A Planner’s Perspective on Planning the Perfect Rehearsal Dinner

The decisions have been made, the guests are beginning to arrive from out of town…it is the eve of your wedding and time to soak it all up. The rehearsal dinner is a wonderful opportunity to spend time with some of the most important people in your life. This intimate (dare I say relaxing) dinner will give you the perfect chance to spend some time with your closest friends and family before your wedding day arrives. 

Whether you are planning a formal affair to mimic the tone of your wedding or want to complement your wedding with something less formal and laid back; we are here to help you navigate some of the questions that go into planning a rehearsal dinner. 

Who Throws It? 

Traditionally, the groom’s parents host the rehearsal dinner. This, of course, is following the notion that the bride’s parents have paid for the wedding. For some, traditional wedding practices are still very much alive, if this is the case then according to customary wedding etiquette the groom’s family will host and pay for the rehearsal dinner. As we have seen over recent years, many of the customary wedding traditions are being overlooked and the bride and groom  are hosting, paying for and planning everything on their own. 

Planner’s Tip: If someone else is hosting your wedding rehearsal it is acceptable to give your input (we highly suggest it), your vision should be carried through if that is your wish. However, we do not suggest getting caught up in micromanaging the entire soiree…you have to stay focused on your wedding day. 

Who Gets an Invite? 

When it comes to the guest list, it is completely up to the host how big or small they would like this party to be; just remember you do not want this affair to compete with your wedding day in any aspect. We think it is important to invite your immediate family, the wedding party with their plus ones, any other key people in the ceremony (readers, ushers, singers, officiant. etc.) and potentially out of town guests.

 Planners Tip: If you have a lot of out of towners and the guest list is starting to match that of your wedding invites, it is also acceptable to invite out of towners to have drinks or dessert with you after the dinner instead of inviting everyone to eat. Even if you do not wish to have them at the rehearsal, it is proper wedding etiquette to make sure you greet them and spend some quality time with them before the big day….after all, they did travel from afar to share in your special moment. 

How Do We Invite Our Guests? 

Since the rehearsal is not as formal as the actual wedding, there are many options on how to invite your guests. It can be as formal as a paper invite (but with a casual flair) or as informal as a phone call or text to all the people you wish to invite.

 Planner’s Tip: Do not include the rehearsal dinner information on the wedding invitation unless you plan on inviting everyone. Although it may save money, it becomes a tricky situation when you have to let people know “that wasn’t meant for them”.  Not only is it improper wedding etiquette, it can be conceived as “tacky” and leave a bad taste for some of your cherished guests. 

Planner’s Idea:  This is a great time to give gifts to your wedding party, especially if the gift contains something that you want them to wear or have on your wedding day. Couples often give gifts to other VIP’s and to their parents as a thank you. 

When and Where Should it Take Place? 

Traditionally a wedding rehearsal takes place on the eve of the wedding.  However, today some couples are opting to get married on untraditional days like Thursdays or Sunday evenings. If that is the case and you do not have the option to host a rehearsal the night before, it is okay to do it the weekend before the event.  

The rehearsal should take place at the venue or place of worship where you are getting married, but the dinner can be anywhere you would like (we suggest staying within close proximity) .  Typically the dinner takes place at a restaurant or event space, but as we become more creative and steer away from traditional practices, we have seen couples use beaches, hotel rooftops, breweries and even parks as their dinner setting. 

Planner’s Tip: Although you may be in party mode from the excitement alone, a rehearsal dinner should not be an “all-nighter”. Ending early and giving people enough time to rest is key to having everyone alert and ready to go the next morning. Be sure to think about and plan ahead for location and transportation if you are extending an invite to your out of town guests. Do you need to offer a car service, hotel shuttles or perhaps you are in a city and can provide information on public transportation? All these little details and planning ahead will make it easier for both you and your guests.

Planner’s Idea: If your wedding is ultra formal, sometimes it is nice to have a casual setting for your rehearsal dinner to help ease into what is to come. Backyard picnics give the flower girl and ring bearer the opportunity to run around and have fun the night before, since they will be expected to be on their very best behavior the next day.  

What is the Right Tone?

Only you can answer this one!  The style of the rehearsal dinner can complement the wedding; but it should never copy or overshadow the wedding, or it can be a complete contrast to it; formal vs. laid back. If you are opting for a theme, we think it is great to focus on things such as your favorite food or date night spot, or perhaps even using your honeymoon destination to drive your location and decor. If there is someplace that has a special meaning to your journey it is always nice to include this in your rehearsal dinner planning. 

Planner’s Tip: The rehearsal dinner is a great time to make any last minute announcements for the wedding day. We suggest using this time to make your VIP’s aware of anything that will help keep the day running smoothly.

Planner’s Idea:  Make sure to plan for speeches and toasts that will not happen at the reception. Parents may want to thank guests for coming and sharing in this special moment or toast the couple on a long and happy marriage. The couple should also thank the host as well as the friends and family that are a significant part of their day. Because there is such a strict wedding timeline, giving anyone the chance to “hold the mic” at the rehearsal dinner is a really nice gesture and also warms the heart! 

Whether you are planning on using your rehearsal dinner to kick off the festivities or it is strictly for pre-ceremony practice, there are many details that need to be considered. Having a perfectly planned rehearsal dinner with your closest family and friends is a great prelude to your celebration of love. Happy Planning!