The Ultimate Guide to Wedding Rehearsal Dinner Etiquette

Here are the best practices for this prewedding event.
Couple laughs during their rehearsal dinner.
Photography: Liron Erel & Co.
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
Associate Editor
  • Chapelle writes articles for The Knot Worldwide. She covers all things wedding-related and has a personal interest in covering celebrity engagements and fashion.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Chapelle was an editorial intern for Subvrt Magazine.
  • Chapelle has a degree in English writing from Loyola University New Orleans.
Updated Apr 11, 2023

Whether you and your partner want to keep it casual or host a full-blown fete, the rehearsal dinner is an exciting part of the wedding weekend. It's a perfect opportunity to get hyped up for the main event the next day, but there are rehearsal dinner etiquette rules that must be addressed. You need to know who's invited, where the venue should be, who hosts the event and much more to throw a successful wedding rehearsal dinner. Thanks to two highly acclaimed wedding industry experts, we have all those answers and more below. Learn everything you need to know about wedding rehearsal dinner etiquette so your prewedding event is fun and memorable.

In this article:

What Is a Rehearsal Dinner?

"The rehearsal dinner is traditionally the meal immediately following the ceremony rehearsal the day before the wedding," says Erin Davies, wedding planning expert and founder of Erin Davies Consultancy. "It's meant to be a time for the wedding party and close family members [from both sides] to come together in a more intimate setting before the larger wedding celebration the following day."

Wedding Rehearsal Dinner Venue

Your guests are already taking the time to travel for your celebration, so don't make them travel more than 30 minutes to your rehearsal dinner too. Wedding rehearsal dinner etiquette dictates it's best to choose a venue that's close to where the majority of the guests are staying or the ceremony venue. If your wedding budget allows, provide wedding transportation for guests from their accommodations to the rehearsal dinner venue (and vice versa) so they don't have to worry about driving after a fun night. Also, write clear driving directions to the venue's location on your wedding website so everyone can easily access it––this way you avoid getting a dozen texts before the event.

Need some rehearsal dinner venue ideas? "A private dining room at a restaurant is great for smaller groups, but you can also have fun with more unique venues, such as a local brewery or winery, a car or art museum, or a party boat. I've even taken over a bowling alley once," Davies suggests. The only faux pas Davies warns against is hosting the rehearsal dinner at your wedding venue or another location that will upstage the wedding day itself. If you don't know where to look for your preferred rehearsal dinner location, start your search on The Knot Marketplace. You can find beautiful and top-rated venues in any city that fits your guest size, theme and desired food menu.

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Wedding Rehearsal Dinner Planning Etiquette

The etiquette for the rehearsal dinner theme and decor, as well as how formal or casual it should be, is completely up to the couple and the ambiance they envision. "The formality of the rehearsal dinner should be determined by the couple's preference. It can range from a casual dinner to a semi-formal affair but I highly suggest keeping the rehearsal dinner less formal than the wedding day," Desireé Dent, founder of Dejanae Events and instructor of a Wedding and Event Planning Certification program, says.

Some couples might want a glitz-and-glam rehearsal dinner to match their wedding, while some might opt for a more casual event focused on spending quality time with loved ones. If you want your events to have some variety, decorate your rehearsal dinner with the opposite aesthetic of your wedding. This creates a nice juxtaposition for what your guests will likely experience at the wedding the next day.

Wedding Rehearsal Dinner Hosting Etiquette

"[Traditionally,] the rehearsal dinner is hosted by the groom's family. However, in modern times, it has become common for the couple to host the rehearsal dinner themselves or split the cost with their parents. This decision ultimately depends on the family's preference and budget," Dent explains.

Etiquette for Rehearsal Dinner Guest List

According to tradition, the wedding party, the couple's immediate family and anyone else participating in the ceremony—such as the officiant, flower girl and ring bearer—are invited to the rehearsal dinner, along with their partners and plus-ones, Davies says. In recent years, some couples have transformed the rehearsal dinner into a larger welcome reception that includes extended family members, out-of-town guests and even the entire wedding guest list.

Rehearsal Dinner Invitation Etiquette

"The rehearsal dinner invitation wording should include the date, time, and location of the event, as well as any dress code or special instructions. Rehearsal dinner invitations should be sent out three to four weeks before the event via mail or digitally to give guests ample time to make arrangements. They can also be included inside an individual's invitation suite," Dent advises.

If you're having a traditional rehearsal dinner with an intimate group (immediate family and wedding party), Davies says you don't need to send separate invitations for the rehearsal dinner. However, Davies does recommend creating an itinerary for them that includes all of the wedding events during the weekend, along with their duties, to ensure everyone is on the same page and book travel arrangements accordingly. This is important because there is often a large emphasis put on the rehearsal dinner, while the actual wedding rehearsal gets treated as an afterthought. Some wedding party members even miss it due to travel and scheduling issues.

Rehearsal Dinner Speech Etiquette

The rehearsal dinner is also a great time for speeches, which are typically less formal than those given during the wedding reception. "Speeches at the rehearsal dinner are not mandatory, but it is customary for the host or hosts to welcome guests and thank them for attending. Other guests, such as parents or members of the wedding party, may give speeches if they wish," Dent says.

Regardless of who's speaking, Davies advises planning the speeches ahead of time to avoid the evening turning into an open mic night. Plus, a predetermined plan helps those giving rehearsal dinner speeches remember to keep them short and sweet.

Rehearsal Dinner Favor Etiquette

Rehearsal dinner favors aren't required but many couples use this event to give gifts to close loved ones. "It's customary to offer a small gift to those who have participated in the wedding, such as the wedding party and parents," Dent says. These presents can serve as thank-you gifts to anyone who has helped you and your partner during the wedding planning process––you can even give a heartfelt speech while handing them out.

Rehearsal Dinner Gift Etiquette

Guests don't need to bring their wedding gifts to the rehearsal dinner. We suggest you write on your wedding website for your guests to bring their presents on the big day. This way your stylish wedding gift table can have a purpose.

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