How To Plan Your Wedding Rehearsal Dinner: Everything You Need To Know

jennifer skulski wedding hashers guest author

Jennifer Skulski

Published: Jun 24, 2022

Last Updated: Jul 28, 2022

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As your wedding day gets closer, you’ll want to start giving more thought to your pre-wedding celebrations such as the wedding rehearsal dinner. The wedding rehearsal is your chance to practice your ceremony before the real thing. This event is typically followed up by a rehearsal dinner where you and a small guest list celebrate one last time prior to the wedding day.

Curious about how to plan a rehearsal dinner and what to do during one? Fear not, this guide will break down the event in seven helpful steps!

What Is A Rehearsal Dinner?

Before we cover how to plan a wedding rehearsal dinner, it’d be best to define the event first. The rehearsal dinner serves as a celebration before your big day where your guests can mingle and enjoy the evening. Typically, the dinner will be held the night before your wedding day.

Not all your wedding guests should be invited to this more intimate event. Rehearsal dinners should be reserved for the close friends and family members who have roles on your big day including your immediate family, your bridal party and wedding party, the flower girl and ring bearer, the officiant, witnesses, and anyone with a speaking role.

As these guests will want to practice their roles at the wedding rehearsal, they should then also be invited to the celebratory dinner to follow.

rehearsal dinner table inspiration photo

How To Plan Your Rehearsal Dinner: 7 Steps

1. Select Who Will Be Hosting

As it’s traditionally the bride’s family who hosts and takes care of the wedding ceremony, it’s traditionally the groom’s family who hosts the wedding rehearsal dinner. However, many modern couples aren’t afraid to switch things up and have the host be whoever’s willing or most convenient.

As for where your rehearsal dinner can be held, if it’s not at the groom’s parent’s home, it can be a backyard celebration at another family home or a reservation at a lovely restaurant, hotel, catering space, or other unique location. The most important thing when it comes to selecting the location is being considerate of the distance.

The rehearsal dinner should be within a decent range from where the rest of the festivities will be taking place. Your guests will be traveling in from all over to attend your big day. It’s best to be courteous of their travel time by hosting the dinner within no more than 15 to 20 miles of their hotel and the ceremony and reception site.

photo of wedding rehearsal kiss

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2. Figure Out Your Budget

When creating your ideal wedding budget, you may want to factor in the cost of your wedding rehearsal dinner. Plan ahead as to who will take care of the dinner’s expenses. Traditionally, the groom’s side of the family handles the wedding rehearsal dinner costs.

However, over time this tradition has adapted to become a more even split as both sides of the family take on a percentage of the costs. Discuss with you and your families to decide the best way to handle the costs and budget for your dinner accordingly.

charleston rehearsal dinner photo of bride and groom

3. Decide Who You’re Inviting

The wedding rehearsal dinner is a more intimate event than the ceremony itself. Everyone invited to the dinner should be invited to your wedding; however, not all your wedding guests should be invited to the rehearsal dinner.

Wondering who to invite to the rehearsal dinner? Well, you’ll want to invite your immediate family members such as your parents, grandparents, and siblings. Then you should also invite anyone who plays a role in your ceremony, including your wedding party and the officiant. 

If those you plan on inviting are coming from out of town, it’s also proper etiquette to allow them a plus one for the dinner and wedding itself.

photo of bride's family at rehearsal

Pro Tip: For more information on wedding rehearsal etiquette, what to wear, and who you should invite, check out our guide!

4. Send Your Invitations

Next, you’ll want to think about the invitations. Some couples choose to go all-out with fun stationery invitations. Other couples choose not to as they have already sent out invitations for their wedding day. 

You may wish to plan out all your guest lists beforehand and indicate which wedding-related events each guest is invited to in one wedding invitation. Aside from the wedding rehearsal dinner and the wedding itself, you may also be planning a post-wedding brunch or other celebrations, especially for a weekend wedding. If that’s the case, you can specify all the events the guest is welcome to attend on one invitation, noting that details will follow.

A simpler and perhaps more efficient way to invite your guests to secondary events like this would be to create digital invitations that include all the dinner details. Spread the word electronically with a fun yet effective digital invitation.

rehearsal dinner invitation photo with sunflower background

5. Select A Theme For Your Rehearsal

Another fun way to plan an incredible wedding rehearsal dinner would be to consider making it themed. You can use this celebratory night as a way to celebrate your and your partner’s favorite things or call attention to the wedding location.

For example, you may wish to have a sweet and sentimental nostalgia-themed dinner party complete with childhood pictures and fun memories from both sides of the family.

For location-based options, these may include a beach or nautical-themed dinner for a wedding by the sea or a rustic-themed rehearsal dinner for a wedding in the woods

Be sure to take into account your rehearsal dinner budget when deciding if and what theme would work best. There are plenty of clever and cost-effective ways to make a theme shine bright even with a low budget. Just be sure to plan ahead!

rustic rehearsal dinner invitation and table decor
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6. Decide On The Menu

Although it’s often referred to as the “wedding rehearsal dinner,” you don’t have to make it a dinnertime affair. If brunch or lunch is more your style, you can absolutely host it at a different time of day.

As for the menu, you should decide whether or not you’ll have the meal catered, hosted at a restaurant with their designated menu, or otherwise. When planning out the menu, consider whether you’d want the meal to be fancy or keep it casual and save the fancy meal for the wedding day.

If your wedding rehearsal dinner guest list is getting lengthy, you can even consider hosting a cocktail hour instead and serve drinks, hors d’oeuvres, or mini desserts instead of a full meal.

Another fun menu option includes renting out a wedding food truck for your dinner and having your guests enjoy snacks or full meals from a professional food truck rather than a more formal dinner.

beach-themed rehearsal dinenr with lobster

7. Create A Schedule

To help keep the event organized while also informing the guests what the rehearsal dinner will entail, you may also wish to create a schedule for your event. Consider planning time for speeches, a video or slideshow of adorable images of you and your spouse, and of course a designated time for when cocktails, dinner, and/ or dessert will be served.

In general, most wedding rehearsal dinners will last two to three hours. Aside from the meal being the main event, be sure to plan out what other activities might be able to fill out that amount of time.

photo of wedding couple giving rehearsal dinner speech

Wedding Rehearsal Dinner: Frequently Asked Questions

What does the bride wear to the rehearsal dinner?

Brides at their rehearsal dinner typically decide to wear a short white dress. Depending on the style of party you’re throwing, you may want a longer dress for a more formal affair, a cocktail dress for a semi-formal dinner, or jeans and a nice blouse for a casual backyard celebration.

What does the groom wear to the rehearsal dinner?

Grooms typically wear tuxedos or a dark-colored suit to their wedding rehearsal dinners. If the event is more casual, they can wear jeans and a polo shirt.

What should guests wear to the rehearsal dinner?

The dress code for guests at a rehearsal dinner will differ according to the couple’s preference and of course the location of the event. In general, men can’t go wrong with dress pants and a button-down shirt while women can’t go wrong with a cocktail dress or nice dress shirt.

Is a rehearsal dinner necessary?

Having a rehearsal dinner is not a requirement. It can however be a lovely way to celebrate with close friends and family while calming pre-wedding jitters. It also allows both sides of the family time to catch up and mingle before the big day. Ultimately, whether or not you have one is completely up to you!

Who gets gifts at rehearsal dinner?

Traditionally, the bride and groom should be doing the gift-giving at the rehearsal dinner where they give out gifts to their bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girl, and ring bearer as a token of appreciation.

Do you bring anything to a wedding rehearsal?

As a guest, there’s no need to bring anything to the wedding rehearsal. No gifts are expected at this event unless they’re favors coming from the bride and groom themselves.

Time For Dinner!

Whether you choose to have a wedding rehearsal breakfast, lunch, or dinner, we hope you now are feeling more confident about hosting this pre-wedding event! 

Remember, this is a celebration to get your family and friends together one last time before the big day. Have some fun with it by selecting a venue, menu, and theme that best fits the vibe you’re looking for. After walking through the wedding rehearsal, you’ll now have the chance to celebrate. Enjoy!

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