Peter, Matthew and Derek at our Rehearsal Dinner-- Palate/McGowan's, Oakhurst
If you're planning a low-key wedding and trying to keep costs down, the Rehearsal Dinner is a definitely on the "what to do with it?" budget line! We got lucky and had some of our amazing rehearsal dinner gifted to us, but what if you don't?
Go to your favorite restaurant, you know you have one, the place where they all know you? Talk to the manager and let them know what's going on and that you really want to have an event there-- see what they can do about setting up a buffet like we had and let your friends and family know that you're not able to pay for alcohol (since that's usually the kicker!). I'm sure Miss Manners would have something to say about it, but our wedding party didn't bat an eye when we told them it was buy your own beer!
We also weren't shy about asking for gift cards to a couple of specific local restaurants and, contrary to wedding etiquette, we drew from some of the gift money that had been sent beforehand. These days, people realize that as a couple starting a new life together, whether you're established in your career or just starting out, a little bit of money towards the wedding is never a bad thing and folks who send money just want you to put it towards whatever you need the most!
Feel like dinner isn't your thing? Have a morning rehearsal and take everyone to your place for tea, or if there's a festival in the area (a la Decatur Arts Festival) then take your friends to enjoy the best your area has to offer. Frequently those events are free and offer plenty to do for friends of all ages!
1) Don't be afraid to talk to the restaurant about your options
2) Be up front about your budget
3) Be grateful to the manager/owner (all the time, but ESPECIALLY if they're accommodating)
4) Don't be afraid to take advantage of your local events!