Rehearsal Dinner Details

Rehearsal dinners may be part of the wedding weekend, but they come with their own set of etiquette rules. Under the traditional assumption that the bride's family is footing the wedding bill, general etiquette suggests the groom's side organize and pay for the rehearsal dinner. We all know that in modern times, finances, etiquette, and tradition have expanded and changed, but for super-traditional couples, this is the general rule of thumb. For all couples, a general rule is to have an open and honest discussion, similar to that of who's footing the wedding bill, about your plans, budget, and hopes with both families to ensure a drama- and stress-free rehearsal dinner.

Steps to Planning a Rehearsal Dinner

~ DECIDE WHO WILL HOST. Traditionally, the groom's parents take care of the rehearsal dinner, but these days, anything goes. If both sets of parents are splitting the cost of the wedding, then perhaps you and your partner may want to pay for the rehearsal dinner. Talk with your partner and your parents to find the best solution for your situation.

~ CHOOSE A FUN THEME. A fun way to kick off the wedding weekend is to incorporate a theme into your rehearsal dinner. You can build the party around your cultural background or play up the wedding's location. Pick a theme that's unique to you and your partner's interests. Consider an outdoor barbecue, a seaside bonfire with s'mores, or a taco night/backyard fiesta featuring your favorite food trucks.

~ PICK A UNIQUE LOCATION. Whether you pick a favorite family restaurant or a place that has sentimental value to you as a couple, you definitely have options. We love a rehearsal dinner that is intimately held at a family home. Or if your wedding venue is at a hotel, consider spots in the hotel that are more unique than the traditional wedding locations. Around the pool of the hotel, in a charming bar, or even a large guest suite with a view.

~ CREATE THE GUEST LIST. The rehearsal dinner guest list typically includes close family members and anyone participating in the wedding ceremony (including the officiant), plus their spouses or dates. It's also considerate to invite your out-of-town guests to the festivities. However, if you end up with a long list of people to include, you can keep costs down by serving only cocktails and hors d'oeuvres or desserts as opposed to a full meal.

~ CONSIDER TIMING. The rehearsal dinner schedule is traditionally held the night before the wedding. Usually, the ceremony rehearsal typically lasts about 30 to 45 minutes. The dinner takes place immediately after the rehearsal. For a Sunday or holiday wedding, you have more options, and some couples decide to hold the rehearsal dinner two nights before the wedding so that everyone has more time to relax and recuperate before the big day. If most attendees won't be arriving until late on the eve of your wedding, a breakfast celebration on the morning of the wedding is also a possibility.

~ PLAN OUT YOUR MENU. Whether you plan on hosting the rehearsal dinner at your favorite restaurant or a banquet hall (in which case, you'll need to hire catering), be sure to get your menu squared away early on in the planning stages. When in doubt, consider serving up hometown favorites as a way of introducing out-of-town guests to your local cuisine.

~ PLAN TO PASS THE MIC. While it's customary for the host to welcome guests at the beginning of the party, some guests may also want to get up and give a quick toast. Consider picking an emcee for the evening who can oversee all of the toasts and speeches. Don't be surprised if there's as much roasting as there is toasting—and take it all in good humor. You and your partner should also plan on making short speeches yourselves (either after the host does or just before the evening ends).

~ GIVE GIFTS TO THE WEDDING PARTY. The rehearsal dinner is the traditional time to present gifts to members of the wedding party (especially if the gifts are items you'd like them to wear during the wedding). Feel free to also take a moment to thank your parents for their love, guidance, and support—any gifts you have for them can also be handed out at this time.

~ TAKE CARE OF ANY LAST MINUTE REMINDERS. Before the dinner comes to an end, take a moment to slip in any announcements about the wedding day. Double-check that everyone in the wedding party knows what items they're supposed to bring and when and where they're expected to arrive to get ready. If you have a larger audience, remind guests about any activities for them the next day as well as any pick-up times and locations for transportation you've arranged to get them to and from the ceremony.

~ REMEMBER TO HAVE FUN. After you and your partner have worked so hard to plan your wedding together, you deserve to enjoy this evening with each other and your loved ones. Plan for something fun and your rehearsal dinner will be totally stress-free.

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Rehearsal dinner planning: Tips & Etiquette