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Taking the Scenic Route to the Rehearsal Dinner


Most of our wedding decisions begin by overturning tradition and slapping etiquette in the face. Wedding guides and how-to’s will steer you toward the “customary” or the “typically,” whereas my 2E’s and I like to start from scratch. Start fresh. In order words, “What’s the purpose of this part of the process, and what are the most effective means to that end?”

We’ve coined this process “the scenic route.”

Take rehearsal dinners for instance — the name implies that it’s a dinner for those who attended or participated in the wedding rehearsal (or perhaps a chance for certain troublesome guests to rehearse eating a full course meal) … but what it really is is an opportunity for your immediate families and their guests to shake hands and swap stories and share a few laughs before chaos ensues the following evening … for two unique families to blend into one on behalf of two lovestruck kids. Two becomes one and stuff.

So what says “our mothers have never met before” like a traditional paintball fight?


Customarily the groom’s family will pitch in for the entry fee, gear, goggles, paintballs and equipment, and the couple will cover any additional costs. Traditionally, the escort cards are hung from the barrels of the guns as they lay across the glass display case — names printed on colored stationery matching the color of your designated team. Mixing up the bloodlines might be best, as the prospect of her brood delivering swift justice to your brood is just too embarrassing to face. Ideally the bride and groom would be on opposing teams as the first of the couple to “take down” the other determines who wears the pants in the household. A BBQ dinner is typically served buffet-style on the various bunkers throughout the field.


What better way to build a familial bond between the groom’s and bride’s families than to pressure them into an irresponsible evening of straight boozing. The image of your brother escorting your fiancee’s sloppy drunk uncle to a nearby alleyway is one you’ll never forget. Proper rehearsal dinner etiquette states that the groom’s parents are responsible for the first five “public houses” on the tour, and any purchases beyond that are the responsibility of each inebriated individual. Dinner is the responsibility of the couple and typically includes fried calamari, potato skins and mediocre buffalo wings.


Etiquette calls for awesomeness, so book a local barn for the evening, set up folding chairs along the perimeter, hang flood lights from the flimsy rafters overhead and pick up some lances from your neighborhood … lance store. Tradition states that men compete and observe while the wenches (i.e. women) serve meat on the bone; but never mind tradition. Get those wenches on horses and watch them battle for holiday visitation rights. Everything is the groom’s responsibility because — for god’s sake, dude — no one is going to think you can actually pull this off, especially your wife-to-be. Dinner will be whatever your future mother-in-law can throw together because you’ll be in serious debt after they’ve charged your credit card in the amount of barn + equine expenses + chairs + flood lights + medieval garb, and that’s not including the additional expense you’ll incur when your cousin drinks too much brew and lances that horse in the eye. Whatever. You’ll all laugh about it at your 50th anniversary.


Brian Leahy is founder of The Groom Says — a safe haven for grooms who need a hand with wedding planning and brides who need a hand with their grooms. Check out the blog for some laughs and inspiration, and be sure to follow The Groom Says on Twitter and Google+.

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