Wedding Rehearsal Dinner Etiquette to Make It Memorable

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A rehearsal dinner is more than just a meal before the big day. It’s a chance to celebrate your love story, thank your family and friends, and get ready for the wedding of your dreams. But how do you make sure that your wedding rehearsal dinner is a memorable and enjoyable occasion for everyone involved?

That’s where our rehearsal dinner etiquette guide comes in handy. We’ll show you how to plan, host, and attend this event with grace and style. Whether you’re the host or a guest, knowing the dos and don’ts of rehearsal dinner may help create a warm atmosphere for the rest of the wedding party. So, let’s check with Viva Wedding Photography!

The 12 Questions about Rehearsal Dinner Etiquette You Need to Know

1. What is rehearsal dinner?

The rehearsal dinner is the event on the night before the wedding occasion that brings together the soon-to-be-wed couple and their loved ones. It’s a chance to practice the ceremony, iron out any kinks, and assign duties to the wedding party. It also gives out-of-town guests a chance to meet and talk to each other before the big day. After the rehearsal, everyone can enjoy a delicious meal or a fun activity, and toast to the happy couple’s future.

Rehearsal Dinner Etiquette
Rehearsal Dinner Etiquette – Photo by: Brides

2. Is a rehearsal dinner obligatory?

In terms of wedding etiquette, it’s totally up to you whether or not you want to have a rehearsal dinner. Everyone has different opinions. However, it’s up to the bride and groom to make the final decision. Ultimately, the choice is completely up to you, just like every other aspect of your special day!

3. Who should host and pay for the rehearsal dinner?

Traditional etiquette for rehearsal dinner suggests that the groom’s parents are expected to host and pay for the rehearsal dinner, as a way of balancing the costs of the wedding, which the bride’s parents usually cover. This is also a gesture of welcoming the bride into their family and showing their appreciation for her. However, this is not a strict rule, and many couples choose to break away from this custom and opt for a more flexible arrangement.

The host of the rehearsal dinner etiquette
The host of the rehearsal dinner etiquette – Photo by: Pexels

For example, some couples may decide to host and pay for the rehearsal dinner themselves, especially if they are older and more financially independent. Alternatively, they may ask other relatives or close friends to host the event, or even split the costs among several parties. The most important thing is to communicate clearly with everyone involved and make sure that no one feels left out or burdened by the expenses.

4. How much does a rehearsal dinner cost?

The rehearsal dinner is a fun and festive way to kick off your wedding celebrations. But how much will it set you back? The Knot says that the average rehearsal dinner cost in 2023 was $2,400. However, this number can vary widely depending on your choices and preferences. The type of venue and food, the number of guests, the alcohol policy, and other factors can all affect your final bill. 

If you’re sharing the cost with your family members, make sure to communicate and agree on a budget that works for everyone. You can also opt for a pre-fixe menu with wine pairings to avoid any surprises. Of course, if money is no object and you want to treat your guests to an open bar or a la carte ordering, be prepared to pay more.

5. Who should you invite to your rehearsal dinner guest list?

The rehearsal dinner is typically smaller and more intimate than the wedding ceremony and reception. The guest list can vary depending on the couple’s and their family’s tastes. Here are some key members that we recommend you don’t forget to include in your guest list.

Addressing rehearsal dinner invitations
Addressing rehearsal dinner invitations – Photo by: Etsy
  • Your immediate family is a must. This means your parents, siblings, and their partners or dates and kids.
  • Your bridesmaids, groomsmen, ushers, flower girl, and ring bearers are also essential. Don’t forget to invite their parents, partners, or dates as well.
  • Your officiant and the people who will read at your ceremony deserve an invite, too. Make sure to include their partners or dates as well.
  • If you have a few guests who have traveled far to join your wedding, it’s a nice gesture to invite them to your rehearsal dinner. But if you’re having a destination wedding, inviting all the out-of-town guests would mean inviting everyone. In that case, you can opt for a welcome party or a cocktail hour at another time before the wedding.

Generally, the rehearsal dinner guest list should be maintained at a moderate number. So, the couple and their families may spend quality time with their guests before the wedding day.

6. How do you invite guests to the rehearsal dinner?

Rehearsal dinner invitation etiquette is less formal than at the wedding. It doesn’t have to be a formal invitation, but everyone coming should get some sort of invitation. For example, an internet invitation or phone call is totally fine for a rehearsal dinner. On the other hand, we suggest including the rehearsal invitation with the main invitation suite to ensure the design is cohesive.

Rehearsal dinner invitations
Rehearsal dinner invitations – Photo by: pixelshot

7. When should you send rehearsal dinner invitations out?

Like any wedding planned event, visitors should be made aware four to six weeks in advance to allow for planning. This is part of the rehearsal dinner invitation etiquette that you should follow. One cannot anticipate who will be invited to the rehearsal dinner because some couples invite only their immediate relatives, while others invite almost all their wedding guests. Hence, inform your visitors as soon as possible and with consideration.

>>> Maybe you love: The Wedding Invitation Etiquette Guides For Avoid Mistakes

8. When will the rehearsal dinner be held?

The rehearsal dinner usually happens on the night before a traditional Saturday wedding, right after you practice the ceremony. But even if you don’t have a rehearsal, you can still enjoy a meal or a party with your loved ones. If you’re having a trendy Sunday or Friday wedding, you can host the dinner on the previous Thursday, Friday, or Saturday. Just make sure everyone gets enough rest and doesn’t stay up too late. You want to save some energy for the main attraction!

9. Where should the rehearsal dinner be held?

rehearsal dinner etiquette location
Rehearsal Dinner Invitation Etiquette With Location – Photo by: Here Comes The Guide

You want your guests to feel comfortable on your special day. That’s why you should choose a rehearsal dinner venue that’s not too far from their hotel or your wedding location. Ideally, it should be within 20 miles or less than 45 minutes of driving. Your guests will appreciate your thoughtfulness and generosity if you provide them with easy-to-follow directions or a convenient ride. After all, they are here to celebrate your love and happiness.

10. How formal should the rehearsal dinner be?

The formality of the rehearsal dinner is normally determined by the couples and their families’ wishes. The rehearsal dinner is typically less formal than the wedding ceremony and reception, but it may still be a pleasant opportunity to gather with close family and friends.

A rehearsal dinner might be as informal as a backyard BBQ or as formal as a sit-down dinner at a fine restaurant. When deciding on the formality of the rehearsal dinner, it is best to consider the overall wedding style and theme.

Etiquette Rehearsal Dinner With Formal Dinner
How formal is the rehearsal dinner etiquette? – Photo by: DWP Insider

If the wedding is particularly traditional, the rehearsal dinner may be formal, such as a sit-down meal at a restaurant or a cocktail party in a fancy setting. If the wedding is more casual, the rehearsal dinner can be a more relaxing occasion, such as a backyard BBQ or a picnic in the park.

11. Who should give rehearsal dinner toasts and in what order?

One of the highlights of any rehearsal dinner is the rehearsal dinner speech. If the groom’s parents are the hosts, his father may start by greeting everyone and raising a glass to the happy couple. The bride’s father may follow suit, and then invite any other guests who wish to share their words of wisdom or humor.

Etiquette for wedding rehearsal dinner suggests that the bride and groom should also take this opportunity to express gratitude to all the people who have helped them along the way. This is the perfect moment to surprise the wedding party (and maybe the parents) with some thoughtful gifts to show their appreciation.

Rehearsal dinner toasts
Rehearsal dinner toasts – Photo by: Brides

Finally, this is also a chance to remind the wedding party of the important details of the big day, such as when and where to show up, and what to bring. This way, everyone can relax and enjoy the night, knowing that everything is under control.

>>> Recommend reading: Wedding Etiquette For Parents Of The Groom To Follow

12. What is the rehearsal dinner dress etiquette?

The rehearsal dinner is a chance to show off your style and personality, and you have plenty of options to do so, depending on the theme of the event. If you are the stars of the show, you can go for a casual chic look with a sundress or a blouse and bottoms, or a glamorous look with a cocktail dress or a tuxedo. Just make sure to let your guests know the dress code in advance, following the rehearsal dinner dress etiquette.

If you are a guest, you want to honor the couple and the wedding theme, so steer clear of white, ivory, or any shade that might clash with the bride’s dress, unless the couple invites you to. You also want to be elegant and tasteful, so avoid anything too flashy, revealing, or inappropriate for the occasion.

Rehearsal dinner dress etiquette
Rehearsal dinner dress etiquette – Photo by: Brides

Rehearsal Dinner Checklist: How to Plan a Perfect Night

Planning a wedding can be overwhelming, but planning a rehearsal dinner doesn’t have to be. The night before the wedding is a time to enjoy the company of your loved ones, practice the ceremony, and get ready for the big day. Here are each step and some tips for planning a rehearsal that will make your night memorable and stress-free:

Step 1: Decide who’s hosting and paying

This is one of the first steps in planning this pre-wedding party. While the groom’s parents traditionally took care of this, modern couples can opt for different arrangements. You and your partner may want to pay for the rehearsal dinner yourselves or share the costs and duties with both families or other loved ones.

However, before you make any decisions, you should be aware of the etiquette for rehearsal dinner. Talk with your partner and your parents to find the best solution.

Step 2: Choose the venue and the theme

Don’t settle for a boring restaurant when you can have a rehearsal dinner that reflects your personality and style. Think of something that captures the essence of the couple, like a yacht club if they enjoy sailing and relaxing by the water or a vineyard if they are wine connoisseurs and enthusiasts. No matter what you choose, remember to coordinate the venue and the theme with the wedding style, the season, and the location. 

Step 3: Plan the menu and the drinks

Rehearsal Dinner Checklist - Etiquette for wedding rehearsal dinner
Rehearsal Dinner Checklist – Etiquette for wedding rehearsal dinner – Photo by: Wedding Wire

Nothing sets the tone for your big day like a delicious rehearsal dinner. Whether you want to wow your guests with a fancy feast or a casual buffet, you need to plan ahead and communicate with your venue or caterer. A prix fixe or buffet-style menu is a popular choice for rehearsal dinners, but make sure you and your partner are happy with the dishes.

Your guests will appreciate your thoughtfulness if you take into account their dietary needs and preferences. Allergies, vegetarianism, veganism, and other special diets should not stop anyone from enjoying the food. You can ask your guests to let you know of any dietary restrictions beforehand and offer them some tasty alternatives or options.

Step 4: Send out the invitations and confirm the RSVPs

Rehearsal dinner invitations
Rehearsal dinner invitations – Photo by: The Knot

The invitations should include the date, time, location, dress code, and theme of the rehearsal dinner, as well as any other details that your guests need to know. You can also spice up your invitations with some creative elements, such as colors, fonts, and graphics that reflect or contrast your wedding style. And don’t be afraid to add some personality, such as photos, quotes, or jokes, to make your invitations stand out.

To make your guests stress-free, include a map, directions, and parking information for the venue, as well as a contact number for any questions or changes. You don’t want anyone to get lost or confused on the way. 

Step 5: Prepare the entertainment and the activities

It is essential to follow some etiquette for a wedding rehearsal dinner, but etiquette doesn’t mean boring. Why not add some flair and flavor to the event with some entertainment and activities that reflect your style and personality? For instance, hiring a DJ, a band, or a comedian can set the tone and the mood with some tunes, jokes, or both. Playing some games, such as trivia, bingo, or charades, can warm up and engage everyone.

The activities for wedding rehearsal dinner etiquette
The activities for wedding rehearsal dinner etiquette – Photo by: Wedding Wire

Step 6: Give gifts for rehearsal dinner etiquette

While the rehearsal dinner is not a formal occasion to exchange gifts, some guests may want to bring a small token of appreciation for the hosts, such as a bottle of wine, a bouquet of flowers, or a personalized card. However, this is not expected and guests should not feel obliged to do so. 

On the other hand, the couple may use this time to give gifts to their attendants, such as the maid of honor, the best man, and the ring bearer. These gifts can show their gratitude and affection for their support and friendship throughout the wedding planning and the big day. The couple can also make a short speech to thank their attendants and express their feelings. This is part of the rehearsal dinner favors etiquette that you should be aware of.

Rehearsal dinner favors etiquette
Rehearsal dinner favors etiquette – Photo by: Getty Images

Step 7: Enjoy your ceremony

You have put so much effort and care into planning your wedding, and now you can relax and have some fun before the big day. Don’t let any worries or nerves get in the way of enjoying this wonderful night. Savour the food, the music, the atmosphere, and most importantly, the company of your loved ones. This is your night, and you deserve to have a blast.

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In conclusion, knowing the rules of rehearsal dinner etiquette is crucial for making the evening successful and making everyone feel welcome. So, consider these suggestions for Viva Wedding Photography and work hard to create a friendly and inviting ambiance. In that case, your rehearsal dinner will surely set the stage for a wonderful wedding celebration. 

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