In July, my brother got married! It was truly one of the best weekends of MY life (apart from my own wedding day and birth of my children, of course) – so much love and celebration packed into three short days. My brother and his wife live in Northern California so Napa Valley was an easy choice for the destination, given their love for wine, food and the beautiful rustic scenery.

I’m so excited to finally share some of the special moments from the wedding weekend and offer some quick planning tips.


The rehearsal dinner is an event in and of itself these days. It is a way for close friends, family and out of town guests to gather before the big day. The format is usually more casual.

1. Pick a theme

My brother and his wife wanted to take advantage of the beautiful summer evenings in Napa Valley and chose Ad Hoc, Chef Thomas Keller’s casual dining venue. Ad Hoc has an outdoor garden called Addendum that serves “to die for” fried chicken. The setting was perfect for a casual dinner party centered around all-American comfort food. On the menu were fried chicken (of course), wood-oven fired pizzas, corn and salad. For dessert, adults and kids alike flocked to grab ice cream at the sundae bar!

Other fun themes for a rehearsal are:

Lobster Bake: make it communal with casual seating (think: pillows on the beach), pots of lobsters, mussels and clams with corn and pretty paper tableware for easy clean-up.

Camp Night: gather friends for an nostalgic evening among the stars with burgers, hot dogs, a campfire and s’mores. Picnic benches and lanterns complete the look. Color wars, anyone?

Elegant BBQ: take the usual BBQ up a notch with a sophisticated tablescape and elevated munchies – mini BLT appetizers, Calabrian Grilled Pork Ribs, smashed potatoes with aioli and strawberry shortcake. Our mouths are watering already!

2. Don’t forget the decor

I wanted to keep the decor minimal but still add a bit of whimsy and elegance to this special occasion. After spending so much money on the wedding, decor is probably not the first priority for the rehearsal dinner. However, here are some budget-friendly and super easy ideas to wow your guests.

Balloons: I added a couple of fun white balloon garlands to frame the head table for the rehearsal dinner. Balloons are very budget-friendly. Garlands often do not require helium (which is costly).

Farmer’s Market Flowers: my boys and I went to the farmer’s market to gather these beautiful hydrangeas. Flowers straight from the growers are more economical, and hydrangeas in particular add a lot of “look” for less.

Table Runners: even a simple table runner can elevate the look of a party at a fraction of the cost of a tablecloth. I used simple denim runners to keep with the casual vibe of the outdoor setting and match Addendum’s color scheme.

3. Entertain your guests

It’s all about experiences nowadays, and the rehearsal dinner is a perfect opportunity to inject fun into the weekend! For this rehearsal dinner, Ad Hoc provided a corn hole game – which was a big hit!

Other ideas include:

Giant Jenga: I mean, who doesn’t love this interactive game?

DIY Cocktail Bar: Allow guests to mix their own drinks with recipes provided.

Crafting: Pick a fun activity for guests to make during the event as a memento from the evening.

What a night to remember! Let us know if you end up using any of these ideas for your rehearsal. Many thanks to the Ad Hoc team for such a wonderful evening!

Photography: SHODALOVE
Venue: Ad Hoc + Addendum



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