Photo: Malek Haddad
Wedding planning isn’t just about organizing the big day — it’s also about planning all sorts of fun pre-wedding events!
And while your bridal party will most likely plan your bridal shower and bachelor/bachelorette parties, one pre-wedding event that you’ll want to plan yourself is the rehearsal dinner.
The wedding rehearsal dinner is one of those traditions that we absolutely love.
Because it’s another chance to celebrate with your loved ones before you tie the knot!
Not sure where or when to have your rehearsal dinner?
From who belongs on your guest list to what you should wear, here’s how to plan the perfect rehearsal dinner.
What Is a Rehearsal Dinner?
If you’ve never been in a wedding before, you might not realize that you even need a wedding rehearsal, let alone a rehearsal dinner.
The wedding rehearsal is a quick run-through of the ceremony events scheduled for the big day. It usually involves all of the members of the wedding party, your parents and grandparents, and anyone who’s giving a reading.
The purpose is to make sure everyone involved in the actual wedding ceremony knows when to walk and where to sit and stand.
And when the rehearsal is over, it’s customary to invite everyone to one last pre-wedding party — aka the rehearsal dinner!
When Should You Have Your Rehearsal Dinner?
The rehearsal dinner (and the rehearsal that precedes it) usually takes place the night before the actual wedding. For many couples, this is the official kick-off to their wedding weekend!
Just be mindful of how late in the evening you start your rehearsal dinner, especially if you or your guests like to relax with a few alcoholic beverages. You’ll want everyone to have plenty of time to sleep off those White Claws and rebound from their rosé so that they feel refreshed and ready for the next day!
Where Should You Have Your Rehearsal Dinner?
Photo: Rebecca Yale
There’s no right or wrong place to have your rehearsal dinner. It’s all about what you envision for your wedding weekend and how you choose to celebrate!
Some couples choose a casual restaurant as their rehearsal dinner venue, while others go for a bit more glitz and glam.
The key factor in deciding where to have your dinner usually depends on how many people you plan to invite.
With a small, intimate guest list, you can have your dinner in a private room at a restaurant or a lounge near your wedding venue. If you have a long guest list, you may need to rent a small ballroom or a banquet hall close to where your wedding guests are staying.
If you’re having a destination wedding, you might want to host your rehearsal dinner at the hotel pool, a local gastropub that serves great food, or in a nearby park.
Whether you’re throwing a casual backyard wedding or having a luau on a tropical beach, it’s a good idea to choose a rehearsal dinner venue that has a different vibe from where you’re having your actual wedding. That way, they’ll feel like two distinct events.
You can have your rehearsal dinner anywhere you want, but it’s best to choose a venue that’s close to where your guests are staying, especially if you have a lot of guests traveling in from out of town.
Who Should I Invite to My Rehearsal Dinner?
Your rehearsal dinner guest list should include all of the members of your bridal party and your immediate family members.
Some couples choose to give their groomsmen and bridesmaids a plus-one. Some invite out-of-town guests that have arrived in town early. Some couples extend the invitation to include their officiant and other wedding guests.
Since the dinner follows the actual rehearsal, you should invite all of the members of your wedding party, as well as anyone whose presence was required at the rehearsal (such as anyone that you’ve asked to do a reading). But beyond that, who you invite is entirely up to you!
Just remember this:
The rehearsal dinner doesn’t need to include everyone you’ve invited to the wedding reception. It should be a more intimate affair with the people that mean the absolute most to you!
Who Pays for the Rehearsal Dinner?
Photo: Redfield Photo
Traditionally, the bride’s family pays for the wedding, and the groom’s family pays for the rehearsal dinner.
But today, there are no rules about who pays for what.
It’s common for modern couples to pay for the rehearsal dinner on their own, especially if they’re financially self-sufficient and aren’t relying on their parents to pay for the wedding. It’s equally as commonplace for the groom’s parents and the bride’s parents to share the costs.
The rehearsal dinner is just like every other part of your wedding — it should be all about what you want and how you want to remember the moment five, ten, or twenty years down the road!
Who Should Plan the Rehearsal Dinner?
No matter who pays for the wedding rehearsal dinner, the couple should have the ultimate say in planning the event.
If your parents have offered to foot the bill, let them have some input in planning the event.
If you’d rather focus on preparing for the big day, you can relinquish your dinner-planning duties altogether and let your parents handle the details for you!
Do You Need to Send Invitations for a Rehearsal Dinner?
Photo: MLE Photos
It’s totally up to you whether or not you choose to send rehearsal dinner invitations.
If you’re having a small gathering of close friends and loved ones, a simple phone call or in-person invite is more than sufficient. If you’re planning to invite a few dozen guests, invitations can be helpful in getting official RSVPs and a total headcount before the event.
Whether you choose to send invitations or not, be sure to inform your guests of your rehearsal dinner at least 30 days in advance. If you do opt to send physical invitations, choose ones that match the venue’s level of formality.
What Do You Wear to the Rehearsal Dinner?
There’s one question that every bride wants to know the answer to:
Do I have to wear white to my rehearsal dinner?
The answer is no!
When shopping for rehearsal dinner dresses, you should buy something that you feel comfortable, confident, and beautiful in!
If you’re looking for every possible opportunity to wear a white dress on your wedding weekend, then choose a white dress. If you feel more comfortable in black, then go for a black dress! If you’re having a theme, such as a luau, a clambake, or a down-home country BBQ, opt for a colorful dress or a bold print that fits with your theme.
If you do have a specific theme in mind, be sure to let your guests know the dress code. For a beach luau, suggest that your guests wear Hawaiian shirts or floral dresses. For a beer-and-ribs farmhouse BBQ, encourage everyone to wear their favorite country/western attire. For a clambake by the ocean, recommend nautical looks, such as seersucker pants or bold stripes.
Your rehearsal dinner is a precursor to the wedding day, so wear whatever you want and enjoy it however you want to!
From what you wear to who you invite to the type of food you serve, your rehearsal dinner should be a reflection of your style as a couple, whatever that style may be.
You can be super casual with a beach party or make it sleek and chic in a swanky hotel restaurant or lounge. You can invite as many or as few people as you wish. You can get dressed up or suggest attire that’s casual and carefree.
There are no hard-and-fast rules on what makes for a great rehearsal dinner. It’s all about having fun, celebrating with your besties and closest relatives, and kicking off your wedding weekend in a way that’s uniquely you!