Wedding Rehearsal Dinner Etiquette

A set table at a wedding rehearsal with pink napkins.

Everyone’s heard of a rehearsal dinner, but not everyone knows the etiquette of planning one. In fact, when it comes to planning your own rehearsal dinner, it can be a little confusing and even overwhelming facing the questions surrounding this event. Knowing the traditional etiquette for this pre-wedding event can really help guide your planning, though, and put you well on your way to a fun and memorable rehearsal dinner.

Who Pays for the Rehearsal Dinner?

Traditionally, the family of the groom pays for the rehearsal dinner. This goes along with the traditional assumption that the bride’s family is paying for the actual wedding. Of course, not every couple follows these traditions, so there is certainly wiggle room. Figuring out who is going to handle the finances of your rehearsal dinner can be a bit awkward, but it’s important to have an open and honest conversation with your families when you begin planning to get an idea of what the budgets are.

Who Attends the Rehearsal Dinner?

A bride and groom hugging their grandma.

You also may be wondering who attends a rehearsal dinner. There are guidelines that help pave the way for your invite list, although of course you can make adjustments as you see fit. Traditionally, parents, siblings, the wedding party and their plus-ones, your officiant, and any readers, ushers, or anyone else involved in your ceremony should attend. Many couples choose to extend the invite list to include the ring bearer and flower girls and their parents, out-of-town guests, grandparents, and other extended family members.

How Do You Invite Guests?

It’s traditional to send an invitation to your guests for a rehearsal dinner. This is usually separate from your actual wedding invitation, although you could opt to put an insert in the suite for those you’re inviting to your rehearsal instead so that everything arrives together. You can also opt to send an evite, which is simpler and more cost-effective. Either way, you should definitely send all of the details to your guests so they know what to expect. Refrain from putting information about your rehearsal on your wedding website unless all guests are invited, since that could lead to confusion of guests assuming they are invited to attend the dinner when they may not be.

Where Should You Have Your Rehearsal Dinner?

A bride and groom with their bridal party at a rooftop rehearsal dinner.

This question has more flexibility in the answer. However, you’ll want to pick a location that is reasonably close to your ceremony venue for everyone’s convenience, including your own. Aim to keep the venue within a 30-minute drive. It’s always nice to provide guests with directions and transportation options to the venue, to make their travel as seamless as possible.

How Formal Is a Rehearsal Dinner?

This one is completely up to you! While you are certainly free to make your rehearsal dinner formal, you can also be creative with the formality and theme of this evening. If you want to make your rehearsal dinner more relaxed, you can go with a less formal theme, such as a Mexican fiesta, a clambake, a bowling night, a casino night, or anything else that strikes your fancy.

Who Makes the Toasts?

This is a commonly asked question about rehearsal dinners, but the answer varies. If the groom’s parents are hosting the event, it’s traditional for them to make toasts if they want to do so. It’s also a good time for the siblings of the groom to make toasts if they’re not doing so at the wedding. This is also a good time to “open the floor” to let your guests say anything they want to, as it’s a less formal event with a smaller guest list. This will be meaningful to both you and the guests, so it’s a nice thing to do during this event.

Rehearsal dinners are a special event and while these are the traditions surrounding them, there’s always room for customization and flexibility to fit your preferences and needs.

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