Who still treats guests to a rehearsal dinner these days?
“Almost everyone!” says Trish Jones, co-owner of The Walk Down the Aisle in Palm Springs, an event design, styling, and planning company.
And those who don’t often host another version of this traditional event in the form of a modern welcome party to thank family, and usually friends, who have travelled in for the wedding from out of town. In some cases, everyone on the entire wedding guest list is included.
These pre-party dinners are a golden opportunity to break the ice, reacquaint family members, and ease heightened jitters with a glass of Champagne and plenty of laughs. Even if the budget is small, a contemporary rehearsal dinner can still come alive with just as much thought and feeling as the reception.
“Customarily this night is the groom’s family’s story to tell — and pay for,” Jones says, whereas wedding costs have historically fallen under the bride’s family’s domain. No strict rules apply and every situation is unique, but weddings tend to bring out the traditional side of those involved.
PHOTO BY JOHN PASCHAL/JPSTUDIOS.COM
Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge in Palm Springs offers several party rooms to accommodate up to 125 guests.
“The VIPs, the grandparents, the relatives from out of town are all being hosted at this event,” Jones says. On average, the rehearsal/welcome dinners she designs and coordinates serve 30 to 50 guests.
Her top tip? Leave the house. “If you’re renting a private house for the wedding, the management will normally charge a second event fee if you opt to host a dinner there the night before. What’s more, you really want to cherish that ceremony spot and give everyone the first impression,” says Jones. “If everyone parties there the night before, then it takes away from that coolness and surprise factor. They’ve already seen it, enjoyed it, taken pictures there, and explored its nooks and crannies. Walk through the rehearsal there then go somewhere else to spend the evening.”
Here’s the hot list of Jones’ favorite ideas for a stylish Palm Springs rehearsal dinner or welcome party. Familiar with groups, each venue makes it easy on the hosts so they can relax and savor the night. A limited menu selected in advance generally tallies the total charges per head plus alcohol.
WHERE TO GO
PHOTO COURTESY OF LULU CALIFORNIA BISTRO
Lulu California Bistro offers a bustling scene any hour of the day.
Lulu California Bistro: A large menu that pleases the pickiest eaters, or an option to customize a personal menu for your party, are signature services at this two-story restaurant and bar. Jones says her couples usually choose the lofty upstairs space for their welcome dinner.
200 S. Palm Canyon Drive Palm Springs, 760-327-5858; www.lulupalmsprings.com
Eight4Nine Restaurant & Lounge: With the choice of several private rooms and an outdoor patio, this chic Uptown gem has a space that fits a group up to 125 fashionable guests.
849 N. Palm Canyon Drive Palm Springs, 760-325-8490 ; www.eight4nine.com
El Mirasol Restaurant at Los Arboles Hotel: Dining in the courtyard is as charming as the family-owned restaurant’s catering services are delicious. Potent margaritas, homemade tortillas, and a do-it-yourself guacamole station say “Hola mis amigos!” with authenticity.
266 Via Altamira , Palm Springs, 760-459-3605 ; www.losarboleshotel.com
Birba: Jones says this al fresco pizza garden is the most popular choice among her couples, whether dining in or having dinner catered at their locale.
622 N. Palm Canyon Drive , Palm Springs, 760-327-5678; www.birbaps.com
PHOTO COURTESY OF BIRBA
A meatball appetizer at Birba in Palm Springs.
Mr. Lyons: The atmosphere rivals the meat at this sleek steakhouse with a supper-club feel. Plush banquettes and a black-and-white marble floor make up a moody lounge for hipsters and their guests. Tray-passed apps, a kale Caesar salad, ribeye tagliata or fish en papillote, and a salted caramel tart are among the top requests for the catering team.
233 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, 760-327-1551; www.mrlyonsps.com
Spencer’s: Spencer’s has a shining reputation among locals who are regulars at breakfast and brunch. The Bougainvillea Room, tucked against the foot of the San Jacinto Mountains, has been hosting special events and celebrity galas for more than 50 years.
701 West Baristo Road, Palm Springs, 760-327-3446; www.spencersrestaurant.com
PHOTO COURTESY OF SOHO TACOS
Soho Tacos make a lasting impression at any event.
And for food that comes to you … Jones loves:
• CV BBQ: 760-668-3370, www.cvbbq.com
• In & Out Burger: 800-786-1000, www.in-n-out.com
• Soho Taco cart: 714-793-9392, www.sohotaco.com
“You don’t want your wedding and your rehearsal dinner to be the same cuisine-wise,” Jones adds. “If you’re doing something more traditional for the wedding, then it’s fun to do tacos or barbecue the night before. If you’re serving tacos for the wedding, then consider pizza as your welcome.”
This spring, Jones is planning a Western-themed night-before dinner at the Pioneertown Sound Stage. “We’re using CV BBQ with live music and a hoedown vibe. It’s very cool place. Even I can’t wait!”
For more information about The Walk Down the Aisle event design, styling, and planning, visit www.thewalkdowntheaisle.com or call 760-880-0870 or 808-283-4697.