Rehearsal Dinner Menu suggestions

Joined Dec 20, 2008
My oldest son is getting married in Sept.  I have been asked to BBQ the rehearsal dinner, the dinner is a informal outdoor buffet style dinner, for approx 35 people.  Since I do a lot of BBQ and have cooked for that many before, it will be work but fun too.  I have some of the menu and would like suggestions.  Because it is a special occasion while the meal is intended to be backyard bbq style, I do want to make it special and dress up a little of my standard fare.

Assorted Munchies...

chips, salsa, table snack type stuff


Should I have two or three.

Grilled Cilantro/Lemon/Garlic shrimp on skewer,  how would I dress this up ???

Will be either 1 very large shrimp or two depending on the size of fresh shrimp available.

I have served the shrimp on skewer many times for family and close friends, but since this is a special celebration, I want to dress up the shrimp with something a little extra.   SUGGESTIONS please

ceviche on tostada

The tostada tortilla will be a very small tortilla, though larger than a tortilla chip.

• Third appetizer, if we have one would be a veggie something...  Suggestions please

My daughter works for a caterer, I might just buy a platter from her work.

If I make it, must be able to make a day in advance.

Main Dishes

• Smoked Baby Back Ribs, then grilled to glaze the BBQ sauce

• Grilled Chicken Breasts and Thighs, with tropical sweet/sour BBQ sauce

• I might also grill some simple veggies for any who won't eat meat, i.e. egg plant, onions, bell peppers, maybe a few shitake mushrooms.

Sides & Salads 

How many salads and sides should I have?

Normally I do 

potato salad  the potato is roasted potato salad (which also covers the starch for the meal).

fruit salad,   

Imitation Crab/shrimp meat salad (like you get in deli).

Possibly a simple green leaf salad for those that want to avoid the heavier stuff.

Corn on Cob slathered in cilantro/garlic butter


Either strawberry short cake, or Blackberry cobbler w/ice cream,  or your Suggestions?

Ideas and suggestions are most welcome...

I am trying to keep the actual cooking on site down to, cook one appetizer, the entrees, one side, and garlic toast, everything else will either be made the day prior or 4-8 hours prior to event.  The ribs will be finished smoking 4 hours prior and kept in hot holding box- hot, then grilled for a few minutes just prior to serving.

Joined Feb 1, 2007
Sounds like you've got a pretty good fix on it. Couple of comments:

I don't think your shrimp needs dressing up at all. But if you want to take an extra step, just make a dipping sauce out of the same cilantro-lemon-garlic flavors.

For a veggie appetizer I'd go with grilled, stuffed baby bellas. A little more prep work, but impressive for your guests. These can be done ahead then either reheated in the oven, or on a cooler part of the grill. Alternatively, a vegetable terrine can be made the day before, then sliced and served at room temp.

For a veggie main I would take the extra step and make something like a grilled ratatoulli (sp?). It's not really much more effort than merely grilling the veggies, and your guests will appreciate both the flavor and the effort.

I'm not a dessert person, so can't offer suggestions there.
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Joined Dec 20, 2008
Ok we have some great chefs and cooks here... Rip into my menu or offer up some favorite recipes you serve at backyard BBQs.

All ideas and comments are most welcome.
Joined May 20, 2009
It does look good already...

I agree with KYH that the prawn cutlets (2x 16/20s) are already 'dressed to kill' and may be an appropriate, family 'signature' dish to pull everyone together early on and remind them where they are...

Two birds with one stone on the vege option would be to expand the grilled veges to a 'roast vege salad'  then serve accompanied by a thicker balsamic vin and a warm roasted tomato couli (kitset ratatouille).

Eggplant, capsicums, red onions, mushrooms, cherry toms and.... cjets! ( slang) courgettes, a great filler. I prefer just to 'flash' them on the bbq to pick up just enough flavour without it becoming over powering, then finish in the oven (also less hard on them) and hold there for service.

I like the idea of shitakes featuring as their 'meaty' texture fits the bbq theme...

Salmon is a quick, cook by platter fish option...easy to paint on a glaze or press in a rub and you can control distribution by portioning small...good colour for the table too.

Could icecream prove problematic in this setting? Individual pavlovas ( a kiwi!) are light, easy to handle and marry well with fresh fruit & berries...only sloppy cream required.

Anyway...congrats and don't forget plan B for the weather!

P.S. Have you thought of using boneless thigh...way under-rated, more robust flavour for a bbq...
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Joined Apr 17, 2006
Don't know what the shrimp market will be like in Sept. or how much fresh will be available, but you might want to consider 21/25 size. They're not that much smaller and the price for 16/20 is shooting up fast. My price jacked $1.25 per lb. just in the past week. They're playing this oil spill thing for all it's worth on the shrimp market. It's a bunch of hooey considering the gulf shrimp they're jacking the price on has been in the freezer for a year, the gulf as a whole only supplies 7% of the world's shrimp, and 77% of the gulf is fine to fish. This leaves a loss of just over 2% and the price should only rise to reflect that loss. But not enough of us are calling them on it so they're getting away with pumping the price. Hopefully by Sept. everyone will have seen the light and told them where to stuff it so the price goes back to normal.
Joined Feb 1, 2007

Should I have two or three.

Interesting question. Because I love making and serving appys for me it's a no brainer---go for three. But for you the answer depends. On several things.

How long a gap will it be between the appys and the main course? The longer the gap the greater amount of food you'll need early on. Given a choice between real food and munchies, most adults will opt for the true gelt.

How necessary is it to provide diversity? You've got two seafood appys, and some guests may not care for one or both. A third choice (vegetarian or otherwise) would provide for them. Cold skewer types (pineapple & ham chunks; tomato/watermelon, etc.) can be made well ahead. Ditto a cold soup.

Do you want to serve smaller main courses? Obviously, if they fill up on appys they'll be less hungry for the mains. One of the things that happens with appys is that the greater the number of them, the less people realize they are filling up. Extreme example: Let's say you put out six different appys. The same person who would never think of taking six shrimp will unhesitently try one of each app.
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Joined Apr 3, 2010
The sky is the limit as far as as food to serve.  One thing to keep in mind is that the guest will be dressed up and in nicer type clothes. You may want to skip ribs,, as these are sloppy and pickup type hand  food. Boneless rib would be better, same applies to chicken.
Joined Feb 13, 2008
You weren't "asked" to do it, exactly.  It's up to the groom's family to provide the rehersal dinner, so you were "told."  By your wife. Admit it. There, there, big guy.  Dry your eyes.  Feel better.

You want to watch out for too much resemblance to the actual wedding dinner -- and looking at your suggestions that doesn't seem too likely. 

If the rehersal is day before, you also want to look out for food that will have too salubrious an effect on the digestive process, or otherwise cause potential embarassment or discomfort.  Your proposed menu looks pretty good that way -- just don't make the salsa too exciting.

Your menu as it stands is incredibly good.  I'm not sure that my suggestions would actually improve as much as they'd make things different.  While I have a gazillion dishes that would fit like a glove, IMO doing it your way is far better than doing it my way -- or anyone else's.

If you actually give a **** about what I'd do if I were doing a rehersal barbecue, I'll tell.  My best advice is don't give one.

The one thing I'd change -- unless you're buying it already made -- is the Krab.  Get real lump crab instead of the imitation stuff for your seafood salad.  It's a big deal event, and worth the extra thirty two bucks.  Pony up, Dad.

Try to do even more ahead of time than you usually would for a party. You need to have the catering stuff together -- the service pieces, tables, and chairs, etc. -- if not actually out, ready to go out at a moment's notice.  You have to take care of the yard -- something you should do thoroughly about a week ahead, so all it needs is a little grooming the day before. Clean your smoker and grills as thoroughly as possible the week before.  

Your wife may be a wreck during the prep period -- the earlier done the better.  Your presence as a guest and family member at the party itself is very important -- more important than your duties as a cook.  Your son's mother will appreciate having you around to carry some of the social obligation, to let her know you support her, and keep her glass filled.  After the party, the love of your life may want calming, affection and/or consolation.  Be there for her.  Just sayin' is all.

Making it look easy takes planning and hard work.  You can't over plan.  You can over work.  Spread the work out, do as much as possible beforehand, and for God's sake get help.  Hire help for service and clean up at least.  Trust me. 

Selection of beers in an ice-filled wash tub, along with a selection of sodas (including diet sodas), and some bottled, fizzy water of the apparently expensive persuasion (it doesn't have to be expensive but should look it:  Grolsteiner is fine).  A light, iced wine punch (such as peach sangria) in pitchers -- make it weaker rather than stronger.  No hard liquor.  No champagne.

I don't disagree with Ed, but feel under the circumstances, workarounds are better than substitution.  An informal barbecue is actually fairly traditional for a rehersal dinner.  No problem there.  Because it's an outdoor barbecue, everyone's on notice to dress informally.  Ribs should be fine.  In discussions of barbecued meats, I've come to gather that yours are something of a well known speh-shee-al-lee-tay (French, you know). 

Instead of paper napkins, put rolls of paper towels in inexpensive, stand-up towel holders on the tables.  Get some queeze bottles for the sauce and let the guests do their own, for those who want to keep their fingers (and summer frocks) clean. Paper bibs are tacky-cute, and nothing says 'Q or protects a shirt better; just have a stack available, you don't have to push them.  Have little baskets full of "wet naps" everywhere.  Not to mention a few rolls of floss. 

Don't count on gettng any credit for any of it. 


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Joined Dec 20, 2008

I really appreciate the input, so much wise advice.  BDL I have reread your comments several times, and many things really hit home.  Honestly I usually play the cook at gatherings and stay out of the way, mingling with the older folks when I'm done.  But your comments about being host and cook, hit deep because my wife has expressed concerns.   Last, I was asked by my son to cook, but even he has reservation about over doing it.  

Thanks all  your comments were exactly what I wanted.
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