Exactly Who to Invite to the Rehearsal Dinner, According to Wedding Etiquette Experts

Do wedding party plus-ones make the cut?
Anna Hecht - The Knot Contributor.
by
Anna Hecht
Anna Hecht - The Knot Contributor.
Anna Hecht
The Knot Contributor
  • As a freelancer, Anna writes articles for The Knot Worldwide.
  • A former New Yorker, Anna now lives in Stockholm, Sweden, where she is the Deputy Managing Editor at a wellness startup.
  • In addition to writing for The Knot Worldwide, Anna has worked as an editor at CNN, a reporter for CNBC Make It, and has freelanced for many other well-established online publications.
Updated Sep 26, 2023

One of the most anticipated prewedding events is the rehearsal dinner. This special event typically takes place a day or two before the actual wedding, but compared to other prewedding events, the guest list is a little more exclusive. We're explaining exactly who to invite to the rehearsal dinner, backed by insight from etiquette experts and pro event planners. Plus, we've outlined everything in a handy checklist that you can reference when deciding who is invited to the rehearsal dinner.

In this article:

Who Is Invited to Your Rehearsal Dinner?

The rehearsal dinner is a meal that immediately follows the practice run-through of your wedding ceremony, so in short, anyone who's part of your wedding ceremony should be invited to the rehearsal dinner. This usually includes the maid or matron of honor, best man, bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girl, ring bearer, readers, ushers and wedding officiant. Plus-ones of wedding party members are also typically invited to the rehearsal dinner.

"The rehearsal dinner is for anyone participating in your wedding ceremony and their spouse or significant other," says Jennifer Tolento, founder and wedding planner at Jennifer Tolento Events in Middletown, New Jersey. When it comes to creating a guest list for any wedding event, we recommend starting with those closest to you. Since the number of people who go to the rehearsal dinner is usually limited to your closest friends and family, finalizing your must-invites is especially important. Here's a detailed list of who is invited to the rehearsal dinner.

Who gets invited to the rehearsal dinner? infographic
Design: Natalie Romine

Wedding Party Members

Your wedding party members (best man or woman, maid or man of honor, bridesmaids, groomsmen, etc.) are some of the most important rehearsal dinner guests. If you're including ushers, readers or other loved ones in the ceremony rehearsal, they should be invited to the rehearsal dinner too. Flower girls and ring bearers are also traditional rehearsal dinner guests, along with their parents (even if the parents themselves aren't in the wedding). Lastly, don't forget to extend the invitation to everyone's spouses, partners and plus-ones.

Immediate Family Members

The couple's parents, grandparents and siblings are typically in attendance, explains Anne Chertoff, chief operating officer at Beaumont Etiquette, a consultancy that specializes in etiquette training throughout Britain, Europe and the US. "A couple may decide to invite other close family members and friends, too," Chertoff says. Stepparents and your siblings' plus-ones should also be invited.

Wedding Officiant

Since your wedding officiant plays a big role in your ceremony rehearsal—not to mention the actual wedding day—it's thoughtful to invite them to your rehearsal dinner, along with their partner or plus-one.

Out-of-Town Guests

It's also common to invite out-of-towners to the rehearsal dinner, so that they have "something to do the night before the wedding," Chertoff adds. While hosting out-of-town guests at your rehearsal dinner is a nice gesture, it's not a must. If you have a lot of out-of-towners and your budget is tight, you can skip inviting them altogether, or arrange a separate get-together for dessert and/or drinks after the rehearsal dinner.

Other Friends and Relatives

If your wedding party is fairly small, you may have a few close friends who aren't involved in the ceremony—or maybe you have a large group of friends and couldn't include everyone. Either way, you can add close friends as potential rehearsal dinner guests even if they're not in the wedding party. Godparents, aunts, uncles and cousins are other possible guests, depending on how close you are with them.

Find your kind of venue

From barns to ballrooms, discover reception venues that feel like you.

Who Should You Not Invite?

"The purpose of the rehearsal dinner is for the couple to get together with family and friends and say 'thank you' to everyone who has helped with the preparations, as well as to welcome out-of-town guests who may have traveled far and wide to get to the wedding," says Diane Gottsman, an international etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Texas. "This is where family members and friends who have never met will meet for the first time before the big day."

But keep in mind that the rehearsal dinner is different from a wedding welcome party, so you may have to make some tough decisions about who to invite.

"The rehearsal dinner is for a limited number of guests who have actively participated in preparations, are in the wedding party and will be presiding at the wedding, such as the officiant," Gottsman says. As a result, it's usually the case that you'd only invite the wedding party (and their plus-ones), immediate family members, the officiant and potentially out-of-towners.

You don't need to invite guests who aren't directly involved with the ceremony or attending as the plus-one of someone in your wedding party. On top of that, you can skip sending an invite to most of your other wedding guests, such as extended family members, coworkers and friends of parents.

Average Rehearsal Dinner Size

Is there an exact number of people who come to the rehearsal dinner? Not really—it all depends on your wedding party, immediate family and personal preferences.

"Some couples have only a few attendants or a smaller family contributing to the size of the dinner," says Tolento. "The average couple has about 10 to 12 wedding party members in total." But in Gottsman's experience, your rehearsal dinner guest list size can range from 15 people to 50 people, depending on your out-of-town family, wedding party and close friends who have helped with the festivities.

Since experts say there's no right answer, the number of guests you invite will really depend on who's most important for you to have there—and, of course, the budget of whoever's paying for the rehearsal dinner.

Rehearsal Dinner Guest List: Frequently Asked Questions

Rehearsal dinner etiquette and who to invite can seem tricky at first, but we've got it covered. Here, we're debunking some common scenarios if you're still trying to decide who should attend the rehearsal dinner.

Are aunts and uncles invited to the rehearsal dinner?

Aunts and uncles can be included as rehearsal dinner guests if you're particularly close with them, or if they're involved in the wedding ceremony in any way. If not, you can generally feel free to skip the invite.

Do you have to invite your officiant to the rehearsal dinner?

Since your wedding officiant will be front and center at the ceremony rehearsal, they should also be invited to the rehearsal dinner. However, some officiants may politely decline the invitation or only attend for a little bit. The invitation should also be extended to your officiant's spouse or partner.

Do you have to invite kids to the rehearsal dinner?

When it comes to inviting kids, that's also "based on the preference of the couple," Gottsman says. "They can also come for the dinner and then be taken home for the later festivities."

If you are inviting any children in your wedding party—such as a flower girl or a ring bearer—"their parents should also be invited to the rehearsal dinner," Tolento says.

How should you send invites for a rehearsal dinner?

One of the most important parts of hosting a wedding, or any event for that matter, is making sure everyone knows where to be and when to be there.

When sending rehearsal dinner invitations, "most couples do a super casual email or digital invite, since it's a smaller group," Tolento says. "Just give them at least a month's notice in case they need to take off work or leave early."

In other cases, "the formality of the rehearsal dinner can dictate the invitation style," Chertoff says. "A couple can insert a card with the wedding invitation suite, inviting select guests to the rehearsal dinner, similar to a reception card."

Whatever way you choose to send invites, just make sure your guests can easily RSVP. That way, you can ensure everyone is accounted for when planning the dinner details.

Rehearsal Dinner vs. Wedding Guest List

You can breathe a little sigh of relief, because deciding who to invite to your rehearsal dinner isn't nearly as complicated as making your full wedding guest list. By now, you've probably already figured out who you're inviting to the wedding and who's in the wedding party. So when the time comes to decide who goes to the rehearsal dinner, it's mostly a matter of identifying who's specifically involved in the ceremony or a key part of the wedding.

As mentioned above, "Your rehearsal dinner should consist of your bridal party, their spouses, your parents, grandparents, and siblings," Tolento says. "This is essentially the people closest to you that were chosen to take a special part in your day."

Tolento adds: "Your wedding list will have extended family and friends that are excited to celebrate with you, but are not part of the wedding formalities." While your rehearsal dinner will mainly include members of the wedding party and your family, your wedding day festivities will usually include more guests.

Expert Tips for Your Rehearsal Dinner Guest List

Your rehearsal dinner can be much more low-key than the wedding itself, but here are a few expert tips to help make it especially memorable for your guests.

Prepare a toast.

For starters, you want to make your guests feel welcome and excited for all that's to come. To accomplish this, Gottsman says it's a good idea to "plan a toast to thank your guests and pay special attention to parents and closest family members, who have traveled a long distance to be with you."

Pick a menu that reflects you and your partner.

Next, Gottsman says it's not necessary to have a cake at the rehearsal dinner, especially since you'll likely serve one on the day of the wedding. Instead, it's a good idea to offer some kind of special food or dessert that you and your partner love, as a reflection of your relationship.

Plan a separate (optional) party for other guests.

We've already mentioned that the rehearsal dinner is different from a wedding welcome party. But if many guests are traveling from out of town or you're planning a destination wedding, Chertoff says that you "may want to host welcome cocktails or a dessert party for all of the guests who traveled to the location." This can be a casual, optional party after the rehearsal dinner—just try not to stay out too late if the wedding is the following morning!

Samantha Iacia contributed to the reporting of this article.

Up Next
  • outdoor rehearsal dinner venue with guests seated at round tables with cross. back wooden chairs and string lights hanging above
    5 Reasons to Hire a Rehearsal Dinner Photographer