Everything you need to know to plan a rehearsal dinner, the prelude to the main event…
The rehearsal dinner sets the stage for the entire wedding weekend and is often the first opportunity for family members and guests to meet and greet. Like a calm before the storm, it’s usually relaxed and intimate, allowing the bride and groom to unwind with their closest friends and family before the whirlwind of the main event.
What Is It
The rehearsal dinner is a celebratory meal after, you guessed it, the ceremony rehearsal. It can be a formal dinner party, a backyard barbeque, or a seaside clambake. Regardless of style – it almost always involved a meal of some kind.
When Is It
The rehearsal dinner usually occurs right after the rehearsal, which is almost always the afternoon or evening before the wedding.
The groom’s parents traditionally host and pay for the rehearsal dinner. Nowadays, however, planning and hosting weddings – and all the events surrounding them – is often a group effort. During your initial wedding budget talks with all contributing parties – you’ll need to discuss and determine plans for hosting the rehearsal dinner.
The guest list typically includes the wedding party, immediate family, and the officiant. Some couples choose to invite out-of-town guests as well, but if you have a far flung guest list, inviting them all may be impractical.
Where Is It
For convenience reasons, the rehearsal dinner should take place close to the wedding location; however, the choice of venue type is pretty open. Restaurants are always a popular option, yet more and more couples are starting to get just as creative with their rehearsal dinner venues as they are their wedding venues. Mansions, museums, parks, gardens, backyards – you name it – it can host a rehearsal dinner.
Rehearsal dinners are well-suited for toasting (and roasting), since speakers may feel more comfortable in a more intimate environment. As the traditional host, the father of the groom usually speaks to welcome guests. The best man, maid of honor, bridesmaids, or really anyone else may offer a toast. The bride and groom can also use this opportunity to distribute their attendant gifts and thank their families and guests.
More and more couples are opting for casual rehearsal dinners, especially when the wedding is particularly elegant. Brides and grooms who want to relax and enjoy themselves before the main event find an unbuttoned affair particularly enticing, causing clambakes, crawfish boils and barbeques to become popular. Other couples are centering the dinner around a fun activity such as a boat cruise, wine tasting, casino night, mini golf – even bowling.
Regardless, try to plan a rehearsal dinner that’s a contrast to the wedding, so your guests aren’t thinking “been there, done that,” by the time your reception starts.