Planning A Successful Al Fresco Rehearsal Dinner at French’s Point

Published August 7th, 2023

A quintessential part of a memorable in-season weekend wedding experience at French’s Point is an Al Fresco Rehearsal Dinners on the Gazebo Promenade. We love these family-style dinners, in this beautiful open-air setting. The Gazebo Promenade is bordered by gorgeous gardens of beach roses, lilacs, lavender & hydrangeas. This location sits at the peak height of elevation on the point, offering an incredible perspective of broad, breathtaking views of the ocean. For optimum outcomes, we find these dinners are most enjoyable if the experience is curated by your planner, who is mindful of this helpful list of tips.   


Consider each of these elements when planning your Al Fresco Rehearsal Dinner on the Retreat House Gazebo Promenade: 


May – October are the months when you can plan to have an al fresco dinner on the coast of Maine, with the potential to have weather conducive to a successful event. The best time frame is mid-June through Mid September. However, careful contingency planning is still needed. 


An Inclement Weather Plan

That you love JUST AS MUCH as your fair weather plan

Clearly discuss & develop your plans ahead of time.

As much as you don’t want to imagine rain affecting your plans, you should discuss the possibility, months in advance. As a result, you can be at ease when day-of decisions have to be made, due to weather. This will allow you to avoid the negative & frantic experience of dealing with this element, the midst of your event. Once plans have been discussed for both fair & inclement weather plan, you, your planner, & all of your contracted vendors will be able to execute your event with ease. 

Why is it an inclement weather plan & not just a rain plan?

When making the decision to host this event inside(or undercover) in lieu of al fresco, we want you to not only consider precipitation, but other weather elements that can impact the comfort of your guests: Blustery coastal winds, a fog that rolls in over the sea, a hot, humid summer’s sun, or even a chilly cloud-cover can make the al fresco dining experience uncomfortable for you & your guests. Think about the duration of time needed for cocktails, dinner, speeches, & dessert. You want to remember the dining experience & time with loved ones, not just how cold, hot or uncomfortable you (or your guests) were that evening. So consider designing both your fair weather & inclement weather plan experiences in a way that can be perfectly executed, in a way you love, to be enjoyed by all your guests. 


The utilization of this space at the Gazebo Promenade is ideal for this event.

Consider the following: 

  • Place a white bar in front of the entrance of the gazebo for the bar service company to serve from inside the gazebo.
  • Set one long row of tables, end to end along the promenade, with seating on either side, for a family-style event, with the gas lights aglow.
  • Set the lobster bake or BBQ out by the stone bench along the bluff path, with the ocean behind it.
  • Set cornhole boards out for guests to enjoy on the lawn space of the promenade.
  • Serve s’mores from the adjoining Cocktail Terrace Fire Pit for a sweet ending to this special event. 

Linenless Tables (AKA Farm Tables) 

Let’s just come out and say it: Table linens can be a challenging element when hosting an al fresco dinner. Table linens can quickly go from billowing gently & elegantly in the gentle breeze to taking flight like a parachute along with all the elements of your place setting (dinnerware, napkins, glassware, candles, menus…etc.). This can not only be a point of tension for your vendors as they try to keep everything on the tables for the evening, but it can also be costly for you if the wind knocks over your candles or glassware causing damage to linens or broken rentals. The wind at the Point tends to pick up around 3:00pm – 4:00pm, right around the start of cocktails after your rehearsal, just prior to dinner. This doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to reset the tables & transition to your inclement weather plan. To avoid this unnecessary stress, we always encourage our couples to utilize farm tables in this setting. Farm Tables are not only practical but design appropriate for outdoor events, because they do not require linens to cover them. If you envision the look of soft linens & incorporating textiles into the space, consider placing a runner under your centerpieces &/or a textured napkin under your dinner plate. Both a runner & a linen napkin can really add to the level of design that you are trying to establish for your al fresco rehearsal dinner. 


Our preferred rental companies for farm tables are listed below: 

Low-Profile/Weighted Tablescape Designs 

Each element that you place on your table, whether it be a centerpiece, candlelight, dinnerware, place cards, or menus, should all be low to the table & weighted/secured so they do not take flight due to the breeze. We recommend napkins be placed under the plate, & escort cards & menus to be tucked into the place setting or, secured to a glass. Glassware, candles & flower arrangements should all be low-profile so as not to be caught in the wind. 

A few recommended vendors for these elements are listed below: 


Event Timeline

We recommend having a short dinner timeline. Limit courses to two or three. Limiting the number & duration of speeches is also advisable in this setting.  If the weather ends up being perfect, guests will sit & talk at their leisure after dinner and these are the unplanned moments you will cherish forever.

We recommend using sound amplification equipment from your chosen entertainment provider for the evening, such as your DJ or Band. But if you do not choose to have entertainment,  and want equipment for speeches & soft music, we recommend hiring Wallace Events to provide this service. 


We encourage you to end your Rehearsal Dinner at or before sunset. Once dinner is over, you can then welcome guests to the more protected cocktail terrace, & inside the Retreat House main level for dessert & conversation. Light a fire on the Retreat House Cocktail Terrace or relax by the Fireplace Lounge inside. We recommend this not only for lighting reasons but also for the comfort of your guests due to the drop in temperature after sunset. 


If you do plan to stay outside after sunset, we recommend renting lighting for ambiance & safety reasons. In the summer, when the days are longer, lighting can be an unnecessary element in this setting because you can’t see the lights until after the sun has set and dinner has ended. But in the Autumn light, it can be beautifully beneficial.


Our top rental providers for lighting installations on the terrace are below: 

Patio Heaters

Strategically placed patio heaters can be interspersed among the seating to take the chill off & keep guests comfortable. Although we always recommend them for Spring & Autumn nights, we do want you to be aware of their effectiveness to warm an outdoor space, in summer too. Patio heaters are great to place behind small seating areas, next to cocktail tables, but they are not effective at warming an entire outdoor space. Many heaters will only warm those directly under them, so please keep this in mind when choosing the number of patio heaters to rent, the placement of the heaters, and deciding how cold is too cold that a heater becomes insufficient for keeping your guests warm for the duration of your dinner. Your planner can advise you on the most effective strategy for patio heaters.

Our preferred rental company for patio heaters is listed below:


Document the Event 

We encourage you to capture the special intimacy that takes place at your Rehearsal Dinner by hiring your photographer and/or videographer. It is the first part of the weekend wedding experience. You & your planner have put a lot of thought into the details of this event. It would be a shame not to capture those special elements & the resulting magic. Also, in our experience, we find that images that come from the rehearsal evening are always more relaxed than your wedding day images. Your wedding day imagery has a strong focus on you and your significant other, whereas the Rehearsal Dinner captures the relaxed essence that takes place between you and your guests as you welcome them to the property and enjoy dinner & conversation before the big day. 

With these tips in mind & with the aid of your wedding planner, you can create your own successful Al Fresco Rehearsal Dinner. We look forward to hosting your family & friends for a memorable & magical celebration! 


Vendor Team 

Planner: She Luxe Wed 
Entertainment: DJs Maine
Rehearsal Dinner Catering: Stone Cove Catering
Rehearsal Dinner Florals: Flowers by Hoboken
Lighting: Event Lighting Concepts
Linens: BBJ La Tavola Linens
Rentals: PEAK Event Services
Transportation: Northeast Charter Tour
Videographer: Latimer Studios