Trying to plan a rehearsal dinner but you’re not sure where to start? Is it supposed to be a super fancy event or more casual? Who is supposed to be invited? When is it supposed to take place?
There are so many questions that couples have when it comes to rehearsal dinners, so let’s get into what a true rehearsal dinner is and what it is supposed to include.
Rehearsal dinners are a pre-wedding event held the evening of the ceremony rehearsal the night before the wedding day. Traditionally, rehearsal dinners were held the evening before the wedding by the groom’s family. This dinner was a formal affair and the guest list included everyone from both families, the wedding party, and those who traveled out of town to attend the wedding.
Traditional rehearsal dinners, like weddings, have changed a lot over the years and are not a lot more personalized. Nowadays, they are generally a smaller event than the wedding is supposed to be and are attended by close family members and your wedding party. Many couples are choosing to host more relaxed rehearsal dinners now as they do not want to be stressed trying to plan another event the evening before their wedding. They would rather have a calm dinner with a small group of people before the wedding because it will be less overwhelming.
No matter which type of rehearsal dinner you choose to host, there are still some decisions and planning that will need to be figured out.
Rehearsal Dinner Etiquette:
Who hosts the rehearsal dinner?
Traditionally, the groom’s family would put on the rehearsal dinner but times have definitely changed. Nowadays, there are many different options for who hosts the rehearsal dinner. Sometimes the couple themselves host it, sometimes one set of parents host it (especially if the other set hosted another wedding event), or sometimes it’s a mixture of everyone pitching in. There will need to be a conversation about who is going to host this event or who can afford to help with this event.
Who pays for the rehearsal dinner?
Traditionally the groom’s family paid for the rehearsal dinner because the bride’s family would pay for the wedding. Again, times have changed and the bride’s family is not always the ones paying for the wedding so a conversation will need to be had about finances. It could be another mixture of everyone if needed.
How do you invite guests to the rehearsal dinner?
There is not really a traditional etiquette for inviting guests to a rehearsal dinner. Guests should receive some sort of invite however it does not need to be formal. It can be something as simple as an online invitation or phone call. Invitations will obviously depend on how formal or informal your rehearsal dinner itself is. If you are doing a formal event, then a formal invite would fit better and vice versa.
When do you send rehearsal dinner invitations?
Invitations for a rehearsal dinner should be sent out no later than 4-6 weeks before the event. Often times, couples include them with the wedding invitations for those who they are also inviting to the rehearsal dinner. This will save you time and supply costs. Generally the rehearsal dinner guest list is at least half of the wedding guest list so you do have to be careful to only include them in the correct envelopes.
Who do you invite to the rehearsal dinner?
Traditionally you would invite family members from both sides, the wedding party and their plus ones, as well as guests who have travelled from out of town. Some would also add the officiant, ushers, extended family, and at the flower girl/ring bearer. Who you invite is really going to depend on your budget and the size of the venue you secure.
When should you have the rehearsal dinner?
Generally, the rehearsal dinner is held the evening before the wedding. Usually the couple and the wedding party practice the wedding ceremony and have a “rehearsal” then after head to the rehearsal dinner. Nowadays, a rehearsal dinner can be held anywhere from the day before to the week before a wedding. It doesn’t have to coincide with the ceremony rehearsal these days and can be moved around to work better with everyone’s timing.
Where should the rehearsal dinner be held?
You want to ensure that your rehearsal dinner is in close proximity to where the majority of your guests will be staying. The rule of thumb is no longer than 20 miles away from where their hotel is or where your ceremony rehearsal site is located. Your guests have already traveled a long way to attend your wedding festivities and shouldn’t be expected to travel a long ways for your pre-wedding festivities. Plus, some of the guests may not have vehicles if they flew in. As far as actual location, a rehearsal dinner can be held at a small venue, a hotel, or a restaurant. Really it can be held anywhere, even somebody’s home.
What are some rehearsal dinner activities?
For the couple, the rehearsal dinner should be a time to have fun and relax. They should not have to worry about anything other than enjoying their loved ones company and being in love. Activities to keep guests engaged could include sharing photos or videos of the couple or even creating some sort of game about the soon to be wed couple. Games could include a trivia, scavenger hunt, or ice breaker at the tables. The couple or parents of the couple will also usually do some sort of thank you or speech.
Planning a Rehearsal Dinner:
Decide who will host the rehearsal dinner
Tradition tells us that the groom’s parent’s take care of the rehearsal dinner, but these days that is not always true. If both sets of parents are splitting the cost of the wedding, then perhaps you as the couple may want to pay for the rehearsal dinner. Again, a conversation needs to be had between all parties to make a decision.
Choose a theme
No party is complete without a good theme! A rehearsal dinner theme can be anything from an actual themed event such as under the sea to a themed color palette or play off of the venue.
Choose a venue that fits your needs
Rehearsal dinners can be held at such a large variety of locations. Some choose to hold them at restaurants or even small venues like a hotel bar. It is also common for the rehearsal dinner to be held in your home or a family members home. You can choose any location that feels comfortable for you!
Create a guest list
The rehearsal dinner guest list often includes people like close family members or anyone in the wedding ceremony including the officiant as well as their plus their spouses or dates. It’s also common to invite your out-of-town guests to the festivities as they came to town just for your festivities. If the guest list is getting large and it may be difficult financially, a rehearsal dinner can be the bare minimum of drinks and appetizers. It does not have to be a full meal.
Pick a time
Rehearsal dinners are often held the evening before the big day however there is no rules that say it must be that way. You can hold a rehearsal dinner at any point you wish. Keep in mind your out-of-town guest who may not be able to make multiple trips down.
Create a menu
Be sure to get your menu figured out as early as possible. You will need to decide whether you want a traditional, fancy dinner or if you’d prefer something like tacos or pizza. You can make it classy or keep it calm. Sometimes couples choose to just serve appetizers or small bites!
Wedding party gifts
The rehearsal dinner is a great time to give gifts to the members of the wedding party, especially if the gifts are items you’d like them to wear during the wedding. You may also want to thank your parents or give them a small gift at this time.
The rehearsal dinner (as well as all of your wedding festivities) are meant to be fun! Enjoy the night and don’t stress about the little things. In the end, nobody remembers if you forgot to do or say something as long as everyone is having a good time!
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