Planning a wedding comes with lots of moving parts, but what many people don’t realize is that organizing a rehearsal dinner is no small task either. This event brings the people closest to you together to kickoff wedding celebrations and lets everyone get to know each other in a relaxed, laid-back setting before the big day. In an effort to make sure your reception dinner is seamless, we’ve put together the most commonly asked questions about how to plan a rehearsal dinner and provided our top rehearsal dinner etiquette tips. In an effort to make sure your reception dinner is seamless, we’ve put together the 14 most commonly asked questions about how to plan a rehearsal dinner and provided our top rehearsal dinner etiquette tips.
“Eat drink and rehearse”, designed by Qing Ji
WHAT IS A REHEARSAL DINNER?
A rehearsal dinner is traditionally held after the wedding rehearsal the night before the wedding. However, you may choose to hold it two nights before to give your wedding party (and yourselves) time to rest. Also, despite its name, it can be a brunch or lunch, if you like, and the pace of the meal is often informal and leisurely. It gives the couple’s loved ones an opportunity to socialize in a more relaxed environment and lets the love birds relieve some pre-wedding jitters.
IS A REHEARSAL DINNER MANDATORY?
No, having a rehearsal dinner is not mandatory. Some may not agree, but the majority will say it is up to the bride and groom to decide. Like with all things related to your special day, it is ultimately up to you!
WHO TRADITIONALLY PAYS FOR THE REHEARSAL DINNER?
The rehearsal dinner is traditionally hosted by the groom’s parents since the bride’s family customarily pays for the wedding. These days, however, more and more couples are pitching in to pay for the wedding themselves, with both families often splitting costs, as well. This means that both families can co-host the rehearsal dinner; or, the couple may choose to plan and pay for it themselves. If parents or close relatives are planning a rehearsal dinner though, they should definitely check in with the wedding couple to avoid any conflict with the theme, menu, or decorations of the wedding.
HOW MUCH SHOULD A REHEARSAL DINNER COST?
In a recent survey hosted by The Knot, they found that the average cost was around $1,900. But, your total costs will vary greatly based on the type of venue and food you choose, the number of people invited, if you will be covering alcohol costs, and so on. If the cost is being split among family members, make sure you’re on the same page about a final cost you’re all comfortable with in advance, and work this into your overall wedding budget. For more advice on budgeting, see our guide on how to create a wedding budget. You can review the menu and set a pre-fixe menu with wine pairings so you know the exact cost beforehand. If money isn’t a concern and there is an open bar or free ordering from menus, your costs will most certainly go up.
WHO DO YOU INVITE TO A REHEARSAL DINNER?
More traditionally, rehearsal dinners were small and exclusive pre-wedding dinners with family and the wedding party. Today, rehearsal dinners range from picnics to ballroom-style themed dinners. So, who you decide to invite is really up to you and what kind of pre-wedding event you’re planning. When it comes to rehearsal dinner invitation etiquette and who to invite, there are some key members we suggest you definitely keep at the top of the list.
- Family members: At the very least, immediate family. Mother, father, siblings, and their spouses or dates and children.
- Wedding party: Bridesmaids (plus their spouses or dates), groomsmen (plus their spouses or dates), flower girl, and ring bearer (including their parents).
- Officiant and ceremony readers: Invite their spouses or dates, as well.
- Out-of-town guests: If you’re getting married relatively near where you’re from and don’t have a lot of guests traveling from out of town, inviting the handful of out-of-town guests is a thoughtful gesture. But if you’re hosting a destination wedding, you’d be inviting the entire wedding if you extended the invite to those who traveled. Instead, you could consider hosting a welcome celebration or cocktail hour at another time before the wedding.
WHEN DO INVITATIONS GO OUT?
Rehearsal dinner invitation etiquette dictates that invites should go out soon after wedding invitations go out (usually around 2 months before the wedding). There are numerous ways to formally invite guests to this event. One option is to slip an insert card into the wedding invitation that provides guests with all the details about the rehearsal dinner. Another option is to send out more formal, standalone wedding rehearsal invitations. To ensure a cohesive style among all of your wedding correspondence, Minted has a variety of insert cards, wedding invitations, save the dates, and more.
WHAT IS SAMPLE INVITATION WORDING WE CAN REFERENCE?
Once you have the high-level details nailed down for your rehearsal dinner, it’s time to put together an invitation! Rehearsal dinner etiquette doesn’t traditionally call for flowery language on the invite because it’s a much more informal event compared to the wedding. And while the language can be straightforward and simple, there are some key details you don’t want to leave out. Make sure to include the name of the honorees (couple), date and time, location and address, and how to RSVP (instead of including a reply card, include a phone number or email address). You will see in the examples below that some mention who is hosting the dinner and some do not. That’s up to your family’s discretion and comfort level. Make sure whoever is hosting (paying for) the wedding is able to review the invitation and is comfortable with the wording.
“Distinguished Frames”, designed by Stacey Meacham
Please join us
For a rehearsal dinner
In honor of
JEANNETTE and ALEX
Saturday, August 28th
Six o’clock in the evening
The Red Mill Inn, 96 Chestnut St.
Portland, Oregon 97205
RSVP to Anne Smith by August 14th
At a rehearsal dinner in honor of Kristina and Mark
JULY 12 at 7PM | The Derby | 223 Lake Avenue | Pasadena
Kindly reply by JULY 1 to Susie Storms at 626.315.8575
The rehearsal dinner
ROBERT + MOLLY
July 12 - 6PM - Squid’s, 1201 Fordham Blvd, Cleveland, OH
Hosted by Greg + June Wilson
Regrets only to 510.476.9087
Hosted by Both Families:
JENNA & CARTER
August 23 - from 7-9
Join us at the Baileys’ house
245 Hollis Avenue, Monroe, TN
Hosted by the Baileys and the Wallaces
Regets only to Jill (113) 287-7373
Hosted by the couple:
Anne Glenn &
Invite you to their wedding rehearsal dinner
August 31 at 6 p.m.
Osteria Hotel, Chicago
RSVP at anneantheo.minted.us
WHAT IS THE SEATING ARRANGEMENT AT A REHEARSAL DINNER?
While wedding seating charts are usually meticulously planned and consistently revised leading up to the reception, the arrangements at the rehearsal tend to be less set in stone. When it comes to planning a rehearsal dinner, whether or not you need to define exact seating assignments depends on a few things. Think about your venue first. If you’re having a BBQ or buffet at the park, having a seating chart would be awkward. In a more formal setting like a rented out portion of a restaurant, it may help guests to have assigned tables, rather than assigned seats. Consider creating a large eye-catching seating chart that will guide your guests to the right table.
WHERE DO THE BRIDE AND GROOM SIT?
The wedding couple should get the best seats in the house. Whether that’s at the end of the head table, the table with the best vantage point, or the table closest to the bar.
HOW FORMAL SHOULD IT BE? WHAT IS THE DRESS CODE?
How formal the rehearsal dinner is will be completely up to you! Traditionally rehearsal dinners are pretty laid-back and casual, but we are in an age where people reinvent wedding traditions and find fun new ways of doing everything wedding-related. Have you heard of micro weddings!?
The dress code can range anywhere from women in sundresses or blouses with skirts or pants and men in slacks and button-downs to women in cocktail dresses and men in tuxedos. Just be sure to give your guests a heads-up in advance.
WHO GIVES A TOAST?
When we talk about rehearsal dinner etiquette, we can’t leave out toasts. Traditionally, if the groom’s parents are hosting, his father might begin by welcoming all of the guests and offering a toast to the couple. The father of the bride might offer a toast next, followed by any attendants and other guests who want to speak.
During the toasts, it’s a good idea for the bride and groom to say a few words of thanks to all of the people taking part in the wedding. This is also the traditional time for the couple to present gifts to members of the wedding party (and perhaps the parents) to thank them for their support.
Lastly, use this as an opportunity to give your wedding party reminders about the wedding day, including arrival times and locations, as well as things to bring.
SHOULD GUESTS BRING GIFTS?
No, you do not need to bring a gift to a rehearsal dinner.
SHOULD HOSTS BRING PARTY FAVORS?
The only gifts the wedding couple typically give out at a rehearsal dinner are to members of the wedding party (and perhaps the parents) to thank them for their support. If you are looking for some ideas, be sure to review our collection of unique gifts for the wedding party.
WHAT IS A SAMPLE TIMELINE OR SCHEDULE?
Below we have included some key events to include as you are scheduling and planning a rehearsal dinner.
- Welcome/cocktail hour (30 minutes)
- Migrate to dinner seats (10 minutes)
- Welcome speech, toast (5 minutes)
- Dinner and dessert (1 hour)
- Toasts, gifts (15 minutes)
- Wrap up: quick notes for wedding day (5 minutes)
“Palm”, designed by Kaydi Bishop