How to Plan Your Rehearsal Dinner

Keep the festivities before the main event simple and relaxed. Here, a few tips to help you have a great rehearsal dinner before your wedding day.

dress rehearsal
HINT: Keep your rehearsal dinner simple and festive; it should never be more formal than the wedding.


TOASTS The groom’s father, if he is the host, can welcome guests with a formal toast. Ditto the best man. At that point, other well wishers can take the floor (toasts can be a bit longer and more humorous on this night than at the wedding). Later, you and your fi ancé may also want to take a moment to toast each other and publicly thank your hosts.

GIFTS Distribute your thank-you presents to the bridesmaids and groomsmen, especially if it’s something you would like them to wear at the wedding.

PERFORMANCES If secular readings (your friend has written a special poem) or popular songs (your cousin wants to serenade you with “In My Life,” by the Beatles) aren’t appropriate for your wedding ceremony, the rehearsal dinner is a great time to include them.

SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS Many rehearsal dinners feature slide shows or videos incorporating pictures and footage from the bride’s and groom’s pasts. Have a techsavvy pal set up and display your presentation. Otherwise, you might get stuck troubleshooting a problem and miss all the fun.

Many newlywed couples say that the rehearsal dinner, traditionally a way for the bride’s and groom’s families to get acquainted, was even more fun than the day itself. Why? The rehearsal dinner is a celebration that allows you to rejoice and mellow out with your loved ones before the major excitement starts. You get to spend quality time with your favorite people (you probably won’t have time for long conversations at the reception), and everyone gets to know each other better. Many couples find it very cool to see their entire “lives” converging in one room. Excited? We hope so. Here’s how to pull yours off perfectly.

When is it?

Even though most people have their rehearsal dinner the evening before the wedding, immediately following the ceremony run-through, you can have it whenever you want.

Who pays?

Traditionally, the groom’s parents plan and pay for the rehearsal dinner. These days, however, many couples shell out for the shindig themselves or ask both sets of parents to share the cost.

Who’s invited?

Your rehearsal dinner must, must, must include: all members of the wedding party (and their spouses or dates); parents of flower girls or ring bearers in the wedding, if the little ones are invited; all parents, stepparents and grandparents of the bride and groom, plus siblings who are not in the wedding party (and their spouses or signifi cant others); and often the officiate and his or her spouse. Out-of-town guests should also be invited, but if you prefer to keep the gathering more intimate, schedule an event for them at another location. You could have a welcome reception at a restaurant or at the hotel where they’re staying, or informal cocktails at the home of a relative or close friend.

How formal should the dinner be?

The degree of formality is at the discretion of the hosts, but it should never exceed the formality (or lavishness) of the actual wedding. Whatever the rehearsal dinner’s style, it’s always courteous to send invitations after you’ve received wedding RSVPs. They needn’t be fancy—you can find fill-in-the-blank ones at stationery stores or make them on your computer at home.

Where do we have it?

You might have the rehearsal dinner at a restaurant, preferably with an attractive private room; in someone’s backyard (for a cookout!); or even at a clam shack or pizza parlor for a super casual affair. Be creative, because, really, anything goes as long as you and your guests are relaxed, comfortable and having a good time.