Straight from the planners.
Dinner on the Patio
Guests made their way through the historic home and out onto the veranda for an intimate, al fresco dinner that offered the very best of porch party ambiance and marsh scenery.
| Credit: The Happy Bloom

Wedding planning is immersive, to say the least. Planning can take place years (and often decades, in many starry-eyed Southern brides' cases!) in advance, and we take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make our special day as personal and memorable as possible. For this reason, Southern gals are expanding their guest lists constantly – so that no one on either side of the family feels the least bit excluded.

We've been at this so long that we even plan for the planning – i.e., the rehearsal dinner. Although a lesser-attended event than the Big Day, this time-honored tradition is still thoughtfully executed, even down to the last guest.

For this reason, we've turned to a few of our favorite Southern wedding planners to ask the question: Who should you absolutely have at your rehearsal dinner?

"You need someone that promises to get you the heck out of there at a reasonable time. It's so easy to get caught up in conversation or get stuck playing host, but what's more important is sleep and a few hours to clear your mind before the chaos ensues the next day. Also, that person can make sure you don't drink too many cocktails...especially if you have to start hair and makeup at 9AM!" – Jaclyn Journey; Jaclyn Journey Weddings

"Like most people, I personally feel special milestone moments need to be documented. [The rehearsal dinner is] one milestone moment that often gets overlooked. I see a lot of clients invest in a photographer and/or videographer for the day of the wedding, but many pass on making the investment to document the evening before. The rehearsal dinner, in many ways, is just as special as the wedding. It's not everyone on the wedding list; it's usually just your family and closest friends and, in many cases, the one and only night you'll ever have these people in this kind of intimate setting.

Sure you may get some great iPhone shots, but what if you didn't feel the pressure to capture the moment? What if you could leave your phone behind and feel with total confidence this special occasion was being documented way better than you ever could? What if you could actually be present and listen to each toast without regretfully thinking, 'I wish someone was videoing this right now'?" – Jessica Zimmerman; Zimmerman Events

"Your Master of Ceremonies. In Nashville, music is grist for love, and love stories make great songs....and ceremonies...and toasts. Sharing a few funny and finer details of a couple's relationship makes their day even more intimate for guests who may not know them well, and their celebration more personal. Ripe with material shared by friends and family members on a couple's history together, rehearsal dinners offer a great opportunity for the couple's designated Master of Ceremonies to collect tidbits that can be shared on the wedding day." – Linda Wright Wooten; Cedarwood Weddings

"The intimate moments of your wedding day can go by in the blink of an eye and your wedding photographer serves as your eyes for the day. But what about those cherished memories, laughs, and hugs the night before you say 'I do'? Invite your photographer to capture the whole weekend and every special moment as treasured keepsakes to look back on years later. Bonus: your photographer will be more familiar with your family dynamics and names to make your wedding day run even more smoothly!" – Ashley Sherman; Cedarwood Weddings

WATCH: Here's What You Should Know About Southern Wedding Etiquette

Well said! You'll likely want to capture those special, intimate moments with loved ones professionally so that you can look back on them in the future, and having someone to keep track of special moments that could be included your big day is invaluable.

But, above all, we'd definitely recommend taking Jaclyn's advice. Give a close friend or bridesmaid the duty of getting you out of the dinner in plenty of time. Plus, it puts that leaving-early-guilt on someone else's shoulders on a night when you really do need to get that beauty rest. No one wants to be a bride with dark circles!