Rehearsal Dinners: What are they and What’s Involved in Planning One?
Before the bride walks down the aisle in her wedding dress, and she and her partner say I do, some couples like to have a rehearsal to put their nerves at ease so their wedding will go as planned. The night doesn’t end after the rehearsal, as the couple will usually host a lovely rehearsal dinner before they traditionally go their separate ways. Here is everything you’ll need to know when planning your rehearsal dinner.
What is a rehearsal dinner, and why does it happen?
The rehearsal dinner is typically one or two nights before the wedding day, and it occurs after the wedding rehearsal. The purpose is to present a great opportunity for the two families to spend time together and get acquainted before the wedding; with that goal in mind, there are alternatives to the rehearsal dinner, including a morning of breakfast, or nothing at all.
Some wedding parties may have members who are traveling to the wedding. If it’s likely out of towners won’t be available for the night before, this is the perfect opportunity to try your hand at breakfast on the morning of the wedding. Achieving the same goal, guests will be able to mingle, get to know one another, and any pre-wedding tensions can be relieved.
Alternatively, some brides and grooms choose not to host any sort of pre-wedding festivity. Perhaps the families have been acquainted for a long time and they know each other well, or it’s just not in the budget. Not having the rehearsal dinner/wedding breakfast is perfectly fine as well and will save you a pretty penny.
Who is in charge, and who attends?
When it comes to planning and paying for the rehearsal dinner, it has traditionally been in the hands of the groom’s family. However, in today’s day in age, anything is possible. You could have both parents split the cost, or you and your partner can choose to take it on yourselves. Just remember, whoever is paying for it typically has more power over how it’s going to look. If you want full control, start saving up, otherwise, voice your most important wants and needs to your parents, and let them have freedom with the rest of the decisions.
The guests at the rehearsal dinner is another decision that is completely fluid. At minimum you should have both immediate families, the wedding party (and spouses), the officiant (and their spouse), and the parents of any children that are participating in the wedding (the children themselves are optional).
You can also change things up to include guests who have traveled from far to show your appreciation for their attendance. If it is a destination wedding, you could consider holding an event for all guests (instead of the rehearsal dinner, or afterward) so that everyone feels appreciated and gets acquainted. If you choose to, an event after the rehearsal dinner can serve cocktails or desserts for all wedding guests.
What should it look like, and where does it take place?
Here are more decisions to make! As every couple is unique, when looking at the theme, venue, or vibe of the rehearsal dinner there are many options to choose from. First, consider whether you want it to be formal or casual as this can easily help determine your venue. Many hold their rehearsal dinners at banquet halls, hotel ballrooms, fine restaurants, or as a garden party when they’re looking to uphold a formal setting. For casual settings, couples consider anything including a backyard barbecue, outdoor picnic, or parents’ family home. If you’re looking for something a little more unique, some couples have planned their rehearsal dinners on the beach or at an art gallery. Feel free to make it special to you and unique to your relationship, the more meaningful the better. There truly are no restrictions.
When thinking about whether it will be formal or casual, you should try to keep it relevant to your wedding, so that it is on theme. Remember that is just the rehearsal dinner, so it should be less formal than the wedding reception, and definitely not overshadow the wedding itself. Think through the food as well, will it be a full buffet? Will there be servers? Will alcohol be available? These are all questions to ask, in order to properly prepare your guests. For instance, if you intend to use ‘dinner’ loosely, and only serve cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, make sure this is indicated on your invites, so your guests understand what to expect.
When, When, and When?
When does the rehearsal dinner take place? As mentioned earlier, the rehearsal dinner takes place the night before the wedding; it can also happen two nights before, or as a breakfast on the morning of.
When are invites sent? Send out invites either with your wedding invites or soon after, so you can receive a timely RSVP response and plan accordingly. Even if details are not nailed down, give your guests basic information so they can at least save the date and prepare any necessary plans with an ample amount of time.
When should planning take place? Planning should take place early on. This will allow you to book caterers and a venue at least 4 – 6 months prior to the wedding date.
The rehearsal dinner is one prewedding event where your bridesmaids are required in attendance, for more information on what is expected of your bridesmaids, check out The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Perfect Bridesmaid.
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Photo by Annie Spratt