A Step-by-Step Rehearsal Dinner Checklist to Help You Plan Like a Pro

We've outlined every task in chronological order.
Samantha Iacia - The Knot wedding style expert
Samantha Iacia
  • Samantha writes articles for The Knot Worldwide, with a speciality in wedding decor, trends, and fashion
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Samantha was a features and weddings contributor for The Baltimore Sun
  • She is based in Washington, D.C. and holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism
Updated May 31, 2023

Even though the wedding day is the main event, the party that takes place the night before is just as important (and can be equally as fun). This rehearsal dinner checklist outlines everything you need to do from start to finish, whether you're planning your own rehearsal dinner or organizing the event on behalf of the couple. Plus, we've created a handy printable rehearsal dinner timeline to help you stay on track with the major to-dos.

Printable Rehearsal Dinner Checklist

Bookmark this article and print out the following rehearsal dinner checklist to keep the most important dates at your fingertips.

printable rehearsal dinner checklist PDF
Design by Tiana Crispino

Four to Five Months Before

Start planning a few months ahead of the wedding day to ensure there's enough time to reserve the venue and zero in on a budget. Here's what to cross off of your rehearsal dinner checklist first.

Decide who's hosting.

Traditionally, the rehearsal dinner is thrown in the couple's honor (often by the groom's parents), but really anyone can host. Some couples even choose to host the party themselves. One thing to keep in mind: The host usually takes care of the bill, which also means they get to be the creative director (read: the venue, theme and decorations are up to them). If you're hosting the rehearsal dinner on behalf of the couple, be sure to get their input on the major details, like the guest list, date and time frame—it's important that everything aligns with the rest of their wedding week schedule.

Discuss and choose a budget.

This is the pregame, not the main event, so don't feel pressured to spend big on elaborate centerpieces and an expensive four-course dinner. You're inviting a smaller group of guests and the focus should be on conversation and mingling, so it's okay to keep this event a little more low-key. Based on The Knot 2022 Real Wedding Study, the average cost of a rehearsal dinner is $2,400, but that will change depending on where you host the party and how many people are invited.

Set the date and time.

The rehearsal dinner usually takes place on the eve of the wedding day following the run-through at the ceremony venue. Depending on venue availability, the rehearsal might have to take place two or three nights before the wedding—but it shouldn't happen any further out than a week prior. Aim to start the dinner around 6 or 7 p.m. so that you can wrap up early enough for everyone to get a good night's rest before the big day.

Finalize the guest list.

When it comes to the rehearsal dinner guest list, the must-invites include the couple's immediate families, the entire wedding party (and their plus-ones, if applicable) and your officiant. You can also invite relatives and friends who aren't part of the wedding but are very close with the couple. Keep in mind that the rehearsal dinner isn't the same as a wedding welcome party, so you should aim to keep the group fairly small. Based on the number of people you're inviting, you'll be able to choose a venue with the appropriate amount of space.

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Pick a theme and venue.

Restaurants are the most common rehearsal dinner venues, but there's no reason you have to limit yourself if you're feeling a little more creative. Get inspired by something that represents the couple, like a yacht club if they love spending time by the water or a vineyard if they're always sending you wine pairing recs. (Need inspiration? Head to The Knot Marketplace to browse locations nearby or check out our roundups of the best rehearsal dinner venues for cities throughout the country.)

A rehearsal dinner theme isn't necessary, but you can take that extra step if you're looking to really customize the event and make it special for the couple—and the theme can even inspire the venue for the party.

Two to Three Months Before

Now that you've got the basics out of the way, you can move onto other logistics, like the invites and menu selection.

Compile guest addresses and send invitations.

Rehearsal dinner invitations can be sent in the same envelope along with the wedding invitations, or you can mail them separately if you're still nailing down the guest list. Virtual invitations are another option, but you'll need to reach out to guests separately (or enlist a member of the wedding party for the task) to get their contact info. Since you're not inviting all of the wedding guests to the rehearsal dinner, your wedding website shouldn't mention any details about the party.

Make your menu selections.

About two months before the party, discuss the menu with the restaurant staff or your rehearsal dinner caterer. It's common to serve a prix fixe menu or buffet-style meal at the rehearsal dinner, but the couple should sign off on any final decisions. It's also important to make note of any food allergies or dietary restrictions that guests have.

Confirm who's giving speeches.

There are usually a few speeches that take place during the rehearsal dinner. The host is responsible for welcoming guests and making a toast to the couple, but other family members or close friends (except for the maid of honor and best man, who usually toast at the wedding) may also choose to give a short speech. The couple can close out the dinner by thanking everyone for joining them. Give your toasters some time guidelines and let them know at what point during the night they'll be speaking (usually during or just after dessert), so they're prepared when the time comes.

Purchase rehearsal dinner gifts.

This step on the rehearsal dinner checklist mainly applies to the couple. Traditionally, gifts are given to the wedding party (including flower girls and ring bearers) and sometimes the couple's parents during the rehearsal dinner. If you're ordering customized gifts, we recommend purchasing them early to avoid rush fees or last-minute stress.

One Month Before

Your rehearsal dinner checklist isn't all tedious to-dos—now it's time for the fun details, like choosing decorations and picking your outfit.

Shop for decorations.

Now that you've nailed down the theme and venue, you can think about adding decorations to the party space. Restaurants and other venues with existing decor won't need much—floral centerpieces and place cards for each guest can help you customize the tables. Balloons, customized welcome signs and framed photos of the couple are a few other ideas.

Choose your attire.

As the host or a guest, your rehearsal dinner attire should be fairly dressy and appropriate for the venue, although the outfit doesn't need to be as formal as your wedding day attire. If you're the one getting married, you might opt for a white rehearsal dinner dress or a tailored suit.

Two Weeks Before

Take the last few weeks before the wedding to tie up loose ends on your rehearsal dinner planning checklist and double-check that everything's good to go.

Confirm RSVPs.

Two weeks before the rehearsal dinner, reach out to your officiant and venue coordinator to double-check the ceremony rehearsal time. Follow up with guests who haven't RSVP'd for the rehearsal dinner, and be sure to confirm the final guest count and reservation details with the rehearsal dinner venue.

Create and share the day-of timeline.

Your wedding day timeline is important, but we also recommend making a timeline for your ceremony run-through and rehearsal dinner. Provide a schedule with the ceremony venue address, start time and rehearsal dinner details to make sure everyone in the wedding party is on the same page.

Pay outstanding deposits (if any).

If you opted for a fixed menu or bar package, you can handle any final payments ahead of time so you don't need to worry about them on the night of the party. It's also a good time to settle payments if you're splitting the bill with other party hosts.

Day-of Rehearsal Dinner Checklist

  • Pack decorations and gifts.

  • Rehearse your speech.

  • Arrive to the venue early (if possible following the ceremony rehearsal).

  • Set up welcome signs and other decor.

  • Greet guests as they arrive.

  • Celebrate!

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