Rehearsal Dinner Etiquette
Spoiler: Inviting every out-of-towner isn't required.
Once the wedding party has practiced for the Big Day, it's time to celebrate. Rehearsal dinners are a wonderful way to kick off the exciting wedding weekend, as well as an opportunity for the bride and groom to spend more time with special guests. Follow these etiquette rules to ensure it's a stress-free celebration for everyone involved.
Traditionally the groom's parents host the rehearsal dinner if the bride's parents are paying for the wedding. But nowadays, the rules are more relaxed and everyone's budget is different. Relatives, friends, or even the betrothed couple can pick up the tab for the pre-wedding celebration.
When is it?
The rehearsal dinner is typically held immediately after the run-through of the ceremony on the eve of the wedding. It could also take place earlier in the day as a lunch or brunch. For Sunday or holiday weddings, the rehearsal dinner could be hosted two nights before to ensure everyone has enough time to recover. If the rehearsal dinner is thrown the night before the wedding, the hosts should make sure the party is over at an appropriate time so everyone will get enough sleep before the big day.
Where should it be?
Choose a venue that fits the hosts' budget and the number of people invited. Consult with the bride and groom to determine the location and formality of the rehearsal dinner. It could be held at a significant spot for the soon-to-be-married couple, like the restaurant where they had their first date. Some couples opt for a more casual rehearsal dinner if the wedding is a fancier affair. The main goal is to host a memorable evening—whether it be dressy or casual—to honor the betrothed couple.
Should you send formal invitations?
The type of invitation reflects the formality of the event. If you're hosting an elegant sit-down dinner at a local restaurant, opt for sending paper invitations. (Mail them right after your wedding invitations go out.) If you're throwing a casual backyard barbecue, e-mailing paperless invitations to guests is an acceptable (and budget-friendly) option.
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The number of guests invited to the rehearsal dinner depends on the hosts' budget as well as the wishes of the bride and groom. If they're having a larger wedding, they may prefer a smaller, more intimate rehearsal dinner. If the couple is trying to whittle down the guest list, keep in mind the mandatory invites: the wedding party and their dates, ushers, readers, parents of young attendants, the officiant, immediate family of the bride and groom, and grandparents of the bride and groom. The couple may wish to include close extended family (aunts, uncles, and cousins). The hosts are not obligated to invite all out of town guests to the rehearsal dinner. If the couple would like to include out-of-towners in the pre-wedding celebration, they may consider hosting a "post toast" or welcome party after the rehearsal dinner.
Who gives speeches?
Toasts are a special, memorable portion of the rehearsal dinner. Traditionally, the father of the groom kicks off the speeches by welcoming everyone to the rehearsal dinner (since he's the host). He's usually followed by the father of the bride, who thanks the groom's family for the evening and welcomes everyone to the weekend. Then the floor is open to the best man, maid of honor, and other guests who wish to toast the couple. What makes for the perfect wedding speech? We asked the experts.