Everything You Need to Know About Wedding Rehearsal Dinner Etiquette

Make sure you're doing everything by the book with these best practices.
Jessica Estrada
by Jessica Estrada
Updated Sep 14, 2021

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 an opportunity to get hyped up for the main event the next day and spend some quality time with your inner circle. With that, though, comes some wedding rehearsal dinner etiquette for things like who's invited, who gives speeches and more. We've got you covered. Ahead, you'll learn everything you need to know about rehearsal dinner etiquette.

What Is a Wedding Rehearsal Dinner?

First things first: Let's cover what a rehearsal dinner is. "The rehearsal dinner is traditionally the meal immediately following the ceremony rehearsal the day before the wedding," says Erin Davies, a wedding consultant and event producer. "It's meant to be a time for the wedding party and close family members to come together in a more intimate setting before the larger wedding celebration the following day."

Wedding Rehearsal Dinner Venue

There are no hard rules when it comes to where to host your rehearsal dinner, which means you can use it as an opportunity to do something fun. Still, it's a good idea to keep logistics in mind.

"It makes sense to hold it in a location not terribly far from where the ceremony rehearsal will take place," Davies says. "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."

The only faux pas Davies warns against is hosting the rehearsal dinner at your wedding venue or at another location that will upstage the wedding day itself. Most importantly, she says, is to make sure the location is a space people feel comfortable interacting in.

Wedding Rehearsal Dinner Theme and Decor

As far as the rehearsal dinner's theme and decor—as well as how formal or casual it should be—that's completely up to the couple and the ambiance they envision. 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 to have some fun, Davies suggests going for decor that has a less-romantic aesthetic (think darker tones and candles instead of flowers). This creates a nice juxtaposition for what your guests will likely experience at the wedding the next day, which tends to focus on more whites and creams. But again, it's totally up to you what style and vibe you want to create.

Wedding Rehearsal Dinner Hosts

Traditionally, the groom's parents pay for and host the rehearsal dinner, while the bride's family pays for and hosts the wedding. However, with modern couples and same-sex weddings, that rule doesn't really apply anymore. Who funds and hosts the rehearsal dinner—whether it's one partner's family, both families or the couple themselves—will depend on the specific couple.

Wedding Rehearsal Dinner Guest List

According to tradition, the wedding party (bridesmaids and groomsmen), 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.

However, she adds that in recent years, some couples have transformed the rehearsal dinner to be a larger welcome reception that also includes extended family members, out-of-town guests, and sometimes the entire wedding guest list.

Wedding Rehearsal Dinner Invitations

If you're having a traditional rehearsal dinner with an intimate group (immediate family and wedding party), Davies says it's not necessary to send separate invitations for the rehearsal dinner. However, she 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 travel arrangements can be booked accordingly. This is important, she says, because there is often so much emphasis on the rehearsal dinner that the actual wedding rehearsal gets treated as an afterthought and some wedding party members end up missing it due to travel and scheduling issues.

If you decide to have a larger welcome reception in place of a traditional rehearsal dinner, Davies recommends including those details in the formal wedding invitation and requesting that guests RSVP.

Wedding Rehearsal Dinner Speeches

The rehearsal dinner is also a great time for speeches, which are typically less formal than those given during the wedding reception. Davies notes that it's customary for the hosts to give the first welcome toast of the evening, followed by other family members, close friends, members of the wedding party, the couple themselves, or anyone else who is important to the couple and won't have the opportunity to speak at the wedding reception.

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 who will be giving speeches remember to keep them short and sweet.

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