When Is the Rehearsal Dinner Held?
Typically, the rehearsal dinner takes place the night before the wedding. The bride, groom, their parents, and the wedding party gather at the ceremony location first to run through the ceremony a few times. You can skip the rehearsal, but it’s helpful because it lets everyone know what to expect.
Afterward, it’s time to kick back and relax. Rehearsals typically begin between 5 and 6 p.m., with the dinner following. This allows for travelers to get into town for some or all of the pre-wedding festivities.
It’s OK for the dinner to take place two nights in advance, especially if you’re hosting a weekend wedding or a destination wedding.
Who Pays for and Hosts the Dinner?
The groom’s family traditionally hosts and pays for the rehearsal dinner, which means they get to pick where the dinner will be and what kind of event it will be. These days, couples are paying for some or all of the dinner themselves, and sometimes the bride’s parents will pay, depending on the specific family situation.
Who Gets Invited?
This is where it gets tricky. At the very least, you need to invite these people:
- Both sets of parents
- The bridal party and their dates
- Children in the wedding party and their parents
- Immediate family (siblings, grandparents, etc.)
You should also invite the officiant and his or her spouse.
If you’ve got guests who have made the effort to travel to your wedding, it’s a nice gesture to invite them to the dinner as well. It lets them know you appreciate that they came.
What if you’re hosting a destination wedding? In that case, everyone is an out-of-town guest! Most destination wedding couples invite everyone to the rehearsal dinner. (Not in your budget? Keep reading.)
Invitations to the rehearsal dinner should be sent out with or after your wedding invitations, at least three to six weeks in advance.
What Kind of Meal Should We Serve?
The great thing about a rehearsal dinner is that your options are endless. You can host a formal sit-down meal at a nice restaurant, or you can open the pool in Mom and Dad’s backyard and host a barbecue. You can reserve the party room at your favorite bar, or take the party to a museum or park. It’s up to you!
If your rehearsal dinner bill is getting too expensive, consider scaling it back and hosting a “welcome party” for out-of-town guests instead. Take the bridal party, their dates, and your parents out for dinner, and host a cocktail party or serve hors d’oeuvres for everyone else after that. If you go this route, make it clear on your invitations that dinner will not be served.
Rehearsal dinners are fun, but don’t feel the need to go over the top. You’re not planning a second wedding after all! The rehearsal dinner should be a peek at your wedding day, but don’t give away all your secrets. Keep some surprises for the big day.