as the pizzas. So ridiculous. I want to just bring my own 2 liters, but you can't do that at a restaurant).

    I definitely considered a Chinese buffet; there's even a big one one with a private room here, but a buffet/drink per person is not in my budget. I think we're looking at $8 per person before tax/tip.
    I think you should plan on ordering more than 4 pizzas, depending on how large they are, of course.  If you are talking 4 HUGE pizzas, that will probably be fine, but if you are talking about a pizza that is comparable to a large from Pizza Hut, I think you need more. That is only 1/5 of a pizza per person, and many people will have at least three slices, especially if you aren't serving any sides.  I would get at least 7 or 8 large pizzas and also plan on having a salad or breadsticks served.  Maybe my friends just eat a lot, though.

    Also, if the Chinese buffet is $8 per person, that would fit perfectly into your budget, even with tax and tip.  If you figure 5% sales tax and a 20% tip, that would be almost exactly $10 per person.  
    I think she was saying it would have to be $8/person to fit in her budget so the restaurant would still be too much (I may have gotten that wrong though...)
  • libby2483 said:
    I would be fine doing a pizza place. I just have to figure out the logistics of ordering, etc. so that they don't come and try to order stuff for themselves on my tab. I don't know how to go about doing it. I figured 4 pizzas and sodas (which cost nearly as much as the pizzas. So ridiculous. I want to just bring my own 2 liters, but you can't do that at a restaurant).

    I definitely considered a Chinese buffet; there's even a big one one with a private room here, but a buffet/drink per person is not in my budget. I think we're looking at $8 per person before tax/tip.
    I think you should plan on ordering more than 4 pizzas, depending on how large they are, of course.  If you are talking 4 HUGE pizzas, that will probably be fine, but if you are talking about a pizza that is comparable to a large from Pizza Hut, I think you need more. That is only 1/5 of a pizza per person, and many people will have at least three slices, especially if you aren't serving any sides.  I would get at least 7 or 8 large pizzas and also plan on having a salad or breadsticks served.  Maybe my friends just eat a lot, though.

    Also, if the Chinese buffet is $8 per person, that would fit perfectly into your budget, even with tax and tip.  If you figure 5% sales tax and a 20% tip, that would be almost exactly $10 per person.  
    If it's a buffet, usually a tip is only a dollar or two per person.  They're not taking your order or bringing you the food.  Just clearing extra plates, and MAYBE refilling drinks.  Most chinese buffets I've been to have a fountain and they give you a cup and you take care of yourself.
  • Also - check with a restaurant to see if they will discount for you based on the size of the group.  If their normal price is borderline, see if you can get 5 or 10% off for bringing the group there.  You get nothing if you don't ask.  And a conference room at a hotel if you have a room block somewhere is also a great suggestion.  Often they will let you use the room for free with X number of rooms booked.
  • Try someplace like La Madeleine. We had the same problem - I was totally okay with pizza and beer but could not find anywhere to host the 35+ people (and that was just wedding party, parents, siblings, people participating in the ceremony, and everyone's SOs). We ended up using a private room at La Madeleine and selecting from their catering menu. The food and drinks were already in the room when everyone arrived.
  • We had our RD at our favorite BBQ place, almost all the meals are $10 or less.  It's set up sort of like a Subway, where you wait in line to order, receive, and pay for your food, then you find your own seat.  So we just called ahead to reserve two big tables, then went through the line like normal (my H and I ordered first to tell the person at the register that everyone from our point down to my FIL, who was paying, would all be on one order).  It worked out great, good food, easy to organize, and we didn't have to worry about hosting it at our house.

    You could probably do something similar at any larger restaurant with low menu prices.  Pizza places, buffets, etc would all probably work, you just have to look around.
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  • I LOVE the idea of doing it at a bowling alley!!!! 

    My bridesmaid has a house really close to the venue that is gigantic and excellent for entertaining. She offered it to us so we're going to use it. Otherwise, it would've been at my parents house which isn't that much farther.

    I am most likely ordering some catering platters from a restaurant in my hometown. I've heard they will work wonders on a budget. I will fill that out with salads and things that people have offered to bring....like my other bridesmaid makes deviled eggs that are the talk of the party every time she brings them.

    I think you'll be very, very surprised about what restaurants will do if you're placing a large order. By having it out of the restaurant, you're saving 20% on tip and however much on tax too.
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  • MsYeckMsYeck member
    100 Comments 25 Love Its
    Another idea is a community center. In my area the lounge that seats 80 rents for $35 an hour. If you rented something like that for 2 hours, supplied your own beverages and maybe some salad (goes on sale for $1 all the time) and used some good pizza coupons found in any newspaper circular you would easily be under $200.
  • MsYeckMsYeck member
    100 Comments 25 Love Its
    You could also call some other apartment complexes to see if you can rent their clubhouse, lots f times you don't have to be a resident
  • All the PP's restaurant ideas are great.  Just to add, you can print out a couple menus for the tables with the pre-set options, like:

    Menu: 

    Caesar salad
    Spaghetti with meatballs
    Fettucini Alfredo

    It just helps to make it more clear to people what is being hosted, and what is not.  It should be fine.



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  • OP, I am in St. Louis as well - what part of town are you in?  That will help me give you suggestions.
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  • harper0813harper0813 member
    500 Love Its 1000 Comments First Anniversary First Answer
    edited May 2013
    Oh, St. Louis! I can help out! I'm a total foodie and I live in the city proper.

    Some of my favorite cheap eats:

    Pho Grand (Tower Grove)
    ANYTHING on Cherokee (Siete Luminarias, Tower Taco, Tacqueria El Bronco - La Vallesana is also great and has a beautiful patio, but they don't serve alcohol)
    O'Connell's Pub (Botanical Heights/Shaw)
    Ninth Street Deli (Soulard)
    Basil Spice (Tower Grove)
    Sauce on the Side (Downtown)
    City Diner (Tower Grove)
    Tacqueria Durango (Overland)

    Honestly, the Mexican places on Cherokee would be awesome for a rehearsal dinner. They would be so hospitable.

    Good luck!

    ETA: Sorry that I didn't have many recommendations for the county - I don't venture out there too often!
  • We are doing an Italian restaurant.  The menu includes 3 entrée choices, salad, rolls and dessert for $16 a person.  Maybe if you find a mom and pop restaurant they can accommodate a menu just for your party.
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