Before you officially tie the knot and get married, there are a few traditions along the way that can help you prepare for the big day. One of which is the wedding rehearsal dinner. Typically a smaller and more casual affair than your wedding day, the rehearsal dinner gives you the opportunity to gather family and friends who will possibly be meeting for the very first time. We’ve outlined some wedding etiquette tips so you’ll be on the right course for when it comes to your actual wedding night.
Traditionally, the rehearsal dinner is held the night or two before the wedding. The purpose is to offer a relaxed setting to let both families get to know each other and the format is very similar to your wedding reception.
Be sure to set the dinner start time at a time that is convenient for everyone. Starting too early may not allot enough time for guests traveling from out of town. If you do have one or two important attendees who can’t make it on time, be sure to save a plate of food for them as they will undoubtedly arrive hungry.
This is also a great chance to spend some quality time with everyone and thank them for their help and support. It's likely you won't get too many chances during the wedding so now is your best opportunity. Make the rounds to each table and offer your thanks for their attendance.
If you're looking to have a formal event, you can send out rehearsal dinner invitations or include it as an additional RSVP on your wedding invitations.. Having a separate RSVP list for the rehearsal dinner will help you remember who's coming, how much to budget for, and what to order if you choose to purchase a catering service.
Traditionally, the rehearsal dinner takes place after the ceremony rehearsal, so the attendees were simply the bride and groom, immediate families and the bridal party. But today, many couples are picking the rehearsal dinner guest list based on what matches their relationships and budget. Some like to invite everyone that is attending the wedding as a way to welcome out of town guests. Others prefer to keep the dinner close knit, inviting only close family and friends.
When inviting your guests, you can choose to keep things more intimate with only a few very important people, or make things a very large celebration. It's up to you and both have their benefits.
Generally it is the groom's parents who pay for and host this event. But these days, it can be either family or even the wedding party who hosts. It's really up to the bride and groom to decide who hosts and organizes what. But it is usually the host's choice on where to hold the dinner. It can be a more formal event at an expensive restaurant, the hotel where guests are staying, someone’s home or another else of your choosing. It also doesn't necessarily have to fit the stereotypical “dinner”—you can opt for heavy hors d'oeuvres or a simple buffet instead. Overall, it should reflect the wedding that's coming.
When deciding who should come, there is a little bit of wiggle room. The first people on the list should be all important family members from both sides—his means any parents and siblings. After that would come other wedding guests and their spouses, and any other important guests you wish to attend. It's also up to you to invite any parents of children who will be in your wedding, like the flower girl and ring bearer. You can choose to keep things intimate with only a few important family and friends, or you can make things a large party and invite as many as you please. This of courses depends on the venue as well as the budget available to host the event.
Now that you know the general format in which wedding rehearsal dinners are supposed to go, you can feel free to change things up for your own night. If your goal is to have a unique wedding, it's always a great option to start well before your actual wedding begins. You can cater things to your own liking and you're free to get rid of any events you don't wish to have at your party.
One of the first ways you can change your rehearsal dinner is by not making it a dinner. It doesn't have to be restricted to the night. If your guests can attend a wonderful breakfast or lunch, it's perfectly acceptable to hold the occasion at that time. This definitely helps keep it more casual and less formal. It's also easier to hold at home and can be easier on your budget.
If your wedding has a theme, your rehearsal dinner can have a theme. Perhaps you're trying to keep things vintage, or bohemian, or even rustic. If you're planning the event, you can easily incorporate this theme into whatever you choose. You can have a certain attire, or perhaps DIY decorations scattered throughout. If you're sending out invitations to the party, they can have some hints of your theme in it and any specific recommendations for your guests to wear or to bring.
Another fun way to change things up would be to change your venue. It doesn't have to be a formal event in a hotel or restaurant. It could be at a barbecue, or a picnic in your backyard, or even as a buffet style event. If you wish to make it more of a party, you can completely change up the location. It could be located at a casino, a bowling alley, or even at a wine tasting. It can be a fun relaxed event if you choose to.
Traditionally, the wedding rehearsal is the chance to the groom’s parents to give a toast given they typically host the event and the bride’s parents usually reserve their speech for the wedding day. Many still honor this tradition, but you can also open the floor to other close family members and friend who wish to share a special memory or best wishes.
Friends that are in the bridal party, but not the maid of honor or best man, may also take this time to give a toast. Or, close friends and relatives like cousins, aunt and uncles can give toast. Whoever participates is entirely up to the host, but ideally keep it to a maximum of three people in order to keep the entire evening on track.
The dress code for the rehearsal dinner is up to the bride and groom, but typically is less formal than the actual wedding day. Guests will automatically assume cocktail attire, so if you expect them to wear something more or less formal than that, specify on the invitation.
Your venue will often dictate the attire. For example, a dinner at an upscale restaurant will lend itself to suits and cocktail length dresses. Meanwhile, a fun outing at a local park will call for lightweight summer dresses and khakis.
In the end, you can choose to have the traditional wedding rehearsal dinner. There is absolutely nothing wrong with keeping things classic. However, you can also choose to change things up a little bit and incorporate your own sense of individuality into the festivities. There are plenty of options available for those who are short on their budget but have plenty of creativity. There are always ways to make the night unique and fun for you and your guests.