The Complete Wedding Rehearsal Checklist to Help You Plan Your Dinner

Bride and bridesmaidsPhoto: Bella Bridesmaids Raleigh / The Chase Collective

The rehearsal dinner is significant but sometimes gets lost in the wedding planning frenzy. 

It’s an intimate gathering of wedding guest VIPs post-ceremony rehearsal and the day before the “I dos.” And just like Christmas Eve, it brings a hefty dose of excitement and anticipation.    

If you’re the bride and are choosing the traditional route of having someone else host or are hosting it yourself, use (and share!) this rehearsal dinner planning checklist to get started.

We’ve ensured this complete wedding rehearsal dinner checklist has each step you need to take in the order you should do it.

Bonus: We’ve tossed in a few ideas. After all, this is not just any dinner. It’s the segue — the kickoff — to your wedding day!

Rehearsal Dinner Etiquette, Cost, and More

Ideally, you'd plan the rehearsal dinner four to six months before the wedding.

The groom’s parents traditionally host the dinner, but either side can host. And in some cases, the couple themselves assumes the responsibility.

Once you’ve established who will host, the next step is to figure out the budget. On average, a rehearsal dinner costs around $2,400 for 75 guests. This figure includes the venue, catering, and décor.

If you’re hosting the rehearsal dinner yourself, you’ve hopefully factored it into your overall wedding budget.

Rehearsal dinner style is totally up to the couple. It can be full-blown casual, a theme, or a black-tie event. Just let the guests know on the invite so they can dress appropriately.

Complete Checklist for Planning Your Rehearsal Dinner

OK, you know who’s hosting, and you’ve established a budget. The big day is four to six months away; it’s go time!

Four to Six Months Before Wedding

Rehearsal dinner venuePhoto: Bella Bridesmaids Memphis / Kristyn Hogan

Thankfully, the rehearsal dinner isn’t quite as complicated as wedding planning.

However, there are still items to check off:

Guest List

The first step is to establish your guest list. The list must include bridesmaids, groomsmen, the best man, the flower girl, and the ring bearer. 

Extend an invite to the wedding officiant, too!

Beyond the wedding party, you can invite immediate family and close friends. Remember that many people will have a plus one, so the number of attendees can quickly add up.

Choose the Rehearsal Dinner Venue, Date, and Time 

The rehearsal dinner is usually the night before the wedding and after the wedding rehearsal run-through.

This dinner is ideal for catching your breath and reveling in the well-wishes and anticipation of what’s in store the next day. 

It’s a beautiful moment.

Many people choose to have their rehearsal dinner at a restaurant. They opt for one near the wedding venue with the capacity to host the number of guests attending.

Those tying the knot in a hotel may benefit from using another space within the venue, such as outdoors by the pool or at their top-floor restaurant.

Another option is renting an event space and having the dinner catered. Or, for a more low-key affair, you can rent an Airbnb and cook dinner yourself or have an outdoor BBQ.

Generally, the closer the rehearsal dinner space is to the wedding venue, the better. Your out-of-town guests will thank you.

Key considerations when deciding where to host your rehearsal dinner are:

• The size of the guest list
• Your budget
• How much help you have
• The vibe you’re going for

Two Months Before the Wedding

Outdoor rehearsal dinner venuePhoto: Bella Bridesmaids Chicago / Natalie Probst

The event is drawing closer. During this timeframe, there are a few — albeit fun — details to iron out:

Choose Your Outfit

Some couples can’t resist the urge to go full glam or choose a theme. Check out these gorgeous rehearsal dinner dresses if you’re unsure what to wear. 

A spin-off from the main event, these white dresses are a little bit cheeky, flirty, and fun. Choose something that suits the spirit you’re going for!

For a complete breakdown on picking the perfect dress, check out our post: What to Look for in a Rehearsal Dinner Dress.

Select the Décor

Just like the dress, the décor should fit the mood. If you’re going for a theme, the decor is the extra magic that brings it to life.

Just remember, there’s no need to go overboard. If you’re celebrating at a restaurant, chances are, it’s partially because you like the look.

Jazz it up a bit, and make it personal by creating unique DIY centerpieces. The decor can be similar to your wedding decor, but nobody expects you to do as much.

Order Invites

For those mailing invites, now’s the time to order them. A less formal invite is totally acceptable for a rehearsal dinner, and sending an electronic invite is fine.

Rent a PA System

Most restaurants have in-house sound systems. You can request they set theirs up for your rehearsal dinner.

You'll need to rent one if you’re throwing the rehearsal dinner yourself. Typically, PA rental costs about $50 per day. Or, you can ask a tech-savvy friend for help if this feels totally out of your element. 

Four to Six Weeks Before the Wedding 

Outdoor wedding rehearsal venuePhoto: Bella Bridesmaids Chicago / Lenny Pellico

The time is drawing near! These last weeks are going to fly by. Now’s the time to be extra diligent so you don’t miss anything.

Send Out Invites

By now, your wedding invites are already out, and your guests will be thrilled to get a rehearsal dinner invite.

Finalize the Menu

Make your final selection if it’s a set menu at a restaurant. If you’re cooking yourself, review the ingredients needed for the meal. For catered meals, go over it one last time.

Confirm RSVPs

Get a final headcount of everyone who will be present. If you’re celebrating at a restaurant, tell the restaurant staff how many people to expect.

Settle Final Payments

Pay all the outstanding balances for the services you’ll be receiving. 

The Day Of

Bride and groom celebrating at wedding rehearsalPhoto: Bella Bridesmaids Washington DC / Adam Barnes

The day is finally here! 

If you’re hosting the rehearsal dinner yourself at a house or event space, set everything up before heading out for the rehearsal.

For food that needs warming up, cheese plates, appetizers, wine, and champagne are the perfect way to keep guests happy as they chat, mingle, and catch up before sitting down for the meal.

If you’re hosting at a restaurant and have a seating chart, arrange to have someone arrive early to set up the place cards. You can also see if the restaurant can handle that on your behalf. 

The same applies to setting up decor.

Confirm Who’s Giving Speeches

Chances are, a loved one (or two!) will have something on their mind they’d like to share. 

Do your best to confirm who’s giving speeches beforehand. But bear in mind some people may feel some last-minute inspiration and want a few minutes on the mic.

If your family members include a large group of talkers, consider designating an MC who can help move the mic along.

Give Gifts to the Bridal Party (Optional)

Some brides give their bridesmaids little gifts, such as an item they’d like them to wear at the wedding during the rehearsal dinner.

It’s completely up to you if you’d like to do this. Usually, a heartfelt thank you to everyone involved is enough.

One of the best aspects of a rehearsal dinner is you have all your loved ones gathered together at the same time. The only thing you need to do is have fun. This is an incredibly special moment, and you have our permission to enjoy every bit!

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