Rehearsal Dinner 101: The Who, What, When, and Where of This Pre-Wedding Party

Your engagement may be one of the busiest times of your life. Not only are you planning the big day, but you're fluttering around from pre-wedding party to party like a diamond wearing butterfly. There's the engagement party, bridal shower,  bachelorette party, and rehearsal dinner. 

You've probably read and heard lots of information about the bridal shower and bach. party, but what about the rehearsal dinner? You don't see a lot of Pinterest inspiration on that one, much less the basic info on what this get together actually is.

Allow us to give you the low down, the 101 on the who, what, when, and where of the wedding rehearsal dinner.

What is a rehearsal dinner? 

A rehearsal dinner gives the two families a chance to relax and have fun together before the big day. Everyone sits down to a meal (so retro!) and chats, and it gives the couple a chance to spend some quality time with family and friends. It's a great way to relieve some tension and ease into the main event.

When does a rehearsal dinner happen?

Traditionally, the rehearsal dinner was held the night before the wedding, but some couples choose to have it two days before. It's up to you, your schedule, and your guests' schedules. For some, having it the night before can feel hectic, while others don't need a lot of time to recuperate before the big day. 

Who hosts a rehearsal dinner? 

The traditional way to handle who hosts the dinner is by giving the groom's parents the reigns, but like most wedding planning, you can mix it up to suit you and the family's needs. Sometimes both sets of parents handle the party and other times the couple hosts and pays for the get together. If need be, have a chat with your future in-laws 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 parents of child attendants (children optional). Some couples extend their invites to include extended family members, like grandparents, and as a kind gesture, the officiant.

You can choose to send formal invitations shortly after you mail out your wedding invites or you can stick with a digital invitation or phone call, depending on how casual/intimate the rehearsal dinner will be. Once you have a concrete guest list, let your caterer/venue know, preferably two months before the dinner date. 

Where should you have a rehearsal dinner? 

The short answer is, wherever you'd like! Some couples have a formal sit down dinner at a restaurant, while others choose to keep it casual with a backyard barbecue. If you choose to host at a restaurant, make sure you look at the menu before booking to see what's offered. Although the dinner is about you and your fiance, you should consider your guests' dietary needs as well. 

What happens at a rehearsal dinner?

The dinner begins with welcoming and mingling with guests, followed by dinner, toasts (consider a slideshow during this time), and any last minute reminders/info the guests should know. You can also do a gift exchange where you hand out the wedding party and parent gifts. Some couples even present each other with a special wedding gift.  

That's the 101 on the wedding rehearsal dinner. Like most things, this pre-wedding get together is completely optional. If you do choose to have one, Real Simple has a rehearsal dinner planning checklist to help you stay on track.

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