Of the several events that come with a wedding, the rehearsal dinner is the most simple, but definitely the most vague. Being that it’s the smallest event, there’s so many questions. What is it and why should we have one? Who do we even invite? Don’t worry lovelies, we’ve got you covered.
What is a rehearsal dinner, and why should I have one?
A rehearsal dinner is the gathering of usually the bridal party and close family one or two nights before the wedding. For example, if your wedding is on a Saturday night, the rehearsal dinner is most likely the Friday night before at 6 p.m. An hour is dedicated to preparing for the actual ceremony–walking down the aisle, the vows, exiting the church, etc. Followed by that is a dinner where the two families are able to enjoy quality time together in a more relaxed setting compared to the hectic environment they will experience in less than 24 hours.
How do I get started?
First and foremost, prepare an agenda for how the night will go. This is entirely based on your preference. Some like to keep it short and sweet with the ceremony and a small cocktail hour, while others like extended time. If your ceremony practice is set for 6 o’clock, ask your guests to arrive 20 minutes earlier. We all have that one friend who has no concept of time. Allow for an hour plus travel time between the ceremony and dinner. Again, book the dinner for as long or as little as you would like. After all, you do need your beauty sleep for tomorrow!
Choose Your Theme and Location
By theme, we don’t necessarily mean for you to have your guests dress up like they’re going to a prohibition party; we mean location. Depending on weather, you can host an outdoor BBQ or even go to a winery (do not give yourself a hangover). It does not have to be a formal dinner. If your wedding is a black tie event, switch it up! Choose the laidback outside setting as opposed to yet another over the top party. The easiest way to decide would probably be your favorite restaurant. Done.
Properly Address Attire
This is a HUGE detail that contributes to why rehearsal dinners can be so unclear. Sometimes, people choose to host their rehearsal dinners at private rooms in restaurants that you would normally wear a pair of jeans and heels to. In this case, that could easily confuse your guests. This party can be as casual or as dressy as you please. We recommend that you find a balance between the two and ask everyone to dress up, but nothing over the top. There’s no need to overdo your appearance two nights in a row. Trust us, it’s exhausting.
Decide Who is Hosting
Not that anyone really follows the traditional way anymore (and we definitely don’t blame them), but the groom’s family usually hosts the rehearsal dinner. If both sides of the family are splitting the cost evenly, perhaps you and your future hubby should offer to pay. It is important that this is settled ahead of time as it will only add stress when planning.
Who do I invite?
This guest list is significantly shorter than any other event you will host throughout this process, we promise. The bridal party, close family members, and parents of the flower girl/ring barer/jr. bridesmaid/jr. groomsmen normally make the list. You can offer a “plus one” option when sending out invitations, but it is not entirely necessary. Do not force people with children to struggle to find a babysitter for the night; just let them bring their kids! We always get questions regarding out-of-town guests, because people feel the need the invite them. News flash, you don’t. We get it, they traveled a distance to witness your big day, but chances are, they want time to relax after their travels. However, if your budget allows some wiggle room, feel free to extend the invite!
Side Note: You can always invite the extras to meet for drinks after dinner! But remember beauty sleep!!!
When do I send the invitations?
The invitations can be sent out along with the wedding invitations or shortly afterwards. There really is no deadline for how early/late they should be mailed out. Just give yourself enough time to receive RSVPs in order to give the venue a headcount.
What happens there?
As we mentioned above, the first portion will consist of rehearsing the ceremonial part of your wedding day. The second portion is basically a family gathering in a relaxed environment where everyone happily anticipates the big day. In the beginning, it’s almost like a big meet and greet. Everyone mingles with both sides and catches up with old friends–something that would absolutely be difficult at a loud, populated wedding.
Toasts come into play as soon as everyone is seated. Rehearsal dinners are an intimate setting, thus making it more comfortable for multiple people to speak. Pass the mic to whomever may want to say a few words to you and your groom-to-be even if they aren’t in the bridal party.
Don’t forget about the gift exchange! Traditionally, the bride and groom gift the bridesmaids and groomsmen on the night of the rehearsal dinner as a thank you for being there every step of the way. You can even exchange with family members, like your mother and father, but we prefer to save that for the actual wedding day. It’s more personal for the most special people in your life.
Last but not least, reminders! You have less than 24 hours before the biggest day ever and everyone needs to be prepared. Make an announcement to those outside of the bridal party to let them know how early they should attend the ceremony, directions from the ceremony to the venue, and hotel arrangements. Once they have left, give your bridesmaids a game plan for the next morning–where you’re getting ready, what to bring/wear, and what time to get there. Have your partner do the same.
We know, even the simplest event of them all still comes with a hefty to-do list. The most important task is to have fun. You’re almost there!