Your engagement is a time of, not only wedding planning, but pre-wedding parties. There is the engagement party, bridal shower, bachelor/bachelorette party, and rehearsal dinner. Friends and family may plan and host some of these celebrations, but you and your fiancé may choose to take on the responsibility of the rehearsal dinner.

If so, you’ve come to the right place to get the 101 on what the wedding rehearsal dinner involves. These are the basic facts that you need to know before planning the get together.

Related: 7 Things You Should Definitely Not Do While Wedding Planning

A low tatami dinner table set with flatware, candles and flowers rests on a rug outside surrounded by pillows and poofs with a white chapel in the background. Photography by Austin, Texas wedding photographer Nikk Nguyen.

What is a rehearsal dinner?

The rehearsal dinner was born out of necessity. Back in ye olden times, weddings involved a lot of travel, as guests would arrive from days of traveling in the slowest of the slow transportation. Once they got to their destination, it was imperative that the bride and groom gift their guests with a good meal and some time to relax.

This may not be an obligation anymore, but a rehearsal dinner is still a nice way to say thank you to those who’ve helped you plan your wedding.

The actual wedding day will be a whirlwind of activities, which is why the rehearsal dinner is such a beloved tradition. It gives you and your fiancé a chance to catch your breath, spend time with the people who mean the most to you, and enjoy a mindful meal.

The get together can also break the ice between the two families and allow everyone to get to know each other a little better.

When does a rehearsal dinner happen?

Traditionally, the rehearsal dinner was held the night before the wedding, but ultimately it's up to you, your schedule, and your guests' schedules. Most couples either have it the night before or a couple of days before the wedding.

waiters arm holds a white plate with elegant reception appetizers. Photograph by Austin, Texas wedding photographer Nikk Nguyen.

Who hosts a rehearsal dinner?

Tradition says the groom's parents host the dinner, but these days, anything goes. Sometimes both sets of parents handle the party and other times the couple hosts and pays for the get together. To be sure, have a chat with your future in-laws, as well as your own family to see where they stand on the issue.

Who is invited to a rehearsal dinner?

The guest list should include the immediate families, wedding party members and their significant others, and the parents of any children participating in your wedding (ring bearer, flower girl, etc.) Some couples include grandparents and other extended family in their invitations.

As for invitations, you can mail formal invites soon after you mail out your wedding invitations or, if you’re planning a laid-back dinner you can go the digital route or call guests to give them the information.

Wooden table sits outside under a canopy and is set with flatware, candles and flowers with white, metal chairs around it. Photograph by Austin, Texas wedding photographer Nikk Nguyen.

Where should you have a rehearsal dinner?

Wherever you'd like! You might choose to have a formal sit down dinner at a restaurant or keep it casual with a backyard buffet. Just remember to think about who you’re inviting and any special needs they may have, whether it’s transportation, physical, or dietary related.

What happens at a rehearsal dinner?

The dinner begins with welcoming and mingling with guests, followed by dinner, toasts, and any reminders/info the guests should know. If you have gifts for the parents and/or wedding party members, you can hand them out during the event, and you may choose to present your fiancé with a special wedding gift as well.

Now that you know the who, what, when, and where of the rehearsal dinner, you can start planning this special celebration. Of course, like most pre-wedding parties, it’s completely optional, but as previously mentioned, it’s a great way to show your appreciation, relax, and enjoy a great meal with friends and family.

Related: Don’t Forget These Things on Your Wedding Day

Looking for more of the 101 on rehearsal dinners or wedding planning? There is more where this came from! Let's chat!


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