The thought of planning a rehearsal dinner on top of the wedding celebration itself can be exhausting to even think about—but it doesn’t have to be! It might seem like yet another task to accomplish, but the rehearsal dinner planning process doesn’t have to add extra strain to your life. These steps will help you make sure everything is in order for a fun and stress-free rehearsal dinner.
Designate the Host
First things first: you need to figure out who is hosting! Traditionally, the groom’s parents would host the rehearsal dinner (given the bride’s parents were hosting the actual wedding), but in today’s world, couples are choosing to bend the rules a bit—some even choose to pay for it themselves. Whether you are going the traditional route or breaking out of the mold, you’ll need to figure out who is hosting. Hosting could mean a designated group (for example, the groom’s parents) are paying for and planning the rehearsal dinner. Or, the bride and groom may choose to accept their help with footing the bill, but take the reins on the actual planning.
Set Your Budget
Of course, a budget is key to keeping spending in check and not going beyond your means. Keep in mind food and drink, event space, furniture rentals, florals and decorations, gifts for the wedding party, and invitation costs when creating your budget.
Create Your Guest List
Typically, the rehearsal dinner guest list will include the wedding party and anyone else participating in the ceremony, as well as close family members. Don’t forget to include these guests’ dates as well. You may want to include people flying in from out-of-town—so long as that doesn’t send you over your capacity. If you are using a wedding coordinator, don’t forget to include them in your numbers too.
Think of a Theme
You might want to pick a theme to help guide your planning and design process. The location of your wedding could influence the theme: you might serve campfire classics if you are getting married in the mountains, or seafood if you’re tying the knot by the beach. You could also look at your first date for inspiration, or pull from your cultural heritage to create a global feast. Have fun with it!
Consider a More Casual Affair
Don’t let the thought of planning an extravagant rehearsal dinner stress you (or your wallet) out. If you like the idea of a more low-key rehearsal dinner, go for it! You might choose to throw it at a local friend or family member’s home for a more relaxed setting than a restaurant or event space. An open seating arrangement (as opposed to assigned seating) is also a great option for casual rehearsal dinners. It gives more freedom for guests to mingle with each other, and takes away the extra task of figuring out seating charts!
Pick Your Food
Of course, the food served at your rehearsal dinner is key for a successful event! If you are opting to host at a restaurant, see if any of your local favorites have a dining room that works for your guests (or if they have catering services if you are hosting off-site). As mentioned above, if you have chosen a theme, it likely can steer you in a certain direction as well. Italian and Mexican are often a bit more budget-friendly, so keep that in mind when narrowing down your choices.
Figure Out Your Timing
Traditionally, the rehearsal dinner will happen the night before the wedding, although if you are throwing the wedding over a 3 day weekend, you may be able to host it two nights before. For more condensed timelines, some choose to throw a rehearsal breakfast the day of the wedding.
You should expect the ceremony rehearsal to last around 30 to 45 minutes, with your dinner happening right after. If it is on a weekday, be sure that it is late enough so that local guests who are coming from work have enough time to get to the event, but early enough so that you aren’t eating too late. Typically, starting the rehearsal around 5:30 should work.
About two weeks before the rehearsal dinner, touch base with your coordinator and/or officiant to make sure the time for the rehearsal is set. Also check in with the restaurant or event space to make sure your reservation is in the books.
Send Out the Invites
Your invites may be sent with your wedding invitations, or separately about a month before. For smaller or more casual rehearsal dinners, an invite by email will suffice (and will save you money on printing invitations and postage).
Don’t Forget the Toasts!
Typically, the hosts of the rehearsal dinner will give a toast to the soon-to-be newlyweds, often at the start of the dinner. The couple may also like to give a small speech as well to thank everyone for coming to celebrate, and other family members may want their turn to say a few nice words. Members of the bridal and groomsmen party may also give a toast, though the best man and maid of honor will likely save their toast for the actual wedding. Let everyone know ahead of time when they should expect to give their toast so that they aren’t caught off-guard.