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Finally, Answers to Your Burning Rehearsal Dinner Etiquette Questions

Avoid any rehearsal dinner faux pas with these top five etiquette tips.
The Knot
by The Knot

If rehearsal dinner planning has you a little confused, there's no need to stress. There are a few, fairly intuitive etiquette musts to heed, but otherwise, the night is yours to celebrate as you please. We've got answers to help you piece together the puzzle, from who makes the guest list to when to do toasts. 

Are there any rules when it comes to the ceremony rehearsal and rehearsal dinner guest list?

The guest list is pretty much up to you. It can be as simple as you two, your immediate families, the wedding party and their plus-ones and your officiant and their partner. If you're not worried about wanting to keep your wedding day the main event, and crave another opportunity to hang with your nearest and dearest, make it a bigger bash by inviting all your out-of-town guests. It's a great opportunity to maximize quality time with friends and family—you'll be more relaxed than at the wedding, and you'll have more time to chat. And don't worry about ruining the "surprise" for them—they won't come to the actual ceremony rehearsal, which is only for the wedding party and your immediate family. Everyone else can join you afterward for dinner. You can also have the best of both worlds: Keep your rehearsal dinner a tight-knit group, then spread the word to your guests (your wedding website is the perfect place for this) that you'll be gathering a nearby bar or hotel for post-dinner drinks and mingling.

Do I have to invite my in-laws if we're not that close, and they're not paying for it?

Remember, no matter who they are or what they're like, your partner's parents will soon be your in-laws. Even if you're worried about their behavior, you should start off on the right foot by inviting them to this special party. Trust us, there will be more trouble if you don't invite them than if you do. And it's true your partner's parents may not realize the groom's family is traditionally expected to host the rehearsal dinner. It's up to you and your partner to either bring it up with them or host the dinner yourselves. Asking them to host it is more trouble than it's worth, especially if, for example, they're divorced and don't get along. Look at it as a way to kick back before the wedding. Concentrate on your family, your partner and your wedding party (this is a good time to present them with their thank-you gifts) instead of dwelling on what your partner's parents might do at the event.

Can you have a super-casual rehearsal dinner even if your wedding is formal?

No, whoever's hosting won't look cheap if your rehearsal dinner is low-key. The rehearsal dinner is the perfect opportunity to let your families hang out together in a more relaxed atmosphere. Sometimes, the more formal the wedding, the less formal the rehearsal dinner should be. (In other words, it's not tacky at all.) The formal wedding will be more fun because the key players are already comfortable with each other. And a casual rehearsal dinner doesn't have to be completely unstylish, by the way—you can go to a fun restaurant, host a backyard barbeque, head to bowling alley or have a picnic on the beach.

Should you mail paper invitations for the rehearsal dinner?

Whether or not you send invitations will depend on the nature of your dinner. If it'll be a big party with lots of out-of-town guests in a hotel banquet room or somewhere equally official, then you should send invitations. They can be either formally calligraped or handwritten on cards, depending on the occasion's formality. You'll also want people to RSVP to have a head count for the caterer or restaurant. If your rehearsal dinner will be fairly informal—a party at a casual restaurant or a barbecue at your parents' house with just the wedding party, you two and your immediate families—then you don't really need "official" invitations. Just make sure everyone knows where they need to be and when.

Who typically makes toasts, and when's the best time to do it?

Since families and couples come in all shapes and sizes, it definitely varies—however, the rehearsal party is traditionally hosted by the groom's parents, so if that's the case for you, you can expect them to take the floor and say a few words. After the hosts say their part, the floor is pretty much open (rehearsal dinner toasts are definitely less formal than the reception). Chances are a variety of people will toast you two, whether it's planned or spontaneous, including your parents, some of your wedding party members and anyone else who wants to chime in. When you're toasted, you should rise in thanks, and perhaps make a toast in return. The couple may also do a toast if they like, to express love and gratitude for their core support group. As for when to start speeches, the host of the rehearsal dinner will typically often kick things off once dessert is served, but you're welcome to do what's right for your group and occasion, whether it's between courses or after plates are cleared and after-dinner drinks are poured. (Read on for a more detailed look at the difference between rehearsal dinner and wedding toasts—aka who is expected to make a toast and when.)

Here's everything you need to know about planning a rehearsal dinner.

Not sure where to begin with wedding planning? Take our Style Quiz and we'll pull together a custom wedding vision and vendors to match, just for you. After that, create a free, personalized wedding website to keep your guests informed (and excited!) about your plans, and a time-saving Guest List Manager to organize your attendees. Even better? You can sync your Guest List Manager and wedding website to update everything at once. 

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