There are many important decisions to make when planning your wedding, one of which will be what to do the day before the wedding, known as the rehearsal dinner. Several traditions and options can go into this event, and it can be planned by you or your parents (or both). Your wedding rehearsal dinner may be one of the most important events of your wedding weekend, but it can also be the most stressful to plan. Read this guide to learn everything you need to plan a rehearsal dinner.
Wedding Rehearsal Dinner: Introduction
The wedding or rehearsal dinner is typically the last event in the festivities before the main event (the actual wedding). It's often hosted by the bride's parents and gives guests one last chance to celebrate with their friends before the excitement begins. A rehearsal dinner can be beneficial in bringing your wedding guests together before the big day and allowing them to meet and chat with one another in an informal setting.
12 Steps to Planning the Perfect Rehearsal Dinner
No matter what kind of rehearsal dinner you’re planning, here are 12 steps to ensure that it's the perfect occasion you've been dreaming of.
The rehearsal dinner is a time for the wedding party and immediate family members to relax and enjoy each other’s company before the big day. It’s also a chance to show off your wedding style! The venue you choose should reflect the overall tone of your wedding. Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a venue for your rehearsal dinner:
Consider how many people will be attending
What amenities does the venue offer?
How far is it from where your guests will be staying?
Will the weather permit outdoor dining?
Do they provide parking or charge extra for this service?
Does the menu require reservations, or can people order their food at leisure once they arrive?
Can they accommodate special dietary needs (i.e., vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free)?
The Date and Time
Picking the date and time for your rehearsal dinner can be tricky. You want it close enough to the wedding that everyone can make it, but not so close that people are already stressed out. A good rule of thumb is to have it two or three days before the wedding. As for the time, an early evening dinner is usually best so that people can still have their night free after. Consider whether your friends can attend if you have it in the middle of the day.
The first step to planning your rehearsal dinner is sending out your invitations and collecting RSVPs. This will give you a good idea of how many people you'll need to accommodate. Once you have a headcount, you can start thinking about venues. If it's going to be an evening event, you might want to consider holding it at a restaurant with great food and drinks. Consider places like historical sites or museums with catering facilities for daytime events.
Wedding Party Gifts
Rehearsal dinner gifts are a great way to show your wedding party how much you appreciate their help and support leading up to your big day. But with so many options, it can be tough to decide what to get them. The following ideas will help you in this process.
- A beautiful thank you card: A heartfelt note thanking your bridesmaids for their hard work is always appreciated.
- Lottery tickets: With so many lotteries in most states, everyone loves an opportunity to win money! Tickets for popular lottery games can be purchased at any convenience store, gas station, or grocery store.
- You could also buy pre-printed cards that say Congratulations. On one side, and I am so happy for you! On the other side. Please fill them out before giving them to your bridal party as a surprise gift after they've left your rehearsal dinner.
Officiant and Celebrant
The officiant or celebrant is the person who will be performing the ceremony. You'll need to decide whether you want a religious or secular officiant and find someone available and willing to perform the ceremony. You may need to contact your church before booking the officiant if you have a religious service. You can usually find information about their wedding ceremonies on their website.
The Celebrant’s Association International has links to many qualified people. Ask friends and family for recommendations if you don’t know anyone personally. It’s a good idea to interview prospective officiants before hiring them. Don’t feel shy about asking questions.
While the rehearsal dinner is more relaxed than the wedding, it's still important to dress appropriately. After all, this formal event marks the beginning of your wedding weekend. The bride and groom should wear semi-formal attire, and guests should dress according to the level of formality indicated on the invitation. There are no strict rules about what the couple should or shouldn't wear at their rehearsal dinner, but in general, you'll want to avoid caution by sticking with something slightly more pleasant than you would for an average day.
As for those attending without a plus one? You may consider wearing white or light colors (which will work better with most tablecloths). Flats are recommended for footwear since they're typically more comfortable and easy to walk in.
You'll want to ensure everyone has a way to get to and from the rehearsal dinner. You can either provide transportation for everyone or make arrangements for people to carpool. If you're providing transportation, be sure to take into account any special needs that your guests might have. For example, if someone uses a wheelchair, you may need to rent a van with wheelchair access. Or, if some of your guests don't drink alcohol, but others do, then it would be a good idea to offer non-alcoholic beverages like soda and juice in addition to alcoholic drinks.
The rehearsal dinner is a beautiful opportunity to set the tone for your wedding. After all, this is the first time that most of your guests will be meeting! You want your décor to be reflective of your style as a couple. Here are a few tips:
Choose a theme or color scheme and stick to it.
Incorporate personal touches into your décor.
Pay attention to the little details. Decide what you’d like on the tables—candles, centerpieces, flowers? What about tablecloths? Table runners?
Think about what you’ll need on hand—plates, napkins, glasses, silverware.
Make sure you have enough seating space for everyone who has RSVP’d (check with family members).
Set a Theme
A great way to set the tone for your rehearsal dinner is to choose a theme. This can be anything from a specific color scheme to a more general feeling or vibe that you want to create. Once you have a theme in mind, making decisions about things like decorations, menus, and even activities will be easier. It's also a good idea to let guests know what kind of theme they should dress for so they are prepared. You may also want to incorporate some thematic details into the decor, like table cloths or table centerpieces.
In terms of food, this is an excellent opportunity to serve dishes that would not usually be on the menu on your wedding day. One example would be preparing multiple appetizers instead of just one entree dish.
Prepare the Menu
Decide on the menu for the rehearsal dinner and consider your guests' dietary restrictions. You can either prepare the meal yourself or hire a caterer. Make sure to have enough food and drinks for everyone! If you are planning on having alcohol, provide non-alcoholic options. Be considerate when choosing music and consider the noise level at which it will be played. Don't forget decorations such as candles, flowers, tablecloths, centerpieces, etc.
Decide Who Will Speak
You'll want to decide who will give speeches at the rehearsal dinner. This is typically the bride's father, the groom, and/or the best man. But, anyone with a vital role in the wedding should be allowed to speak if they'd like to. Ask everyone who wants to give a speech what they would like to say beforehand so you can keep it cohesive. Both partners may want to share something with their future spouses before taking their vows.
Consider Allergies / Dietary Restrictions
When planning your rehearsal dinner, one crucial factor is allergies and dietary restrictions. You'll want to ensure that everyone can enjoy the meal, so ask about any allergies or food preferences in advance. You can also provide options for those with dietary restrictions, such as a vegetarian or gluten-free meal. If you're feeling ambitious, you might even decide to host a buffet where guests can choose what they want.
Frequently, the bride and groom don't know their guests well enough to know if they have special needs like this ahead of time. It's best not to take chances; plan!
The wedding rehearsal dinner, or Rehearsal Dinner as it is sometimes called, is the final step in planning the weekend-long celebration of your marriage, and the rehearsal dinner marks one of the last times you will see all of your family and friends gathered together before you say I do at the wedding ceremony on Sunday. With that in mind, plan your rehearsal dinner carefully, so everyone who attends has a memorable time celebrating with you, not just sitting around the table bored or waiting in line at the buffet.
Wedding Rehearsal Dinners: Frequently Asked Questions
What should I wear?
Rehearsal dinners are usually pretty casual, so you don't need to break out the formalwear. A lovely sundress or slacks and a button-down should do the trick. If it's in the evening, a skirt or dress may be better than pants.
How long does the rehearsal last?
The rehearsal itself usually only lasts for about an hour. However, the dinner afterward can last anywhere from an hour to several hours, depending on the wedding party size and how well everyone knows each other.
What is a typical cost?
A typical cost for a rehearsal dinner ranges from $100-$500 per person, which typically includes food, drinks, and gratuity.
Is there an option for children at this event?
Yes, there are several options for children at this event. You can either have a separate table or include them with the adults. If you choose to have a separate table, include activities and games to keep them entertained. If you want to include them with the adults, ensure enough space for their seats and that they don't disrupt other guests.
Is it customary to bring gifts or cards for the hosts?
Bringing gifts or cards to wedding rehearsal dinner hosts is not customary. However, it is always appreciated if you choose to bring a small token of appreciation. A nice gesture would be to write a thank you note beforehand and bring it to dinner. You can also buy them a house plant or decorative gift card from their favorite store.