All eyes will be on you on your big day, but the wedding rehearsal dinner is about more than that. It’s a special time when you can enjoy the company of all your friends and loved ones who have joined together to celebrate your union – time you won’t have during the hustle and bustle of your big day.
While it should be a relaxing and enjoyable time, it’s still important that you don’t forget proper wedding rehearsal dinner etiquette.
What is a Wedding Rehearsal Dinner?
Before we get into the etiquette, you might be wondering, what exactly is a wedding rehearsal dinner? It’s a meal immediately following the rehearsal and represents a pause in the busy blur leading up to your nuptials.
It’s the last event before your special ceremony and the chance to celebrate with your family, maids of honor, groomsmen, and the rest of the wedding party before you say “I do.”
According to wedding historian Susan Waggoner, the wedding rehearsal dinner began as a raucous affair, as they believed making noise drove off evil spirits. If that’s your style, go for it — but you might also want to take some cues from modern rehearsal wedding dinner etiquette advice.
1. Don’t: Overspend on the Rehearsal Dinner
Wondering who should pay for the rehearsal dinner? Traditionally, the groom’s parents foot the bill and organize the wedding-eve event. However, many couples pay for it themselves, especially those that have been living out on their own for years.
No matter who’s writing the check, there’s no need to break the bank. You can have a great casual event that’s cost-effective and yet still meaningful and enjoyable. It’s more about fellowship with those dear to you than the food.
2. Do: Invite the Right People to the Rehearsal Dinner
So, who should be invited to the rehearsal dinner? Etiquette recommends you send wedding rehearsal dinner invitations to the wedding party, parents, and everyone attending the rehearsal event, including the officiant, and even junior members such as the ring bearers and flower girls (and their parents).
You may also want to consider letting all wedding rehearsal dinner guests bring a plus-one – as long as you don’t let it get out of hand and turn into a mini-reception.
3. Don’t: Forget to Tell Guests the Dress Code
Don’t keep guests in the dark about what to wear. The appropriate rehearsal dinner attire will depend on the nature of the venue and cuisine. For example, if you’re serving barbecue, throwing a white party sounds like a mess in the making.
Also, bear in mind that guests will be coming from the rehearsal and you don’t want to overtax them into making multiple outfit changes. If you’re hosting a very dressy wedding, a more relaxed rehearsal dinner venue might be a nice change of pace.
4. Do: Include Speeches and Toasts
Who makes speeches and toasts at the rehearsal dinner? Typically, both the father of the bride and groom will make a speech – but if you have a non-traditional family, or simply want to spice things up, let your heart decide which family member gets the honor of saying a few words.
The maid of honor and best man also usually offer some fun or heart-warming speeches, but feel free to throw it open to anyone that wants to share a memory or make a toast.
If you’re hosting an open bar, watch out that the toast doesn’t turn into a roast and leave you burned!
5. Don’t: Forget to Accommodate Kids at the Event
If you have an “adults only” wedding, you won’t need to worry about this. However, if plan to include some adorable kids in the wedding party, they will be at the rehearsal and should be invited to the dinner with their parents.
That means kid-friendly food and possibly even organized childcare services at the event. For out-of-town wedding party members with kids, they might not know any sitters in the area. Corralling kids won’t be relaxing for the parents, so it’s good etiquette help them out.
6. Do: Be Flexible with Out-of-Town Guests
Bear in mind that travel can often complicate things for friends and family coming from out of town. Delayed flights, lost luggage, bad weather, and lagging Lyft options could leave them late to the dinner.
Etiquette suggests you invite all your wedding party members, but don’t tether them to a critical role at the dinner in case they’re travel-delayed. If you really want them to say a few words, perhaps plan for them to speak at the end of the evening so they’re not stressed and racing to hit a deadline.
7. Don’t: Forget the Gifts!
If your budget is not yet busted, wedding etiquette recommends you give gifts to the bridal party. The rehearsal dinner is an excellent time to do so because this event is about thanking them before the big day that’s 100% about you.
Schedule time during the dinner to show your appreciation by distributing gifts to groomsmen, bridesmaids, the best man, maid of honor, and even your ring bearer and flower girl. You should also consider giving your parents a gift of thanks (particularly if they’re footing the bill for your nuptials). If there are children in attendance, give a gift that will keep them occupied during dinner (and quiet!).
8. Do: Wind up the Evening at a Reasonable Hour
It can be tempting to let the dinner linger while you spend time with your family and friends, and enjoy the last big event before all the wedding day festivities. However, you want to be refreshed and glowing on your wedding day, and that means beauty sleep (with no hangover).
Set the hours for dinner, stick to them, don’t over-do it on alcohol and save the big partying for your wedding reception. That way you’ll be picture perfect when you walk down the aisle.
Unless you’re a Windsor or Getty, there’s no set and strict etiquette for your rehearsal dinner. Feel free to break traditions and make new ones. Honor your family, yourselves, and your love while deciding what you want for your wedding-eve dinner. It’s your big day and should be done your way.
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