Planning a Wedding Rehearsal Dinner? Read This First.
By: Elesha Piper
It’s the party before The Party.
The wedding rehearsal dinner plays an important role in the lead up to the big day, bringing together your most favorite people to soak up that pre-wedding buzz. A lot more goes down than just dinner; here’s the nitty-gritty on why and how to plan a wedding rehearsal dinner.
What Is a Wedding Rehearsal Dinner and Why Have One?
The rehearsal dinner typically takes place after the wedding rehearsal itself, which is traditionally the day before the wedding.
The dinner is a perfect opportunity for the bride and groom to have some chilled time with their nearest and dearest before the wedding. On the big day, couples will be pulled in a million different directions, the rehearsal dinner is a chance for quality time together without all the distractions. The atmosphere will be buzzing with pre-wedding anticipation and it’s also a chance diffuse any tension and let everyone get to know each other a little better before the big day.
For this reason, it’s a good idea not to go to over the top with the number of people you invite, more on that shortly, so you actually do get a chance to spend quality time with everyone.
Nowadays it’s pretty common for the loved-up couple to hold the rehearsal dinner a few days before the wedding, so they can really let their hair down and enjoy the night (aka, have a few too many drinks) with time to recuperate before they say ‘I do’.
Who Do You Invite?
Traditionally, the wedding party and their significant others, immediate family of the bride and groom and the parents of any kids who are part of the wedding party. It’s up to you whether or not you invite the kids along too. Of course, these days you may wish to extend the invite to other loved ones who are close but not part of the wedding party itself.
A lovely gesture is to also invite the celebrant and his or her partner to the dinner. They may not attend, but the invitation will be appreciated.
Tip for destination weddings: If your guests have travelled from far and wide to see you tie the knot, it’s a warm gesture to include them in pre-wedding celebrations, even if they’re not in the wedding party. To keep the budget in check, why not host the rehearsal dinner for the wedding party and immediate family, then invite all guests later on for a drink and dessert. Everyone will feel loved!
Who Hosts and Who Pays
Traditionally the wedding rehearsal is paid for by the groom's family. If your future in-laws are paying for and hosting the event, you'll need to relax the reins and let them have creative input for the planning. If you’ve decided to buck tradition and pony up for the cost of the dinner yourselves, you definitely have all rights over the decision-making process!
Where to Hold It
Many couples opt for a more relaxed, informal wedding rehearsal dinner so as not to overshadow the big day and keep things simple for themselves in terms of organization and budget.
Depending on your style, vision for the event and budget you may decide on anything from a restaurant banquet, to a garden party or even an outdoor picnic. Don’t get stuck on the idea that because it’s called a rehearsal ‘dinner’ that it actually needs to be a sit-down affair.
Cocktails and canapés, pizza night, BBQ or buffets are all great options, there really aren’t any hard and fast rules on the type of event your rehearsal dinner is. Just let guests know what to expect on the invite and the dress code.
You may choose to incorporate some of the theming ideas from the wedding day itself; the rehearsal dinner becomes a bit of a sneak peek to the big day! If it’s a destination wedding, the dinner is a brilliant opportunity for guests to experience another part of the location they’ve travelled too. Perhaps a popular local restaurant or cocktails at sunset on the beach.
Depending on where you want to host the event, you may need to begin scouting venues 4-6 months in advance. Of course, a chilled backyard cookout will take less planning!
How to Invite Guests
Invites to the rehearsal dinner don’t need to be as formal as the wedding invites, but guests will definitely appreciate a separate invitation either emailed or mailed. You can also include the invitation in the same envelope as the wedding invite itself to make sure RSVP’s are received together.
Budget tip: Why not design your own creative rehearsal dinner invites to keep things budget friendly. Check out free design tool Canva. It’s so simple to use, anyone can create a stunning invite using the pre-made templates. No graphic design skills required!
What Actually Happens (Besides Eating and Drinking!)
If you have Thank You gifts for the wedding party, tonight's the time to personally gift them and thank each loved one individually for their important role in your big day.
Toasting and roasting
It’s time for a little spontaneity when it comes to toasting. Unlike the wedding toasts which are planned in advance, rehearsal dinner toasts are usually a little more off the cuff and humorous. The father of the groom usually kicks off with a toast, then opens it up for the best man to speak followed by anyone else who wants to say a few words. As the couple, it’s your chance to thank the whole party for their love, guidance and support. Cheers to that!
Take advantage of having everyone together at the dinner to make sure the wedding party is on their A game for the big day. Slip in a few reminders about what they need to bring, when they need to arrive and where they’ll be getting ready. If you’ve invited guests beyond the wedding party, you can include reminders about general activities for the day and transportation details between the ceremony and reception.