Who to Invite to Your Rehearsal Dinner, According to Experts

Everything you need to know when making your rehearsal dinner guest list.
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 Oct 06, 2022

One of the most anticipated and exclusive pre-wedding events is the rehearsal dinner.This special event typically takes place the day before your wedding ceremony. But, who do you invite to the rehearsal dinner? We've consulted etiquette experts, and here's who they suggest makes it onto the guest list.

"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."

You may be wondering who you should invite to the rehearsal dinner. According to wedding experts, there are some traditions surrounding who typically attends, but you can do what feels right for you and your event. Here, several wedding etiquette professionals provide insights into how to build your rehearsal dinner guest list.

Who Should You Invite to Your Rehearsal Dinner?

The rehearsal dinner is the kickoff to your wedding weekend. Wondering who to invite? Here's what experts say.

"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. Anyone who is involved in the wedding ceremony rehearsal should also be invited to the rehearsal dinner. Since the rehearsal dinner usually immediately follows the ceremony rehearsal, this avoids any awkwardness of some people heading to the dinner and others going home.

When it comes to creating a guest list for any wedding event, we recommend starting with those closest to you. This is particularly important when figuring out who to invite to the rehearsal dinner, since the number of invitees is usually limited to the couple's nearest and dearest. Here's how to get started (and btw, don't forget to use The Knot's free Guest List Tool to help you stay organized while creating your guest list):

Immediate Family Members

The couple's parents, grandparents, and siblings are typically in attendance, explains Anne Chertoff, chief operating officer at Beaumont Etiquette. "A couple may decide to invite other close family members and friends, too," Chertoff says.

Wedding Party Members

Your wedding party members (best man or woman, maid or man of honor, bridesmaids, groomsmen and others) also typically make the rehearsal dinner guest list. And if ushers, readers and others are asked to attend the ceremony rehearsal, they should also be invited to the rehearsal dinner. Don't forget to invite their spouses, partners or plus-ones as well.

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 all together, or invite them for dessert and/or drinks after the actual dinner.

Do You Have to Invite Your Officiant to the Rehearsal Dinner?

Since your officiant will most likely attend the ceremony rehearsal, they should also be invited to the rehearsal dinner. However, many officiants will politely decline the invitation or only stay for the first hour or so.

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.

Who Should You Not Invite?

When hosting wedding festivities, you may have to make some tough decisions about who to invite. For your rehearsal dinner, there are some traditions regarding attendees.

"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. Anyone else's invitations would be reserved for the actual wedding ceremony and reception.

But as always, this is your wedding and you get to make the call.

How Many People Should You Invite?

As for how many guests you should invite to your rehearsal dinner, that's typically up to you. It depends on several factors, including the size of your wedding party and immediate family, explains Tolento.

"Some couples have only a few attendants or a smaller family contributing to the size of the dinner. The average couple has about 10 to 12 wedding party members in total," Tolento says.

In Gottsman's experience, your rehearsal dinner party "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 size of your party will really depend on who's most important for you to have there — and, of course, the budget of whoever is funding the event.

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.

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

How will your rehearsal dinner guest list differ from your wedding day guest list?

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.

More Expert Advice for Your Rehearsal Dinner

Want to plan the perfect rehearsal dinner? Here are some more tips from experts.
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."

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 dessert — usually one that's a favorite of the soon-to-be wed couple.

If 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."

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