Hi, my name’s Shannon, and I love love.

I’d say my love for love trumps any other thing I love– yes, even cheese. Sure, I love singing. I love horseback riding. I love musicals, spray tans, and wine. But aside from family, friends, and God, I don’t love anything as much as I love love, itself.

Maybe this explains my optimistic take on The Bachelor. Or perhaps it’s why I used to cling so fiercely to romantic relationships that weren’t right for me. I think it’s safe to assume that this love for love prompts all the crying I do at weddings, and is the reason I get emotional when Ellen DeGeneres does nice things for guests on her show. I mean, I can barely contain my joy when I look at pictures of people hugging children in Africa or when my friends get engaged.

hills excited

And this, my friends, is why I write about love, relationships, weddings, and marriage so much. Because no matter the ups and downs, the heartbreak and frustration, or the waste of money, love is awesome. In every form. The romantic side of love is extra exciting because when it’s [hopefully] right, it usually gets its own party! Which is called a “wedding.”

I’ve talked about weddings HERE and HERE, and shared videos from my own HERE and HERE. But, surprise! I want to write another post about weddings because, well, I’m still enthralled with them.

So, let’s chat about something I’ve yet to cover: The rehearsal dinner. I want to point out that much of what I write in regards to weddings on my blog is geared towards larger affairs, but I’m certainly supportive of all weddings– size aside. It’s just a bit easier to write ideas and lessons from my own experience because, well, it’s my life.

its my life

Here are 5 things that I, personally, did at my rehearsal dinner, and am extremely glad I did:

1. Recognize parents and special guests with gifts

Aaron and I wanted to openly recognize our parents not only for all they did for the wedding, but for loving us throughout the last three decades (with hopefully many more to come). Giving them gifts at the rehearsal dinner was the perfect way to acknowledge their support in an intimate, yet public setting, without interrupting the wedding itself. Aaron and I were both able to express our gratitude in a way that *we hope* made them feel very special.

I was particularly happy with the gift I gave my dad, which was a frame that held two 8 x 10 pictures. On the left, I put an old picture of us from the newspaper (had it cropped and blown up as a photo) when I was about 5 years old, which showed me hugging him on the runway after he landed his F-14, returning from a 6 month deployment. I left the right side blank, telling him that the spot was reserved for a picture of him walking me down the aisle. Alllllll of the tears.

I also took a moment to remember and wish my mother was still on this earth during such a big day…oh, and the rehearsal dinner happened to fall on her birthday. It was an emotional moment on many levels. I knew I wanted to acknowledge her, and doing so in front of a small group felt right.

In addition to putting the parents in the spotlight, we gave small gifts to people who had gone above and beyond to help with the wedding– like my friend Drea, who made all of our place card holders and shipped them from California (before coming all the way out for the wedding, herself). It was just nice to give proper thanks to the people who we cherish so dearly!

We gave gifts to our bridal party on the morning of the wedding, so that the rehearsal dinner thank yous didn’t drag on too long.

rehearsal din 3

With my dad and bonus mom!

aaron and parents

Aaron’s parents and their gifts!

 

2. Make announcements

While most announcements are made at the rehearsal, itself, we had a fair amount of people come to the dinner that weren’t needed during the run-through at the church. Since we had so many of our most important guests in the room at dinner, we decided to do some quick reminders, like transportation for the ceremony, an explanation of the post-ceremony sword arch, and who would be needed for pictures. That way, no one would be unsure of what to do the next day!

rehearsal din 4

 

3. Have longer, more meaningful conversations

If you’ve never gotten married yourself, you may have heard that the bride and groom barely get to see their guests at the wedding. It’s true. We had a total blast on the dance floor, and did our best to chat with as many people as possible, but that didn’t stop us from constantly being swept around at the reception.

Because we expected such, Aaron and I made the conscious effort to use our rehearsal dinner time wisely. We had long conversations with one another’s friends and family whom we’d not yet met, and also opened up the venue to any and all wedding guests to join once the dinner portion was over. That way, we could spend extra quality time with anyone and everyone who came into town a night early. Don’t worry, I was still in bed by 11:00 p.m.!

rehearsal din 2

My brother, cousin, bridesmaid, and the mother of a close friend!

 

4. Sneak off for a final moment alone with the groom (or bride)

You’re always the center of attention on wedding weekend, so it’s hard to get any alone time with your future spouse. When everyone is mingling at the rehearsal dinner (usually after they finish eating), it’s the perfect chance to sneak off with your honey as the guests entertain themselves for awhile. We held our rehearsal dinner in our favorite local brewery, so Aaron and I wandered off to the brewing room for a few minutes to ourselves, just getting excited for the following day and soaking in our last few moments as fiancés. And kissing a little bit. Duh.

rehearsal din 1

 

5. EAT!!

Particularly for the bride, the next day is so crazy that eating takes a backseat. Getting a good meal in your system the night before the wedding is crucial for energy! I promise, one solid meal won’t change the fit of your wedding dress. We had one of our favorite restaurants cater food to the brewery, so we went all-out on comfort food: Mac and cheese, pulled pork shoulder, green beans, and shrimp & grits. You better believe I enjoyed every bite.

dinner time

 

If you’re fortunate enough to enjoy a rehearsal dinner before your wedding, I hope you found this list helpful in your planning process!