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Expert Advice: What to Do for Your Rehearsal Dinner

The décor has been selected, the arrangements made and the plans set in motion. It’s officially time to savor each moment as the wedding weekend unfolds. The rehearsal dinner is often the first scheduled event of the weekend, so it’s important to set the tone with the right ambiance. Depending upon the guest list, budget and wishes of the hosts, the rehearsal dinner can consist of anything from a formal affair to a casual barbecue.

Who Should Host
Traditionally, the groom’s parents host the rehearsal dinner. However, given that many couples are paying for their own weddings these days, the rehearsal dinner can be hosted by both sets of parents, grandparents or close friends and family. It is recommended that the host confer with the couple regarding the theme, menu, decorations and location to ensure it is copasetic with the rest of the weekend. This ensures that the event goes off without a hitch and doesn’t conflict with any of the other wedding plans. The cost of a rehearsal dinner can vary widely, as there are several components to consider. Some factors include the size of the wedding party, the size of each family, the venue as well as the menu.

When to Schedule
Rehearsal dinners often follow the ceremony rehearsal, which is held the evening prior to the wedding. However, the rehearsal party can be celebrated with a brunch or lunch and is most often a casual event. If it is a dinner, tradition suggests that the festivities conclude relatively early in the evening to allow the couple, wedding party and family an opportunity to relax and unwind before the big day to come.

Whom to Invite
The hosts of the rehearsal dinner decide the number of guests to invite. The soon-to-be newlyweds, wedding party, parents of the couple, officiant and spouse, readers and their guests must be invited to the dinner, as they are part of the rehearsal ceremony itself. However, you may also wish to include out-of-town guests and a few close friends to make the event more of a welcoming party for them. Written invitations are not required; however, it is wise to send invitations when the guest list includes more than family. Unless all wedding guests are invited to the rehearsal dinner, no information regarding the rehearsal event should be placed on your wedding website.

Setting the Tone
Rehearsal dinners can be a terrific way to give guests the opportunity to gather in a warm and welcoming environment ahead of the weekend’s festivities. The meal can be a plated gourmet dinner, a tasty backyard barbecue or anything in between. It is often a great time for out-of-town guests to visit with family and spend time with the couple before the big day. Still stumped on what type of dinner to host? Here are some of our favorite ideas.

Backyard Barbecue
Hosted at a family member’s home or acreage, this option is relaxed, budget-friendly and ideal for couples with large families that include small children. To make things easy and enjoyable, consider including yard games, setting up a self-serve beverage stand or hosting a bonfire for roasting marshmallows.

Food Truck
If your ceremony is being held at an outdoor location such as a public park, try changing up the pace from the typical dinner fare and hire your favorite local food truck to treat everyone after the rehearsal with a yummy meal. Paired with some refreshments, bring along beverages and snacks on picnic blankets for guests to relax on the grounds. You can all enjoy a relaxing dinner picnic style.

Restaurant
For smaller rehearsal dinners, hosting the meal at a restaurant is a great choice for planners because it minimizes any stress or mess to clean up the evening prior to the wedding. This makes restaurants the ideal choice for busy parents of the bride or groom who are busy preparing for the wedding the following day. Choose from a pre-selected menu or ask guests to RSVP with their favorite dinner option. It is always recommended to include a note on the dinner invitation addressing dress code. Some restaurants even offer the option to rent the entire space for your event, in which case they’ll close it to the public so that you can enjoy a private rehearsal dinner at your favorite spot.

Proper Protocol
Toasts are often a large part of the evening’s festivities and can sometimes be spontaneous. In this intimate setting, guests feel more at ease sharing memories, stories and well wishes for the happy couple. If the groom’s parents are hosting, the groom’s father will often greet guests and offer a toast to the couple. The father of the bride can toast next, followed by any of the attendants or guests who wish to speak. The newlyweds also can greet guests and say a few words of thanks for their support.

The best advice is to always focus on guests’ comfort while showing appreciation for their time commitment. A wedding is about celebrating love with friends and family, but the rehearsal dinner should honor the loved ones present who may have invested lengthy travel to celebrate and support this marriage. Treat your guests to an evening of fun entertainment, tasty food and refreshing beverages to kick off a weekend that they will never forget.

Ashley Nicole Photography's shot of an engaged couple in Nebraska
Ashley Nicole Photography