Who Pays for the Rehearsal Dinner?

Plus, how to save big on this pre-wedding party.
kim forrest the knot
Kim Forrest
kim forrest the knot
Kim Forrest
Senior Editor
  • Kim writes and edits articles for The Knot Worldwide, specializing in etiquette and planning advice
  • Kim manages freelance writers for The Knot Worldwide
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Kim was Associate Bridal Editor at Washingtonian magazine and Associate Fashion Editor at Conde Nast’s Brides Local magazines
Updated Jan 13, 2023
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A rehearsal dinner is frequently the kick-off event to the wedding weekend, when the couple and their closest loved ones gather to celebrate the impending big day after rehearsing the ceremony. This celebration can be a small and intimate fête or what basically amounts to a mini wedding reception. One of the most-asked rehearsal dinner etiquette questions is "Who pays for the rehearsal dinner?", and while the answer may seem pretty straightforward, there are lots of options. If you're in the thick of wedding planning and ready to start putting arranging your rehearsal dinner, we're here to help you figure out who's on the hook for hosting—and paying.

Who Pays for a Wedding Rehearsal Dinner?

Traditionally, the groom's family pays for the rehearsal dinner. But these days, there are many options when it comes to rehearsal dinner hosts. While the groom's parents are the typical choice, a bride's parents, close friends, family members or the couple themselves can also host (read: pay for) this pre-wedding event—or several people or groups can split the costs and planning responsibilities.

Remember that whoever contributes financially to the rehearsal dinner has a say in all decisions, from the guest list to the venue. The hosts also usually give a toast during the event. If the couple wants full control over the rehearsal dinner planning process, they should pay for the event themselves, otherwise they'll have to share the decision-making with others.

Who Pays for the Rehearsal Dinner If Parents Are Divorced?

Planning a wedding with divorced parents or in-laws can be complicated. At the beginning of wedding planning, we recommend having a conversation with all parents to discuss their willingness and ability to contribute financially and how involved they'd like to be in the process.

If divorced parents would both like to pay for the rehearsal dinner, they can split the cost and planning responsibilities, and host the event together (they can sit separately and give separate toasts, though). However, if they're unable to work together amicably, one parent can host the rehearsal dinner and another can host the next-day brunch, engagement party or other wedding-related event. Remember, too, that parents do not have to host an event if they're on a tight budget or unable to devote the time to planning.

How Much Does a Rehearsal Dinner Typically Cost?

According to The Knot Real Wedding Study, the average rehearsal dinner costs $2,300. That said, the cost varies widely depending on the location and size of your event. Couples who opt to keep their rehearsal dinner guest list to just immediate family and members of the wedding party (the officiant is often invited as well), will likely pay less than those who opt to include all their out-of-town guests, or even their entire wedding guest list (common at destination weddings).

Do You Pay for Everyone at the Rehearsal Dinner?

Yes, the hosts are required to pay for all of the guests at a rehearsal dinner. It's not really appropriate to ask guests to pay for this event, the reason being that the wedding party is required to attend the rehearsal; it is not an optional event that they can bow out of if they cannot afford the dinner. For this reason, you really can't expect them to pay for their own meal.

What Expenses Are Part of a Rehearsal Dinner Budget?

When it comes to deciding who pays for the rehearsal dinner, it's important to have any idea of the different expenses you'll need to account for. The rehearsal dinner can be treated as part of the total wedding budget, or more likely, an entirely separate budget. Here's a short list of what you'll need to account for as you start planning this pre-wedding event:

  • Rehearsal Dinner Venue
  • Catering (food and drink)
  • Flowers and Decorations
  • Rentals (table linens, china, flatware, glassware, etc.)
  • Invitations and Paper Goods (menus, place cards, etc.)
  • Attire
  • Professional Photography (optional)
  • Other Vendors (DJ, hair and makeup, entertainment, if desired)

If you're hosting your rehearsal dinner at an all-inclusive venue, like a restaurant or country club, many of these services may be included. Otherwise, you'll have to hire separate vendors to handle food, beverage, rentals and more.

You may also wish to enlist a planner to assist you with this event. If you're already hired a wedding planner, they can likely help with the rehearsal dinner—though it may not be included in their package, so you'd have to pay an additional cost for their services here.

Rehearsal Dinner Budget Tips

Rehearsal dinner costs can easily get out of control if you're not careful. Here are some ways to save money on your rehearsal dinner that won't sacrifice a memorable event.

Keep the guest list small.

The more rehearsal dinner guests you invite, the more you'll spend. Restricting your guest list to just those who attend the wedding ceremony rehearsal (immediate family members, wedding party members and the officiant, who may or may not attend), will keep your budget under control.

Throw a casual event.

Rehearsal dinners are usually more casual than the wedding day. You can cut food costs by throwing a casual and inexpensive pizza dinner or a BBQ in your (or a family member's) backyard.

Book an all-inclusive venue.

If you go the venue route, choosing a space that offers in-house catering, bar and rentals can mean savings and convenience. Restaurants, country clubs, hotels and banquet halls are popular rehearsal dinner venues that usually offer in-house services.

Skip the assigned seating.

Rehearsal dinners often have open seating, so guests can sit wherever they like. This not only gives the event a more casual vibe, but is a good money-saving tactic. Not having a formal seating chart means no escort cards, no place cards and no need to spend hours figuring out where everyone is going to sit—win-win!

Forgo a plated dinner.

Buffet or cocktail-style meals tend to be cheaper than a formal seated dinner. Again, these casual serving styles line up with a rehearsal dinner's more relaxed vibe.

Plan a rehearsal lunch or brunch.

Skip the dinner all together! Lunch or brunch fare tends to cost less than dinner, so instead of holding your event in the evening, host it in the late morning or afternoon. And—bonus!—hosting your rehearsal "dinner" earlier in the day means you'll get plenty of beauty sleep the night before the big day.

Limit the bar.

Alcohol costs can add up quickly, especially at a rehearsal dinner. Instead of offering a full open bar, just serve wine, beer and perhaps a signature cocktail to keep expenses manageable.

Save on attire.

It can be super-tempting to blow your budget on an amazing rehearsal dinner ensemble. Instead, use this event as an opportunity to save by renting attire, repurposing an outfit belonging to your mom or grandmother or borrowing accessories from a friend.

Select inexpensive rehearsal dinner invitations.

While sending online rehearsal dinner invitations is an option, there are many affordable printed rehearsal dinner invitations available. Include rehearsal dinner invitations with your main wedding invitations to save on postage, and allow guests to RSVP on your wedding website, or via email or phone. Visit The Knot Invitations for budget-friendly rehearsal dinner invitation ideas and options.

Choose affordable decorations.

If you're hosting your rehearsal dinner in a space that's already well decorated, like a restaurant, you may not need additional decor. Check out The Knot Shop for budget-friendly decorations to affordably amp up your space.

Consider an after-party.

If you're limiting your guest list for the actual rehearsal dinner, there are still ways to include the rest of your crew. Invite out-of-town guests (or everyone!) to the venue or another location for dessert or drinks after the main event, so that everyone will be able to celebrate but you won't have to feed the whole gang.

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