Pre-Game Ritual

April 2017 View more

eddings (big weddings, in particular) tend to unfold as something of an interesting contradiction.

While couples invite a host of friends and relatives to ostensibly join them in celebrating this momentous event in their lives, the sprawling logistics of the day often mean that in reality brides and grooms will spend little, if any, quality time with most of the people gathered on their behalf. A grasped hand and expression of thanks on the dash out of the church or a quick tableside drive-by between the first dance and the cake-cutting at the reception—these are the ephemeral moments that may pass for meaningful interaction among couples and their invited guests on a day that often barrels down the track like a runaway train.

It’s something of an understood covenant by now. Couples know that their guests will understand how busy they are on their big day and forgive them for not being able to set aside any true one-on-one time, while guests do, in fact, recognize the demands of the wedding day and are generally satisfied just to be present to share in the bride and groom’s happiness—if not their actual personal company.

But the wedding party is a different story. These people are sitting at the head table or in the front row for a reason, and failing to really connect with them over the course of the wedding festivities would be more than a minor social pratfall. It’s hard to make too-little-time excuses, after all, with someone who just flew halfway across the country and/or spent a large sum of money on a questionable dress they’ll never wear again just to be there for you. That’s why the rehearsal dinner is such an important piece of the wedding weekend.

“The rehearsal dinner allows the bride and groom to spend time with those closest to them,” says Joy Walker, owner of Naperville-based Simply Joyful Weddings. “This dinner usually includes the wedding party and immediate family only, allowing for extra time to visit with them in a little more intimate setting and to let them know how much you appreciate them taking the time to be a part of your special day.”

Walker says the rehearsal dinner is also a great time for disparate members of the wedding party to get to know each other better before pairing up for that walk down the aisle, as friends from different circles interact (perhaps for the first time) and siblings and in-laws begin to forge new family bonds.

“While the bride and groom know everyone on a personal level, it makes the event more fun for the family and wedding party to know a little more about those with whom they’re celebrating this special event,” she explains. “The rehearsal dinner is a great time for the couple to introduce their parents to everyone, and for each member of the wedding party to talk about how they know the bride and groom. It’s a time to reflect, reminisce, laugh and share memorable stories.”

While food and drinks are something of a prerequisite, Walker also notes that the rehearsal dinner can be an ideal setting for exchanging bridesmaid and groomsmen gifts, or for showing a video that highlights the couple’s special relationships with those in the room. But the real key to a special night, she says, is to treat the rehearsal dinner as the integral part of the wedding process it should be, as opposed to a last-minute add-on after everything else has been arranged. Fortunately, the western suburbs offer plenty of great venues for helping to bring these cherished people together for an evening that both they and the happy couple may look back on years later as the most memorable part of the entire wedding experience—this feature includes a dozen such possibilities.

Carlucci Restaurant and Bar
1801 Butterfield Road, Downers Grove
Capacity: 30–125
In addition to three attractive private indoor dining rooms, the outdoor patio with its centerpiece fountain is an option for those seeking some al fresco charm.

Catch 35
35 South Washington Street, Naperville
Capacity: 35
Couples can choose from three different three-course menus to feed their wedding parties—all prominently featuring seafood, of course.

CityGate Grille
2020 Calamos Court, Naperville
Capacity: 24–56
Situated on the Calamos campus, CityGate is particularly convenient for weddings happening or guests staying at the nearby Hotel Arista.

Francesca’s Passaggio
3124 South Route 59, Naperville
Capacity: 40
This south-Naperville outlet of the beloved Italian empire features a three- or four-course family-style Table of Friends menu.

Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse
70 Yorktown Shopping Center, Lombard
Capacity: 35–50
In the afterglow of the Cubs’ championship, the restaurant’s Dancing Harry room will likely be a popular choice for North Side–loving wedding parties.

Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House
55 South Main Street, Naperville
Capacity: 70
This longtime favorite is a perfect choice for those looking to showcase the charm of downtown Naperville for out-of-town friends and family.   

Maggiano’s Little Italy
1847 Freedom Drive, Naperville
Capacity: Varies
Much like the extensive menu, the wide array of private spaces has long made Maggiano’s a favorite for rehearsal parties.

Mesón Sabika
1025 Aurora Avenue, Naperville
Capacity: Varies
A rehearsal dinner at this jewel of the Naperville dining scene certainly won’t lack for options—from the nine available rooms in the Georgian-style mansion to the countless tapas or traditional menu combinations.

Tommy Nevin’s Pub
3032 English Rows, Naperville
Capacity: 32
Featuring book-lined walls and a cozy fireplace, the restaurant’s Library Room provides an intimate and uniquely appointed setting.

Sullivan’s Steakhouse
244 South Main Street, Naperville
Capacity: 35–80
Big steaks in private quarters are the name of the game in this downtown staple.

The Turf Room
1033 Kilbery Lane, North Aurora
Capacity: 20–40
Couples can bet on either the private dining room or the wine bar at this equine-themed winner.

5900 South Route 53, Lisle
Capacity: 150
Couples can choose from both indoor and outdoor options on or around the adjacent River Bend Golf Course.