When it comes to the rehearsal dinner, it’s tricky to determine who should be invited, where it should be hosted, and all the semantics in between. It’s never too soon to start planning the rehearsal dinner, so use these tips to help create a night as fun as the wedding itself!
The Guest List:
So you have the wedding planned, and the guest list is pretty large. That doesn’t mean all who are invited need to partake in the entire weekend’s festivities. The rehearsal dinner is typically an intimate event where close friends and family gather to celebrate the couple, get to know the other family, and kick off the weekend. The general rule of thumb is to invite immediate and significant extended family, your wedding party, officiant, and their significant others, parents of any children in the wedding, and close family friends and out-of-town guests. While tradition says that all guests traveling to a true destination wedding (meaning everybody–even the bride and groom–have traveled there) should be invited to a rehearsal dinner or other welcome event, it can get a little trickier for weddings where a large portion of the wedding guests had to travel. At this point you have to do what your budget will allow. After all, if you have to invite 75 guests out of 125 to a rehearsal dinner, you’re pretty much paying for a second wedding. Another option is to hold an intimate rehearsal dinner with immediate family and the wedding party, and then invite out-of-town guests for a casual welcome cocktail at the hotel bar afterwards. We recommend giving out of town guests recommendations for nearby restaurants and bars in their wedding welcome bag or on your website, so they feel like they have a solid plan for the evening if they’re not attending your rehearsal dinner.
Searching for a rehearsal dinner location can be difficult, especially if you’re expecting a large crowd. Make sure to book your rehearsal dinner location at least 3-6 months in advance. We suggest choosing a location close to the hotel (if you have a lot of out of town guests), to avoid paying for additional transportation to and from the restaurant. Our personal preference is a casual setting where the tone for the evening will be playful and fun – after all, this is the time for the speeches that roast you and toast you! For example, we chose a New York City Deli outpost located in Westchester, NY, where our out of town guests from the Midwest really enjoyed the authentic NYC experience.
Invites for the rehearsal dinner should be sent out four weeks prior to the wedding. You want to allow your guests enough time to plan, but also allow enough time between guests receiving your wedding invitation and rehearsal dinner invitation in the mail. When choosing an invitation, remember that it can totally have a personality and reflect the atmosphere of the evening, whether that’s casual or formal. You can read more about wedding rehearsal dinner invitation etiquette here.
It’s tradition for the groom’s family to host the rehearsal dinner, since the wedding is often hosted by the bride’s family. However, as tradition has evolved over time, brides and grooms families often split the cost of the wedding, so they may choose to also split the cost of the rehearsal dinner. Or the bride and the groom might be paying for the weekend’s events themselves. We say when it comes to the bill, start a discussion between your families to decide what makes the most sense for all the people involved.