I know what you’re thinking, “I got engaged, planned an entire wedding.. and now you’re saying I need to plan a rehearsal dinner too?!”
Well, kind of. But I promise that it’s a lot simpler than a full-scale wedding. You’re gonna thank me when you read how easy planning a rehearsal dinner really is! I even put together a list of locations!
What Is A Rehearsal Dinner?
Your rehearsal dinner is typically held right after the wedding rehearsal on the night before your wedding and is a time when you can be together with your loved ones in a more casual setting. Come wedding day, you’re going to be pulled in lots of different directions so think of your rehearsal dinner as a chance to get in some good quality time and conversations over a meal. It’s also nice because your and your partner’s families will get to be together in a smaller setting, allowing you to get to know one another better and have some fun! A good rehearsal dinner aleves pre-wedding jitters and allows everyone to relax a bit more in preparation for the big day.
Traditionally, the bride’s parents foot the bill for the ceremony and wedding and the groom’s parents take care of the rehearsal dinner. But with more engaged couples paying for their own weddings, consider asking the parents to split financial responsibility for the dinner or even build the cost into your own wedding budget if you want to. These days, the wedding budget is a very personal choice so feel free to do whatever makes you and your families comfortable.
Choose Location and Time
In collaboration with whoever is helping to pay, such as your future mother in law, brainstorm locations for the dinner and coordinate the time with your venue’s rehearsal availability. If your rehearsal starts at 5:30 pm, have your dinner start at 7 pm to allow an hour for the rehearsal and an extra half hour for transportation from the venue. Think about the theme: how formal or casual do you want the night to be? You can host it at a restaurant where they will take care of everything from set up to dessert for you or you can have a parent host in their backyard where you will be responsible for everything from decor to coordinating who is making the dishes.
Pick Your Guests
Every member of the bridal party and their spouse or date should be invited to the dinner along with your immediate family and your partner’s immediate family. Some people also choose to extend invites to any out of town guests that will be arriving early as an extra way to show gratitude for making the trip, but it’s not mandatory. If you would rather not invite out of town guests or simply don’t have the room or budget, a “welcome bag” in their hotel room with beverages and snacks along with an invite to an informal after- dinner cocktail hour in the hotel lobby or nearby restaurant would be considerate. Send out those paper or e-invites soon after you send out your wedding invites.
Collaborate on Menu and Decor
If you and your partner are paying for the whole rehearsal dinner, you have total freedom to choose your menu and theme from your favorite pizzas to a four-course meal. However, if you are collaborating with your future mother in law or anyone else that is helping to foot the bill, it is considerate to let them have a say in what is going to be
served. This aspect of the rehearsal dinner is totally dependent on your comfort level with delegation. If you are already overwhelmed with wedding planning, let your soon to be mother in law plan the whole thing. Hey, if you don’t like it, most people will think you didn’t plan it anyway! But if you would rather be fully involved in planning the rehearsal dinner, remember to be respectful of the wishes of the person financially helping with the night.
Welcome and Toasts
The wedding weekend is finally here! The rehearsal dinner marks the first event in the festivities. Once everyone arrives, have the host welcome everyone to their home or to the restaurant. It would also be nice for you and your partner to say a few words of gratitude or excitement during the beginning of the night. The people at the rehearsal dinner are likely the most important people in your life, from your closest friends to your immediate family, and they have probably sacrificed their time, energy, and money to make the weekend happen. Saying an extra “thank you” never hurts. If you would like a few more people to make toasts throughout the evening, make sure to ask them a few weeks ahead of time so they can prepare.
Bridal Party Gifts
This is also the time that you and your partner hand out bridal party gifts, especially if the gifts are to be worn the next day for the wedding. If you also have gifts for the parents or grandparents, be sure to hand them out now to thank them for their love and support. On the wedding day, you will most likely be busy mingling and thanking other guests, so make sure to say any heartfelt words to them tonight.
Last Minute Reminders
While you still have everyone in one room with their undivided attention, close out the night with reminders of the next day’s activities. This can be anything from transportation shuttle times for guests to making sure the bridal party knows where they need to be, when they need to be there, and what to bring. It will be a nice refresher for what is going to be a busy weekend.
Your rehearsal dinner is one of the rare times that everyone you love is in the same room so keep everything simple and just enjoy their company. Shake out those nerves with a drink or lots of laughs and get ready for the big day!