Wedding Planning Guide

Rehearsal Dinner Ideas

Photo: Erich McVey

While the wedding rehearsal is a chance for you and your wedding-party members to run through the ceremony proceedings, the rehearsal dinner that follows is an opportunity for everyone to get to know each other and celebrate in a relaxed, laid-back setting before the big day.

Rehearsal Dinner Etiquette and How-To

THE HOSTS

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. Whoever throws the party, though, should definitely check in with the couple to avoid any conflict with the theme, menu, or decorations of the wedding.

THE TIMING

The rehearsal dinner is usually held the night before the wedding, directly after the ceremony run-through. 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.

THE AGENDA

Allot time during the rehearsal dinner for toasts and gifts. Unlike at the wedding reception, where the toasting order is planned out, wedding rehearsal dinner toasts tend to be spontaneous and unscripted. Traditionally, if the groom’s parents are hosting, his father might begin by welcome 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. And try your hardest to wrap it up early so everyone will be rested for the big day!

Rehearsal Dinner Invitation Wording

While printed invitations are not required, it’s still a good idea to send invites if more than just family will be attending the rehearsal dinner. The host should mail the rehearsal dinner invitations soon after the wedding invitations go out; they can be formal or casual depending on your event.

Everyone who attends the ceremony rehearsal should be invited to the rehearsal dinner—the bride and groom, their parents, officiant (and their spouse or date), wedding attendants (including any child attendants and their parents), and readers, along with their spouses or dates. You can also invite additional guests to the dinner who weren’t involved in the rehearsal, such as extended family members (such as grandparents) and close friends, as well. Also, many couples invite their out-of-town guests to the rehearsal dinner, turning the festivities into a welcoming party.

Rehearsal Dinner Invitation Wording: Examples

Formal:

Please join us
For a rehearsal dinner
In honor of
JEANETTE 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

Casual:

LET’S CELEBRATE!
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

Simple:

The rehearsal dinner
ROBERT + MOLLY
July 12 - 6 PM - Squid’s, 1201 Fordham Blvd, Cleveland, OH
Hosted by Greg + June Wilson
Regrets only to 510.476.9087

Hosted by both families:

Let’s celebrate
JENNA & CARTER
BBQ style
August 23 - from 7-9
Join us at the Baileys’ house
245 Hollis Avenue, Monroe, TN
Hosted by the Baileys and the Wallaces
Regrets only to Jill (113) 287-7373

Hosted by the couple:

Anne Glenn &
Theodore Mcilroy
Invite you to their wedding rehearsal dinner
August 31 At 6 p.m.
Osteria Hotel, Chicago
RSVP at anneandtheo.minted.us

Wedding Rehearsal Dinner Ideas

Since the wedding rehearsal is usually held the day before the wedding, plan an event that’s distinct—you don’t want identical parties back to back. Feel free to choose a different (yet complementary) theme or change up the tone entirely—for example, keep the rehearsal dinner low-key and casual if you’re having a more formal wedding. Here are some of our favorite rehearsal dinner ideas and venue suggestions.

    Formal

  • Hotel banquet: Host your rehearsal dinner in a hotel banquet hall--you’re guaranteed an elegant setting and the hotel staff will take care of everything.
  • Restaurant: Choose a favorite, meaningful restaurant with the right vibe you’re going for.
  • Catered al fresco dinner: Take the meal outside to a local park, garden, or winery. Just add string lights and beautiful table decor for a picturesque picnic.
  • Casual

  • Picnic in a park: Book ahead to reserve a set of picnic tables and fire pit; bring lawn game, hire a food truck, and let the good times roll.
  • Backyard barbecue: Sometimes the best location is right in your backyard. A low-key barbecue is relaxed and laid-back, and will make your guests feel right at home.
  • Clambake: There’s nothing like a clambake on the beach to bring everyone together. Bibs and beers are sure to break the ice.
  • Twists on tradition

  • Brunch: An earlier rehearsal will ensure everyone’s well-rested the next day, and mimosas are the perfect way to celebrate.
  • Cocktails and hors d'oeuvres: Keep it light and classy with sips and snacks. Just add a great playlist and encourage guests to mingle and get to know each other.
  • Wedding-weekend welcome: Having a destination wedding? Invite all your guests to the rehearsal dinner to thank them for making the trip.
  • Bowling: What better way to break the ice than a group game in a casual atmosphere?
  • Wine or beer tasting: Give your wedding party a taste of the local flavor by arranging a group tasting.
  • Lawn games and a picnic: Bring both sides of the family together for some friendly competition—whether it’s cornhole, bocce ball, or touch football—followed by a picnic-style meal.
  • Pizza party: If you’re hosting a black-tie wedding, a pizza party might be a welcome contrast (and won’t break your budget!).
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