What are wedding rehearsals vs rehearsal dinners? What do we do at a rehearsal dinner?
The wedding rehearsal and rehearsal dinners are two separate items, though the guest list can have some overlap.
The wedding rehearsal is a practice run of the wedding ceremony, and features the full bridal party, parents and any additional attendants (like readers, singers, etc) who have a stake in the program. These typically happen for officiant-led ceremonies and church ceremonies, though any type of wedding can benefit from a run through before the big day. The rehearsal is a great opportunity to practice where all key players will be during all parts of the ceremony, and can help settle frazzled nerves leading up to the big day.
Rehearsal dinners are traditionally held after the wedding rehearsal and is held the night before or two nights before the wedding. This is a kick off to the wedding festivities and an opportunity for the couple, bridal party and families to relax before the big day. The wedding day can be very busy, with lots of guests vying for attention from the couple, so the rehearsal dinner is a great opportunity to spend time together in an intimate setting. This is also a wonderful way to alleviate any pre-wedding jitters by spending time in a warm environment with your nearest and dearest.
Who should I invite?
The Must Haves:
The rehearsal dinner guest list should include your immediate families, all wedding party members and their significant others, and the immediate families of any children in the bridal party. It is also a great idea to invite your officiant and their spouse, though this is optional.
The Nice To Haves:
It’s a lovely idea to invite any folks that are coming in from a long distance to attend the wedding, or may not have any other ties to the location of your wedding. Are you having a destination wedding? Consider opting for a welcome cocktail after the wedding rehearsal rather than a full dinner, to save some cost.
Where should it be held?
You have tons of options here! Rehearsal dinners can be held at home, in a restaurant, or even a more formal setting like a banquet hall. Typically the rehearsal dinner is less formal than the wedding itself, so consider that when planning. It wouldn’t make sense to have a super formal rehearsal dinner for a casual bbq wedding. Whatever you do, be sure to specify dress code to your guests so they are comfortable on arrival.
What should I serve?
Again, there are lots of options here! Traditionally rehearsal dinners were formal sit-down dinner affairs, but these days couples are planning backyard bbqs, cocktail receptions and potluck affairs as well. Your budget will ultimately guide you here!
Do I need physical invitations?
This will depend on the style of rehearsal you’re hosting. If you plan to have a formal sit-down affair, invitations with rsvps that indicate dietary restrictions will be required. Your catering team will need a final head count and meal selections in advance.
Alternatively, if you are hosting a more casual event, phone calls, word of mouth, email invites or wedding websites invitations are perfectly acceptable. You will still want some sort of headcount to ensure you have enough food and drink.
Invitations to the rehearsal should be sent out within 3 months of the wedding to ensure that guests coming from further can make necessary arrangements.
Are there any formalities to the itinerary of a rehearsal dinner?
These days rehearsals take so many shapes, but there are a few things that should happen:
- Take a few minutes to greet everyone and thank them for attending your wedding festivities and share any important information about the wedding that may be worth repeating, like transportation schedules and family photo shoots
- The host typically gives a speech. Traditionally, the groom’s family hosts the rehearsal, but more and more couples are hosting themselves.
- if the groom’s family is hosting, the groom’s parents would give the first speech, thanking guests and welcoming their new daughter in law
- The couple will then thank each other and their guests
- The couple may opt to hand out attendant gifts at this time
Most importantly, have fun! If the rehearsal dinner is the night before the wedding, remember to not make it a late night, or to imbibe too much – you’ll want to feel fresh for the wedding day!
I say this a lot, but there is not a right or wrong way to approach a wedding rehearsal dinner. The main item you’ll want to consider is the formality of the event and plan accordingly from there. You’ll want to ensure that you book a space that can comfortably accommodate your crowd, and plan for any dietary restrictions. Rehearsal dinners are a wonderful way to kick back with your wedding party prior to the wedding and enjoy some downtime before the hectic wedding day.